Heritage festival to unearth hidden stories about Panvel and the rest of India

Updated: Feb 09, 2019, 08:53 IST | Shunashir Sen

The idea is to take a group of people around places across the length and breadth of India and apprise them of hidden stories that offer a historical narrative

Heritage festival to unearth hidden stories about Panvel and the rest of India
A dilapidated building in Panvel reflects the Konkani style of architecture

The past won't live for long unless we conserve it. That's basic knowledge. Yet, in a country like ours that's ripe with heritage, temples often lie in ruins. Buildings with historical value are in a state of disrepair. And landmark architectural sites are sometimes dilapidated. It's a sorry reflection on not just the authorities, but on our own attitude as a civic society as well.

Oval Maidan
Oval Maidan

But India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) is an event that now seeks to make amends. The idea is to take a group of people around places across the length and breadth of India and apprise them of hidden stories that offer a historical narrative. "The list of walks includes tier-II and III cities," says Vaibhav Chauhan, secretary of Sahapedia, the NGO behind IHWF, adding that the itinerary has cities like Bikaner and Itanagar as well.

Kanheri Caves
Kanheri Caves

But that doesn't mean the organisers are turning a blind eye to the bigger metros. A tour this morning, for instance, will see participants exploring Old Panvel. There, heritage conservationist Tejashree Lakras will give them a window into the early 18th century. That's when Konkani Brahmins from the coastline came to the area looking for job opportunities since Panvel, back then, was a leading rice trading centre thanks to the creek there.

Vaibhav Chauhan, Tejashree Lakras
Vaibhav Chauhan, Tejashree Lakras

"That's how Chimaji Appa [a prominent Peshwa] also became interested in the place, while crossing it on his way back to Pune after acquiring Ghodbunder Fort in Thane. He interacted with other Brahmins and Peshwas at the settlement there, and lent them money to develop temple architecture. This turned the area into a flourishing site for pilgrimage, bringing in people from other parts of the state in the process," Lakras says.

Gilbert Hill
Gilbert Hill

She adds that this Konkani influence is the reason why all the religious structures in the area — including mosques and synagogues built by subsequent immigrants — have similar sloping roofs. That's how people in the coastal area built their houses, to protect them from incessant rain. "But since we are becoming blindly modern, we aren't paying attention to those temples these days. We just want to construct building after building, including a 20-storey one right next to Bapatwada, the first ever house built in Panvel. In fact, in a few years, Bapatwada, too, could be razed, with a multi-storey complex coming up in its place," Lakras rues, envisioning a situation that would be a crying shame because just like the future is in our hands, so is the past as well.

On: Today, 8.30 am Meeting point Wadale Lake, Old Panvel.
Log on to: indiaheritagewalkfestival.com

More walks to attend at IHWF

Kanheri Caves — A Treasure Trove of History will take place in Borivali.
On: February 17, 9.30 am

Gilbert Hill — Only 66 Million Years Old is a walk around a rockface in Andheri.
On: February 18, 11 am

Art Deco at the Oval Walk will entail insight into the city’s rich heritage of the architectural style.
On: February 24, 8 am

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