Learn about the 18 years old journey of a couple who was determined to preserve the Himalayan heritage and have succeeded in it by giving birth to Soham Heritage & Art Centre, snuggled in the “Queen of Hills” Mussoorie which showcases the Himalayan diversity through its artefacts, murals, and paintings. If you are an inquisitive one, then learn what it takes to preserve, collect and showcase the Himalayan heritage by having a good read at the journey of Mr. Sameer Shukla and his better half Dr. Kavita Shukla the parents of Soham Heritage & Art Centre.
Q1. When Soham Heritage & Art Centre came into existence?
Ans. Officially the Soham Heritage & Art Centre came into existence in Jan 2014 but actually it is an 18 long year journey.
Q2. What are the things that you have proudly showcased at the Soham Heritage & Art Centre?
Ans. As Soham Heritage & Art Centre is a Himalayan museum we mainly focus on Uttarakhand. We have proudly showcased various artefacts depicting Uttarakhand’s rich culture and lifestyle in various art forms. We are not antique collectors but this art gallery is an effort to collect and showcase the heritage items which are on the verge of extinction.
Q3. What was the reason behind setting up an art gallery that glorifies Himalayan diversity and its beauty?
Ans. Uttarakhand is a new state and the heritage needs to be conserved otherwise it will wash away with time. Our idea is to bring all the items which signify the cultural identity, history or lifestyle of the Himalayan people under one roof.
Q4. Why did you choose Mussoorie as the cradle of Soham Heritage & Art Centre?
Ans. Mussoorie being accessible to the tourists was one of the best places for Soham Heritage & Art Centre. It is cradled in the lap of nature and is at a proximity of Dehradun. It can be accessed easily either by road, rail or air.
Q5. From your Facebook Page, we came to know that many foreign tourists flock to Soham Heritage & Art Centre to get a glimpse of the rich Himalayan culture, what is their response after getting in touch with the Himalayan culture?
Ans. It’s overwhelming to see the response of the foreign tourists who are really curious to know and understand the Himalayan culture. They appreciate our dedication and sincere hard work which brings a smile on our faces.
Q6. Can the visitors buy souvenirs from Soham Heritage & Art Centre? If yes then what do they prefer to buy most?
Ans. Yes, we have a souvenir section; many visitors prefer buying paintings (prints & originals) handmade souvenirs of Badrinath & advent of Ganga. However, art work is the first choice of the people.
Q7. What are the things that one mustn’t miss at Soham Heritage & Art Centre?
Ans. Paintings depicting the interior Himalayan fairs, festivals, pre-1947 black and white photograph section of Himalayas are a sight to behold.
Q8. What kind of problems did you face initially while establishing the art gallery and collecting the Himalayan artefacts?
Ans. Problems are immense. The lack of awareness and laid back attitude is the biggest hindrance in getting something. In spite of our best efforts, we get a very lukewarm or rather no response from the government authorities in popularizing the heritage and culture of Uttarakhand.
Q9. From your website explorehimalayas.org we came to know that you are working on ‘Spiritual Tourism’ can you please enlighten us about this concept and how you work on it?
Ans. Initially, I started theme based spiritual tours and camps in the Himalayas with the name “Himalayan Banjare” in which yoga camp or self-exploration camp were organized on the scenic locations. Travelling with a theme was exciting and exploring the Buddhist circuit, Shiva circuit & Devi circuit was the icing on top.
Q10. Kashi Devasthanam is an art centre of Soham Heritage & Art Centre can you please tell us something about it?
Ans. Kashi Devasthanam is a cultural habitat which comprises of Shiva-Shakti shrine. It also includes the Soham Heritage & Art Centre and a social service program called Shakti as well as my residence.
Q11. Has the interest of people increased or decreased in art & culture over the span of years?
Ans. The interest in art & culture has definitely increased especially among the young ones.
Q12. Can you please describe your journey as a parent to Soham Heritage & Art Centre in a few words?
Ans. It has been a great journey. Soham Heritage & Art Centre is a joint effort of I and my wife Dr. Kavita Shukla (Paintings are her domain). Initially, we started from the scratch and Soham is completely a private effort. Since we are not a Trust/ NGO or Society we never took any aid or grant and money was always a challenge. We worked together faced many hardships and constraints but our determination and continuity in our work started bearing fruit with the passage of time. Now things have become bit easy and we both are happy.
Q13. What is that at one artefact at Soham which you feel connected to spiritually and is close to your heart?
Ans. The “Advent of Ganga” is close to my heart. It’s not just a painting but a core souvenir of Soham. The reason being, Uttarakhand is special because the holy river Ganga originated here.
Q14. Any such words of appreciation, which on recalling makes you feel proud?
Ans. A small girl of 5 years while leaving the museum said to me, “I want to be like you” those were the most beautiful words that have ever come from the mouth of the visitor. Whenever I recall it I feel really special.
Q15. Has any famous personality been to Soham?
Ans. Lots of famous people from different walks of life have visited Soham but in spiritual path famous has ‘no meaning’.
Q16. As a preserver of art & culture, how do you perceive the world?
Ans. This entire journey as the preserver of art and culture brought me closer to the Himalayas. My only contention is that the more you link with your culture more you connect with the mother earth.
Official Website: explorehimalayas.org
Facebook Page: facebook.com/soham.heritage.art.center