Mahindra Kabira Festival’s day 2 strings Kabir’s poetry into music, conversations and journeys through Varanasi’s bylanes


Varanasi, 11 November 2017: After a magical reception at Brij Rama Palace yesterday, the Mahindra Kabira Festival opened early morning on Saturday at the Darbhanga Ghat with the meditative sound of Santoor by the young Kumar Sarang, complementing the serenity of the early morning as the sun rose on the river Ganga. An artist of Benaras Gharana, Kumar Sarang began his performance with Raag Ahir Bhairav. He played two brandishes in jhaptaal (10-beat cycle) and teen taal (16-beat cycle). He was accompanied on the tabla by Shrutisheel Uddhav.

This was followed by Rashmi Agarwal’s crystal clear voice and heart touching compositions of Kabir and Baba Bulleshah whose teachings were very similar. The songs included Sadho dekho re jag baurana, Naiharawa unka na bhave, Jheeni jheeni beeni chadariya and many more. Her emotive, expressive and soulful singing was an absolute delight to the auditory senses of the crowd. Accompanying here were Shanti Bhushan Jha (Tabla), Baddu Khan (Harmonium), Amar Sangam (Guitar) and Satish Solanki (Percussion).

As the audiences enjoyed the regaling of the musicians, a Panditji crafted unique mixes of ittar to complement the ragas being sung, dabbing them onto a phaa (a bud of cotton) and presenting to each guest a whiff of this magical potion which formed a striking accompaniment to the performance. Special Benarasi kullhad chai and chewra (puffed rice snack) were served followed by the delicately delicious malaiyyo or nimish (cloudy milk froth desert sprinkled with kesar and pistachio) to end the morning session on a sweet note.

Music paved the way for invigorating literary session at the Ghat, ‘Words on Water’ which started with Ankit Chaddha presenting a dastangoi (traditional Persian storytelling) on Kabir. His narrative was based on historical research and folk lore around the 14th century Bhakti poet and interspersed with his khadi boli poetry featuring popular references and brutally honest descriptions. The dastan took the listeners on a journey in search of finding Kabir within oneself.

This was followed by a conversation between Sanjoy Roy, M. D of Teamwork Arts and Abha Dalmia who has been working to revive the weaving industry. Talking about weaving and Kabir, who was a weaver himself, Abha Dalmia said, “I think Kabir’s weaving taught him a lot about synchronisation of life. He wove his thoughts truthfully into life. It was while weaving that he would sing his now famous couplets.”

The day progressed with a City Walk through the bylanes of the city, specially curated to orient attendees to Kabir’s city, Varanasi. The walk traversed through the Panchganga ghat, where five sacred rivers, Ganges, Saraswati, Yamuna, Kirana and Dhupapapa converge to form an overwhelming spectacle of beauty and holiness, and onto the Alamgir Mosque followed by the Mangala Gauri temple where Bismillah Khan sahab would often serve the goddess with his Shehnai and then to the Jain temple in Bhelupur dedicated to Shri Parsavnath. Another exploratory walk took participants to places of significance to Kabir including the Kabir Mat and a visit to the weavers of the city.

The Evening Music performances were held at the Chotanagpur Bagheecha near Assi Ghat featuring a diverse range of musicians stringing Kabir’s poetry into their unique musical styles. The evening began with Rajasthani musician Nathoolal Solanki playing the shank followed by a performance by Vishnu Mishra from the Benaras Gharana. As the evening progressed duo Bindhumalini & Vedanth sang songs written by mystic saint poets of the Sufi and Bhakti traditions through a beautiful amalgamation of Carnatic and Hindustani musical styles that these two artists have respectively been trained into. Post this, vocalist Mahesh Ram presented the poetry of many mystic poets in the folk style of the Meghwal community. The day ended on a high note with veteran Shubha Mudgal performing songs based on Kabir dohas in her dense and graceful voice, leaving the audiences wanting for more.

On Sunday, the festival will begin with morning music at 6:30 am at the Darbhanga Ghat where Harpreet Singh will perform followed by Sucharita Gupta. The literature session will begin at 10:30 am and will have author Vinayak Sapre take audiences through an unconventional interpretation of Kabir’s couplets applying his transcendent wisdom to aspects of personal finance, mutual fund investments and the stock market. The afternoon will have a second round of the City Walk and Kabir Walk followed by the aarti and Vedic Chants at Assi Ghat at 6:15 pm which will also mark the beginning of the Evening Music. The Evening Music performances set against the backdrop of the setting sun on the river Ganga at the Assi Ghat will include Nathoolal Solanki on Nagadas, folk and contemporary fusion duo Maati Baani followed Harpreet Trio and will culminate in a headline performance by Kailash Kher.

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