Embracing Diversity: Heritage Walks as Unifying Threads in a Tapestry of Religions

It’s a misty Sunday morning. The sun is up, yet the city seems to be sleeping. The streets are quieter, and there’s a sense of tranquility in the air. Sundays are usually the days where everyone like to take that extra hour of sleep and take their day at slightly slower pace. However, it’s a completely different situation for members of Raahi, the heritage walk club of Miranda House.

The members of Raahi, donned in their cozy and layered outfits, have assembled in Chandni Chowk and are ready to take their heritage walk with Shalini, their president. Although slightly nervous, she joyfully proclaims, “I am really looking forward to leading this walk.” As everyone reaches the vibrant market of Delhi, she is ready to guide the walk.

India has always been home to a diverse group of people who have co-existed together, mostly harmoniously. The country is home to the major world religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism, among many others. This religious diversity has been a source of both strength and resilience for the nation, fostering a unique blend of traditions and practices that have evolved over centuries.

However, in recent times, this rich tapestry of India has seen strains of religious disharmony. Post 2014, the country has seen a rise of identity politics and communalism which has led to the tensions between different religious communities. Along with this, incidents of religious intolerance and discrimination has been on rise.

Heritage Walks, a ray of hope

Amidst the escalating cases of communal violence in India, people seem to have forgotten the common history that binds them together. Whether it was the Indian Rebellion of 1857 or the Civil Disobedience Movement, the great moments in Indian history were only possible because of the unity between people.

In the face of these challenges, Heritage walks stand out as a ray of hope. These walks are guided by an archeologist or a scholar and encompass people from different backgrounds who come together in order to quench their thirst for knowledge. These heritage walks offers a way for people from different communities to begin dialogue and try to mitigate their differences. “I feel it’s very important that people from different religious background talk to each other. I think it will help to clear many doubts” said Riddhi, a member of Raahi.

Recently, Raahi, the heritage walk club of Miranda House took a walk to Chandni chowk in Delhi. Apart from being one of the popular wholesale marketplaces in India, Chandni Chowk is home to people belonging to different communities along with their religious places, often named as ‘mini India.’ Their walk began at Lahori Darwaza, weaving its way through popular religious sites such as Digambar Jain Mandir, Gauri Shankar Mandir, and Sheeshganj Gurudwara, concluding at Fatehpuri Masjid. “Conducting a walk in the bustling streets of Chandni chowk was only to arouse the feeling of oneness among the participants. I wanted to show that people from different religions can live together peacefully just like they still do in Chandni Chowk,” said Shalini.

When people from diverse backgrounds come together to walk together through ancient streets and listen to stories of the past, a common bond is forged. These shared experiences help in creating a sense of oneness, breaking down stereotypes and prejudices that may have been fueled by contemporary issues. “When we go to any monument, we make sure that people understand the complete history behind it. Sometimes, it may be different than what people know through the media which often biased and deprived of facts” said Shalini.

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Recalling an incident which happened during the walk, Riddhi tells that after they visited the Gauri Shankar temple, they had to visit the Fatehpuri Masjid too. However, some of them were adorned with ‘Tilaks’ and ‘Kalavas.’ However, they werent stopped from entering the Masjid to which she says “I realised how we have some preconceived notions about somethings. This incident made me realise about my own prejudices about certain religions.” Thereby, by delving into the rich history of India, participants of such heritage walks transcend the invisible religious boundaries that often bind them.

Way forward

While heritage walks are a positive step towards mitigating religious animosity and promoting religious harmony, it is also essential to recognize that these might not be enough. Changes need to be brought at the ground level where the root causes of religious tensions need to be addressed and inclusivity should also be promoted.

There is also a need for more educational initiatives that emphasize the shared history and values of different religious traditions that can be instrumental in fostering a sense of unity among the younger generation. “If more and more young people join such heritage walks, I feel we can surely bring a positive change.” said Riddhi.

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About the Author

Alviya Haider

A Freelance writer based out of Delhi | Likes to read and write about everything related to art and culture read more...

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