India has perhaps one of the richest knowledge traditions in the world. Every Indian is an inheritor of that great legacy. These traditions have been smudged in our consciousness today mainly because of the overwhelming impact of colonial traditions that influenced the shaping of the contemporary mind. The force of globalization is forcing communities and governments across the world to adopt strategies for safeguarding their endangered heritage. To prevent India’s multifaceted knowledge from being erased from our memory, we must revitalize the system from within. We need to engage with India’s intellectual and artistic heritage as not something that is frozen in time but rather something that is open to constant engagement and reinterpretation. =
One way to do so is to revitalize the diverse aspects of its knowledge through education. An education rich in the arts and humanities along with robust scientific learning helps prepare students to deal with the challenges of India’s evolving socio-economic environment. An interdisciplinary pedagogy is getting increasingly recognized today as borders blur between academic disciplines. Heritage education is not limited to just a history of thought and expression but also includes the methods of educational inquiry and its interaction with other disciplines.
As founders, while we were scaling up another not-for-profit cultural enterprise, Sahapedia.org, we conducted market research in 2018 and found that content on arts and culture is abundant on the internet but it is scattered, and largely for higher academia. Hence, not tailored for school education.
As a team we thought of taking up this challenge and came up with the idea of India’s first online olympiad on all domains related to Indian arts, culture, and heritage, bringing heritage education to students, enthusiasts, and Indian diaspora alike. It aims to strengthen heritage education and provide a comprehensive test of all things related to Indian heritage, focusing on its three main aspects: Tangible, Intangible, and Natural heritage. Heritage Olympiad has been conceived with the goal of integrating heritage education in schools and making it more accessible to a younger audience.
While conceptualizing the Heritage Olympiad, we have tried to comprehend and make use of conceptual definitions that are available with international organizations like UNESCO. However, we were quite aware that this subject matter is meant for Indian students and teachers who come from diverse cultural regions and backgrounds.
Heritage from an Indian perspective is about flowing traditions that on one hand are handed down from the past, and on the other hand, are traditions that are created in the present which will be passed onto future generations in one form or another. Traditions of past and present merge to become a feature of civilizational identity.
In keeping with this conceptual framework, the curriculum for The Heritage Olympiad has been designed in a way that is broadly aligned with the curriculum and syllabus followed by the major National and International Boards. It also integrates concepts of Global Citizenship and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Environment & Sustainability and Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Heritage Sites, and Historic Cities.
Aligned to National Educational Policy 2020, and created in collaboration with experts in the cultural and education sector, The Heritage Olympiad aims to provide an interdisciplinary approach to arts and cultural education with a focus on people, process, material, and technology. It is open to all, students and heritage enthusiasts. It is conducted at 4 levels:
- Group 1 – Grade 5th, 6th & 7th
- Group 2 – Grade 8th, 9th & 10th
- Group 3 – Grade 11th & 12th
- Group 4 – Undergraduate/graduate students & heritage enthusiasts
We already have many esteemed organizations that have associated with The Heritage Olympiad as Knowledge Partners, Institutional Partners, or Outreach Partners, including Sahapedia, National Rail Museum, Mehrangarh Museum Trust, and Nehru Planetarium.
In the year 2019, the Indiaspora team reached out to us to coordinate the visit of their selected HeritageINDIA cohort of students to India. This initiative gives high school students of Indian descent the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland. Students experienced and engaged with India’s rich and diverse cultural history by completing hands-on projects, participating in stimulating discussions, and building lasting friendships with the cohort who shared this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Heritage Olympiad can provide another opportunity for students to engage with the rich cultural heritage of India, and get back in touch with their roots.
Vaibhav Chauhan is the co-founder of Heritage Olympiad, and has trained in managing and conserving heritage. He has top-up certifications in sustainable tourism, digital marketing, CSR, and management from institutions that include IIT-B, IIM-B, ISB, National Law University, and Harvard Business School. He has been associated with renowned institutions like UNESCO, Ministry of Culture, National Museum Institute, Sangeet Natak Akademi, and National Mission for Manuscripts to name a few. He has co-founded cultural enterprises like Sahapedia.org, India Heritage Walks & Museums of India in the non-profit space.