Dhamar Utsav in Vrindavan: Dhrupad musicians set to mesmerise

The sacred town of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh is poised to become the center stage for a venerable musical celebration, the Dhamar Utsav, scheduled on February 18. As the cultural spotlight beams on this historic town, the Hyderabad-based Dhrupad Gurukulam Foundation, in partnership with the Naadyatra Foundation from Gurugram, takes immense pride in hosting an event dedicated to preserving and promoting Dhrupad music, particularly the Dhamar genre.

Dhamar Utsav will not only thrill audiences with exquisite musical performances but will also serve as a platform for cultural exchanges among aficionados and connoisseurs of the classical Indian music tradition. The festival will showcase the spellbinding talent of artists such as Dalchand Sharma delivering a pakhawaj soliloquy, along with eminent Dhrupad vocalists Uday Bhawalkar, Sanjeev Jha, and Manish Kumar. They will be supported by the gifted Ankit Parikh, Harish Pati, and Lalit Sisodiya.

The event revels in the Dhamar style of music, characterized by the quintessential Dhamar taal, which consists of 14 beats. This style is deeply rooted in the musical ethos of Brijbhumi, the region along the Yamuna River, and is traditionally celebrated during the Phalgun season that coincides with the vibrant festival of Holi.

In an intimate discussion at the residence of octogenarian and Hyderabad-based aficionado Vijaya L Ramam, Dhrupad musicians Sanjeev and Manish, widely recognized as Dhrupad Bandhu, speak passionately about the uniqueness of the Dhamar style. Manish Kumar underscores the sad reality that despite the cultural significance of Dhamar, many locals remain unfamiliar with its essence. This event thus heralds a significant effort to propel this treasured music form onto the world stage by inviting accomplished Dhrupad musicians to perform.

This initiative also includes a Dhrupad yatra, a procession commencing from the venerable Radha Raman mandir, as an integral part of a temple series on February 17, a day before the main Utsav.

Manish Kumar, an accomplished name in the world of Dhrupad, carries a special connection with the city of Vrindavan, having conducted music classes here since 2013. He impresses upon the importance of education in perpetuating the Dhrupad tradition, emphasizing the role of new students in practicing and subsequently attracting new enthusiasts to the genre.

Together with Vijaya L Ramam, an ardent supporter of the arts, Manish founded the Dhrupad Gurukulam Foundation in 2019 with a resolute mission to protect, propagate, and elevate the art of Dhrupad music. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Foundation has managed to organize virtual events, workshops, and concerts through lecture demonstrations, sustaining interest in the art form.

The Foundation’s signature annual event, ‘Varshotsav’, has already carved a niche for itself within Hyderabad’s cultural landscape. Having hosted two editions in collaboration with the LV Prasad Eye Institute, the event has featured themes such as Monsoon Ragas, with performances by the likes of Dhrupad Bandhu, Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, and a solo recital by the US-based tabla artist Abhiman Kaushal.

Vijaya, nearing her 80th year, has become an inspiring figure in the Dhrupad community. Starting her musical journey at the age of 70, her tale from an unsteady voice to the remarkable capability to extend a note is nothing short of extraordinary. She credits this transformation to being Manish’s oldest student and her unwavering dedication to the craft. Her home in Banjara Hills has evolved into a hub for Dhrupad learning, attracting students of various ages.

The vision of the Dhrupad Gurukulam Foundation extends beyond the preservation of Dhamar music. It encompasses establishing platforms, both at home and internationally, for artists to showcase their expertise, foster awareness, and cultivate appreciation of the Dhamar tradition. By establishing centers like Vrindavan, the Foundation aspires to make Dhamar music accessible to a diverse array of audiences across urban and rural spaces globally, forging a significant imprint on cultural communities and the broader artistic landscape.

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