Preserving Vernacular Heritage Houses and Rural Tourism Projects: Anegundi Village, Karnataka, India

Theme: Rural Development and Tourism

By Ms. Madhura Sham Joshi
HeritageForAll Intern (Call 2019) from Mumbai, India
Internship Program “Rural Heritage and Traditional Food”
M.A. in International Architectural Regeneration and Development, Oxford Brookes University (UK)

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Role of Vernacular Dwellings in Rural Tourism:

Rural areas and its traditional settlement represent the best synthesis of people’s ability to modify the environment to their own advantage with the least impact; the farming structure provides the elements that characterize the landscape. (8) These rural vernacular homes are great learning for us regarding ecology, culture, sustainability and built designs. The preservation of built heritage also protects traditional wisdom, rituals and culture.

Today rural vernacular heritage under threat due to ignorance, urban migration and lack of resources for protection. The economic, cultural and architectural, agricultural sectors homogenization is responsible for current state of rural habitats. The development of rural tourism will protect rural habitat and its agriculture, nature and culture.

Rural tourism is considered one of the strongest tool in rural development and sustainability is very important part of tourism discourse. The concept of Sustainable tourism is explained by the World Tourism Organization, is management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems”. Sustainability in a popular building context is determined by several factors (2).

In tourism many times we have to first invest in new infrastructure to boost the place and that creates impact on any particular place. In new construction we require more material, usage of energy increase, local landscape or ecosystem gets disturbed. To tackle this issue in sustainable tourism it is advisable to invest in existing, vernacular or heritage buildings for renovation and adaptive reuse. This process helps to reduce environmental negative impact.(2)

The rural tourism includes activities related to local culture, agriculture, economy, nature or bio diversity and history of the place. In rural areas habitats are shaped based on the local availability of resources, agriculture production, structures related to farming. The layout develop based on social, environmental and cultural factors (8). Tourism does not only create benefits but it brings along some negative impacts which can be devastating if not managed properly and addressed in time. With the growth of tourism, the negative impacts worldwide include loss of cultural integrity, environmental damages and inflation.

The rural tourism with rural heritage, rural life, rural activities and ecosystem became very important in the sustainable tourism and development concept. Infrastructure play very important role in the entire process. The study of rural tourism in Anegundi village will throw light on process of rural vernacular homes in entire tourism project, social and economical outcome on these and sustainability.

Diagram 1: Classification of Rural Tourism Activities
Diagram 2: The Rural Tourism Concept

The study of Anegundi heritage village to understand impact of rural tourism initiative:

About Anegundi village:

Anegundi is a small, traditional village located across Tungabhadra River from World Heritage Site of Hampi. Once part of Vijayanagar Empire (1336 – 1646), it is believed to be the cradle of the empire and was home to Devaraya kings. Today, it is still home to the descendants of Vijayanagar rulers. The foundations of the village are older than that of Vijayanagara Empire that lies across the river since 8th century (3).

Figure 1: Anegundi Village Looking Towards Hampi Site

Anegundi was also known as Monkey kingdom of Kishkinda where Hampi was very important place in Ramayana. It’s a birth place of lord hanuman the scattered place of 60 Sq Km has so many religious sites around.

Kishkinda Trust was formed in 1997 and it assists villagers. It helps in maintaining business in the village and conserve historical heritage. TKT runs several unique programs which are seamlessly integrated with lives of the local people and which empower them economically (3).

Figure 2: Anegundi Village Map

Anegundi rural tourism development program:

Anegundi village is located in Karnataka state close to world heritage site Hampi. The village is beautifully placed on banks of Tungabhadra river with rich biodiversity around, rocks and boulders, long ancient culture with many ancient temples and vernacular houses. The village was not developed and grown for many years because of its proximity to world heritage site Hampi. So with this heritage tag the village was not permitted for any new construction or demolition of vernacular houses. The villagers took initiative to turn this disadvantage of no development into tourism opportunity to revive its heritage and create new infrastructure tucked within existing. The village community took an initiative through conservation of natural and architectural heritage and in doing so secure the future of site through sustainable integration of the people of the land (10).

