51st Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Samaroh in Udaipur

March 14, 2013

Udaipur, the place of royal dynasty of Mewar and a tourist town in Rajasthan, is home to Dhrupad, the oldest and most profound style of Indian classical vocal music. Dhrupad was a dominant form of vocal music in northern India which developed in medieval times with many compositions by legendary Tansen, who was a been player and a vocalist. Presenting Dhrupad music in jugalbandi style (duet performance) has been initiated by the Dagar brothers who lived in Udaipur for a long time. They performed Dhrupad all over the world and popularized it in present times.  Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha, popularly known as ‘Gundecha Brothers’ and disciples of Dagars were in town to perform in the 51st Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Samaroh held in Udaipur from 22-24th February 2013.

The three day annual music and dance festival was inaugurated by a brilliant two hour Dhrupad recital by Gundechas keeping the hall full audience spellbound. They took the raga Jaijawanti, a midnight melody, in which they presented a composition in Choutaal followed by elaborate alaap and nom-tuum. Later, with the mood of Spring season (Basant Ritu), they sang a Dhamar composition in raga Basant followed by a Saint Kabir composition in raga Charukeshi (Jhini re jhini). They concluded their presentation with the   famous Adana composition (Shiv Shankar Adi Deva...), which reminded of Mahakal temple town of Ujjain where the Gundechas come from. Ramesh Joshi provided able accompaniment on pakhawaj. Umakant Gundecha said in his inaugural speech that Udaipur is the motherland of Dhrupad and Dagar family hailed originally from Udaipur. They requested that Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Parishad, one of the reputed cultural outfits in the country, present an item related to Dhrupad every year in its annual music festival.   

The next program of the first day was a Bharatanatyam recital. Dr. Mallika Sarabhai and her troupe started with Kouthuvam in which she described the mudras of Lord Ganesha, Kartikeya, Shiva and Goddess Kali. Her technique enabled her to mould her physique effortlessly into the karanas as and when required. She performed difficult adavus with firm footwork, and created contrasting textures of grace and firmness. Her meticulous planning and presentation of performances are a result of not only her training, practice and commitment to the dance form, but also of her high academic proficiency. A graduate from IIM Ahmedabad, Mallika Sarabhai was felicitated with Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Puraskar, an award instituted by the organization in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Indian classical dance, which carries a citation, a memento shawl and a cash award. The award is given to a senior and eminent musician every year by the Parishad. Mallika, daughter and disciple of Dr. Mrinalini Sarabhai said that Darpana Academy, the institute set up by her parents six decades ago is continuously working for teaching Indian classical dances in Ahmedabad. In an interview, she recalled her last recital in Maharana Kumbha Festival in Udaipur and said her compositions mark the equality of women in society.    

The second day started with flute recital by Pt. Ronu Majumdar, one of the finest flute players in the country. He played raga Bihag, less heard in flute.  After an elaborate alaap, Jor and jhala,   Ronu played vilambit bandish in Jhaptaal and drut in teentaal.  His tonal purity, sticking to the notes longer, barhat, layakri are unparalleled. In touching Maand, pathos from Rajasthan, he played ‘Padharo Mare desh’ in Dipchandi taal followed by a Pahadi dhun. With flavours of Bengal Baul tune, Banaras Kajri tune in Maand, Ronu was in a great mood that evening. At the end, he played raga Hamsadhwani, a composition of his dada-guru, late Pt. Ravi Shankar. Sudhir Pandey from Delhi provided able ‘saath sangat’ with Ronu and the combination was well appreciated by the audience. In his opening remark, Ronu fondly remembered his last concert in Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Samaroh few years back and was extremely happy to see 1100 strong audience listening till last minute this year. “This shows new listeners are entering into classical music. Flute (bansuri) is considered to be the most ancient and natural musical instrument, the instrument played by Lord Krishna. Its melody therefore cannot be surpassed. Hallowed and pure, the sound of a flute resonates like a temple bell, timeless as if traversing through space, serene as infinite bliss. Indian classical music is now well appreciated by westerners too,” said Ronu. He also said that artistes (classical) like to perform for a reasonable time on stage, which this Samaroh does provide for all the artistes. 

