Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ahmedabad Heritage Festival

More than a decade ago, on 19th November, 1996, on the eve of the World Heritage Week, residence of desai ni pol in Khadia in the walled city of Ahmedabad, in association with Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, initiated the celebration of the World Heritage Week. It was a beginning of a unique revival process where citizens and the city administrators came together to work to preserve the characteristic of the city. Later many organizations and media jumped in to celebrate city's Heritage. The Festival is an initiative to bring many of these unique efforts together that connects people to their past.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Heritage Walk

Diversity of faith, language, customs, beliefs, architecture, art and a variety of visual and performing culture build a certain context of cityscape. The personality and character of a city is the result of centuries of growth in the course of which new elements are constantly juxtaposed with the older ones. The processes of urbanization tend to marginalize the inner city areas that embody the heritage aspects not only of the buildings but also of a certain lived experience.

The urban living makes the city too familiar to notice anything extraordinary about it. People pass by the beautiful heritage buildings everyday in a hurry to reach their offices or schools without noticing them. Heritage walk is a tool to explore the unexplored and neglected richness of the city. It plays an important role for the development of history and character of the city through generating interests and involvement of the local community in the urban conservation activity. In Ahmedabad, a heritage walk has been going on from Swaminarayan Kalupur Mandir to Jumma Mosque for more last ten years. In 2008, a special walk for deaf and dumb students was organized.  

Kavi Dalpatram, Akha Bhagat:

As a result of the walk, many houses and public places were restored. It also inspired many others to participate in the heritage activity. Two of Gujarat's eminent poets' houses were also restored. This restoration of both Kavi Dalapatram's house and Akha Bhagat's house opened a space of interaction between communities and also a space for performance. Two beautiful statues of the poet's are being put up at the respective houses. These statues stand as a grandfather figure for kids.     


Students' Initiative:
Inspired by this initiative, in 2007, MICA and NID students extended this project. MICA students made posters for the Heritage Walk. Later they used the designs to produce special Heritage walk calenders and bookmarks. At the same NID students launched an interactive website on the Heritage walk of Ahmedabad.  

Other Walks and initiatives: 

Kranti Yatra:

In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi chose Ahmedabad as his Karmabhumi - the place of action. It was from here that he united the entire nation towards achieving the dream of independence and posited the ideal of non-violence for the entire world as a unique mode of resistance. Gandhiji found faithful supporters and able companions in this city. The citizens of this city adopted Gandhi’s ideals and without any religious differences jumped into the freedom movement at the great risk to their lives. It is necessary to acquaint the new generation with the primary actors of the city whose contributions were imperative to the independence movement. Moreover, it is necessary to make the citizens proud of the revolutionary activities that took place even before the arrival of Gandhiji and the key leaders of those events. With this vision in 1996, as part of the celebration of 50th anniversary of Indian Independence, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in cooperation with Khadia Rashtriya Itihaas Samiti launched a walk that glances over the local history and heritage of Ahmedabad. Citizens participated in this tour in huge numbers with great enthusiasm. There was a general feeling that this walk be made a permanent part of the city’s experience. Hence, the Krantiyatra is organized to visit some of the significant places on foot to get to know the valorous people associated with those revolutionary events and freedom movement like Narayan Desai and Divan Venishankar; Swadeshi movement’s prominent elders such as Ambalal Desai, Krupashankar Pandit, Chunilal Bhatt, and Keshavlal Mehta; elders like Seth Ranachodlal and Chinubhai Baronet; certain people close to Gandhi and Sardar such as Dahyabhai Ijataram, Balavantrai Kanuga, Narharibhai Parikh, Jivanlal Barrister, Balavantrai Thakore, and Jivanlal Divan; and some important female personalities such as Sulochnaben Desai and Nanduben Kanuga. 

Audio Walk and Night Walk: 

House of MG designed an audio walk. This was one of the first audio walks of the country. House of MG also designed a night walk starting from Mangaldas ni Haveli, Sankadi Sheri. 

Eminent Poets and memorials personifying their ideologies

Kavi Dalpatram Memorial:

"We the gardeners of Gujarat have sowed in our lifetime. We now pass on the garden to the harvesters."
- Kavi Dalpatram

Gujarat's proud son and poet lived in Ahmedabad in Lambeshwar ni pol. His contribution to Gujarati Literature and culture will always remain an esteemed asset for Gujarat. The restoration of Dalpatram's house was a well thought plan. The memorial stands testimony to his thoughts and creation. The space without barriers within the memorial symbolizes the vastness of his mind and the generosity of his heart. The memorial is a warm tribute to the poet. 

Akha Bhagat:

"500 years of history of Gujarati poetry have not seen another Akho and will not see one."
- Niranjan Bhagat

"Brahman, Kshatrya, vaishya, Shudra,
E harino pind akha kon Shudra?
Akhe Ram evo olakhyo,
je kagalmeshe n jaay lakhyo."
- Akha Bhagat

Ahmedabad Heritage Cell has installed Akha Bhagat's Statue in the court yard of the memorial in Khadia where he lived. The memorial has become a live space as various local, national and international performers come there to perform. 

