Tune into sounds of India

Date: Jun 16, 2004

First-Ever Virasat international Festival

The first-ever Virasat international festival, underway currently at the pink city, delighted music lovers over the week-end past. For, the scheduled performances magnificently showcased the past, present and future of both India and Indian sounds. BB notes how the three events played out ó as if bound together by an invisible thread ó over different moments in time and heritage spaces.

What was

We are in Jaipur, a city of forts, palaces, pleasure gardens and chattris, reminders-cum-remainders of a rich royal past. Itís 4 pm and we are seated in the courtyard of a 200-year old temple located slap bang in the middle of the bustling Tripolia bazaar: itís the Brij Bihari temple dedicated, as the name suggests, to Lord Krishna. And noted vocalist Vidya Rao is singing thumris, bringing to life a genre of music dating back to the 19th century.

The renditions are simply awesome, even to the ears of someone unfamiliar with Hindustani classical. Sung in Braj bhasha, the songs of love and devotion (not necessarily of the carnal sort)revolve around the cult of the ultimate cowherd.

Ms Rao plays around with key words in the composition and so beautiful are the notes, so emotion-charged the singing, and so bewitching her facial expressions that one willy-nilly embarks on a spiritual voyage.

A trip which makes you regard the Flautist not as a divine symbol but as the original ladiesí man who, ironically, was rather an androgynous being, almost the grand-daddy of todayís metrosexual man ó physically beautiful, blessed with graceful long limbs, curly hair, a beautiful gait, attracting sidelong glances from hordes of female admirers.

By now, one is completely caught up in this blast to the past. So the mind also recalls the courtesans of yore who excelled at thumris; who democratic India helped rise Sphinx-like from the ashes of royal durbars, and transformed from bais into devis.

The gaze then turns to the temple itself, a living heritage space. You take in the reds, yellows and greens of the beautiful araish work on the walls; you marvel at the artists who must have ground marble stones into a paste and used it to paint the flowers, birds and flower pots which now surround you two centuries on.

And you note with deep sadness the crumbling plaster, layers of dust coating the artwork, the disintegrating wooden frames of the tiny windows...
At 6:30 pm the next day, you trudge...

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