Figure 3: Anegundi Village Farming Area

The Kishkinda Trust started the first project with simple insight: that for any heritage conservation to take place in Anegundi, it must first and foremost benefit the people of Anegundi economically, culturally and socially. Raising community awareness and participation in heritage conservation for development are conducted from the community training center established with UNESCO support in 2001 (10).

The trust developed `an integrated systems for sustainable livelihoods, architectural conservation, crafts, and education through performing arts, etc., in the village of Anegundia part of Hampi World Heritage Site by working with grassroots communities.

Figure 4: Anegundi Village Life

Founded in the year 1997 by Shama Pawar, The Kishkinda Trust (TKT) assists the villagers of Anegundi at a grassroots level to build capacity in order to maintain business incubators and to conserve their historical heritage (3).

TKT runs several unique programs, which are seamlessly integrated with the lives of the local people and that empower economically them. TKT has started many student groups that teach children about and to appreciate their environment and heritage (3).

Figure 5 A: Rural Development Activities by Kishkinda Trust
Figure 5 B: Rural Development Activities by Kishkinda Trust

Through the performing arts such as theatre, dance, baking, art and song; TKT enriches the lives of around a hundred children from the area. TKT also conducts workshops for college and high school students about the importance and methods of architectural conservation. Working directly with teachers is also important to us in order to instill values of conservation and architectural maintenance. TKT has also started a Library and activity center where children can read and learn some arts and crafts after school (3).

In a population of about 20,000 in the village, TKT has touched a thousand lives through its many tourism entrepreneurship developmental programs such as introduction of eighty Self Help Groups (SHGs) known as „Bhoomi Society for working women’ to achieve the goal of rural women entrepreneurship, facilitating development of homestay arrangement, establishment of multi cuisine restaurants by locals, patronizing local folk artists and performers, introducing village guides and volunteers to guide tourists by inducing rural tourism as livelihood strategy and introducing the concept of community participation in catering tourism services to the tourist community in Anegundi (4). Koppal is famous for its traditional colorful lacquer ware work. The handicrafts made by the local people are the wooden idols, toys and theatrical equipment. This district is also popular for Banana fiber craft & river grass products. Products are bags, mats and baskets (3).

Figure 6: Bana Fiber Craft Shop Set Up Trust in Anegundi
Figure 7 A: Homestays in Rural Houses in Anegundi
Figure 7 B: Homestays in Rural Houses in Anegundi
Figure 8 A: Hotels and Homestays in Rural Houses in Anegundi
Figure 8 B: Hotels and Homestays in Rural Houses in Anegundi

In this rural tourism project Kishkinda trust ensured that local people benefit economically and culturally by conserving and preserving their heritage in different tourism related infrastructure. The village had so many unused, old, dilapidated rural vernacular homes which trust started using for program and activities related to rural tourism.

Old unused rural houses restored and converted into homestays, craft center, tourist center, restaurant keeping its original heritage or vernacular elements intact. The project has successfully promoted and implemented the preservation of physical and cultural characteristics of the Anegundi village through preservation of vernacular rural homes.

This initiative brought pride in locals and gave engaging exposure to the visitors/tourists. The rural vernacular houses of Anegundi transformed into guest houses, renter tourist homes which opened up many employment opportunities. The interiors of these guest houses are spartan. The flooring is made of mud smeared with cow dung. Some have built in beds placed on raised platforms. Rooms have carved wooden pillars and handprints on doorways. Furnishing is done with locally made textiles and crafts. To accommodate the needs of the visitors, an Internet café has been set up and a restaurant called Howa, which serves traditional cuisine.

