Are the city’s youth interested in visiting heritage sites?

Chennai, with historically rich records dating from the British era, houses many heritage buildings within its metropolitan area. But when was the last time you went to one? No, we are not just referring to Chennai Central Railway Station or the Madras High Court, but places like Government Museum Building, Chepauk Palace and the National Art Gallery. On the occasion of World Heritage Week, we decided to do a perspective check if youngsters go to heritage sites by choice. Madhavan Santhangopalan, a 24-year-old software engineer, says, “I don’t remember the last time I went to a heritage site. My parents took me to the Brihadeewara Temple at Thanjavur when I was 11, but after that, I don’t think I’ve been to any heritage sites.” Ask him if he has been to Mahabalipuram and he excitedly says “Yes, of course”. However, when we probe, he says, “I have been to the beach and the cafes.”

Mahabalipuram, or Mahabs as it is popularly known, is famous for the serene beach, the bustling food joints and delectable food. But this is not all that’s there to the place. Do you know that near the beach are a group of monuments that were built by the Pallava Kings in the 7th and the 8th century?

So, where do youngsters like to go? Says Amreetha Krishnamurthy, a college student, “Whenever my friends and I plan a getaway, heritage sites are not on the list. When we don’t have a lot of time, we go to a mall or some coffee joint. In evenings, we go to nightclubs.”

Kollywood music composer Anirudh echoes that sentiment too. Would the composer — whose favourite holiday destination is New York — go to a heritage site for a holiday? He says, “Honestly, I will not plan to go to heritage sites when I want to chill out. The idea of a holiday is to shop, hangout with friends, relax and come back refreshed. And, our parents didn’t go there either when they were younger!” However, Anirudh also realizes that it’s time the younger generation visits such sites and adds, “Given a chance, I would love to visit the Thanjavur temple.”

However, there are a few like Anusha Venkateswaran, a 25-year-old working professional, who has planned all her trips in the last year around a world heritage site. After tasting a slice of history at Udaipur and Hampi, she’s planning her next trip in February to Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, with her friends during the annual dance festival. “If a place has been accredited as a heritage site by international bodies, then it means there’s got to be something special about it. I find history charming, and these sites give you a glimpse into the past and the way men lived in those generations,” says Anusha.

Dr R Kannan, Principal Secretary in Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Department of the state government, states that measures are being taken to promote heritage tourism with the youth. He says, “While there are many packages for school excursions and foreigners, the tourism ministry has also designed special packages like adventure tourism and world heritage site packages for youngsters that are inexpensive as well.”

- Include sound and light shows
- Cheaper packages
- Hold cultural festivals


The shore temple at Mahabalipuram


Source: Chennai Times | Times of India | Isha Sharma
Photo Courtesy: BA Raju

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