It was October of 2009. I was sitting in office, preparing a list of places I visited in past 12 months. Suddenly, a thought struck my mind, that I have seen many states in India, but have I seen Delhi properly?
I discussed my thought with my colleagues and one of them, Gaurav Pandey agreed to accompany me to explore Delhi. We divided Delhi into 4 zones and decided that we will dedicate 1 weekend to each zone. Plan was fairly simple and we had a small list of monuments that I could obtain from Internet.
On 24th October 2009, I took my car and reached Nehru Place, where Gaurav was supposed to meet me. As he reached, we took his bike to start our journey from Saket. We reached Satpula opposite Select City Walk Mall. I had absolutely no idea what that was but was definitely mesmerized with it’s architecture. Then we went to Mehrauli, where we visited Zafar Mahal, Jahaz Mahal, Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki and finally, entered the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. As we entered the park, I was stunned with this huge park, loaded with unknown monuments. For the first time in my life, I saw a Baoli.
My amusement elevated my excitement. I told my friend Gaurav that I want to see all these monuments with proper time, so 1 weekend is not enough for South Delhi. He was not as interested as I was, so he decided to concentrate on more important things than travelling within Delhi. But for me, things were changed. The next day, we visited Akshardham Temple with more friends. Nauka Vihar of Akshardham, where they show how culturally and technologically rich India has been, made me more curious about what I had seen the earlier day. Several questions were running through my mind. I was continuously thinking of why an average Delhiite does not know about Mehrauli.
I started searching on Internet and found that hardly any information is available about them. So I decided to write my own Blog. As I laid my hands on some books, I realized that Mehrauli was just a small fraction of a huge Heritage goldmine. I learned about the cities of Delhi and then I got to know that there are over 1200 monuments. I spent 1 full year in Mehrauli Archaeological Park alone and documented every structure I saw. I started www.monumentsofdelhi.com and made it technically sound, so I can map and track every stone. After 1 year, some friends started joining me on my expeditions. Soon, I formed a club called the “Delhi Heritage Awareness Club”.
One fine day, Nikhil Garg called me and said, how about we form a photography club on Facebook, which is dedicated only to Heritage. I told him that I already have Delhi Heritage Awareness Club, and all we do there is photograph monuments. He suggested that the name should contain the word “Photography”. So I replaced the word “Awareness” with “Photography”. And hence was born “Delhi Heritage Photography Club”.
As the club grew, I started taking lectures at Schools, Colleges, Corporates and Clubs. During this, I also met several learned people, who have been doing similar research and had a lot to share. I decided to give them a platform and established “Heritage Durbar”. Every month, in Heritage Durbar, we invite a learned person from the field of Heritage/History, and request them to share their knowledge.
Pressure was growing to explore towns outside Delhi. So we started outstation trips. From Mewat Heritage Hunt, the flag was hoisted. Since then, our Heritage Hunters have raided places like Farrukhnagar, Murthal, Kurukshetra, Gwalior, Dholpur, Agra, Lansdowne, Bateshwar, Deeg, Almora and Jhajjar.
In January 2014, I decided to bring all these activities under 1 umbrella and called it “Youth for Heritage Foundation”. This initiative was not possible to be handled alone, so I requested few fellow members to help me in this mission. After 5 years of inception, “I” changed to “WE” and Youth for Heritage Foundation was established. Today, YFHF is managed by a strong governing body, that comprises of learned Heritage Lovers from across the country.
Our expeditions have just started. There is a long way to go. Together, we can bring our heritage back to life.
Vikramjit Singh Rooprai
Youth for Heritage Foundation