Art: Dance, Painting

Enthralling Dance Performance in Midst of Crumbling Heritage:

In 2007, a Brazilian Kathak dancer, performed at Dhal ni Pol, depicting the sad story of loss. The lost past, the heritage - the thread connecting us to the to the earth where we belong. Through her dance, she brought ruins of the old city alive.The performance was called "The Colour Red", symbolising pain of collapsing past.

Through Heritage Festival, many organizations have consciously worked towards the preservation of the city heritage in various creative ways. But, dancing among the ruins to manifest the screams of those beautifully carved buildings was an experience in itself

Manuela Banini is a performance artist and an educator working mostly in Brazil, England and India. She worked extensively against the disappearing heritage.

Various eminent newspapers covered this one-off dance performance: 

    Space is generally conceptualized or perceived as static entity. Manuela Banini's dance challenged this static conception of space, and brought people face to face with an enthralling experience of city and dance. As the dancer's feet moved telling the story of destruction, the ruins around her stood as a live projection of the dance. The dance was posited between the people and the city - connecting them, bridging them.

    Colours of the City, Perspective Roads, and the Built Heritage on Canvas by Harshil Patel:

    In 2008, Harshil Patel, displayed twelve of his paintings under the title of "Halo of Ahmedabad's Heritage." The artist has roamed around the city of Ahmedabad at night to experience the city in its essences. The Painter claims to lay out the city on canvas in its form.Being brought up in the walled city of Ahmedabad, the artist relate most to the rich cityscape of that part of the city, and draws inspiration from it. 
    Harshil Patel gave a live demonstration by painting in front  of Kalupur Swaminarayana Tample. He awed everyone present by his talent including Maharahshri and other dignitaries. 


    Performative and Visual coming together:

    It is said that where nothing reaches, art does. Art bridges the abyss created and recreated by the human race. One such artist of Ahmedabad, inspired by the mystery of the cityscape, translated his vision and perspective on canvas. The promising Young artist Harshil Patel's paintings depict city's struggle to hold on to its Heritage. Bringing art to its climax, Manuela Banini danced in front of these paintings juxtaposing the city and the art.


    Saturday, November 27, 2010


    Restoring the City:

    Heritage Cell of Ahmedabad has been working on conservation projects for more than a decade. 

    In 2005, Heritage Cell Ahmedabad in association with CEPT (School of Interior Design - Centre for Environmental Planing and Technology) and GICEA (Gujarat Institute of Civil Engineers and Architects) organized a symposium to share their unique experience of conservation and restoration of the traditional houses of the Walled City of Ahmedabad. This symposium brought together the architects, engineers and the people living in the Walled City.

    House of Eminent Poet Shri Akha Bhagat Being Resored:(Before and After)

    House of Ms.Binaben Bhrambhatt Being Restored: (Before and After)

    Arts Reverie Being Restored: (Before and After)

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Bird Feeder

    Restoration of Heritage is not the only  form of Conservation:

    The walled city of Ahmedabad is full of surprises. On one hand we see, beautifully carved pol buildings, gorgeous stone mosques, intricate designs of temples and shrines; on the other hand  small but beautiful bird feeders, wells, step wells etc. Chabutra are traditional structures erected to feed birds. Heritage Cell, Ahmadabad has restored many bird feeders in the city. One such example is of Karanj Chabutro. Believed to erected in nineteenth century, Karanj Chabutro near Bhadra Fort is an example of exquisite timber craftsmanship. AHC took up the work of restoring the Chabutro after extensive

    Karanj Chabutro: (Before and After)


    The Story Continues...

    Restoration can only be the beginning of the entire heritage conservation project. Heritage conservation can never stop at reconstruction. If it does not reach out to people, then the entire meaning is lost. Thus, Karanj Chabutro and its story does not stop there . In the year 2009, during the Heritage Festival, Various events took place around the Chabutra with the bird feeder as its motif presented by the City Heritage Collection.

    Puppet Show:

     A special Puppet Show was also organized at the Karanj Chabutro by City Heritage Collection. The Puppet Show was performed by a renowned puppeteer Shri Mahipat Kavi depicting the story behind the Karanj Chabutro. This was a distictive show as it brought performative heritage and built Heritage together. As the entire performance took place at the site of the Chabutro itself, made it inimitable.

    Painting Exhibition:

    City Heritage Collection presented a painting exhibition of Chabutra by Shri Anil Shrimali. Later these paintings were used for the post card designs.


    Book Release:

    They also released a children's book depicting the story behind the Karanj Chabutro. It is a story of Bapalal Modi, who was inspired by a saint and was touched by the struggle of birds built a Chabutro at Karanj. Such bird feeders are also called Parabadi representing larger philosophical premise of a holistic living where birds are taken care of as part of the community.

    Take those memories home:

    Small souvenirs always add to the memories of the past. The City Heritage Collection came up with calenders and postcards using the motif of the bird feeder. Today, the meaning of souvenirs have changed with the commercialization of our feelings and the way we think. Such mementos are not the product of the forced modernization, but an effective way to convey the message of Heritage in a beautiful way.