A Symphony of Spiritual Echoes at Jodhpur’s Sacred Spirit Festival


The annual Sacred Spirit Festival, recently held amidst the historical grandeur of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, graced audiences with a kaleidoscope of musical brilliance. The event, attracting attendees from various corners of the globe, went beyond mere listening pleasure to create a comprehensive sensory experience.

With each musical act, the festival depicted a vivid union of diverse cultures. The Shankar Brothers, with a 350-year-old legacy of Shehnai playing, evoked celebratory vibes that resonated deeply with the gathering. Likewise, the Rajasthani bhajans sung by sisters Kelam and Dariya – a testament to the enduring spiritual singing tradition – enchanted attendees as they performed the soul-stirring compositions of saint-poets like Kabir and Ravi Das.

An extraordinary display of cultural richness was on show with genres spanning from the local Manganiyar and Langa community folk music, known to transcend geographical boundaries, to the passionate Flamenco rhythms hailing from Spain. The Gair dancers, clad in swirling red skirts, provided a visual treat, syncing perfectly with the ethereal Sufi whirling dance of the Nile, leaving the audience spellbound by their mystical movements.

The brisk mornings at Jaswant Thada, a cenotaph that showcases a blend of Rajputana and Mughal architecture, were warmed by melodies originating from the mountainous regions of Tibet to the sandy dunes of Barmer and the holy ghats of Varanasi. Tibet-born, France-based artist Lobsang Chonzor proved to be a crowd-puller, engaging the audience with his infectious energy and making them dance along to his harmonious chants.

An unforgettable pre-dawn concert by Barmer’s Kelam and Dariya captivated attendees on the festival’s final day. Even in their tender teenage years, the sisters commanded the stage with a maturity that belied their age. Their father, Shera Ram Leelawat, both an instrumentalist and their mentor, accompanied them as they elegantly performed fakiri and nirguni songs. Following the widespread attention from a viral music video, the sisters remain committed to their music education at home owing to their remote village location. Their father’s dedication to teaching them songs of unity and self-discovery is a testament to their growing acclaim.

Nestled within the fort’s premises is the Chokelao Bagh, a restored garden that became a backdrop for spellbinding performances by renowned artists including Madan Gopal Singh and Chaar Yaar Ensemble, and the vivacious Parvathy Baul. Notably, Sugna Ram Bhopa’s ‘Pabuji ki phad’ narrative art, accompanied by the striking voice of Manvari Devi, captured the audience’s imagination.

The festival did face some challenges – local artistes were sometimes scheduled for late afternoon or late night, leading to sparser crowds. Nonetheless, the musical lineage celebrated in the “father to sons” tradition, as highlighted by the festival’s artistic director Alain Weber, produced memorable presentations, such as Pt. Rajendra Prasanna’s Bansuri concert and Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s mesmerizing performance. Many, however, are enthusiastic about the prospect of more female and diverse gender acts shining on future lineups.

Shubha Mudgal’s stirring concert in the Zenana Deodi Courtyard epitomized the spirit of the festival, blending moonlit skies with her emotive connection to every composition. The international collaboration was equally compelling, with Mukhtiyar Ali and Cherif Mbaw melding popular Sufi songs with Wolof traditions, and Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash’s sarod tunes complemented by Flamenco guitar.

The festival concluded with a grand ensemble of artists from around the world merging their talents in a dazzling finale. Beat-boxing by Ilyas Khan, a duet of the dutar and Anwar Khan Manganiyar’s troupe, capped off with an entrancing performance by Egyptian Sufi whirling dancers left onlookers in awe, marking a fitting end to this year’s Sacred Spirit Festival.

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