Figure 9 A: Interiors of Hotels and Homestays in Rural Houses in Anegundi
Figure 9 B: Interiors of Hotels and Homestays in Rural Houses in Anegundi

Figure 10: Conversion of Vernacular Structure in Heritage Hotels in Anegundi

Role of Vernacular Dwellings in Rural Tourism Development of Anegundi Village:

In the backdrop of increasing rural crisis in developing countries, providing social and economic justice to the vast segments of the masses who have been persistently deprived of livelihood, basic services like health and education, remains the greatest challenge. Rural Tourism cannot be a one stop solution for ensuring goals such as equity and empowerment (6). The mechanization and modernization of the agricultural sector we have seen major shift in population moving towards cities and the ageing of the remaining inhabitants of rural areas, have brought about the decline in use and consequent dereliction of a large part of the existing traditional architecture (2)

It is obvious that, there will be other new issues related to tourism in the near future. Cultural, environmental, technological and behavioral changes will affect the needs and expectations of tourists who are the consumer of tourism phenomenon. In this changing environment, keeping up with recent trends can provide advantages.

Taking on a new function, the landscape undergoes far-reaching changes as the close, deep-rooted bond between agriculture and the buildings put up for it fades. A gradual process of gentrification of farmhouses, barns and even whole villages as a result of this influx from towns and cities brings about far-reaching structural changes and adversely affects the physical and functional integrity of these assets. (8)

According to charter on the built vernacular heritage, October 1999; the focus was on vernacular heritage as collectively shared by community in particular social, functional, environmental setting. The addition of farming or agriculture got sense of place to each building because the landscape, people, environment and land are part of same unit. To look at rural vernacular heritage means to look at this unit, understanding the main relationships assessing all aspects of authenticity of farming sites and settlements and evaluating the forms in which their integrity can be maintained. It means also developing specific guidelines and land policies, in order to promote the development of a new rural vernacular heritage, able to maintain the genius loci in the future development of rural areas. (8)

The cataloguing and promotion of rural architecture contribute to creating jobs by stimulating new economic activity, such as the promotion of cultural tourism, while preserving a valuable source of information on rural culture, recovering local construction techniques, encouraging a sense of community, and making villages and rural areas more attractive to visitors (2).

The reutilization of popular architectural heritage with tourism purposes is very positive by several reasons, mainly the recovery of old rural and industrial buildings, generally under ruination conditions. Their recovery is very valuable to get new improved buildings where an alternative tourism offer can be presented (2). The traditional buildings were always climatically sustainable. They made use of local materials, such as laterite masonry, stone, wood carpentry and mud (1). The Traditional Architectural forms the back bone of social and culture set up of the place. It is essential for this architecture to retain its integrity. It is very important for contemporary architecture needs to respect vernacular elements and integrate them well (1).

Tourism is considered to be a potentially complementary activity for local communities and especially for farming families. The benefits are generally summed up as a three-way yield for the host community (the economical and social dimension of rural tourism), for the land itself (environmental maintenance), and for the tourist (leisure and tourism in the countryside), which implies a sequence of inter-related benefits (2).

Vernacular Preservation

In Anegundi trust has restored, redesigned and rehabilitate the traditional vernacular houses with financial assistance from TEMA Swedish company in 2005. In the process they collected and documented Anegundi and Hampi heritage sites to generate awareness about the values of cultural resources for the community and tourists. Kishkinda trust worked on the concept of setting up business (6)

The Gramgranthalay in Anegundi was rebuilt under the rural tourism scheme as a cultural library to inculcate reading habits, as reference place for local architecture and conservation, rural tourism, history. (6) Anegundi’s architectural heritage is relatively unspoiled and its inspiring landscape makes it important living, cultural and natural heritage site. With this project Anegundi village became role model in heritage conservation and a number of sustainable development project. (5).

Tourism

With rural tourism scheme trust restored, fixed houses using local ethos, material, construction techniques, rural aesthetics and complete ecofriendly experience. Today Anegundi has many humble elegant rural heritage homes that offer accommodation for tourists, retaining local style of architecture. We have more than 100 home owners who came forward to convert their ruined homes into business incubators as the concept is becoming popular amongst tourist and the owners of the heritage homes (6).

