From Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Maharashtra to Qutub archaeological park in Delhi, India will showcase its centuries-old architectural heritage to G20 delegates by hosting excursions and gala dinners at many of the ASI sites , starting mid-December, official sources said.
India assumed the year-long presidency of G20 on December 1. More than 200 meetings will be held in India across 55 locations.
The first meeting of G20 was held in the first week of December in Udaipur when the G20 Sherpa met. Besides, experiencing the rich cultural heritage and hospitality of Rajasthan, delegates were also taken on a half-day excursion to the Kumbhalgarh Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, officials said.
"Now, an itinerary has been drawn for the events that will take place at some of the very well-known ASI sites from December-March as part of the G20 meetings in India to showcase our cultural and architectural wealth to the delegates. These event will include excursion and gala dinners hosted with a monument in the backdrop," an official source said.
The event lined up at a centrally-protected site, immediately after the Sherpa meet in Udaipur, is a half-day excursion for delegates to Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra from December 12-15, he said.
And, tentatively, the shortlisted monuments for delegation-level visit also includes Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple in Karnataka, and a gala dinner, the source said, adding, itinerary for the December-March period only is known so far.
There are a total of 3,693 heritage sites in India protected under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that falls within the purview of the Union Ministry of Culture.
The planned G20 meetings are to be hosted not just in big metros but even in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, and the ASI too is gearing up to put its best foot forward.
"The idea behind the excursions or gala dinners at heritage sites is to bring focus on our built heritage, spanning centuries, as also to give the G20 delegates an extraordinary experience -- recreational, cultural and culinary. The menu for gala dinners will also be carefully chosen," a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.
The tentative itinerary for first three months of 2023 begins with visits to sites in Pune mid-January (January 16-17), followed by half-day visit to Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh (January 19-20), the sources said.
In Pune, delegates will see the stunning Aga Khan Palace, Shaniwar Wada and Shivneri Fort.
G20 delegates will get to see the architectural and cultural diversity of India from all corners of the country, and from January 23-24, they will immerse themselves in heritage experience in Gujarat, they said.
"Site visits in Gujarat include Rani ki Vav in Patan, Sun Temple in Modhera, Teen Darwaaza or Tripolia Gate in Ahmedabad and Adalaj Stepwell near Gandhinagar," the source said, adding the three-month itinerary is tentative and there could be a few changes later.
Around January 28, half-day visit will be organised for delegates to Charminar and Golconda Fort in Hyderabad.
From January 31-February 2, they will be hosted at the famous Shore Temple of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu.
"Choosing a cultural site for a meeting of any nature immediately brings spotlight on that heritage, and these delegates when they will return will also talk about the cultural wealth of India in their own countries, and thus strengthen bonds too. Delegates sharing pictures from cultural sites on social media also helps promotes Indian culture abroad," the official said.
India hosting the G20 as its chair and the ASI getting an opportunity to host the delegates is a "proud moment for all of us," he added.
In early February, half-day excursion has been planned for the delegates to Mandore Fort and Mandore Garden in Rajasthan.
From February 8-9, they will pay a visit to the grand Taj Mahal in Agra, the official said.
"Mid-February, the cultural stage will shift to Maharashtra again, with Ajanta and Ellora Caves playing the host for G20 delegates from February 13-14. A gala dinner will be hosted in the lawns of the premises with the caves in the backdrop," he said.
Around February 13-15, many delegates will also visit Lucknow to see the famed Imambara and the Residency.
"Later that month, an excursion for them will take place in Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh from February 23-25, and a gala dinner has been planned there too," the official said.
Cultural sites are playing an important role during India's Presidency of the G20, as seen in Udaipur too, and the ASI had lit up its 100 iconic sites across India from December 1-7, bearing the G20 logo to mark the occasion when India assumed the chair of the influential bloc.
In March, the focus will shift to Delhi and an excursion will be hosted at Qutub archaeological park, tentatively from March 1-2, the sources said.
A gala dinner has also been planned at Mandu Fort in Madhya Pradesh and visits to Dholavira, and again a visit to Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple in Karnataka, they said.
From March 6-7, full-day excursions have been planned for delegates to Nalanda university ruins, Rajgir and Gaya in Bihar, the sources said.
Later that month, the itinerary also mentions Kerala visit from March 22-24, and sites include Matthancherry Palace, St Francis Church in Kochi, and again at Elephanta Caves from March 28-30, followed by Gujarat excursion again from March 30-April 1, they said.