A simple walk in Delhi can be a big contributor to cultural pluralism. The three-year-old heritage walk in the famous Nizamuddin area in India’s capital of New Delhi achieves just that. In the second part of our new India Heritage Walk City Series, we find out how walking through a bylane can bring people and cultures together
When young people from the local community around the mausoleum of famous Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin lead walkers from around the world through monuments and markets, cultural, linguistic and religious boundaries dissolve and the world becomes one. The heritage walk, conducted by trained youths from the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, is in its fourth year. To understand the significance of the walk, participants need not look beyond the route they take.
The much sought after heritage walk in Nizamuddin starts from a temple and ends in a dargah. The participants are given a detailed account of the continuing culture and old traditions of the community during the walk, which covers an area of up to 1.5km
“The main focus of the walk is to highlight the cultural pluralism existing in the over seven centuries-old tradition in the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.” Says Deeti Ray, a coordinator for Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Initiative of the Agha Khan Foundation. A self-helf group called ‘Sair e Nizamuddin (which means ‘Walking in Nizamuddin’ in Urdu) formed by the young people of the local community organizes the walk at Humayun’s Tomb, a World Heritage Site, and Nizamuddin. As many as eight monuments in the area are covered in the walk that passes through chowks and lanes and a stepped well, once a major water resource for the local community.
Researchers, architects, students, school children, tourists, both domestic and foreign, form the participants of the heritage walk, which represents an age-old living culture. The walk also is contributing to informing the people about the threat to heritage buildings and the challenges in keeping them safe. “The heritage walk initiative by the community has raised the awareness level of the people about the importance of the wealth of cultural heritage and becoming a part of its upkeep,” says Ray, who trains the heritage volunteers from the local community. While the community members engage themselves in the maintenance of their cultural heritage, several activities linked to the initiative give them opportunities for livelihood and income generation.
“The walk is an excellent experience,” says Sailendra Swain, who teaches at the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Development. “The heritage volunteers are doing an amazing job. I personally gained knowledge about the tangible and intangible heritage of the Nizamuddin Basti from the walk,” he adds.
“We show the rich culture of the Nizamuddin Basti,” says Aamir Ahmad. “We tell the stories of the lives of poets and kings who were associated with the area,” he adds. According to Priscilla Seville, an American national who participated in the walk, it is a “very illuminating experience that is loyal to the diversity of Nizamuddin”.