15 December 2019
Bhubaneswar: When you take the heritage walk, you aren't just going on a formal guided tour of the Temple City, you become a part of it; a part of the stories shared, the nostalgia lived and a part of a newer experience, one that's filled with curiosity and almost childlike wonder. Week after week the spirit never dies down, but rather it takes more and more intense course as the visitors also love the event as besides the monuments they also got to know a cultural profile of Ekamra Kshetra.
Ekamra Walks celebrated its 150th edition this morning. With many new faces and a reunion with known ones, this edition was a true testament to the art of storytelling and how people become their cities and cities become its people.
Starting at 6:30 am in the morning, the air this Sunday was buzzing with a light energy; people coming in groups and couples and solos. At one corner, there's a reunion of sorts, sharing anecdotes about their previous experience in Ekamra Walks, someone catches up with someone else and someone is talking to someone for the first time.
The fact that the feeling of camaraderie is a usual experience in this walk says a lot about the impact that Ekamra Walks has on the visitors.
The walk started at Mukteshwar Temple, at the end of which, a fun game of "copy the leader" was played by the walkers where each participant had to hold a pose shown by Odissi dancers and whoever held the pose the longest emerged as the winner.
The guided tour isn't just a walk, you're taking a walk through the heart of the city as it wakes up. Jokes are cracked, laughs shared, refreshments given, bits and pieces of lives exchanged. There are trivia questions asked about the heritage sites and answers are exchanged. The need to be right takes a backseat as walkers exchange different facts about the same sites.
Talking about his experience in Ekamra Walks, Bhupendra Pratap Singh says, "It was a nice experience for me. For any person who is not from Bhubaneswar, walks like these provide a great insight into Bhubaneswar as a city and it's values and history. Being from UP myself, this was an enlightening experience for me." But it's not just him who feels that way.
Arindam from West Bengal adds, "I got to know about Ekamra Walks from my colleague and I've never had any experience such as this earlier. I'm glad that such initiatives are taken to spread not just Odia culture and heritage but also Indian history. I will be recommending this to all my friends now."
This edition was all about love and friendly banter and a common love for history and culture and heritage and talks about how much this still holds importance. And this love isn't limited to the country. For Andrea, who is originally from Spain and is in the city for a 6 month project with a NGO, this was the second time attending the Walks.
She says, "My previous walk was in the Odisha Arts and Crafts Museum, which I enjoyed a lot. Even this time around, I learnt a lot. I really enjoyed the stories of the people who were talking about the history of these temples. I think walking here on my own is different from walking right now because I am getting to learn. When you're alone, you tend to observe but still miss many things. So, I did learn a lot and it does feel special to be a part of such an important day for Ekamra Walks itself."
There is unity, there is solidarity, there is understanding in the ways conversations are exchanged. Walkers truly become friends by the end of the trail. Numbers, hugs and gratitude is exchanged all around. Goodbyes are said with hopes of meeting again and continuing the initiative as it is.
That's the thing about cities and it's history, how spending time immersed in it, along with people who have the same stories and curiosities as you do, brings about a closeness that cannot be witnessed in an official tour guide.
The walk ends at the Art Vision Dance Academy, a dance institute by Padma Shree Iliana Citaristi, an Italian Bhubaneswar-based Odissi dancer. The performance is top notch and once again, everyone goes around, thanking and nodding; exchanging smiles and promises of a next time.
The temples of Bhubaneswar have intricate carvings of what society used to be when sculptors and tradesmen decided to paint it; of existence that is now mythical, that is now worshipped. This essence was found in this 150th edition of the Walk; an essence of humanness and connection through similar pasts and for some, new adventures.
With the 150th edition of the walk and 150 minutes on the heritage mile coming to an, amazing, bittersweet close, Ekamra Walks hopes to continue this initiative for years to come.