Dona Ganguly and her team of 10 young dancers performed Odissi dance in the latter half of the night to beautiful Odissi music. They started with Mangalacharan followed by composition on Mahishashurmardini, the killing of evils (Mahishasur) by Goddess Durga. ‘Pallavi’ was a beautiful play of eye movements, body postures and footwork by the group of dancers. The scripts narrated and music composed and sung by the famous Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra made a great difference to the show. The unison of music, script, light and dance was perfect. When asked, Dona said the training, rehearsal and submission are the keys that took the audience closer to the literature. ‘Ardhanarishwar’ was their next item which symbolizes Lord Shiva’s all pervasive nature and also inseparable form of Shiva and Parvathi. They concluded with ‘Dashavatar,’ ten incarnations of Vishnu, much appreciated by the audience. The young dancers from her institute Dikshamanjari were precise and well coordinated and the transition from scene to scene was smooth and seamless. Dona Ganguly was accompanied by dancers Taniya Bhattacharya and Raghunath Das.

On the third day, young and promising sitarist of the country Niladri Kumar was accompanied by the renowned tabla maestro Anindo Chatterjee. Son and disciple of noted sitar player Kartick Kumar, Niladri opened the concert with the evening melody of all time raga Shudhkalyan when he played elaborate alaap, jod and jhala followed by vilambit gaat in Jhaptaal. Melody of the strings, layakari, chikar, gamak as played, reminded us of late Pt. Ravi Shankar’s young age style and rendition. He is one of the few who is also equally proficient in western style beside Hindustani style. He concluded the evening with raga Mishra Kafi set to teentaal. Anindo Chatterjee was in top form, his clarity, uthaan, padan adding high colour to Niladri’s sitar. The sitar from a young mind and tabla from a senior maestro revealed an unmatched combination which would linger long in the audience mind. Anindo said that he would love to present a tabla solo before the enlightened audience of Udaipur. Noted for his wide repertoire of music and fusion, Niladri warns youngsters to learn classical before experimenting with fusion. “Indian fusion is not about the voluminous sound ending the concert, but I consider this a jugalbandi i.e a meeting of the minds where the two artistes respect and understand each other,” said Niladri. He was given ‘Kumbha M.N. Mathur’ award in recognition of his work at this age from the group of young musicians. At the beginning of the concert, Niladri expressed gratitude saying that his father had played on this prestigious platform before.

The grand finale was the jugalbandi vocal recital by Parween Sultana and Ustad Dilshad Khan. They chose raga Rageshri, the vilambit khayal was set in ektaal and drut in teentaal.  Sweet tonal quality, clarity in swargam and sapaat tans, and reach to higher octaves at ease were some of the features of Parween Sultana of khayal. A tarana in raga Hamsadhwani in teentaal was the second item. She then sang a composition (of Ut Dilshad Khan) in raga Basant set to teentaal. Her fast taans reminded of the legendary vocalist of Bengal, Pt. Chinmoy Lahiri, of whom she was a disciple for a long time. They concluded with the famous Bhairavi Bhajan ‘Bhabani dayani’…. in Jhaptaal. Mukund Raj Deo and Shriniwas Acharya from Mumbai accompanied them on tabla and harmonium respectively.  

Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Samaroh is organized every year by Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Parishad in Udaipur. Planned and conceived by Pt. Onkarnath Thakur and established in 1962, the organization is dedicated to promote Indian classical music and dance in the country. With its own office, a music library, a training academy, it has organized such music and dance festivals for years without break, presenting approximately 800 eminent musicians for the music lovers in Udaipur. It celebrated 50 years in 2012 through a five day music festival. It may also be noted that the festival gives equal importance to dance as well as music unlike many other known music festivals of the country. It also organizes monthly concerts regularly to promote young and upcoming artistes.

Its annual music festival is the oldest and the most important of such festivals in the state and is open to all. To accommodate growing number of audience and also to maintain the grandeur of its annual festival, the parishad needs a state-of-the art new theatre / auditorium in Udaipur, said the convener Dr. P.P. Chattaraj, an engineer by profession and amateur musician. Founder members of the organization and President Mr. S.S. Ranawat said, “Our organization and its activities are no less than Tansen Samaroh in Gwalior, Sawai Gandharva Music festival in Pune, Khajuraho Dance Festival in Madhya Pradesh.” Vice-President Dr. K.N. Nag said, “Just like the Maharajas used to promote musicians and music festivals in olden days, it is important that our activities are patronized by corporates. We are grateful for the Government support in our promotions.”