Topic: Exploring Indian Culture and History through Curated Heritage Trails
In conversation with Sawani Shetye
It is often said that there are three main ways to know India. First, and the best way, is to aspire to realise the truth behind India’s profound and life-affirming spiritual thought. Second is to identify with the deeper truths behind India’s countless stories, particularly the stories told in itihāsa-s (Ramayana and Mahabharata) and numerous purāna-s, kāvya-s and other dharma-shāstra-s and niti-shāstra-s.
And the third way is to travel through the length and breadth of India. The curious seeker can explore her richly diverse history and living heritage and experience firsthand the wide range of traditions and cultural practices. One will begin to appreciate how these traditions have been preserved over millennia and are also being given new forms with changing times and contexts.
For this month’s Insightful Conversations at AuroBharati we invited Ms. Sawani Shetye who hails from Goa. She, in a way, combines all the three in her quest to relate to the deeper spirit of India and serve her motherland through her work. Ms. Shetye has been a student of Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, and has extensively explored the history and cultural heritage of Goa. Her love for history and her enthusiasm for travel, and most importantly her passion to share this interest with other enthusiasts led her to start a heritage consulting agency.
As a heritage travel curator, Ms. Shetye shed light on the effectiveness of culturally sensitive travel to educate people about their history and cultural heritage. Sharing about her experience of curating heritage trails for youth and children of Goa, she said that discovering a culturally rich side of Goa and its related historical context is generally an eye-opening for many of them. Because for long they too have been accustomed to seeing Goa through the lens of standard commercial promotion by tourism companies — that of being only or primarily as a ‘party place’. We also discussed about what is unique about the history of Goa and also about Goan freedom movement.
She shared some anecdotes about individuals who had come from far off places in India to fight with natives of Goa to secure its independence from the Portuguese colonialists and sacrificed their lives.
The ‘Goa Beyond the Beaches’ experience can often be a deeply educational one, especially for those who are interested in history and heritage. This became clear as our conversation continued.
Sharing a few stories about Goan history, Ms. Shetye emphasised that learning about one’s history in a meaningful way can impact one’s sense of individual and collective identity. Having a deep interest in Indian temple architecture, she also spoke about the uniqueness of temples of Goa. The temples’ history and connection with the sense of Hindu identity as it evolved during the most brutal colonial period of Goa made this part of the conversation highly informative.
Our guest told us about the Goan Hindu temples being ‘refugee’ temples in the sense that the deities had been forced to move to safer places due to colonial oppression. She added that often many younger generation Hindus in Goa are also unaware of the painful history of their local temples.
Read more about this conversation HERE.
Watch the full conversation:
Renaissance is our monthly e-journal, highlighting numerous forms in which the eternal spirit of India is being reborn and renewed. It is a space featuring inspiring articles, essays, stories, videos, reflections and accounts of India and her creative genius manifesting in various domains – spiritual, artistic, literary, philosophic, scientific, aesthetic.