Bidar is an under-appreciated heritage destination in the erstwhile Deccan and current Hyderabad-Karnataka region. Due to historic reasons and its geographic location, Bidar fort was one of the rare forts which were never attacked by an external kingdom. Bidar is also famous for its unique Bidri silver, alloy metal handicraft which has a GI (geographic indication) tag – meaning Bidri cannot be made anywhere else in the world.
Although Bidar is only a couple of hours drive from the Hyderabad city, the city sees very few tourists. Through our run at Bidar, we were able to encourage more than 150 tourists from Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai cities to visit Bidar. In addition, we were able to organize an exploratory tour of the 13th century Persian influenced Karez Aqueduct System for the participants. The tour was led by Prof. V. Govindan, the researcher who re-discovered, researched this aqueduct system and wrote an authoritative report of the same.
Here is a run report of all that went into the run.
The preparation for the run began after a conversation with Mr. Kishore Raykar, Executive Director, IHCN (Indian Heritage Cities Network, an organization and network of heritage cities in India started by UNESCO) and ex commissioner, Mysuru. Bidar is currently on the World Monuments Fund Watch List due to the efforts by IHCN and district administration. Mr. Raykar connected us to Mr. P.C. Jaffar, Deputy Commissioner, Bidar District who gave his enthusiastic support to the event right from the start. We were then connected to Mr. Rishikesh Desai, President, Rotary Club Bidar. In addition, we spoke to Ms. Lisa Ackerman, CEO of World Monuments Fund and discussed ways to promote Bidar (which is on the WMF Watch List) together on international platforms as well.
With excellent support from these organizations, we were ready to start with our next step in the preparation.
Considering that Bidar is in the Hyderabad-Deccan region, we were initially apprehensive about the landscape and the weather. This region is famous for its rocks, boulders and high temperatures. However, when we visited Bidar for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised to see greenery everywhere. Bidar is located at a higher altitude than the surrounding plains and also has excellent water sources nearby. We learned that although summers are hot, the weather is quite pleasant between the months of October to February.
The discussions about the route began with the officials from the local administration and our partners sharing their suggestions on the important landmarks in town. Using a map showing the layout of the entire town, we mapped different run routes and later checked the actual road route. We were keen on starting the run inside the Bidar fort, and enlisted the support of the ASI Assistant Conservation Archaeologist Mr. Mouneshwar, for the same.
The routes we checked were flat for the most part and there were two distances possible – 5km and 10.5km. The 21km run participants would complete two loops of the 10.5km route. These routes would take participants along the major landmarks in Bidar – Gurudwara Nanak Jhira, the old Bidar town, Choubara, three of the fort gates – Shah Gunj Darwaza, Fateh Darwaza, Mangalpet Darwaza and Madarsa Mahmud Gawan. There are several more monuments in Bidar – the Bahmani tombs, Choukhandi – but for an optimal route and experience, we limited the route to within the city. The other significance of the planned routes was that these cover the proposed heritage walk routes and help in promoting them as well.
Promoting a run was an important objective, but so was promoting Bidar as a destination in itself. In order to do this, we identified different aspects of the town – landscape, monuments, heritage and the handicrafts. We took the saying – a picture speaks a thousand words – to heart and published stunning photos to attract people to the run.
Through our runs, we try to encourage local arts, crafts and traditions as well. Thanks to Mr. Rishikesh, at this run, we were able to engage Mr. Rauf, a National Award winning Bidri artist to create finisher medals in the Bidri style. Unlike mass manufactured finisher medals at most runs, these medals were unique. We used this occasion to promote Bidri as well. The design, created by Mr. Sagar Gupta, a student at NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) Delhi, was a modern, minimalistic representation of the Bidar fort.
Online outreach is great to connect with audiences in cities. In Bidar, we enlisted the support of World Monument Fund as well in order to reach global audience via social media channels. We encouraged students to participate in the run as well and had excellent participation from the local colleges.
The runs saw a large number of participants from Hyderabad Runners, a club promoting running in Hyderabad. In addition, the students from Horticulture University, Bidar participated with enthusiasm. Cadets from the NCC Air Wing volunteered to support the run participants on the route. Local residents, including young kids, who did not join the run itself lined up on the streets to greet and encourage the runners.
Chief Officials from the Bidar district administration, including the Deputy Collector, Bidar; Inspector General of Police, Gulbarga; Superintendent of Police, Bidar; and several other colleagues joined the runners and explored the town on foot.
The run saw nearly 200 participants in total from across social strata, nearly half of them traveling to Bidar for the first time. More importantly, it helped Bidar get noticed internationally for its effort and support for a unique initiative to promote heritage.
After the run was completed, participants were taken on a tour of the Karez Aqueduct System in Bidar by Mr. Govindan who had specially travelled from Kerala for this opportunity.