Music, heritage and spirituality take centre stage at Sacred Pushkar Festival

Music, heritage and spirituality take centre stage at Sacred Pushkar Festival

By Priya Singh | | 23 December, 2017
(L-R) Ganesh, Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram and Swaminathan performing at the Sacred Pushkar Festival.
The third edition of The Sacred Pushkar Festival took place at the pilgrim city of Rajasthan, Pushkar, from 16-17 December.
The third edition of The Sacred Pushkar Festival took place at the pilgrim city of Rajasthan, Pushkar, from 16-17 December. The event was organised by Teamwork Arts, an entertainment company, and its main venue was at the Jaipur Ghats of the serene Pushkar Lake. The festival featured activities such as folk music, dance, bhajans, Sufi music, yoga, meditation, heritage walks and workshops. Many renowned artists, namely Nathulal Solanki, Muktiyar Ali, Kavita Seth, Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram also known as Vikku Vinayakram, and many more were part of the event.

The proceedings opened with a grand reception at the Aram Bagh hotel in Pushkar on Friday. The welcome party included captivating folk music and dance performances by the famous nagada artist Nathulal Solanki and his troupe. Despite it being a cold and windy evening, it was a wonderful and enjoyable experience for all. The guests could not stop themselves from tapping their feet to the nagada beats, and the alluring voice of the singer cast a spell on the audiences and made them join him on the stage. The amazing opening ceremony notched the excitement of the festival to a completely new level.

Day one began with a morning session that saw a performance by the French vocalist Antoine Redon from Vocal Rasta, a band comprising 15 musicians from all over the world. This was followed by a yoga session led by Hansa Sharma, who, with her captivating communication skills, conducted the programme at the Jaipur ghat. The last session of the morning session was helmed by Geshe Chopa Tenzin Lhadron, a Tibetan nun, who gave a talk on the importance of non-violence and compassion.

The afternoon session featured a heritage walk of the pilgrim town conducted by Robinson Robert, who played the tour guide for the walking party. The holy city Pushkar is known not only as a Hindu mythological site, but it is also one of the oldest towns in India. It houses hundreds of temples that date back to over 2,000 years. The walk began with the main market place where we encountered numerous historically significant buildings, a mosque, temples, handicrafts, unique ornaments, handbags and cafes among others things. We were led to the famous Brahma Temple, which is known to be the only temple of the Hindu God Brahma in India. The legend behind the temple goes back to a time when Brahma was performing a yagna. But due to the late arrival of Lord Brahma’s wife Devi Savitri, he married Gayatri meanwhile to complete his yagna. Irked by the incident, Devi Savitri cursed her husband that no house-holder or married man would pray for him in the temple. Therefore, the practice continues today, and only the Parashar priests, belonging to the Parashar genealogy, who call themselves sanyasis are allowed to pray at this temple. Followed by the visit to the temple, we went to the Brahma ghat. After this heritage walk around town, another walk through the 52 ghats around the Pushkar lake was organised. Each ghat here has its own significance and story. Our tour guide Robinson Robert enlightened us about some of them. The barefoot walk through the ghats alongside the sacred lake was an memorable experience. A troupe of men, who played folk music and sang local welcoming songs along the way, accompanied us on the walk.

A workshop by Laboratorium Piesni was also conducted. It is a Poland-based group that taught us polyphonic singing and some of their local dance moves got the participants swinging around.

The holy city Pushkar is known not only as a Hindu mythological site, but it is also one of the oldest towns in India. It houses hundreds of temples that date back to over 2,000 years.

The evening started with the music of a conch shell, which announced the opening of the ceremony. The event included performances by Arushi Asgaonkar, who sang Hindu sacred bhajans, Bhanwari Devi, a folk Rajasthani singer who was accompanied by Nathulal Solanki and the World Ethnic Music Ensemble, a group of musicians from different parts of the world. T.H. Vikku Vinayakram, an Indian percussionist and a Grammy winner performed with his troupe that included his sons—Selvaganesh and Umashankar—and his grandson Swaminathan. The group comprising three generations is popularly referred to as “3G”. During their performance, the enthralling beats compelled the audiences to dance and cheer for more. The night ended with the enchanting voice of Kavita Seth, an Indian singer. Her famous songs, “Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai”, “Iktara”, and “Jeete Hain Chal” among other Sufi and devotional anthems, transported the audiences to another world. The soulful music at the backdrop of a setting sun on sacred ghats of Lake Pushkar. What more could one ask for?

A meditation session at the fest.

Seth told Guardian 20, “It is a good initiative that Teamwork Arts is taking to bring a variety of music from different parts of the world on a single platform. It was a wonderful experience for me and I would love to perform in this festival in the coming years. If not perform, I would definitely be the one to attend it.”

Day two started with yoga and mediation sessions. It included yantra yoga and vajra dance, a meditation in movement sessions conducted by Zoltan Czer from Bulgaria. This was followed by a performance of Indian classical ragas by flautist Atul Shankar. Day two had nagada workshop by the talented nagada artist, Nathulal Solanki. The visitors were taught how to play some of the beats on nagada after which everyone started feeling like a pro; at least I did. A heritage walk to the Savitri Temple was also organised on the second day. The walk also aimed at making visitors experience the sunset from the top of the Ratnagiri Hills. Again, after the visit, evening music sessions started with a performance by a well-known singer, Rashmi Agarwal, followed by guitar and baul music by Simon Thacker from his album Svara-Kanti. The group of five women, Laboratorium Piesni, also performed at the venue, which was a huge crowd-puller. The two-day gala ended on a devotional note with a performance by Mukhtiyar Ali, a renowned Rajasthani folk singer. The artist lit the stage and succeeded in getting overwhelming response from his audience. He sang the famous poems by Kabir, Meera and Amir Khusrow. In conversation with Guardian 20, he said, “This was my first time performing at such a big event in Rajasthan. It looked like people from all around the world had gathered to enjoy this festival. I think performing in front of these audiences is like performing on a global stage. I believe that music is something that can give you peace and inspire you to keep moving forward in life. So everyone should appreciate and
embrace it.”

I wish more of these events are organised so that people can stay connected to themselves and to music itself. Music teaches us a lot and if we are connected to it regularly, it would be great.”

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