In the recently released period movie Victoria & Abdul is a scene where Queen Victoria expresses her desire to have a mango, the king of fruits that has its origins in India. But it wasn’t only the Queen of England who was enthralled by the royal fruit; the king of Egypt, Mohammad Ali Pasha in 1826 ordered mango saplings from India to be planted in his palace in Shubra. Back home, emperor Akbar is said to have planted around one lakh mango trees near Darbhanga in Bihar. And it was the Portuguese who first used the grafting technique on mangoes, leading to the birth of the famed Alphonso mango, named after a Portuguese general.
This and other nuggets of history are the jewels in the Living History section of history website, Live History India, the brainchild of television journalist Mini Menon and history enthusiast Akshay Chavan. Started in May 2017, the digital media start-up showcases text stories as well as interactive programmes via video series that focus not only on histories of dynasties and politics, kings and wars, invasions and conquests but other aspects of history that impact everyday life even today through the culture of food, clothing, festivals and even ways of worshipping.
“It is a platform with a clear purpose, to help Indians rediscover history so that we can revive and restore our built heritage and legacy. We need a dose of solid journalism here—to understand why our built heritage is in the state it is in, why we have such poor infrastructure and amenities in our sites, why so little is being done to restore our heritage,” says Menon, co-founder and editor, Live History India.
Menon says the digital content platform ensures that its programmes appeal to history buffs, IAS aspirants, foreign tourists as well as the general public. “This requires a deep understanding of history, access to the best minds and works on the subject, great story-telling skills and the ability to work on multiple formats in innovative ways,” she says.
Menon has her academic grounding in history and has worked on every format of content—long, short, live and digital while co-founder Akshay Chavan who heads the research side, has run a blog on Indian royalty and history for nearly a decade and has been a digital marketeer. Over 75 historians, archaeologists, authors and segment experts along with an in-house team of researchers and journalists also vet every programme.
Since the launch on social media in January and the website in May, Live History India has reached over 26 million people. Two of its most popular programmes—Weaves of India and an interactive format called Backpacking through History—have been seen by over a million people within two months of their launch. “Analytics show that we have a loyal and rapidly growing audience base that spends a lot of time on our site. Also, we have a fabulous slate of stories, videos and documentaries that we are working on,” she says.
The digital media start-up has tied up with brands to sponsor its various programmes. “For example, we have the Future Group that’s partering with us on the documentary series Weaves of India. The series traces the history of some of India’s most famous textiles and weaving centres. We are working with state governments like the government of Andhra Pradesh where we are doing a series of 15 films on the stories that make Andhra Pradesh. We are also working on a series tracing the story of entrepreneurship in India with the Future Group,” says Menon. It has also received funding from Ganesh Natarajan through his start-up platform 5F World besides Cyrus Guzder.