Be it forgotten, lost or revised, the heritage of Delhi does exist. Who would have known that there are 1300 monuments in Delhi itself? Vikramjit Singh Rooprai has taken an initiative to introduce the audiences to these lesser known memorials and their history & present status. He believes that it is important to raise your voice for preserving India’s archaeological heritage instead of just blaming the authorities for not maintaining them the way they should be. Delhi Heritage Photography Club was started in 2010 and has went onto become India’s largest heritage hobby club.
They also organise heritage walks every fortnight and are presently holding an exhibition at the Red Fort which is titled ‘Forgotten Heritage – Delhi’. It throws light on the lesser known monuments of Delhi. They have also done sessions with eminent personalities like Sohail Hashmi (filmmaker, storywriter and heritage activist), K.K Muhammed (Retd. Regional Director of ASI and world famous archaeologist), R.V.Smith (former Editor of The Statesman and a famous book writer), Raza Rumi (top most journalist from Pakistan, who wrote a book on Delhi) and D. N. Chaudhuri (former photographer of The Statesman, who has been clicking since, the pre-independence era).
They claim that they don’t repeat any heritage walk for at least two years, which is indeed quite challenging. One World News brings to its readers an interview with Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, the man behind Delhi Heritage Photography Club.
How did you get an idea of coming up with something like this?
In 2009, I went out to explore Delhi and found out how rich the heritage was here and yet, how less we knew about it. Somewhere, that left a deep mark in me and I decided to educate people, instead of just sitting and blaming the authorities.
How do you get to know about the places and the information on lesser known monuments?
It took years of research and I was finally able to prepare an exhaustive list. However, there are many monuments which are yet to be discovered so it might take another four-five years to finish it all.
How do you manage to not repeat any of the locations for two years?
Delhi has over 600 monuments which are accessible to general public. If I do one monument per day, still I will not repeat any in two years. So far, with the Delhi Heritage Photography Club, we have covered over 300 monuments.
What all places have you been to? What has been the most astonishing site for you?
While every monument has something new and important to offer, my favourites are Jamali Kamali & Moti Masjid at the Red Fort and Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli. I don’t have a count of the exact number of monuments visited by me, but I am sure that I have covered most of them.
Which was the first place you visited? How did you find it?
I started my expedition from Satpula near Select City Walk in Saket. It is an ancient sluice dam. I just bumped into it without any prior information and I was shocked to see such an amazing piece of ancient technology, still in good shape. Same day, I went to the Mehrauli Village and Mehrauli Archaeological Park, just to be more amused.
Looking at the scenario of archaeological places these days, what changes do you think your initiative would bring?
These sites need better awareness. Only when the public will be aware, they can ask the government to pay attention to these sites. I am just trying to lay that strong foundation of ‘Heritage Love’.
Which time period do you select to make visits to these heritages?
I have been using every weekend I got in past five years. Not all 1300 stand in their entirety today. Most of them have been consumed by urbanization. My project also includes mapping of those lost monuments and marking them as demolished or forgotten.
What were the challenges you faced while starting up the project? When you began this journey, how many members turned up and how has it changed?
Initially I was alone. It went on like that for almost a year. In 2010, some of my friends joined me and as we grew from one to ten, I started Delhi Heritage Awareness Club. Soon, I changed its name to Delhi Heritage Photography Club.
During this period, my website www.monumentsofdelhi.com was also doing well. Today, the club has grown to approx. 13,000 members and when I go out, a group of seventy-eighty people walk along. We run ‘Identify the Monument’ contest daily on our Facebook page and sometimes even I am surprised by the enthusiasm showed by the people. I see how people were totally unaware of these places and now they not only have detailed knowledge about them, rather they also try to promote and protect them. There have been several petitions and protection drives by our club members at various monuments.
When did you realise that this is what you wanted to do?
In last the two-three years, my interest turned into my passion and now I find it difficult to detach myself from this. While I am still a corporate employee, earning my bread and butter from a five day job at a MNC, I keep my passion alive by working in the night and on weekends for Heritage.
What message you would like to convey to our readers?
‘Love thy Heritage’. They are not mere stone structures. They hide numerous stories and secrets behind the walls. These stories, when revealed to us, can help us become a better human being and give a better future to our coming generations.
Picture Courtesy : Vikramjit Singh
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