Varanasi, unparalleled for its unique ambience, soul and history, as well as the birthplace of the legendary 15th-century mystic Kabir, will once again play host to the Mahindra Kabira Festival, to be held from 22-24 November. Many acclaimed artistes and performers will make the iconic ghats of Varanasi reverberate with sublime music celebrating the works of the poet and saint Kabir.
Delegates at the festival can enjoy “Afternoon Literature Sessions” at Guleria Ghat and curated “Heritage Walks” through the ancient alleys of Varanasi. Conceived by the Mahindra Group and entertainment company Teamwork Arts, the fourth edition of the festival will feature a rich, two-day programme highlighting the fascinating aspects of Kabir’s philosophy, and of the city of his birth, through music, debates, walks, boat rides and local cuisine.
Talking about the festival, Jay Shah, vice president and head, cultural outreach, Mahindra Group, said, “In the fourth edition of the Mahindra Kabira Festival we are delighted to present Kabir’s verses in diverse styles through various artists and programmes. Music, food, heritage walks and literature sessions will punctuate this enlightening weekend in Varanasi. With a combination of local artists and nationally acclaimed musicians, the attendees will be immersed in an environment of virtuosity and spirituality. The core values of the Mahindra Group resonate in the ideas of Kabir and we are proud to be able to celebrate him through this festival.”
On the first day at Guleria Ghat, the audiences will enjoy musical performances by renowned sitar player Neeraj Mishra and Delhi-based Hindustani classical vocalist Ujwal Nagar. Talented and innovative flautist Rakesh Kumar will collaborate with Indian classical violinist Sarada Prasan Das for a unique recital festival. Renowned Kabirpanthi Shabnam Virmani and musician Swagath Sivakumar will also perform on the same morning.
Talking about how Kabir’s philosophy weaves itself into his current work for the festival, Hindustani classical vocalist Nagar said, “Sant Kabir’s philosophy revolves around human values and doesn’t confine itself to one particular religion. Kabir’s verses still feel contemporary as they are relevant for all societies and all times. They talk about self-introspection, love, compassion and empathy, instead of looking outwards and indulging in fault-finding negativity. There are compositions where Sant Kabir talks about the value of having a guru, a teacher in life, and there are verses where he discards religious exclusivism. I hope to take such verses and bhajans and present them in my own rendition style at the upcoming festival.”
The evening music programme, a “Flute Symphony”, is a cross-genre flute medley, experimenting with the sounds of the wind, by Pt. Ajay Shankar Prasanna. Ustad Kamal Sabri from the Ustad Imamuddin Khan Dagar Indian Music and Culture Society, the Dagar Archives, Jaipur, will present the poetry of the enigmatic saint as well as Indian classical ragas through his sarangi. Sharing his thoughts on the festival, Kamal Sabri said, “It is very important to attend this festival as it reminds us how to live life the right way.”
Sharing his thoughts on Kabir’s teachings, Pt. Ajay Shankar Prasanna said,“Kabir’s teachings are so relevant in our time and scenario where there is materialism, violence, untruth and people are dissatisfied with everything in life. Our way of life defines our personality, our mentalities as human beings and ultimately it determines our conduct. Kabir’s teachings encompass all walks of life and give us the right path that leads to self-realisation and self-fulfillment.”
The Mahindra Kabira Festival 2019 will witness a spectacular collaboration between neo-folk fusion band Kabir Café and Mooralala, a Sufi folk singer from the Janana village of Kutch in Gujarat. Evening music will also feature the distinct flavours of an ancient tradition: “Vaani” (songs of the mystics), from Bikaner by Omprakash Nayak.
Afternoon literature sessions at Guleria Ghat will feature a talk on whether there can be a rational spirituality and if Kabir helps us articulate it, by the writer, academic and novelist Purushottam Agrawal. He said, “ Kabir insists on constant interaction of the within and outside, and outside is not confined to social structures and practices. It covers nature and the environment as well. His ‘Ram’ permeates the entire universe, which is in continuation with a dominant position in Indian philosophy. He has been talking of maintaining a balance between the inner and outer selves of our existence, which implies an attempt to earn purity of mind, and along with that, the rejection of unjust social structures, and a concern with the integrity of the environment as a whole. It depends on us how we listen to him.”
Mumbai-based Jashn-E-Qalam will bring alive two timeless folktales with enchanting solo performances, celebrating the complexity and richness of Kabir through the wit and wisdom of the inimitable folklorist. Sharing his thoughts on Kabir’s philosophy, co-founder of Jashn-E-Qalam, K.C. Shankar said, “We see Kabir closer to our own existence and experience: as the poet-artist, rather than as a philosopher-mystic. He holds up an unflinching mirror to society; warts and all, sparing none in his seething observations. His path is a relentless one; of constant seeking, learning and self-discovery. It is also bold and courageous in its expression, ready to shatter all shackles and shibboleths. He inspires us to search for the extraordinary in the ordinary, to look beyond surface realities and above all find love and light in the darkest of places.”
Guided “Heritage Walks”, curated by Ajay Pandey and Navneet Raman from the Banaras Cultural Foundation, will take delegates on a journey across the beautiful landscape Kabir dwelt in.
Due to the festival’s continued sustainability initiatives during its past editions, the Mahindra Kabira Festival has received a “Platinum Level Green Event Certification” from the University of Yale in the previous years. The festival spreads the philosophy of a clean environment, preservation and sustainability through cleanliness in thought and deed. Apart from segregating waste and avoiding the use of plastic, it has ensured that sustainability and green practices have been ingrained within it right from curation to execution.
The festival will also collaborate with Unity Earth, an international organisation on a mission to accelerate the realisation of unity and peace on earth. In a special collaboration, musicians Pato Banton, Antoinette Rootsdawtah and Kirstan Hoffmann, will present a special set on the festival stage this year.
For a detailed itinerary of the event and more information, visit www.mahindrakabira.com