When we travel, we often think that we know how to explore. We most certainly do, but sometimes it’s incomplete. When we say incomplete, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t seen much, it simply means that you mostly haven’t learned much. When we visit a city we normally earmark its popular sites and give them a go. There may be a guide around to tell you it’s story and that’s about it. But what about the real feel of the city itself, it’s past glories and things that have shaped it’s present. Why not explore the real deal? Why not see it as it has been never seen? We, bet most of us don’t even know the obscure fragments or the old nooks of our own cities!
What if we told you, there’s a way to change all of that? What if we told you there is a way to discover and assimilate the true essence of our cities? Yes! We are talking about organized ‘Heritage Walks’ in different parts of our country. They are called walks because that’s what they precisely are, slow, detailed walking excursions into the profound depths of Indian cities. Needless to say, walking around a city is the most intimate way to get to know it and moreover if it’s a guided, well-planned one! All of these tours are a google search away but we picked out the ones that will surely enlighten you in a whole new way.
Heritage Walks in Kolkata
For a city so culturally and historically rich as Kolkata it remains a foregone conclusion that there is much to explore. There are various ‘Walking Tours’ companies that have taken upon themselves to showcase the most intrinsic side of the city. The oldest temples and churches, the famous Kumartuli where the idols of goddess Durga and Kali are made, Tombs and mausoleums of famous and interesting people, India’s oldest Chinatown walk , the route of the first ever detailed map of the European settlement in Calcutta( with most of its’s building still intact), the black towns, so called by the Europeans where the Bengali natives lived, the hubs of different communities like Anglo-Indians, Parsis, Armenians et all and much more; there is so much in Calcutta yet left to be explored.
Heritage Walks in Mumbai
What other city can have thousands of stories to tell if not Mumbai? There are walking tours that retrace the steps right from the birth of Bombay starting from the northern part of the ‘Fort’ where the very first colonial settlement began. The colonial heritage areas, mighty palatial buildings, grand churches, fishing villages and the old city areas of Dhobi Ghat, the Kala Ghoda art district, the oldest bazaars and temples; there is so much to see in Mumbai than one could imagine.
Heritage Walks in Delhi
Speaking of Heritage, Delhi probably aces in being a witness to a myriad of cultures and traditions; right from the various Muslim dynasties to the British rule. To trace the historical legacy of Delhi would mean to go into the depths of its many monuments, forts, mausoleums, mosques, gurudwaras, bazaars, Sufi shrines and tales of Sufi saints, old havelis and not to mention the hidden and unhidden wonders of Purani Dilli.
Heritage Walks in Chennai
There is no dearth of places to explore in Chennai, be it old handicraft traditions, Colonial heritage or the good old rural heritage; a culture as rich as Chennai has much to offer. Of all the guided tours in Chennai, the Mylapore walk steals the show. Known as the cultural hotspot of Chennai, Mylapore’s history traces back to times when it traded with Rome in pepper and silk in exchange for gold. The 16th century saw the rise of Portuguese rule and was later passed under the British rule till Independence. Yet, it maintains a strong Hindu culture despite being colonialized. The 7th century Kapaleeshwar temple with its faultless Dravidian architecture, the gothic San Thome Basilica built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, interaction with local priests and people for insight into their traditions, folk and their lifestyle, walks in bazaars amidst flower vendors, silk merchants and jewellers; these walks bring to you a whole new side of Chennai. The jewellery trail specifically takes you through Chennai’s oldest workshops in Mylapore, known to handcraft the most exquisite ornaments.
Varanasi Heritage Walks
This ancient city with its innumerable components and stories is best explored when there is someone to tell you all about it. For a vast and a puzzling and animated existence such as this; a well-organized, guided tour is surely a boon. They take not just to the obvious places but also the old and hidden alleys, the ancient bazaars of sarees and spices, the oldest and biggest Ghats, the reason behind Varanasi being the ideal place to die in, the life of the boat men , the most important temples in Hinduism, the oldest wrestling Akharas, the places of abode of Sadhus, the ancient city of Kashi with its own stories to tell, the morning and evening boat rides in Ganga, the famous Ganga Arti and much more; witness all this not just like a spectator but a person experiencing its history with the help of prolific guides. It’s not just for the spiritually inclined but for anyone who wants to understand the true essence of the Indian culture.
The list can go on, for a country like ours there is a lot of history associated with every region under its expanse. These guided walks are organized almost everywhere now which makes it difficult for a traveller to pick and choose. So, we picked up a few that we liked, just to give you a kickstart and give the explorer in you an encouraging boost.