‘Street Play’ organised as part of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival

Updated - March 05, 2023 11:01 pm IST

Published - March 05, 2023 10:43 pm IST - PUDUCHERRY

The “Street Play” event as part of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival recreated the Muthumariamman Street to a quieter era for children to play traditional games and the neighbourhood to rebuild a sense of community.

The “Street Play” event as part of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival recreated the Muthumariamman Street to a quieter era for children to play traditional games and the neighbourhood to rebuild a sense of community. | Photo Credit: M. Dinesh Varma

The festooned Muthumariamman Koil lane resembled a street of yore on Sunday as children celebrated a host of traditional games, from improvised swings to the multi-player ‘Kola Kolaya Mundhrikka’, and old-timers displayed artefacts on the verandahs of their homes.

The event ‘Street Play’ was organised as part of the ongoing ninth Pondicherry Heritage Festival themed on ‘Responsible Tourism’, and aimed to sensitise children on the cultural heritage of the city while simultaneously rebuilding social interactions in neighbourhood communities.

The stretch of the leafy lane was barricaded to motor traffic between Mission Street and MG Road to carve out a humans-only zone for the afternoon.

Children had a wide range of games to choose from—the board game ofpallankuzhi to ettu kodu, a game with broken glass bangles, which is generically called ‘pondyvilayattu’ (where a player uses just a finger to move pairs of same-colour bangle pieces from inside a circle) to seven stones and carrom.

Street museums

Street museums were another popular attraction. Some households displayed handicraft pieces and toy collections from an earlier era. A Rajasthan family settled here showcased a set of miniature rosewood utensils used to play house by children of a bygone era.

“We have been moving the street play component of the PHF to different streets in town,” said Suguna Selvam, an organiser.

While earlier editions had seen the recreation of Kamatchi Amman Koil Street and Easwaran Koil Street, another lane was chosen this year. A team of volunteers led by Suguna, Ananthi Velmurugan, and Shivani Tipari, had begun meeting residents over the course of at least a month to explain the significance of a symbolic event such as street play.

“We wanted to ensure the participation of the community. From residents who were clueless as to who lived three doors away, they have bonded over this event and plan to interact regularly to resolve civic issues,” she said.

‘StreetPlay’ is inspired by Open Streets, a movement in the United States to open the streets for people to engage with their neighbourhood actively.

The PHF recreates historic streets ‘the way they were meant to be’ free of motorised traffic and clean for children to play. Historically, the streets in the Boulevard town were the place for social activity—where people gathered, built relationships, and talked about their world while children played in the streets without any safety concerns.

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