Parakeets and pigeons flitting around, peacock calls, stimulating presentations and discussions by experts from around the world, the sound of music and the rhythms of dancing feet… all within the beautiful City Palace Complex which boasts museums, art galleries, and award winning heritage palace-hotels. This and much more constituted the second World Living Heritage Festival-2014 at Udaipur.

The event was a treat for art lovers. It was also a tremendous boost for the cause of conserving our centuries-old, precious heritage, both tangible and intangible. The talks, case studies and animated discussions threw up interesting ideas and strategies for the understanding, preservation and contemporisation of age-old traditions.

Organised by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF), Udaipur, in association with UNESCO, New Delhi, from March 13 to 16, the fest brought together eminent personalities representing international agencies, foundations, government agencies, NGOs, educational institutions, as well as media persons and artisans from various traditions. The event was supported by Dronah and HRH Group of Hotels.

In his special address, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, Chairman and Managing Trustee, MMCF, Udaipur, underlined the importance of conserving our rich culture and dwelt on the difference between heritage and history. The former comes to us as an inheritance and the latter is generally the subject of books, he said.

This international conference was conceived of as a holistic programme. So, it dealt with a wide range of concepts and practices in tangible and intangible heritage. It stressed on how to ensure development happens along with careful preservation of our heritage and empowerment of the community.

Vrinda Raje Singh, CEO, Joint Custodianship Initiatives, MMCF and Festival Coordinator, said: “We regard Shriji as the father of the living heritage movement in our country. The House of Mewar is a heritage-bearer which practises its age-old traditions while deeply involving the community of Udaipur. So, both the tangible and intangible heritage can be experienced within the City Palace Complex.”

There were music concerts and dance performances, both classical and folk, every day including richly colourful Holi-theme programmes. Gotipua dancers drew repeated applause with their acrobatic skills. Adding the element of digital dimension to the fest was Rang, which aimed to give artists and artisans an online platform for global opportunities hence giving them international exposure with the resultant benefits.

Among the other events outside the conference hall were a Heritage Walk through Unnoticed Udaipur, tours of the stunning City Palace, and the opening of a sculpture gallery titled ‘Divine Gesture—The Magnificence of Mewar Spirituality’ (consulting curator Alka Pande). This gallery was inaugurated by the Ambassador of Austria to India Bernhard Wrabetz. It added to the list of existing museums in the City Palace Complex which showcases hordes of exquisite antiques.

In a chat later, the Austrian Ambassador said: “The festival is very interesting. Also, the idea of having a heritage fest of this kind in a place like Udaipur, which exudes such a rich heritage of architecture, music, and handicrafts, is wonderful.”

The spectacular Holika Dahan ceremony provided the finale and had Shriji and his son Lakshyaraj perform age-old rituals prescribed for Holi Pournima. The Holi bonfire, more cultural performances, and a dazzling fireworks show followed.

What better way to promote heritage!