No matter how experienced we are in leading heritage walks, talking to school students is always the most challenging! Perhaps as adults, we become set in the ways we think or can think. But for youngsters, nothing seems to be a taboo! We realized this yet again when we led a heritage walk to Red Fort for the students of Amity International School, Pushp Vihar, New Delhi. This was class seven and they all knew their history. The students divided themselves into 3 groups and each group named themselves after a Mughal emperors. So, we had Akbar, Babar and Shahjahan…the rulers whose family built the Red Fort and Shahjahanbad, being led by commoners of Delhi Heritage Walks: Awadhesh, Chhavi and Kanika! J
The students were extremely excited to see what they had read about and were brimming with questions: what, why and why not, of everything under the earth! Our first stop was the Lahori Gate, where students were asked to share their knowledge, impression of the Red Fort and the rulers who built them. They were quick to notice the architecture, the old building dating to 17th century and the later additions made to it. The door panel (of which only one survives) at the entry to Chhatta Chowk impressed everyone. Many tested their strength on it too! Our team members shared the history of the fort, the life of the royalty, the destruction in the revolt of 1857, then the INA trials held here, and finally its relevance to us even now. Many expressed anger and sadness over the vandalism of the fort in 1857. One of the highlights of the walk was Orpheus in the Diwan I Aam. They had all read about him and were only too excited to locate him in the hall of public audience! We walked through the palaces and gardens of the Mughals, wondering at the wealth and splendour, questioning current conservation work and thinking about how our past is created by the present. We examined the decoration work at Rang Mahal and Khas Mahal, appreciate the pietra dura in Diwan I Khas and imagined the Peacock Throne in it! ‘It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to get the Peacock Throne and Kohinoor back now’, someone suggested! Our team carried photographs of miniature paintings with showed how these buildings were lived in during the Mughal rule. We also carried some original Mughal coins, to allow them a feel!
This heritage walk also included a trip to the Mumtaz Mahal museum in the Red Fort. It was originally a palace which was later converted in to a museum by the British. We looked at some more miniatures, some very fine specimens of calligraphy (including those by Dara Shukoh, son of Shahjahan), shared stories of Tanashah (the Qutb Shahi ruler), and of course looked at the clothes, utensils etc used by the Mughals.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)