As an ancient and living civilisation, fabled land of prophets, spiritual leaders and healers, India has always attracted tourists from around the globe. Its history has been a splendid melting pot of diverse cultures, rich heritage, many religions, and languages.
The Heritage Project (THP), an initiative of the RPG Foundation, is working to bring stories of cultural and social importance to the fore. It aims to revive old, traditional heritage sites where the nation’s glorious past is inextricably linked to its present, and showcase it for people to experience and enjoy.
RPG Foundation’s THP works closely with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Directorate of Archaeology and Museums (Government of Maharashtra) and local communities to enable this.
Refurbished and beautified for the public to enjoy, one of THP’s flagship initiatives is around Mumbai’s Banganga precinct.
The tranquil site of Banganga, sometimes also known as a mini-Benaras, is nestled in the heart of Mumbai’s Malabar Hills area. It is among the oldest continuously inhabited places in the city, and is steeped in history and culture. Banganga tells a compelling tale of its archaic legend that dates back to the era of the Ramayana.
Having spent her golden childhood years in this area, Radha Goenka was always fascinated by the site. Today, she passionately works to bring it the fame it deserves. “Our focus was to revive the area, bring its stories alive and educate people of the history of the tank and the temples around it. We are not physically changing or restoring any structure in the precinct but bringing the stories and the history to the experience,” she explains.
THP aims to uplift the community spaces around Banganga in order to maintain its heritage status. The team has undertaken several initiatives such as refurbishing the children’s playground to a marine-themed playscape, and installing ornate lamp posts, benches and signages detailing the origins of this site.
Using its social projects’ experience, THP has developed an interactive children’s book on the mythological and cultural significance of this oasis. The intent is to make history and heritage interesting and readily available to the younger generation.
The recent years have only stressed on the need for new and improved storytelling approaches. With the pandemic bringing tourism to a screeching halt, RPG Foundation leveraged digital platforms to bring back stories to its loyalists.
Amble, a self-guided heritage tours' app, enables access to an enhanced experience of iconic historical sites around Mumbai.
Visitors can download the app to relive old and forgotten stories and experiences around heritage sites in Mumbai.
Our focus was to revive the area, bring its stories alive and educate people of the history of the tank and the temples around it.”
Radha Goenka, Director – RPG Foundation
Apart from going digital, THP has also been working to preserve the strong identities of India’s historical touchstones. It is working with the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) to execute a comprehensive signage plan throughout the ‘Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai’.
The collection of buildings has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the ‘Cultural Site’ category. The focus is to create awareness and a sense of public responsibility towards these heritage sites.
Stories from our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. As THP works to bring back to fame numerous sites of cultural and social importance, understanding the finer nuances of history is not new to RPG.
Chairman Harsh Goenka has for long promoted upcoming Indian artists through his passion project – RPG Art Foundation. The same sentiment is echoed in THP as it picks up clues from the past and stitches them to understand how society has evolved over generations. Importantly, it shares the joy of India’s deep-rooted cultural heritage with the masses through new and practical methods.