Spice Route
Spice RouteTwitter/Journal of the Indian Ocean Region

Kerala has embarked on a historic journey to protect and promote the Spice Route heritage that existed between the State and 31 countries in Asia, the Far East, Africa, and Europe.

UNESCO Director and representative to India, Shigeru Aoyogi, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with State Tourism Secretary Suman Billa in Kochi on Friday to formalise a framework of cooperation in cultural heritage protection and promotion, The Hindu reported.

Under the agreement, several heritage projects related to the Spice Route will be designed and implemented in the state besides undertaking surveys and studies, joint publications, seminars, workshops and capacity-building activities like instituting scholarships and internships.

Addressing mediapersons after the event, Aoyogi said that UNESCO was happy to work with the state government for inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue to preserve heritage and that the Spice Route initiative will form the bedrock of cooperation between the two sides and the protection and promotion of historically important areas in the state.

On 10 July, Ambassador Bhaswati Mukherjee had mentioned the Spice Route Project in his post in the ministry of external affairs website on "International recognition of India's world heritage - New, exciting projects on anvil." He had said it is an important initiative of the state government of Kerala and an ongoing effort to revive the two millennia Spice Route.

"Besides re-establishing Kerala's maritime trade relations with 31 countries associated with the ancient spice route, the project seeks to rekindle interest among modern travellers to this ancient maritime route which was responsible for bringing travellers across the world in ancient times to India. It would result in the revival of cultural, historical and archeogocial exchanges and would also boost tourism across Southern India but particularly in Kerala," Mukherjee had claimed. 

The Spice Route Initiative works to establish itself as a symbol of peace and camaraderie by bringing places and people of the world closer. It is an effort to reconnect countries and ports, stories and histories and to create a journey, which will give the traveler the heritage of the past and the flavours of the present, said the UNWTO Silk Road Programme website.

Several countries, particularly European nations like Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have shown great interest in the initiative, reported NetIndian News Network.

The state's key status on the world's cultural tourism map received a fillip with the country's first biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale of 2013. With its second edition beginning in December, thousands of domestic and international tourists are expected to flock to Kerala.

Click here to see the video of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) team visiting the Muziris Heritage Site and viewing the uncovered artefacts in 2013.