Retracing Kochi’s history through heritage walks
The upcoming schedule for The Kochi Heritage Project includes a walk on August 6 titled ‘Microcosm of the World,’ covering Mattancherry.
KOCHI: Visiting the heritage sites of a place is like getting a glimpse into their legacy. Heritage walks take it a step further – offering a deeper understanding of history. Such walks cultivate an appreciation for the culture, traditions, and communities of the place. However, simple recitation history often lacks charm. This is where Johann Kuruvilla, founder of The Kochi Heritage Project, has introduced an innovative approach by using the art of storytelling to make heritage walks captivating.
“I engage in a dialogue with the participants of the walk; it’s a collective exploration,” explains Johann.
“Our initiative revolves around storytelling, aiming to raise awareness about Kochi’s heritage among tourists as well as local people.” A native of Fort Kochi, Johann began with guided walks in 2018. He has now expanded into organising curated programmes.
“These walks are conducted mostly over weekends,” he says. “Rather than merely narrating the history of a monument, the Kochi Heritage Project conveys its full story. We want the visitors to relate to the history.” Johann adds that he plans the walks around specific themes. “For instance, the Fort Kochi walk has been dubbed the ‘Queen’s Story’,” he smiles.
“This encapsulates the tale of Kochi. I weave the narrative by incorporating anecdotes sourced from news reports and research papers. I present it in a manner that resonates with people. The Fort Kochi walk commences with Muziris.”
Johann reveals he always starts off with an anecdote to hook in the participants right from the word go. “For example, I connect the story of Muziris with a newspaper article from a few years ago,” he says.
“This article notes the discovery of a 2000-year-old Egyptian coin by a person who was digging a tapioca field. It’s an amusing tidbit that makes visitors grasp Kochi’s significance in ancient times. From there, I move to the topic of trade, discussing peacocks, monkeys, and Indian words mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.”
Johann gleans out subject-based nuggets, too. “For instance, if we are at a monument associated with the Portuguese, I would discuss their influence on Kochi’s language, culture, and cuisine,” he says.
“Similarly, if I know the attendees include chefs or architects, I tailor my talk accordingly. For chefs, I focus on the colonial impact on local cuisine. With architects, I delve into the era’s architecture.”
Johann, who is a travel influencer, is upbeat about heritage walks gaining popularity. “A lot of people are inclined to explore domestic destinations after the pandemic. Tourists from Delhi, Bengaluru, and other parts of India have reached out to us for walks. Additionally, NRIs returning for visits also seek our tours,” he shares.
With popularity spiking, Johann now organises curated events every month. The upcoming schedule for The Kochi Heritage Project includes a walk on August 6 titled ‘Microcosm of the World,’ covering Mattancherry.
This is followed by a bicycle tour of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry named ‘Cochin in 3 Square Miles’ on August 12. The next day, there will be a ‘Community High Tea’ walk that allows visitors to experience the lifestyles of various local communities. On August 20, ‘Paithrika Yogam’ or a heritage meetup will be held, followed by a street food tour of Mattancherry titled ‘Naalu Mani Kadikalum Kadhakalum’.
For more details: www.kochiheritageproject.in