By Neraj Bagga, The Tribune. The holy city of Amritsar would glide into the rare club of old cities in the world known for holding heritage walks to showcase the old world charm of a city and focus attention towards the fast-disappearing culture and heritage on September 27.
The Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) has hired two guides Rajwinder Kaur and Ravinder Kumar to make the event a success. The walk will start every morning at 8 am from the Town Hall and culminate at the Golden Temple at 10 am.
The previously decided 18 heritage sites have been curtailed to 14 to save time, reduce distance, and prevent tourists from getting exhausted. A 3 km walk would take the visitors to a guided tour of the city, criss-crossing through a maze of narrow roads. The walk covers key religious, historic, architectural and traditional cuisine spots. It would help to showcase the old town.
Tourism minister Hira Singh Gabaria would perform the inauguration, while Principal Secretary Tourism Geetika Kalha would be present alongwith the officials of the department.
Initially, the heritage walk would be free of cost. Later, tourists would have to buy tickets to be a part of the guided group. Indians could buy a ticket at Rs 25 while thesame ticket would cost a foreigner Rs 75. Tickets would be available at tourist information centre at the Golden Temple, railway station and airport. Besides, a plan is to be made available for them at hotels in future as well.
Nationally acclaimed expert Debashish Nayak, who introduced the heritage walk in old town Ahmedabad, chalked out the heritage route of Amritsar on behalf of the PHTPB. At present, he is working as the adviser to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s heritage programme.
With this, a long-pending demand of pilgrims and tourists to see and feel the interiors of the walled city would be met. Earlier, the foray of pilgrims and tourists into the walled city was limited to paying obeisance at the Golden Temple. Once the walk is introduced they would have the opportunity to understand heritage, culture, traditions and the way of life of the old town, which was established by Guru Ramdas and nurtured by Guru Arjan Dev and later by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Beginning from the British-era Town Hall, the heritage walk would proceed to Saragarhi Gurdwara, Quila Ahluwalia, Chowk Jalebiyan Wala, Akhara Sangalwala, Akhara Chitta, Darshani Deori, Baba Bohar, Thakurdwara Dariana Mal, Chaurasti Attari chowk, Taksal, Radha Krishan Mandir, Crawling street, Puratan Rasta, (Ancient passage), and conclude at Akhara Brahm Buta.
The biggest challenge for the administration is to provide clean and hygienic lanes and to make the garbage lifting efficient. Loose and hanging wires belonging to various departments, including Powercom, BSNL and private satellite cable network are another challenge which is yet to be met.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has welcomed the introduction of heritage walk in the holy city but expressed its dismay at unsatisfactory action plan for the same.
INTACH state convener Dr Sukhdev Singh said the INTACH had identified the heritage walk route in the walled city and printed a brochure regarding this a decade ago. He said since then thousands of tourists, both Indians and foreigners, have walked with the volunteers of INTACH’s Amritsar chapter on the heritage route.
He said the authorities never attempted to provide proper civic amenities and cleanliness on the route.
He said the walk could be successful only if the administration provided clean roads, efficient sewerage facility. The electric wire mesh should be tackled in such a way that it does not cover the face of these buildings.
He also urged the government to save heritage buildings from being destroyed. He held property disputes among the families as another reason behind these buildings being slowly destroyed.
He suggested that the owners of old buildings must be provided loans at low interest rates to preserve these buildings and these buildings must be exempted from house tax.
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