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City’s heritage walks and tours go virtual during pandemic

Going on heritage walks in and around the city was one of the favourite cultural activities for many. Now with pandemic and other restrictions, weekend walks and tours have taken a backseat.

Chennai: But the heritage walk organisers aren’t ready to step back. They have curated interesting online series and classes to engage people. Priya Thyagarajan, the co-founder of Mystical Palmyra that organises heritage tours, says, “We are not planning any tours until August-end. But, thinking about hosting virtual tours with the content that we already have. During the lockdown, we have been hosting heritage talks on zoom. There are many people who love to learn and understand about the history of small neighborhoods, cities and heritage structures. And I think zoom sessions with historians gave them a different experience.”

She also says that the heritage tour they have planned to Gokarna in December will not be cancelled. “I hope things will be okay by then. That said, the future of heritage walks and tours are going to be different. We should be extra careful at least until we get the coronavirus vaccine. Usually, for the walks, a lot of people join us. But moving forward, it is safe if we make registration a mandatory process,” Priya explains.

Madras Inherited is an initiative by a group of architects and volunteers to explore hidden architectural gems through heritage walks. Ashmitha Athreya, a research assistant with Madras Inherited, says that they have curated weekly social media initiatives. “Since physical walks are not possible now, we have come up with a few social media initiatives like the talking city, virtual walks, trivia and etymology. Every Monday, we organise virtual walks -- we pick a route in which we have already organised a walk and share glimpses from that route. If it is a place, we post a brief about its history and if it is a building we focus on its architecture. So far, we have covered Triplicane, George Town, Mylapore, Santhome and T Nagar. On Tuesdays, we have a curated series called Talking City - in this, the lesser-known heritage buildings narrate their own stories, in first person,” says Ashmitha.