A joyous fête of heritage

A joyous fête of heritage

The huge scale of the festival made one wish that all states held such events, to highlight the best each state has to offer in terms of different cultural streams, says Shaili Khanna

A week-long presentation of Patiala pride included mesmerising performances by Pt Ajoy Chakravorty with his powerful baritone voice, Pt Channulal Mishra delighting the audience with his Holi compositions along with a live sound and light show, crafts mela, miniature displays, a heritage walk, a car rally by blind navigators and also a cycle rally.

The Patiala Heritage Festival was held  from February 21 to 27 and was coordinated by Patiala Deputy Commissioner Poonamdeep Kaur, who incidentally had handled earlier editions of the event too. There were several local committees formed to handle all aspects of the grand festival, she said, which attempted the inclusion of as many local “Patialavis” as possible, with its diverse events. It was heartening to see that the organisers did not engage external event managers to handle the event and waste public money, but managed everything on their own, from conceptualising to execution.

Activities included music for six evenings, a Crafts Mela, miniature aircraft flying display, car rally by blind navigators, heritage walk, cycle rally and a live sound and light show commissioned specially for the festival by the talented Harbux Singh Latta from Chandigarh. This was centred on the battle at Saragarhi, a slice of history that today is largely forgotten.

The aircraft display held at Patiala’s airfield was unique — different types of miniature aircraft (drones) were flown by hand-held controls, achieving jaw-dropping swoops, perfect landings and takeoffs. School children from all over the State had been brought in to witness the event, which later also included stunt bike riding.

Truly, this was a huge monumental event, handled extremely well, with several carefully positioned hoardings all over the city, ensuring the active participation of everyone. Several visitors had come from neighbouring towns in the Punjab and even Delhi to attend the shows; had the event been publicised earlier, there would have been even more footfall. Pride in Patiala was clearly visible by holding events at many old heritage buildings of Patiala — in front of the Darbar Hall in the fort of Qila Mubarak, the Shahi Samadhs, (royal cenotaphs) the Yadavindra Public School, Baaradari gardens and old Motibagh Palace (now the National Institute of Sports). A food festival specialising in the famous Patiala cuisine was also held.

The music element of the festival was handled by the Delhi-based Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development. Patiala gharana exponent Pt Ajoy Chakravorty with his powerful baritone, singing Raga Bhupali, had the largely urban audience entranced. His choice of raga, he explained, was dictated by the most famous exponent of the Patiala gharana, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Banaras thumri exponent Pt Channulal Mishra sang several Holis to the delight of his audience; the most unusual item in his repertoire was his famous composition, Khelen masaane mein Holi, that celebrates the Digambar played by Lord Shiva in the cremation ground. As he explained, the Holi of Lord Krishna is played only once a year, but Lord Shiva plays Holi every day.

Ustad Shujaat Khan talked of his fond memories of Patiala and YPS School that he had visited when he was himself a school boy in Shimla, at Bishop Cotton School. He felt it was important for governments to invest in culture, the returns of which could not be quantified, but only be experienced. Shujaat was as usual accompanied by two tabla players; after his main piece in Raga Yamini, he sang a little too. It was indeed, one of the most enjoyable concerts.

Pt Ulhas Kashalkar admitted he was singing in Patiala for the first time but had found the audience receptivity amazing. He was equally complimentary about the composite culture of the Punjab which had equal devotees worshipping at Dukh Niwaran Sahib Gurudwara and the Kali Mandir, established 200 years ago. He also chose to sing a raga Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had loved, Raga Kamod, and in the end sang the seasonal Raga Basant. The huge scale of the festival made one wish that all states held such events to highlight the best each state has to offer in terms of different cultural streams. Similar festivals are planned for other cities in Punjab including Amritsar Ludhiana and Kapurthala.






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