A serenade to heritage

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A serenade to heritage

Thursday, 15 February 2024 | Gyaneshwar Dayal

A serenade to heritage

VHAH Fest is all about heritage, art, and healing in the enchanted realm of Ramgarh Shekhawati. An experience of lifetime. Gyaneshwar Dayal was there to experience the whispers of eternity

In the heart of the majestic realm of Ramgarh Shekhawati, Rajasthan, the 8th annual Vedaaranya Heritage and Healing Festival (VHAH) 2024 recently unfolded its enchanting chapters. From January 26th to 29th, 2024, the festival unfolded with a mesmerizing blend of cultural experiences, weaving a tapestry that harmonized “East meets West” performances, renowned musicians, heritage experts, and artisans. This celebration of heritage, art, and healing, orchestrated through a harmonious collaboration between the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the Shruti Foundation, and the INTACH Shekhawati Chapter, cast a spellbinding ambiance over the historical wonderland.

Ramgarh Shekhawati, once abandoned by opulent merchants, has gracefully metamorphosed into one of the globe’s most coveted heritage destinations. A treasury of over 200 Havelis, 36 cenotaphs, and 101 temples, it proudly claims the distinction of hosting the world’s sole Veda temple — a sanctuary where the sacred Vedic texts take center stage, devoid of conventional deities.

The spirit behind the festival is Dr Shruti Poddar who came to her ancestral town ten years back only to be dismayed by the plunder and loss of the heritage that lay all around in the ruins. She set out to restore the town to its former glory and the VHAH Fest became one of the major tools of attracting the world attention to it. “For me this festival is more than just a festival for entertainment, it is an effort to revive the rich past of Ramgarh Shekhawati and draw world attention to it” Says Shruti. She has been quite successful in her endeavour as VHAH fest is now a major event on Country’s event Calander. The festival commenced with a soul-stirring performance by the talented students of Shekhawati from various schools, setting the stage for a cultural extravaganza that transcended boundaries. The Collector of Sikar, Quamar Ul Zaman Chowdhary, inaugurated the event, expressing his astonishment at the international standards achieved by this spectacle.

Initiated eight years ago by the visionary Shruti Foundation run by Dr Shruti Nada Poddar, VHAH FEST 2024 stands as a beacon for the cultural revival of Ramgarh Shekhawati. “This hidden gem has garnered well-deserved attention, and I am dedicated to unearthing the tangible and intangible heritage of India,” she declared. In fact the festival is just not about the fine arts but also about revival of the place, showcasing its rendezvous with architecture, Ayurveda and intricate hand-made products. The itinerary featured a Food and Crafts Mela, artistic workshops, an exploration of the Veda Temple’s architectural marvels, and a Lime (Chuna) Technology demonstration by the INTACH Shekhawati Chapter.

Dr. Sonal Mansingh, a Member of the Rajya Sabha, added her voice to the chorus of admiration. “VHAH Festival has elevated the Indian Cultural Heritage scene to new heights,” she marveled, expressing hope that the majestic Havelis of Ramgarh Shekhawati would become magnets for global tourism.

Participants immersed themselves in a Kantha Textile workshop, explored upcycled products, and engaged in weaving sessions with Katran (Waste Material). The cultural performances were nothing short of enchanting - from Dr. Sonal Mansingh’s rendition of “Meera” to the Sitar and Cello Jugalbandi by Pandit Shubhendra Rao and Maestro Saskia Rao De Haas, and the mesmerizing “TRIDHARA” by Guru Geeta Chandran.

Other highlights included an Iranian Folk dance, Rajasthani Sufi and Folk Music by MIRS of Rajasthan, and a screening of “The History and Heritage of Ramgarh Shekhawati.” Renowned Artist Satish Gupta captivated audiences with a “Live Calligraphy” performance, supported by Dr. Shruti Nada Poddar’s ethereal Shiva Chants.

Healing sessions added a profound dimension to the festival, offering local Ayurvedic insights, “A Superfood a Day” with Health Transformation Coach Vidhi Beri, and Yoga Healing Sessions with Bijal Doshi. Attendees explored the heritage of Ramgarh Shekhawati through guided tours, connecting with the soul of this resplendent wonderland. In the symphony of heritage, art, and healing, the Vedaaranya Heritage and Healing Festival left an indelible mark, inviting patrons to rediscover the timeless elegance of Ramgarh Shekhawati.

