Theme: The Cultural Significance of Rural Identity to the Upcoming Generations
by Ms. Barjesh Kumari
HeritageForAll Intern (Call 2019) from Bilaspur, India
Internship Program “Rural Heritage and Traditional Food”
M.A. in Tourism Administration, Himachal Pradesh University
This article discusses the significance of local tales and folklore that can be an attraction for a tourist and how can we communicate these tales to the new and upcoming generations to know, realize, and cherish the rural identity they have and help these elements of rural heritage survive. It is based on a case study of a scheme called ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ (the story of every village) that was launched by state government of Himachal Pradesh through its Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation.
Reynolds, D. F. highlighted on the coexistence of poetry, proverbs, greetings of Arab world in the times of mass-mediated art forms of social media, broadcasting and online websites. He beautifully defines folklore as the art of everyday life. He further adds “It is the customs, traditions, beliefs, and habits of a community rendered in daily phenomena that include greetings and modes of politeness; concepts such as hospitality and friendship; practices such as clothing and food ways; verbal art forms such as proverbs, jokes, insults, stories, and poems; beliefs about supernatural beings, health, and diseases; physical art forms such as vernacular architecture and handmade furniture; and many other aspects of the ways in which we conduct ourselves and make sense of who we are on a daily basis.” (Reynolds, 2015)
Tourism in Himachal State
State of Himachal is located in northern India. It became a full-fledged state on 25th Jan 1971; its geographical area is 55,673 sq. km. State has 12 Districts (Administrative divisions) in which there are 20, 690 villages and 59 towns. Major population of 89.9 % i.e. 6,176,050 of total 68, 64,602 people is rural. This data shows that state enjoys the rural charm of it. Himachal is a picturesque state equipped with not only the geographical attractions of lakes, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and wildlife but also the beautiful culture: old traditions, rituals, local beliefs, folk-songs, folk dances, and much more. There are different tribes residing in its remote yet pristine areas. In every village you will find one or more temples, tales, and natural attractions making each and every sq mile of it rich in beauty and heritage. Every place has something different to offer. That is the reason that state attracts many tourists from around the world to the famous tourist destinations of Himachal.
Initially tourism in Himachal was concentrated in few hill stations mainly Shimla ‘The Summer capital of British India’ for its weather and British colonial architecture. Though, British rulers take credit of developing infrastructure in many of the places like Dalhousie, Shimla and Kasauli as they settled over there. But tourism flourished gradually post independence with infrastructural development in other places like Kullu, Manali, and Dharmshala. State Tourism is now even successful in diverting the tourism activities from the famous hill stations to adventure, wildlife, and cultural attractions of the state as problems of unplanned and mass tourism started growing in these sites in recent past. For example ‘Har Ghar Kuch Kahta Hai’- Every House Tells a Story is a scheme promoting heritage walk in Shimla which includes heritage buildings of British colonial times. It was a very unique idea state tourism department came up with.
Himachal tourism is also focusing on alternate tourism in state such as- rural, wellness, agriculture, and adventure sports. Yet another is ‘Home stay Scheme’ a concept of home away from home based on community based tourism model was launched in 2008 through which locals could earn by providing accommodation services to tourists at their homes. Locals are being provided with basic training on skills for running this business. ‘Nayi Rahein Nayi Manjilein’ (New Routes New Destinations) scheme was launched through which new and unknown destinations are being developed by the state. ‘Aaj Purani Rahon Se’ (Today, From the Old Ways) scheme focuses on heritage preservation and employment generation.
‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ Initiative/Scheme
In every village of the state you will find some folktales related to gods, mythology, and sacrifices of people. These folktales were never penned down by any but often heard from grandfathers and forefathers or communicated through folk-songs by folk artists from times to time. The emotions, the values associated with these stories attract listeners to the songs written and composed on them, or the grandmothers narrate to their children. These tales not only serve the purpose of entertainment but are a great source of learning traditional values for people. Himachal Tourism used these stories to lure tourists to visit these places located in rural parts under its scheme ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ that literally translates in to English as ‘(the story of every village)’.
‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ scheme was launched in the year 2010 on 31st May under which 12 villages were selected from each District (Administrative division) of the state. The folklore or stories associated with these villages were promoted through print media and outdoor advertising. Various boards were installed at these places with stories written on them, and attractions around mentioned on them were installed. Tourists and local could learn about these stories and places of some significance. A booklet containing 12 lesser known stories from 12 different states was officially launched in Aug 2011 by Chief Minister of the state as shown in Fig. 3 below.
