Warangal is in focus now. A town overshadowed for a very long time by its bigger, glitzy neighbouring city of Hyderabad, Warangal has started to get more attention since the formation of Telangana, the newest state in India. Warangal has been selected among 12 cities across India for development as a Heritage City under the HRIDAY scheme by Government of India.
The reason we chose Warangal for our Go Heritage Run after Hampi was not based on these factors though. As a city host to heritage sites on the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites, we felt that Warangal deserved more attention. Even with the major city of Hyderabad nearby, Warangal is not really a big tourist destination. We intended our run to be a catalyst and make it a reason to visit Warangal. Thanks to our partners including Hyderabad Runners (one of the biggest running clubs in India), we did manage to fulfil this objective to a very large extent.
Our work always begins with identifying the right partners – we look for organizations working in the field of heritage and who are equally enthusiastic about innovative approaches to promoting heritage. INTACH Hyderabad and Mrs. Anuradha Reddy have been a pillar of support right from the 2013 GoUNESCO Finale and they have supported all our runs. We also got in touch with Kakatiya Heritage Trust, run by Prof. Pandu Ranga Rao and Mr. Papa Rao – who have been working towards promoting Kakatiya heritage and were one of the main agencies responsible for getting the Warangal monuments on the world heritage site tentative list. The managing committee of Hyderabad Runners also was very enthusiastic about the idea of exploring Warangal on foot.
The district administration, who we got introduced to through our partners, was equally enthusiastic and assured us all support for conducting the run. Mrs. Karuna Vakati IAS, the District Collector and Magistrate guided us on the procedure to follow and the agencies to engage. We also spoke to Mr. Sarfaraz Ahmad IAS, Commissioner, Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation and Mr. A. K. Jha IPS, Superintendent of Police, Warangal range and solicited their support for the run.
Our first recce trip to Warangal was very fruitful, with unprecedented support from all quarters. Prof. Rao suggested that we include the peripheral pathway next to the rock fortification in the run route, but the overgrown bushes on the edges of this pathway were a cause for concern. However, Mr. Ahmad’s assurance that these would be cleared before the run gave us the confidence to go ahead and plan the route accordingly. Mr. Ahmad made good his promise and numerous runners shared positive feedback about this stretch of the run route. In fact, most would not be able to recognize this stretch from the photos below –
Tourism generates sustainable revenue for a region and Telangana Tourism agreed that this run could give good impetus to tourism in Warangal. Mr. B. P. Acharya, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Culture, Archaeology & Museums assured us all support from the government for the run. Mr. Krishnaiah, Superintending Archaeologist, Hyderabad Circle, Archaeological Survey of India was enthusiastic about supporting a unique way of introducing built heritage to the public too.
Our search for a local partner in Warangal ended when Kapil Group came on board. We could not have found a more supportive partner – not only did they let us use their zonal office in Subedari for offline registrations by residents Warangal, but also opened the office specially for us on Ugadi (Telugu new year, which was on 21st March this year) to distribute kits to participants.
Collecting Local Experiences
Through Go Heritage Runs, we promote local arts, crafts and culture in addition to bringing attention to the built heritage itself. We consider our medals and the cultural experiences on the prior to the run as a great way to encourage these arts and crafts. On further research, we narrowed down to two crafts – Brass work from Pembarthi and Cheriyal paintings as likely candidates for using for the finisher medals. While the Pembarthi brasswork is unique in itself, we felt that Cheriyal paintings were much more personal. This would also continue the tradition of hand crafted medals we have followed at our other runs (Bidri at Bidar, hand embroidery at Hampi). Mr. Sivaji, the District Tourism Officer in Warangal put us in touch with Mr. Vykuntam Nakash, an award winning Cheriyal artist who we eventually worked together in creating the medals. The design on the medals potrays Bathukamma, a tradition unique to the Telangana region.
When Prof. Pandu Ranga Rao mentioned that the Thousand Pillar Temple was the venue for a Perini performance at the time of the Kakatiya Festival, we jumped at the idea and decided to pursue the same. Perini, being a Kakatiya war dance, was quite apt as an introduction for visitors to local culture.
At Go Heritage Runs, we aim to encourage interest among city dwellers to visit heritage sites and at the same time show the impact of heritage tourism to the local population. To this end, we focus on spreading the word both online and offline. Through our website, weekly emails and facebook, we were able to reach thousands of people in major cities across India.
In Warangal, we reached out to the NIT and engaged other schools and colleges so we could ensure inclusive participation. Our press meets in Warangal and Hyderabad ensured wide publicity in the press as well. The Hindu even called it a ‘go-to event for heritage lovers’!
This time, we also experimented with newspaper and online ads towards the end.
Mrs. Anuradha Reddy took interested participants on a brief tour of the 1000 pillar temple before the cultural performances began.
Although our initial plan was to organize the Perini and Nritya Ratnavali dances alone, we coordinated with the temple authorities and the District Administration to combine the Ugadi celebrations with these dances. The result was an event of much larger scale than we had envisioned earlier with more than 300 local and out of town attendees getting a taste of the local culture.
When we opened registrations for the run, we had planned only two categories – 5km and 16km. These routes followed a natural, logical path. Both were to start at Kushmahal inside the Warangal fort, the 5k along the peripheral pathway next to the rock fortification and the 16k route following the path to the 1000 pillar temple and back. However, on receiving a large number of requests for a 21km route, we decided to combine the 5km and 16km routes and add this as an option.
The day before the run however, we had to change the venue for the start/finish due to logistical issues. This disrupted some of our arrangements but not the enthusiasm of runners. In addition to nearly 200 out of town runners who participated in the longer distance runs, we saw incredible participation from the local population who turned up in an equal number for the 5km run. Runners from different cities, including Hyderabad, Bangalore and as far as Pune experienced Warangal’s lesser known heritage on the run routes. The 5km route was one of the most liked stretches with runners appreciating the fields, rural setting and some unprotected monuments along the way.
Top ranking district officials including the District Collector & Magistrate, Municipal Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police flagged off the different runs and also took time to participate in the 5km run. As in our other runs, we saw a large number of young kids run and families turn up too. This time, we saw a big contingent of cyclists who rode all the way from Hyderabad (140km) to Warangal braving the heat and the participated in the event as runners and some as volunteers too. We were delighted to have some of our regular Go Heritage Runners in Warangal too!
As in all our runs, we ensured that there was no litter left behind after the event. Our volunteers put in their hearts to make sure that all participants had a gala time and a great experience.
For all photos from the run, please visit our Facebook album – link.
We look forward to seeing you at our run in Ooty on May 31st, registrations will start soon – keep watching this space!
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