SHIMLA,15.09.20-Part 1 of this article explored the historical and mythical genesis of the cultures of Kerala and Himachal that are partner States under the central government’s “Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat” scheme. Unique influence of the Epics, the British period and Buddhism were seen in cultures of both States that could be innovatively leveraged for attracting and promoting experiential tourism to generate “Atmanirbhar” livelihoods by becoming “vocal for local”.

UNESCO has recognized the rich cultural mosaic of both States. Kerala’s native Sanskrit classical performing theatreKoodiyattomis a UNESCO-designated Human Heritage Art. The 1903 Kalka-Shimla heritage railway line, a UNESCO World Heritage,crosses 889 bridges and 103 tunnels enroute its 95km track. The Baba Bhalku rail museum in Shimla tells how the British used the native intelligence of shepherd Bhalku to adopt the track his goat took as ideal gradient for this quaint rail track. Bhalku’s uncanny ability to align tunnels by sounding them with his staff made him indispensable. Legend has it that the ghost of British Col Barog haunts the longest tunnel Barog since he committed suicide feeling humiliated on being fined Re 1/- for its wrong alignment!

While HP has 30 wildlife sanctuaries and 3 conservation reserves Kerala has 14 wild life sanctuaries and 6 national parks. In 2014 the Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage “significant for its outstanding biodiversity conservation".

In 2019 Himachal became the second State to notify Sanskrit as its official second language. Like the Sanskrit speaking Mattur village in Shimoga district of Karnataka a quaint form of Sanskrit called Chinaili is being spoken since generations by Chinailas of Lahaul Spiti district in HP! Their participation in the Sanskrit session of SILF, 2019 highlighted how imperishable cultural resources abound in the cold Himachal desert.

Multiple faiths coexist harmoniously in both Kerala and Himachal. Kerala embraces Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Jewish faiths drawing tourists to Guruvayoorappan Temple, Sabarimala Temple, St. Mary’s Florance Church at Bharanamganam, St. George’s Forane Church, Malayatoor Church, Malik Dinar Mosque, Beemapalli Mosque, ThazathangadiJuma Masjid and the Jewish Synagogue. Rewalsar Lake in Mandi, HP, a melting pot of Budhists, Sikhs and Hindu cultures, draws tourists' hordes. The five shakti peeths of Devi cult in Himachal attract pilgrim tourists round the year resplendent in their architecture and deep-seated faith untouched by modernity.

Folk culture of upper rural Himachal is steeped in Devta Culture. The diktats of local deities are promptly followed as interpreted by a Gur in a trance or khel who rambles Devta’s decision in an ancient language. Devtas are virtually a relic of traditional local self-governance. Naatis are the local folk lore spun into popular song and dance.

Kariyala, the local street play of Himachal, highlights current issues in a satirical and comical manner. The script and acting evolve spontaneously on stage! Ritualistic devotional folk art of Kerala is used to propitiate particular Gods/ Goddesses while magical folk art secures general prosperity for a community, exorcising evil spirits or be blessed with children.

Solan district in Himachal has the tradition of martial dance form of archery called Thodawhile Kerala has the agile footwork of the war like Kalaripayattu. The synchronized oar movement that steers the annual ONAM boat race of Kerala is a testimony to its syncretic fabric.

Folk music is the forte of Himachal. Yet Master Madan, a child prodigy of classical music haiing from Jullunder, lived in lower bazaar of Shimla. Within his short 15 year lifespan terminated prematurely by mercury poisoning in 1942, he was renowned from Lahore to Chennai. Of his eight ghazals preserved by HMV “yunnaarehrehkar” and “hairat se takrahaahaizamaana” are spellbinding. His house and instruments are in lowr bazaar, Shimla. The scheme Aaj PuraaniRaahon Se (APURSA) seeks to identify and leverage such lesser known dispersed cultural resources of Himachal to attract new immersive, experiential tourists to over 1100 identified sites and 7 new thematic circuits thatcould generate livelihoods as APURSA guides.

Himachali artefacts have been innovatively miniaturized into souvenirs. Coasters, fridge magnets, ladies earrings now depict expensive 18thc intricate Kangra paintings from Guler. Unwieldy musical instruments ransingha, karnaal and masks of Himachal are now handcrafted into small boxes. The seven vanishing Pahari script document is a mini coffee table book.

The Covid 19 new normal is a boon in prompting short duration staycations to less crowded, remote homestays in pristine areas of both Kerala and Himachal. New destinations foster discovery of cultural heritage. Kerala and Himachal present a new rubric and both states working in tandem under the Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat umbrella reinvent tourism magic.

About the Author: Dr Purnima Chauhan, IAS, HP cadre is an MBA and a Masters in Development Administration from UK with a doctorate in reinventing tourism destinations and worked to leverage cultural resources of HP through the Aaj PuraaniRaahon Se (APURSA) scheme formulated during her stint as Secretary Culture.