CHENNAI: Though India is rich in heritage sites with several being reknowned as tourist destinations, there are still many that aren’t as popular. Do you know that some of these sites can be dated back to 200,000 years? And that they are right here in the south? To bring these sites to the fore is the aim of Rootwalk, a non-profit organisation that engages volunteers to create awareness on heritage, and take you to pre-historic and lesser-known heritage sites in South India. City Express caught up with the founder and ‘root walker’ Srinivasan about his venture.
Srini says heritage has always been considered as a secondary aspect in people’s lives. “I have noticed that a lot of people don’t give much importance to heritage. But I wanted unknown sites to be noticed. It wasn’t just about the sites but also about literature, folk art, music, monuments, prehistoric sites and more,” he explains.
The group, which was formed in February 2016, has already accomplished two milestones in terms of heritage visits — the Gudiyam Caves in Thiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu and the Belum caves in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, both discovered by Robert Bruce Foote – known as ‘Father of Indian Prehistory’. According to archaeological surveys, the caves in Gudiyam could have been the habitat of the Paleolithic man, while the Belum caves are the largest tourist caves in India.
With the expertise of his fellow root walker Ramesh Yanthra, whose documentary on the Gudiyum caves was screened at the Cannes film festival, Rootwalk organised its first prehistoric trip to the Gudiyam caves on April 18. “It was on World Heritage Day, and there were 40 of us. We screened the documentary and also had some geologists talk about how these rocks are preserved, about its formation and so on. There was a 70-year-old woman who was part of the trip. She told me that it was her dream for the past 20 years to visit this place!” he smiles.
“Do you know where the first stone tool was found in India?” he asks. “Near Madras…Pallavaram to be exact! This was possibly the first definite stone tool found in India. When we visited the Belum caves, it had good facilities….lights, ramps, stairs and air stations. Imagine the place without all this… and yet Robert Bruce discovered and explored them!” he says enthusiastically.
Rootwalk was recently part of a lecture series as part of the Madras week celebrations and Srinivasan says that his aim is to reach out to the younger generation. “I want to create awareness about such unknown sites and spread it among school students. I witnessed a school excursion to the prehistoric museum in Poondi. where the students walked out within 5 minutes. What did they learn there? Nothing!” he rues.
The group is preparing for a trip to Gandikota, also known as the Grand Canyon of India. “This is sure to give the participants and heritage enthusiasts a totally new experience. There’s evidence these caves date back to 4,000 years. But now it remains in ruins,” he adds.
For details, call 8939041234 or visit www.rootwalk.com