Swami Haridas Sangeet evam Nritya Mahotsav

September 17, 2011

India’s oldest festival of music and dance, Swami Haridas Sangeet evam Nritya Samaroh, once again mesmerized rasikas from across the country. The two-day festival was held on September 4 and 5 in Vrindavan on the occasion of Radha Ashtami. The oldest festival of music celebrates Swami Haridas’ prowess in Indian classical music and its majestic power, which made Banke Bihari reappear on earth. Swami Haridas was a devotee of Lord Krishna and had performed extraordinary miracles with the power of his music. The music and dance festival is being organized every year to pay tribute to the great guru by inviting eminent musicians and dancers.

Speaking on the occasion, Gopi Goswami, Secretary of Sangeet Shiromani Swami Haridas Samiti said, “The festival is an annual pilgrimage for the connoisseurs of Indian art and culture. Every year the festival is attended by thousands of people for the love of music and love of Lord Krishna and Radha immortalized by great saints of this country. A stage like Swami Haridas Sangeet evam Nritya Mahotsav gives renowned artists an opportunity to perform in the presence of a large gathering including prominent people from the field of arts and culture. This festival also gives platform to many young and budding artistes to perform in the land of Lord Krishna.”

A highlight of the festival was Qawwalis by Nizami Brothers who performed in Vrindavan for the first time and music lovers witnessed this unique flavor of Indian spiritual music. “Chhap tilak” was rendered in the unique style of Nizamis, who had specially chosen the Qawwalis apt for this festival. On public demand, the program concluded with the evergreen “Duma dum mast kalandar.” Even though they sang for over two hours, the audience was still left asking for more. 

Ghulam Sabir Nizami and Ghulam Waris Nizami
Uma Sharma
Dona Ganguly

Beginning with the Maha Raas by Kathak maestro Uma Sharma and her well trained disciples, this year’s festival was a real treat to connoisseurs of dance. Uma Sharma has done detailed research on Raas and Nritya Raas. Her performance was elegant and truly depicted the pure love between Krishna and the gopis.  Odissi exponent Dona Ganguly’s choreography of “Shantakaram Bhujagashayanam …” was a depiction of what Dona has learnt from her Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Pallavi was another traditional item of Odissi that her troupe performed. But her best was the ‘Jatayu Prasang’ from the Ramayana.

This year the festival offered a new creation, ‘Panchnaad’ performed by Sukhdev Mishra (violin), Jai Pandey (vocals), Ashok Pandey who played tabla and Sushil Bawecha. Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Mohan Veena exponent, performed with the folk musicians of Rajasthan, Ghazi Khan and party that made the audience connect with the instruments and rustic music of the desert. It was also the first time that Bhatt has played in the festival. He had the audience spellbound with the famous maand “Kesariya balam aavo ni padharo…” and “A meeting by the river” for which he won his coveted Grammy Award.
Tabla maestro Ashok Pandey
Pt Vishwa Mohan  Bhatt

Surabhi Tandon of the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak is a young and upcoming artiste who has become known in the past few years because of the experiments she has been doing in Kathak. Most noticeable experiment was the costume designing and recreation of the traditional ‘bhavas.’ Renowned vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande’s flawless rendition of Khayals in raag Kedar and Sohani were very appreciated.

Ashwini’s range of voice has that aesthetic quality that is unique to Jaipur Atrauli Gharana. Her “Shyam jhoole hindol kunjan ban mein” and Radha Hindol were specially created for the occasion of Radha Ashtami.  She finished her performance with “Mharo pranam banke bihari ji” traditionally sung in the Haridas Festival by several artists like Kishori Amonkar, Shobha gurtu and Arti Anklekar.

Vinod Lele and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande
Surabhi Tandon

This year’s festival was witnessed by over 5000 rasikas. Several prominent personalities in the field of politics, industry and art were present. For the past several decades, the festival has given a platform to classical musicians and dancers in the country. From Ustad Bismillah Khan to Pt Bhimsen Joshi, Pt Jasraj to Pt Kishan Maharaj, Ustad Allah Rakha to Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt Birju Maharaj to Uma Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan to Pt Shivkumar Sharma and other senior artists, all have performed here.
Swami Haridas was a multi-faceted personality. Primarily we know him as the saint who realized god through the route of naad brahma sadhna i.e. praying continuously in music. He not only composed a large number of poems (pad) but also evolved and perfected newer ragas in classical music. He realized god in the form of Shri Bankey Bihari, started the tradition of and initiated his disciples into rasopasna bhakti. He is also known as Adya Acharya of Raas Leela tradition. His birthday, which falls on Radha Ashtami day, is celebrated as a very special day in the temple in Nidhivan and in Vrindavan.