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Rediff.com  » Business » Jaipur heritage intl festival from Jan 7

Jaipur heritage intl festival from Jan 7

December 24, 2003 09:46 IST

When the curtain goes up on the Jaipur Heritage International Festival on January 7, chances that people will look for the Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) spent on the event are unlikely.

For making it possible, far more than the donations and sponsorships, will be the spirit of a loosely knit fraternity that has only one goal: to keep Jaipur's cultural and architectural heritage alive.

The festival, (up to January 21) will test the waters for the Jaipur Virasat Foundation, a body that has made heritage-based social and economic development its raison d'etre.

The scale of Virasat's operation, and its engagement to ensure continuity of heritage skills with adequate compensations, make it a long-term effort.

"In ten years," worries trustee and honorary director Faith Singh who, along with her husband John Singh, set up the path-breaking Anokhi, "we would have lost most skills. The time to act is now."

The motivation lies not just in preservation but in ensuring consistent work using traditional skills in a contemporary environment.

Here, the festival will play an important role. For, just as it invites footfalls from outside to interact with local communities, it hopes that the craftspersons will be stimulated by their interest in everything from weaving and craftsmanship to animal husbandry and preservation of water resources.

"We hope to preserve what we have," Singh says by example of the city's built heritage, "but also to encourage builders to put their money into combining technology with traditional building styles and modes."

With that in mind, the festival has an agenda that is as formidable as it is ambitious. It combines the folk music and dance with the spiritual and devotional, crafts bazaars with seminars and workshops, exhibitions with sports and "late night clubs".

Within this medley, each day of the festival has a special theme -- children, women, water, literacy, special needs and environment among the urgent ones, crafts, kites and a grand finale as the more celebratory.

Since this is pretty much the focus of Virasat, initially spun off from an Intach initiative but now broad-based for greater flexibility and action, it has ensured that its membership among communities and villages is contributory, no matter how modest the sum.

"If you've paid, you belong, you have a right to question, and that's the way we hope heritage will be tied in with social development," says Singh.

She's hoping Gaj Singh's inclusion on the board of trustees, along with Ashok Agarwal, Basant Khaitan, John Singh and Malvika Singh will give it enough leverage to go sponsor chasing.

Already, the Oberoi and Taj hotel companies, among others have come on board, while Gayatri Devi was responsible for kick-starting the donation campaign. Support has also come from Friends of Jaipur in UK and Les Amis de Jaipur in France.

But to sustain the project, it will require more than just donors and manpower. The interface between the local community and visitor participation could well be the beginning.

Kishore Singh in Jaipur