NEW DELHI: The contradictions that day were extraordinary, one of them particularly making a strong impression. Under the twilight sky, as we stood on the grounds of the only mosque in Pushkar, the sharpness of the holy green dome juxtaposed with the saffron flags fluttering away. And yet, it all came together so well.
A few minutes after the crimson sun had set on the waterfront, the ghats of the Pushkar Lake began to reverberate with the sound of prayers. As Muslims raised their hands to pray to Allah, Hindus on the other side raised aarti lamps to Lord Brahma. Pushkar doesn’t stand for one sanctified faith, it was beautifully evident. It’s a land of energy that manifests in religious consonance, cultural coherence and spiritual congruence. For the last three years, the holy town of Pushkar has donned a musical veil for its faith inspired performance artistry with The Sacred Pushkar festival that took place on December 16-17.
The city whose claim to fame was the mega camel fair has been pining for a new kind of resurgence to bring in revenue. Like many cities in Rajasthan that host fairs and festivals to bolster tourism, Pushkar, too, banked upon the camel fair. But, for the last few years, things have changed owing to exploitation of livestock and demonetisation.
The new opportunity came in the form of The Sacred Pushkar that brought together music, yoga, heritage walks, meditation and workshops. Destination festivals such as these give locals a chance to enjoy their heritage. “People don’t possess the intelligence to understand arts because they’re inundated with Bollywood music. You ask youngsters about Guru Randhawa and they’ll blurt out his songs but ask them about Vikku Vinayakram and you’ll get a blank look,” says a flower vendor. Grammy award winning percussionist Vinayakram displayed his proficiency on the ghatam as he jammed with his son Selvaganesh on the hand drums and grandson Swaminathan on the kanjeera.
Intermixed with Rajasthani folk are international beats that gather cheer among locals who, otherwise, may not get an opportunity to soak in the sounds. The Acapella workshop by Laboratorium Piesni from Tricity in Poland was one such. It was an attempt at self-discovery through movement where the body is a spectator to the soul that dances unhindered in a hypnotic dance of surrender.
When sisters Anju and Kiran Dangi from Pushkar collaborated with vocalist Antoine Redon of Vocal Rasta, the crowds witnessed a rare musical symphony that pulsated through the ghats.
The economics of destination festivals cannot be negated. Besides popularizing the place, they generate intermittent employment for the locals. The Sacred Pushkar saw the hiring of drivers, cleaners, decorators, printers, stage material suppliers, gifts for the delegates, technical help, lights and wiring people.
“The short tourist season doesn’t suffice in getting us a healthy income. Festivals like these allow us to earn additionally,” says Gopal Kumar, a driver. The view is echoed by Shyambir Yadav, a printing block seller who has sold 60 blocks since the festival started. The dhabas aligning the Ghat got a fleet of new customers. This chapter in the story of Pushkar that was written three years back has become a best-seller today.
Sacred Music fest
The Sacred Pushkar is an international music festival that takes place in Pushkar, Rajasthan annually. Its last edition was scheduled on December 16-17. Organised by Teamwork Arts, it brought together music, meditation, yoga and workshops