The stories/folklore from twelve districts includes:
1. Rukmani Kund from District Bilaspur- a story associated with Salasi village narrating how a daughter in law of royal family sacrificed her life for people. Story highlights how a son is more loved by people than daughters/ daughter in law. It is based on beliefs and the place the small water body (kund) where that woman sacrificed her life is believed to be holy and sacred by people even now.
2. Saho village from District Chamba- is identified for the ancient Shiva temple and mysteries that it unfolds. The stone idol which gives metallic sound and stories associated with temple god creates interest in people to visit this place.
3. Nerti from District Kangra- is a beautiful village that is believed to be the historic site where the son of King Raj Singh built temple at the site of historic war between his father and King Sansar Chand. It is believed by the locals that King Raj Singh continued fighting for 48 minutes even after his head was cut thrown. There at Nerti you can find an open theater a stage for rural artists to promote and safeguard rural cultural heritage. Also there is a Folklore Research Center established at Nerti.
4. Hayun Village in District Shimla- The site of Chadwik Fall, it is believed by locals that a demon lived near fall (the fall also looks like water coming out from a demon face) but the local deities Gan Devta and Nag Devta protects them from the Demon. There is also an art gallery established here by a family and much more.
5. Bagi Village from District Mandi- where local people don’t have much faith in nation’s law and order system. They worship the local deity Dev Kotlui who solves their problems. People complaint in front of deity’s court and so the deity punishes the accused by damaging his crops / property so that he/she realizes his karma.
6. In the remote District Lahol and Spiti- Udaipur is included in the scheme which is famous for wooden temple of Goddess Mrikula for Hindus and Goddess Dorje Famo for Buddhists. Place has its history belonging to Mahabharata period.
And so like the stories above are the stories of rest seven villages Sangrah in District Sirmour, Baniya Devi from District Solan, Nari- District Una, Bela from District Hamirpur, Brua from District Kinnaur, and District Kullu- Shamsher.
Objectives of the Initiative
- The basic idea of the scheme was to attract tourists to lesser known places. To explore the unexplored. To go from mass to alternate.
- To develop the rural sites into tourist destinations.
- Infrastructure development in rural areas as villages lack in physical infrastructure, superstructure, and amenities but by opening tourism the residents could really enjoy the tourism oriented or residents oriented infrastructure so develop.
- Provide employment to local people through tourism and infrastructure development for example people could indulge in MANREGA projects on ROPs and TOPs development. To promote home stay scheme: Home stay scheme was launched in 2008, through which local people could register their homes as commercial accommodation for tourists and earn without paying any tax. By promoting ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ and bringing tourists to rural sites the idea is to promote home stay business also.
Success of ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ Scheme
- This scheme was successful in attracting people to the places by promoting historical facts, stories, beliefs associated with them.
- Not only tourists, but locals especially the young generations through this scheme could know about the folklore of their native places.
- It was a very creative initiative of the state tourism department. This scheme was helpful in promoting home stay scheme another initiative of government to promote rural tourism and employment opportunities for rural population.
- This initiative of Himachal Tourism got the Department recognition in the India International Tourism and Travel Trade Fair at Banglore on January 19, 2012 by winning 22nd National Level Award for Rural Tourism Promotion.
Limitations of the Scheme
- The scheme was appreciated by various stakeholders of the industry- the scholars, tourism professionals, and residents but no major attention was given further on infrastructural development. Mere signboard to the heritage/rural village under ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ or the written display of the rural story on metal board has left.
- It was also promised by government that a second edition of 12 more villages will be seen soon, that they are working on 102 more villages for this initiative but nothing such has happened so far. The scheme is almost extinct.
- Only print media marketing was done, no records are available online or in any digital form. The print media was also available only at few information centers, and only local no tourists could know about the scheme from the boards installed at these sites.
Tales and Stories fascinate people especially when they are historic, have some legacy, some beliefs, and some mythology. Folk people are more likely to be associated with these tales. Himachal a state with most of the population being rural the state Tourism Department came up with this idea to promote rural resources as tourist attractions with the help of these folklore. The scheme caught attention of many, got recognition also. It was successful in bringing the old stories, the lost history, and the folk tales to not only the tourists but also the new generations of locality who otherwise might not be told and learn about their culture and identity.
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