TREASURE HUNT The first edition initiated by INTACH, Madurai, helped participants learn more about the city's heritage without any boredom.

G etting up early on Sunday morning is rarely a priority. But last Sunday was different.

I found myself at the Thirumalai Nayak Palace with another 100-odd excited people, all gathered out of interest to get under the skin of the city we live in.

A plain talk on history by an expert was not on the agenda. Rather, an interesting set of brain teasers coaxed us to walk along the streets of the ancient Temple Town on a heritage treasure hunt.

It was an initiative of INTACH, Madurai, in association with CII, Madurai zone and Jain Social Group to expose people and sensitise them to the rich heritage the city holds. Thirty teams comprising four members each were provided clues for historic hotspots between the Palace and the Meenakshi Temple. Welcoming the participants, INTACH Co-convener M.D.Vel urged all to walk the hunt as it was the best way to know the city. “Only when more citizens get exposed to the city's richness, more will they play an active role in its preservation,” he said.

Each team was given a checklist of 20 clues which were to be identified and photographed as proof of their visit in 150 minutes.

Once the Director of Hotel Fortune Pandiyan, Dr.G.Vasu, flagged off the heritage treasure hunt, the teams set off on this unique experience of rediscovering the city. And it was fun indeed to test one's knowledge of history and also learn so much more.

Young and old, students, families and professionals displayed enthusiasm alike tracing the clues and making enquiries en route.

In fact, may auto and rickshaw wallas surprised to see so many people sporting INTACH badges and stopping and staring inquisitively at old monuments, even acted as impromptu guides to help the contestants find the answers.

The idea was also to cultivate friendship with the city's old and forgotten, hidden and unknown edifices and understand their importance.The treasure hunt achieved its purpose.

For instance, even after multiple visits to the Meenakshi Temple, not many may perhaps know that the South Gopuram is its tallest tower, And even if they do, perhaps many don't know or look at a unique Siva sculpture with 25 heads and 50 hands carved on the gopuram.

There were many such bits of information which historian Ambai Manivanan later shared while announcing the winners. CII Tourism panel chairperson, Dr.Uma Kannan later gave away prizes to the winning teams.

SOMA BASU

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