Saturday, 13 March 2010


I made it to the Kabir Mahotsav!

It’s difficult to write about the experience of the last 10 days. Therefore, let me cut straight to the chase.

The Musical Highlights
  • Mura Lala and Parbhat Jogi
    Mura Lala and Parbhat Jogi are from Kutch. The biggest highlight of the trip was travelling with and listening to these two perform both on stage and to over 12,000 people (at Roopakheda in Dara District) and in the impromptu sessions that they obliged us with on the bus and at Tipanyaji’s residence.
    Mura Lala is a vocalist with a booming voice. You will be moved every time you listen to him.
    Parbhat Jogi accompanies him on the Dholak (never heard the Dholak played so well and in such a unique style). BTW - Jogi Saab has an amazing voice as well.
    Shabnam Virmani has recorded their music and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I did find a short sample of Mura Lala's music on the net here
    Mura Lala
  • Bus Trip from Ujjain to Roopa Kheda
    Kaluram Bamaniya, Mura Lala, Parbhat Jogi, Shabnam Viramani and Narayanji sang through a six hour bus journey from Ujjain to Roopa Kheda! The words “kabir ki gaadi” had a totally new meaning. This Satsang was once in a lifetime experience. The cramped seats, the heat of the mid-day sun, and the sounds of the highways could not drown out the tempura, dholak and most importantly the voices of these artists. For some part of this trip I was sitting next to Mukthiyar Ali!!
  • Kaluram Bamaniya on the Bus (Mura Lala is holding his Tanpura)
  • Shabnam Virmani
    Her performances at Luniya Khedi and Ujjain gave me goose bumps! It is very rare to come across such an open voice. Her ability to connect with the audiences and get them swaying would have made most artists proud. Listening to her was Paisa Vasool!
    Shabnam Virmani recording the Jam Session
The Personal and Political Highlight
  • Finding a friend: Suresh Awasthi
    Made an amazing friend is Suresh Awasthi. At his age, most of us would not have the courage to take public transport. He however, was not only braving the elements but was making sure, that we had it comfortable. The principles with which he has led his life are things people like me can only look at in awe and aspire towards.
    He is exceptionally caring and made sure that both Sudha and I were taken care of (more often than not at his expense). His sense of humour that had me rolling on the floor laughing on more than one occasion. Some of the conversations that I had with him, merit an independent blogspost.
  • Narayanji
    Narayanji was the most politically vocal and articulate of all the people I met. Maybe it was his background with Ekalavya or maybe it was just his own experiences with being brought up a Dalit in a caste dominated society that made him so vocal and articulate. He shared some very interesting anecdotes including one about his planned work with Dalits in Ahmedabad where untouchability is still practiced in some pockets.
    Parbhat Jogi (in turban) and Narayanji (centre)
  • A lesson in courage - “Saathi” Saheb
    When you have 2000 people gathered together, your are bound to attract a few flies (read as Godmen and politicians). On the second day of the festival at Luniyakhedhi, there was a “pravachan” by a godman followed by some gyaan from the local BJP politicians. The audience gave a cold response to both the Godmen and the politicos.
    Then came Saathi Sahed. He took the mike very politely and in under 6 minutes neutralized everything the BJP politicos and the Godmen had said. His argument was simple but precise – the root problem is the caste system and it needs to be cut at the roots. He took the suggestions that the politicos had given and showed exactly how it made the problem worse. He then delicately put the Godmen in place by explaining the danger of institutionalizing the work of Kabir. Unlike the BJP and Godmen, Saathi Saab got the “Jai Ho!” and ovation from the audience. #EPICWIN
    It takes a certain amount of courage and conviction to stand up and speak your mind the way he did. He was an inspiration and a lesson. 
Suresh Awasthi (left) and "Saathiji" (right)

    Acknowledgments and Thank You to
    • Prahlad Singh Tipaniyaji 
      What a host! He was dealing with 1000s of visitors but made sure that each of us was taken care of. He saw me without a shawl on the first evening and was headed to the stage for his performance. He stops, turns around, walks all the way back to his house to get me a shawl.I was touched.
    • Ajay Tipanyaji
      I do not know how he did it. Event managers charge in lakhs for events a fraction of this size. This person organized the logistics with the least possible infrastructure and resources at his disposal.
    • Shabnam Virmani
      The bus ride and Yatra would not have been possible with out her. She was willing to accommodate me and tolerate my "pile on" presence. Thank you for having me on board for a small part of your journey with Kabir.
    Parting thoughts
    The language of peace and tolerance is deep-rooted in India. People in the thousands walked miles to attend a function dedicated to the work of a man who said “break down the temples and mosques and find the god within you”.

    Many of these people, and for that matter even some of the artists are illiterate. However, based on the way they lead their lives they seem to be far more educated than most people who are at the centre of  political discourse in India.

    Jai Ho Kabira!

    PS- For a few snaps from the event -
    KabirMahotsav Photos


    1. First of all, thanks for posting the link on Twitter.

      Secondly, I loved this article, esp. the points where secularism and neutral views(The audience gave a cold response to both the Godmen and the politicos.) are expressed as well as blatant realities like practice of untouchability in some pockets. Sadly.

      Thirdly, I'm a huge fan of Kabir dohey (thanks to my room-mates in hostel)... and am pretty sure this journey was fulfilling for you and your companion.

      Keep writing, sir.

    2. @lost_scotoma
      Thank you for the comments.
      Yes, the journey was amazing, already planning for next year's trip :-)

    3. Though this is not a subject of my interest but I liked the expression and the flow of writing.

    4. @Mita
      Jai ho Kabira!
      May the Satsang be never ending

    5. Nice! You should shoot a short video next time and share it with us.

    6. @ashwini
      You would have been one of the few people from my past life at Oracle who would enjoyed the yatra.
      Next time Sudha and I plan a trip like this we will co-opt you and Ajaya.

    7. like it...thanks somuch....

    8. i can only imagine what an enriching experience this would ve been. !

    9. Edited to add- reminded me of the Doverlane music conference in Kolkata - that s a total trance like experience for classical music fans. - goes on all night,and you have the best of the best perform.

    10. @gyanban

      Planning to make it to the Poush Mela someday. I hope I make it while the legends are still performing!

    11. Anand, I'm a friend of Shabnam & Linda - I was longing to be there but couldn't. Found your tweets & this blog on twitter and I got a little taste of the festival. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to listening to some of it. - Jayaram

    12. @Jayram

      Jai Ho Kabira!
      Thank you! Interesting that you found the blog on Twitter :-) Kabir works in interesting ways.

      Shabnam and Arati's blog have far more interesting posts @