World Heritage Week is celebrated every year from the November 19 to November 25 with an aim to create awareness on the importance of our historical ethnicity and to uplift and preserve our cultural heritage and monuments. Recognising the importance of cultural heritage as a bridge between past and future generations efforts are continuously being made to develop the identity of culturally relevant places.
To commemorate this important week, the Department of Tourism and Travel Management, Martin Luther Christian University organised a three- day international webinar on “Cultural Heritage: A Way Forward” on the November 19, 24 and 25 2020.
The inaugural session was held on 19th of November 2020. The Chief Guest of the session, Shri Cyril D Diengdoh, Director, Tourism, Government of Meghalaya, while delivering his address, emphasised that it is imperative to take steps of preserving as well as disseminating knowledge about the rich natural and cultural heritage that we as Meghalayans have, using our rich oral tradition as one of the keys to achieve this. He further stated that because of the deep links that we have with our culture, our daily way of life should have a strong interconnection with our culture and heritage. Diengdoh also talked broadly about the various steps that the Tourism Department has taken to protect and preserve sites of cultural significance in a sustainable manner.
Prof. Manjula Chaudhary, Department of Tourism and Hotel Management Kurukshetra University, in her keynote address, spoke broadly about heritage tourism at fragile destinations. In her address, Prof Chaudhary presented on important points of heritage tourism such as the prevention of the erosion of the authenticity at heritage tourist sites, heritage as a tourism product, as well as tourism as a vehicle that will bring about wider development in these sites.
The first session of the webinar on 24th November was dedicated to the rich cultural heritage of Meghalaya where presentations were made on the important sites of cultural significance in Meghalaya as well as the tangible and intangible cultural expressions of the indigenous people of Meghalaya. A special presentation was also made on Kongthong, the popular ‘whistling village”. Among the presenters were Alan West Kharkongor, President, Meghalaya Rural Tourism Forum; Rothel Khongsit Secretary, Indigenous-Agro Tourism Cooperative Society Ltd. Kongthong; Dr Marco B Mitri, Associate Professor, History, Union Christian College and Dr. Fabian Lyngdoh Professor and Head, Centre for Cultural Study and Community Initiatives, Martin Luther Christian University, Shillong.
On the final day of the webinar, topical experts delivered detailed presentations on subjects like the problems in identifying cultural heritage, the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage, as well as the significance of a UNESCO recognition in mobilising cultural heritage sites as tourist destinations. These presentations were delivered by Shri Phrang Roy, Retd. IAS, Coordinator of the Indigenous Partnership for Agro biodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Rome, Italy; Prof. Sutheeshna Babu S, Nodal Officer, National Institute of Water sports, Goa; and Prof. Mike Robinson, Professor of Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
As part of the commemoration of the week the Department also got the students engaged with various programs on different themes of heritage preservation. In addition to that, with an aim to exhibit and express individual ideas for cultural heritage preservation, open-to-all online sketching and photography competitions were organized that saw the response of participants from various states.