UNLIKE other heritage walks conducted by tour agencies, tourists participating in walks organised by a non-profit organisation called Social Action for Manpower Creation (SAMPARC) will be able to experience traditional Maharashtrian culture and make a difference to lives of children living in orphanages managed by the NGO. They can also help get five monuments, the Bhaje, Karla and Bedse Caves, Visapur and Lohagad Forts, to the UNESCO Heritage list by taking part in the NGO’s ongoing signature campaign.
The NGO established in 1990, works towards care, educational development and rehabilitation of orphaned, disadvantaged children and others from socially backward classes. The initiative of conducting a heritage walk was taken up last year and 3,000 people from different age groups, including tourists, students and corporate groups participated. This year, however, they are hoping to cater to a crowd of at least 6,000 for the 7.2 km long walk to be organised on December 10.
Shailesh Parte, project manager at SAMPARC and coordinator of the Heritage Walk, said the initiative was taken up primarily to create awareness about the Bhaje, Karla and Bedse caves and Lohagad and Visapur Fort. “We have been trying to get these five heritage monuments enlisted with the UNESCO to ensure better care and management of the heritage monuments, which is a dire need. The Archaeological Survey of India suggested that we conduct a signature campaign and send the appeal to UNESCO. This year, we are hoping to get around 10,000 signatures,” he said. He added that they were also writing to the ASI to present suitable documents of heritage monuments to the participants.
Parte said apart from visiting the five monuments and understanding their historical significance, as part of the six-hour programme, tourists will also be treated to traditional Maharashtrian food and would be able to watch dance performances. “We will serve items like jhunka bhakar and vada pav among other traditional dishes. With the help of this heritage walk we hope to improve tourism and enhance income opportunity for the local villagers,” he said.
While individual participants will have to shell out Rs 750 for the entire programme, the fee for a student is Rs 600 and corporates will have to pay Rs 1,000 each. Parte said the funds collected will be used for expenses to run the orphanages the NGO has set up in five states, including Maharashtra in areas like Lonavla and Raigad.