Kerala, the land of spices and spectacular folk culture, is undoubtedly a treasure land of heritage and culture. Be it the historically significant ‘black gold' that we lavishly use in our culinary custom or the modest plantain that we esteem with auspicious reverence, the beauty of the State's rich heritage is reflected in every aspect of its culture and life.

But how many younger generation Keralites are sensitive to the true value of our heritage?

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), a New Delhi-based NGO, is addressing this question by launching its national campaign of school Heritage Clubs in Kerala.

The campaign, being launched with the support of Ministry of Culture, basically involves setting up Heritage Clubs in schools to create awareness of and appreciation for local heritage among children.

As part of launching the campaign, Thiruvananthapuram chapter of INTACH is organising a two-day trainer's training workshop for schoolteachers at St. Roch's Convent in the city.

“Many of our heritage treasures and traditional practices are taken for granted by people today. INTACH is trying to sensitise the community towards our heritage through this chain of trainers, teachers and children,'' said Purnima Datt, project director of INTACH Heritage Education and Communication Service division, who is leading the workshop.

“The Heritage Club project endeavours to create awareness of local culture and heritage among people in the community by using the force of children. We believe that it is possible to bring about a change in the attitude of elders by sensitising children,'' said Ms. Datt who has been associating with INTACH since 2002, when the Heritage Club campaign started.

Although this is the first time that the campaign is being launched in Kerala, more than 850 Heritage Clubs had already been formed in schools across the country, she said.

Activities of the school-based Heritage Clubs include conserving heritage monuments, creating awareness of endemic endangered species and popularising traditional practices in various fields.

Every member of the club will be provided a Heritage Club passport in which the child can write about herself, her family, town, State and nation. The club will also bring out quarterly newsletters carrying articles on culture and heritage by children.

Central funding

“This campaign is funded by the Ministry of Culture. We at INTACH, New Delhi, will provide the basic resource materials and also support the clubs to organise campaigns,'' Ms Datt said.

She said that the process of associating with the Heritage Club will be a learning experience for the teachers as well. “Even they might not know so many aspects of Kerala's culture. Kerala is so rich in heritage, be it living, built or natural. For example, Kerala is one of the few States where you have Samaveda chanting for some rituals. Even this very school we are sitting in, is 95 years old and will become a heritage structure in another few years,'' she added.

Around 50 teachers from various schools in and around the district are participating in the two-day workshop. Ms. Datt said that it was not necessary that history teachers only should act as trainers for the Heritage Clubs.

“I was a teacher of geography. One need not be a scholar in history to appreciate heritage. Anybody who cares of culture and heritage can become a trainer. The idea basically is to promote cultural education and imbibe a value for conserving heritage among children,'' Ms. Datt said.