A trip is successful if it surpasses your expectations, gives you unique experiences and sends you back with a bagful of memories to cherish. While hopping from one attraction to another on your itinerary is conventional, exploring gives you a pause and invites you to get intimate with the surroundings, offering an immersive experience.
Rajasthan is a juxtaposition of desert and flora, of vibrancy and serenity, of age-old history and bustling streets; and one of the best ways to experience the zeal of the state is through a heritage walk. Opting for the pedestrian route and biding adieu to the wheels will take you from feeling like a tourist to a local resident instantly, allowing you to see the unseen.
“Travelling in Rajasthan is an amalgam of visiting prominent monuments, engaging in experiences connected with art or wildlife and heritage walks, where you get to meet people and understand their style and culture” says Anirudh Shukla from Vedic Walks, whose walks currently operate in Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur and Abhaneri.
A guided approach to the usual stroll through the streets, these walks will let you discover hidden gateways, secret food joints and enchanting stories passed down the generations. “The walk covers elements of food, heritage, legend, stories, art and culture and combines them, so you get a wholesome and not just a one-dimensional experience” says Shukla.
The walks let you understand the traditions and ethos at the grassroots levels through an unfiltered lens, offering a kaleidoscopic vision of regional values and folk tales. One of the integral components of life in Rajasthan is scarcity of water in the arid regions and the oases of beauty that have emerged from it.
To highlight traditional water mechanisms and the marvels of the water flow in the age-old structures, Neeraj Doshi of Heritage Water Walks came up with a unique idea that blends technology and tales that will engulf you in his tours. “Why would a group of people choose to live in a desert, and what makes Thar so unique? It is because they could identify and find water when there was none and develop a life around it; everywhere you go you’ll find wells and lakes, all man-made; nothing is natural and that’s how it has become so beautiful,” says Doshi who used to run his own water management company in Jaipur.
An ingenious, informative and interesting take that lets you understand the elaborate water harvesting mechanism, these walks, coupled with Neeraj’s talent for weaving tales have become an applauded experiential. “Forts here have fantastic water management systems, so I thought why not create a walk that explains the engineering and architectural history behind them, the heritage of these systems and how they were made at such a height,” says Doshi.
So why should one take a walk? Anirudh Shukla highlights three important reasons to do so: “The person who conducts a walk is a local and not a guide; we make sure our walking tours are conducted by people living in that community, so they have authentic stories that connect more with the people rather than repetitive narratives about one site.” “Second, even if you take the same walk for ten consecutive days, you will find something new every time you go, because of the constant happenings in the city. Lastly, the combination of all the different essential elements offer a local community engagement which is otherwise not possible.”