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Rediscovering Nagpur: On heritage trip, participants walk from Jama Masjid to Mominpura weavers' looms

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It's in a way, a rediscovery of their own city. For people who live here but hadn't been able to explore the place, it was an opportunity to trace the town's heritage.

Heritage enthusiasts were taken on a tour in the heart of the city that developed in the course of three centuries and has seen three different rules including the dynasties of Bakht Buland Shah, then the Bhonslas and finally the British era, before independence.

The tour started from the grand Jama Masjid which is in the middle of this bustling locality. It is one of the biggest mosques in Nagpur and Vidarbha region. Built in 1837, the imposing mosque draws the attention of visitors--locals and outsiders alike. Close to it is the Mohammad Ali Sarai and the Muslim Library apart from book shops and numerous eateries.

Once Nagpur had thousands of looms and it was a hub of textiles. Even today, powerlooms exist in this part of the city. The Momin community, which has traditionally been a weaver community, continues the work though in many families the next generation is not too keen to take over the intricate, tedious and hard work that needs dedication, dexterity and doesn't get high returns in terms of money.

"After the first war of independence in 1857, the East India Company was more harsh on weavers. Many left and came to Jabalpur and Burhanpur where they settled and started the work, set up their units. Subsequently, some of them went ahead to cities as far as Malegaon, Kamptee, Bhiwandi, Dhule and a few others. Nagpur has a large number of powerlooms", says Mr Rahman, who runs a unit in Mominpura.

"It is believed that just Muslims are engaged in the work but large number of Hindus too live here and have their units. In fact, there has always been close relations between Momins and Koshtis, and both the communities live here, operate the looms", he added."

In the dimly lit rooms and halls, weavers were busy working on the 'taana baana' i.e. 'the warp and the weft', as traditional saris and other fabrics are being woven artistically. The participants in the heritage walk were surprised to see how the artisans fill the bobbins and use the threads skilfully, changing threads for the borders or designs.

They asked about the entire process, the sale and the demand for the products, apart from other aspects. Later, the walk ended at the sweet shop that serves the famous Dabba mithai and the Gulgula. There are other heritage trips too that include the one at Mahal, the British era structures, the Bhonsala royals' chhatris, the churches and many more.

Mandira Neware and Amol Wanzari, borth Architects, organise the walks under the aegis of Orange Odyssey. Mandira who took the participants through the narrow bylanes, said that through such walks they are trying the citizens to connect with the past and present of Nagpur. "It was during the reign of Bakht Buland Shah that several hamles were joined to form Nagpur."

"Then, under Chand Sultan, the city gates came up. After the Gond dynasty, the Bhonslas took over and then came the British period. We will also conduct a walk for Mahal, which takes people to structures build in the particular era", she said. Almost every week, different walks are conducted, taking citizens to Gond, Bhonsla and British eras. They update it on their website and Instagram.

Photo courtesy Nancy Thombare and Orange Odyssey.

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.