Himachal gathering folktales to woo tourists to villages

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla: Fascinating tales, folklore and anecdotes related to remote villages in Himachal Pradesh are set to lure tourists with the state government launching a scheme to promote rural tourism.

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Residents of villages across the hill state have been asked by the tourism department to send fascinating stories and legends related to their native place. These would then be used by the authorities in tourism literature to woo tourists.

“We have asked the heads of villages to send fascinating stories, legends, folklore and popular anecdotes associated with their place. This will help the tourism department to develop their village for tourism,” Principal Secretary (tourism) Manisha Nanda told IANS.

She said on the pattern of “Har ghar kuchh kehta hai” (every house has its own history) scheme launched last year in Shimla, a new scheme “Har gaon ki kahani” or (every village’s own story) has been launched this month to collect interesting facts about villages.

“If the story from a village is interesting and has some historical element, the tourism department will allot funds to that village to develop tourism infrastructure,” she said.

Tourism Director Arun Sharma said: “The lesser known facts about villages would be reviewed and then published in the form of a book. This will attract tourists even to remote destinations.”

“To get timely feedback from every village, district-level committees have been formed. The deputy commissioner will head each committee. The department has also constituted cash awards for the best story – both at the district and state level,” he said.

Nanda said tourism infrastructure of the selected villages would be developed by roping in local villagers and using funds under the central government’s flagship rural jobs scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

“Local villagers would be involved to develop roads and other facilities,” she said, adding “this would not only develop infrastructure but also provide employment”.

“The scheme will generate self-employment and decongest urban areas. The local people will also get a chance to showcase their cuisine, folk culture and handicrafts before tourists,” Nanda said.

According to her, rural destinations attract a large number of budget tourists – both domestic and foreign. “In the long run, the local communities will benefit in monetary terms,” she added.

Mohit Sood of Craignano, a village located on the outskirts of Shimla, said: “The Dak Bungalow constructed by the British for their recreation in our village will also find space in the book complied by the tourism department on historical legends. The village would also get funds to improve the road leading to the Dak Bungalow.”

Himachal Pradesh, known for its picturesque tourist spots, registered an increase of 17 percent in the inflow of tourists last year compared to the previous year.

The state attracted 11,437,155 tourists, including 400,583 foreigners, in 2009.

Kullu-Manali has emerged as a favourite tourist destination, followed by Shimla and Dharamsala.