Sonal Mansingh mesmerises her audience                  

In the enchanting realm of the VHAH festival, nestled within the historical tapestry of Ramgarh Shekhawati, Sonal Mansingh’s ethereal dance unfolded, weaving a mesmerizing narrative that transcended the boundaries of time and space. Mira, the legendary poetess-saint, found her voice anew through the artistry of Sonal Mansingh, whose every movement was a delicate brushstroke, painting the air with the hues of devotion and passion. The stage became a living canvas, adorned with the graceful arcs of Sonal’s limbs, mirroring the profound verses of Mira’s poetry. As the fragrant breeze of Shekhawati whispered through the open-air venue, the audience was transported into a dreamscape, where the past and present coalesced in a dance of beauty and spirituality. Sonal Mansingh’s evocative performance, a symphony of expression, seamlessly harmonized with Mira’s verses, creating a sensory feast that left an indelible imprint on the hearts of those fortunate enough to witness this celestial fusion of art and culture. In the hallowed ambiance of Ramgarh Shekhawati, the VHAH festival became a sanctuary for the soul, where the poetic resonance of Mira’s narrative found transcendence through the sublime dance of Sonal Mansingh.

Mir Basu Khan’s Sufi message resonates with the audience

Under the starlit canopy of the VHAH festival in Ramgarh Shekhawati, Mir Basu Khan, the Sufi maestro, wove a tapestry of divine melody that enraptured the souls of all in attendance. With each note, Khan’s voice, rich with the essence of centuries-old Sufi tradition, became a vessel for the universal language of love and inclusivity. The audience, bathed in the warm glow of his impassioned performance, found solace in the profound messages of unity and spiritual transcendence embedded in his music. Mir Basu Khan’s Sufi singing transcended the boundaries of mere entertainment, transforming the evening into a spiritual journey where hearts were touched, and minds opened. The air resonated with the echoes of his soul-stirring renditions, echoing the Sufi philosophy of embracing humanity beyond distinctions. As the final strains of his performance lingered in the night, the collective memory of the VHAH festival became an indelible chapter of unity, love, and the timeless allure of Mir Basu Khan’s Sufi singing. It was an evening where music became a conduit for the soul, forging connections that transcended time and space.

Soulful rendering by Dr Sangeeta Neralkar - a fitting tribute of Sehgal and Akhtar

Dr. Sangeeta Neralkar tribute at the VHAH festival unfolded as a poignant and sublime homage to the timeless musical legacies of Kundan Lal Sehgal and Begum Akhtar, creating an evening of unparalleled bliss for the captivated audience. With her mellifluous voice, Dr. Sangeeta Neralkar breathed life into the soulful melodies that once emanated from the golden era of Indian cinema and ghazal. For ninety enchanting minutes, the audience was transported through a musical odyssey, traversing the emotive realms crafted by Sehgal’s soul-stirring compositions and Begum Akhtar’s ghazals. Dr Sangeeta Neralkar renditions were a delicate balance of nostalgia and innovation, capturing the essence of each note with a finesse that paid a rich tribute to the unparalleled artistry of the two legendary maestros. The air was charged with the resonance of their timeless classics, creating an atmosphere where the past and present converged in a symphony of musical ecstasy. Dr Sangeeta Neralkar’s tribute became a luminous thread, seamlessly weaving together the melodies of Sehgal and Begum Akhtar, offering the audience a blissful evening steeped in the essence of India’s musical heritage at its most evocative.

Shruti Poddar and Satish Gupta take the audience to trans through “Live Calligraphy”

In a mesmerizing symphony of art and spirituality, the collaboration between Shruti Poddar and the visionary painter Satish Gupta unfolded like a celestial dance at a cultural extravaganza. As Satish Gupta, with the stroke of his brush, brought forth the divine visage of Shiva on his canvas, Shruti Poddar’s mellifluous recitation of “Om Namah Shivay” resonated through the venue, creating an immersive experience that transcended the boundaries of sight and sound. The audience was seamlessly transported into a transcendent realm where the tangible and intangible melded into a harmonious whole. Gupta’s intricate strokes captured the cosmic essence of Shiva, while Poddar’s soulful recitation served as the rhythmic heartbeat of the divine. Together, they wove a tapestry that allowed the audience to witness the birth of art from the marriage of word and image, ushering them into a state of collective transcendence. It was an enchanting encounter where the synergy between Shruti Poddar’s recitation and Satish Gupta’s visual masterpiece became a spiritual voyage, leaving an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to partake in this symphony of creativity and devotion.

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