Sufi Kathak at the Kartik Poornima Festival, Udaipur  
- Manjari Sinha 

December 7, 2006  

The glittering Jagmandir, an exquisite island-palace on Lake Pichola, was the venue of the regal festival of Kartik Poornima, organized by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF), Udaipur. With the objective of keeping the intangible cultural heritage of 'Eternal Mewar' alive, the mystical festival held annually on the auspicious night of Kartik Poornima, occupies a pride of place in the calendar of regal festivals like Holi, Gangaur and Ashwa Poojan et al, celebrated with traditional dignity at the City Palace complex, Udaipur, and attracts global audience. The  concept of 'Eternal Mewar' is envisioned by Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, Chairman and Managing Trustee MMCF Udaipur, as an endeavor to preserve and perpetuate the ancient heritage, culture and tradition enshrined in the region of Mewar as well as in the city palace complex of Udaipur and also to bring Indian heritage to the citizens of the global village. 

A cultural and heritage tourism initiative of the MMCF, the annual festival of Kartik Poornima is celebrated with great splendor and some of the world's most renowned artistes have performed here over the years. The festival this year, was based on the theme of Sufism, celebrating universal love, beyond caste, creed and religion. Ziya Lambrau from Mumbai introduced the theme while the performing arts segment belonged to Manjari Chaturvedi who 'connected the thread of the creator, creation and creativity' with her Sufi Kathak.  

Jag-Mandir, a testimony of architectural heritage revitalized for the 21st century with its natural beauty, provided perfect ambience for the mysticism of Sufi Kathak. The enchanting evening opened with 'Man kunto Maula...' the traditional Qaul (invocation) composed by Hazarat Amir Khusro, with Manjari emerging from the aesthetically adorned Jharokha of Jag-Mandir, the fabulous backdrop of the performance space, decorated with fragrant flowers. The Tarana in raga Malkauns, set to Teentaal that was just played as a lehera (musical refrain) from the wings with only the Sher (Persian couplets) sung by Amjad Ali, created a good contrast with the traditional items of Kathak and the crisp footwork. 

The Ghazal 'yaar ko hamane Jan-bajaan dekha, kabhi zahir kabhi chhupa dekha' preceded by the pensive aalap of Puria-Dhanashree played by Kamaal Ahemad on Sarangi and sung soulfully by Amjad, inspired the dancer for her heart rendering Abhinaya. The couplet preceding the famous composition of Amir Khusro 'Chhap tilak sab chheeni mose naina milay ke' depicted an Abhisarika nayika getting ready to meet her beloved was depicted with utmost delicacy by Manjari, with all the 'Nazaakat and Nafaasat' of Lucknow Gharana. 

The Sufi and the Kathak elements in fact went hand in hand with items based on the Sufi poetry and the Malkauns Tarana alternately, reaching the crescendo with the famous 'Rang' 'Aaj rang hai ri Maan...' depicting the merging of the soul with its eternal source, where the Quawwals from Awadh went virtually in a state of 'Haal' (trance), with Manjari dancing to it like a moving meditation, and the audience literally spellbound. 

Manjari Sinha has an MA in Sanskrit from Allahabad University, MA in Music from Vikram University, Ujjain; B.Ed. from Lucknow University; Sangeet Prabhakar in vocal, tabla, sitar and Kathak dance from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad; and further training in sitar from guru Arvind Parikh in the lineage of Ustad Vilayat Khan. She contributes articles in English and Hindi on Music (Hindustani & Carnatic), Dance, Art & Culture for various leading music journals and periodicals. She gives lec-dems on Indian classical music and dance in India and abroad, interviews many musicians and dancers, and is an auditioned artist of All India Radio, broadcasting programs such as talks, interviews, Sanskrit programs and travelogue on overseas broadcasting.