Re-living the legacy at Gwalior Heritage Festival

March 8th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Azera Rahman
Gwalior, March 8 (IANS) Hundreds of earthen lamps floated around, throwing their soft beam on the artistes as they performed on a stage set in the midst of a pond at the picturesque Moti Mahal Palace, making the Gwalior Heritage Festival a truly royal experience. Re-living Gwalior’s legacy could have hardly got better than this. As artistes performed, the audience sat around on the steps, getting washed over by the brilliance of the evening.

While a hundred lights outlined the picturesque 19th century Moti Mahal palace, where the three-day festival kicked off Friday evening, more than 1,500 diyas (earthern lamps) floated in the pond, infusing something magical to the ambience.

The evening began with the recital of Raga Deepak, a beautiful raga composed by the royal musician Tansen. Typically called a gem of the Gwalior Gharana (or school of music), it is said that when Tansen used to sing this raga, a hundred diyas used to light up by themselves.

MP Jyotiraditya M. Scindia of the Gwalior Heritage Foundation, who organised this festival, said that the aim was to portray to the world the rich legacy of Gwalior and make it the cultural festival destination of India.

“This is the maiden chapter of the Gwalior Heritage Festival and I hope to make it an annual affair. The aim is to reinstate the age old relationship of Gwalior with tradition and help the coming generations recognize and identify themselves with this golden culture,” Scindia, looking suave in a black kurta, told IANS.

As the audience sat around the steps of the palace, propped up with cushions, the singers, Pandit Laxman Krishnarao Pandit and his daughter Meeta Pandit of the Gwalior Gharana and famed Hindustani classical singer Parveen Sultana mesmerised them with their renditions, each unique from the other.

With each high and low note, the audiences’ pulse rose and fell. When in the middle of their performances, the artistes say with elegance “Kya Baat Hai” to their accompanying artistes, the thunderous applause of the people enveloped them.

To add to the effect, a trick of the laser beam on a fountain created an impression of a virtual stage, complete with the performers in thin air.

Her hair streaked but never letting the pallu fall off her head, Maharani Priyadarshini Scindia, wife of Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, dressed in a light green chiffon sari, played the perfect host as she constantly checked on her guests and ensured that everyone was comfortable and enjoying the music.

Amitabh Shankar, a visitor at the festival, said that it’s a treat to the people of Gwalior.

“We keep having music festivals in Gwalior. After all music runs in our blood, this is the place of Tansen. But a festival like this, at such a grand scale is happening for the first time. It’s absolutely beautiful,” Shankar said as his wife sat by him.

But that was not all.

If the compositions based on different ragas, ghazals and bhajans made the evening classic, a heart throbbing performance by the fusion music band Mrigya, added a contemporary flavour.

Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury, the chief guest of the evening, said the festival is a classic example of Incredible India.

“I love classical music. And this festival is an absolute treat to me, as it is to the people of Gwalior. Other places should emulate what is being done here,” she told IANS, as her elder daughter Poojita, sat by.

The only sore point, if at all, was the glaring fact that not all the seats, 3,500 of them, were filled in the show. But the organisers were confident that they will be by the time the festival culminates Sunday.

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