The torn veil
O Mohan, I know you, I know your ways of love
Mine is the path of devotion to love”
- Mira Baï
The lover princess of Lord Krishna (an avatar of Vishnu), liberates herself from the splendour of the Rajput palaces to let her soul wander into Bhakti, the devotion movement. Her mystical passion would make her an independent woman with a free spirit.
The Bhakti movement between the VII and XII centuries, through the words of saints and poets called Alvars and Nayanars, gave birth to a poetry of wisdom which was immortalised by the great saints like Kabir, Guru Nanak, Mira Baï, Surdas, Tulsi Das or Chaitanya.
In the face of the Muslim occupation, the sacred space in India emancipated itself into the world of the divine. Rejecting casts and holding a universal approach, the bhakti movement thus attempted to reconcile the Muslim and Hindu clerics.
More and more people applauded the vagabond princess who sang for her Lord. Her fame for song and poetry thus reached the ears of Emperor Akbar who, they say, “wanted to marry her at any cost, but she refused”.
The devotional hymns of Mira Baï continue to strongly permeate the spirituality space in Rajasthan and we remain fascinated by the plethora of mystical beliefs and faiths that inhabit the villages of the Marwar kingdom even today.
It was learnt soon thereafter that Mira Baï had mysteriously disappeared, leaving only her veil on Krishna’s statue before which she used to pray.
It is this veil, in fact, that music lifts, which, in this very notion of here and now, skilfully and vigorously unveils the bits of our soul.
"We hide behind music to come to light” used to say Jim Morrison, the singer of Doors.
This festival is unique not only because it nestles in the labyrinthine alleys of the magnificent Mehrangarh fort – which continues to be inhabited by the heroic presence of the warriors who would scrutinise the surrounding desert from their dungeons (All Along the Watchtower Princes kept the view /While all the women came and went/ Barefoot servants, too/ Outside in the distance /A wildcat did growl – Bob Dylan), but essentially because it is located at the heart of an India where the Vedic heritage rubbed shoulders with the Turkish-Mughal, Persian, and Arabic civilisations, a coexistence at the root of creation of a unique musical universe.
Therefore, this year, the festival will possess the same historical quest celebrating the musical encounter on the Silk Route, through art from the Azeri court, dances from Samarkand, Bukhara, and the distant Uighur desert, and songs from the Anatolian mountains. Everybody will celebrate the spiritual fervour of Mira Baï’s poetry in their own way.
Stringed instruments from Mongolia, China, or the far north of Sweden will also come in contact with the fiddles, sarangis, and kamaichas from the deserts of Rajasthan. Furthermore, the fiddles will meet with the virtuoso winding intricacies of the Carnatic violin of the young, iconic violinist, Ambi Subramaniam, the son of L. Subramaniam.
Other more distorted, electrical stringed instruments will take us on another path to ecstasy, which will be a celebration of the beauty of nature, the divine creation, and those conceived by the human mind like music and architecture.
Great artists of the likes of Shujaat Khan will take the Indian Sufi poetry to its peak of elegance. Through the creations of the great reformist musician, Amir Khusrau, Hindustani Sufi poetry has amalgamated the murmur of the dramatic spirit that dwells in the great maestros of Persian poetry.
We shall see this spiritual passion embodied in the soaring rhythms of the Kurdish Sufis from Iran, in their daffs, true luminous spheres, reminiscent of the far away lunar worlds.
It is at the heart of these whorls kindled by this spirit that the opaque veil of our illusions shall partially open up.
Alain Weber, Artistic Director