Through community mobilization the villagers developed rural tourism by riverside landscaping, revival of local tradition and cultural activities. They even developed software activities, awareness programs on tourism, local heritage and vernacular architecture culture, traditions and art developments and made tourism a strategy for livelihood. Instead of having more hotels or guest houses in rural areas, it is better to encourage homestay. The tourist can have a taste of the traditional practices along with local recipes prevalent in rural India. This would help the tourists to connect to the villagers in less time. (6)

Anegundi, part of the world heritage site, Hampi, is being developed into a world class tourism spot by engaging the localities to sensitize them to their cultural wealth and provide them a means of livelihood. It is famous for its Banana fiber crafts, Lambadi embroidery, Kolata, Bayalata, Anegundi Utsav and Jathra. It gives a fresh perspective on rural tourism and offers a unique experience. (9)

Rural Tourism is one of the few activities, which can provide a solution to these problems. Tourism on its own will not be able to provide 100 per cent employment throughout the year, but it does provide another opportunity, it does diversify portfolio apart from current engagements of farming, animal husbandry etc. (6)

Economy

Rural tourism entrepreneurship as an alternative occupation prospect in rural setting of Anegundi was introduced by The Kishkindha Trust with a mission to see the local community of Anegundi achieve social, economic empowerment through conservation of natural and architectural heritage, and doing so secure the future of site through sustainable integration of the people of the land through rural tourism entrepreneurship (4). As an intent to spread out the benefits of these sporadic activities in an even and deliberate fashion, so that the locals of the village-the real stakeholders, earn their livelihoods while remaining connected to their homeland and culture, It built a comprehensive program for capacity building of the village to introduce various entrepreneurial opportunities in the core areas of Hospitality sector, Crafts and Design, Tourism and Heritage Management and Entrepreneurship, Tourism Management in Anegundi (4). Studies in Koppal (Anegundi) suggest that job creation varies by enterprise type. Guest houses, Paying Guest accommodation and bed-and-breakfast can create jobs up to 6% to 8% of overall employment (9)

Sustainability and Identity

These thousand men, women and youth of Anegundi reflects a deeper sense of commitment to the values of community living and betterment, empathy towards heritage and conservation, and the historical significance of the space that they inhabit, along with meaningful and healthy means of living.

Bibliography:

  1. Tanvir, C. (2015). Building Energy Conservation and Green Architecture. Journal of Basic and Applied Engineering Research 2(9), 751–755.
  2. Cano, M., Garzón, E., & Sánchez-Soto, P. J.(2013). Preservation and Conservation of Rural Buildings as a Subject of Cultural Tourism: a Review Concerning the Application of New Technologies and Methodologies. Journal of Tourism & Hospitality 2(2).
  3. Briedenhann, J. (2009). Socio-cultural Criteria for the Evaluation of Rural Tourism Projects–A Delphi Consultation. Current Issues in Tourism, 12(4), 379-396.
  4. Seal M. (2016). Rural Tourism Entrepreneurship as a Mechanism for Rural Development: a Case Study on Anegundi, Karnataka. International Journal of Marketing & Financial Management 4(5), 67-80.
  5. TKT Kishkinda Trust (n.d.). Anegundi. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://tktkishkinda.org/anegundi/.
  6. Shapiro, S. P. (2015). Linking Heritage and Livelihood – Kishkinda Trust in Hampi, Anegundi (2015). Retrieved September 26, 2019, from www.gounesco.com/linking-heritage-livelihood-kishkinda-trust-hampi-anegundi/.
  7. Palmer, R., & Thérond, D. (2008) The Rural Vernacular Habitat, a Heritage in our Landscape. Future for a New Visions Landscape and Territory 31, 121–129.

Figures & Images:

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