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SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
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INTERNET Coming soon is an exhaustive website on art and culture. It claims to have in-depth and well-researched information. SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

A screen grab of the website.
A screen grab of the website.

It is like Wikipedia and yet not quite like it, claim those behind Sahapedia, an upcoming online interactive encyclopedia on the arts, cultures and histories of India (and broadly South Asia). For all those who felt the absence of one single platform where all the information related to art and culture could be accessed, it could probably turn out to be a very positive development. According to Yashaswini Chandra, researcher and coordinator, Sahapedia offers layers of information, from something really basic to in-depth information researched and put together by experts on board.

Saha stands for Stirring Action on Heritage and the Arts, a not-for-profit society based in Delhi which has joined hands with CMC Limited, a TATA enterprise, and the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad, to develop Sahapedia. The website is expected to launch by the end of this year.

On March 12, through a talk at the India International Centre, the website will introduce itself through a presentation of a prototype. “We have made a case study of the Gwalior gharana, which we will be presenting that day. So somebody who wants to have some basic knowledge can get that. If a student of classical music wants more researched information, she/he can move on to the PDFs of scholarly articles, digitised books, archival material, maps, timelines, lineage trees, and audio-video recordings. After that if she wants to travel to Gwalior, the necessary information required to travel like the important tips are also there,” says Chandra.

The website has 12 domains — arts and crafts, oral traditions, culinary traditions, film, history, cultural practices, literature and languages, built heritage, museums and institutions, knowledge systems, natural and performing arts. Chandra feels that bringing such a wide range of topics will make accessing information really easy for the reader, who otherwise finds the information scattered in segments.

Being a complicated subject which allows for misinterpretations and can have serious repercussions in case of wrong or half-baked information, Chandra says, it calls for strict monitoring. “That’s why we will only have registered users. The material will be developed by in-house researchers and most of the articles will be written by experts, and the list includes the likes of Jasleen Dhamija, Leela Samson, Kapila Vatsyayan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, T.M. Krishna.” A mandatory policy for authentication is also in place to keep a check on the credibility of the information.

To ensure quality and depth of the content, Sahapedia has also collaborated with the Archaeological Survey of India to document in multimedia format the Taj Mahal and the living Chola temples. There is also a tie-up with the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla to document for research purposes oral histories and traditions.

As of now, the website is in its seed funding stage where background work is under process. “So far raising funds has been the biggest challenge because it is a philanthropic exercise and raising funds for such an ambitious scale is a task.”

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