Growing up along the southern
coast now a part of Seemandhara, it was common place to have music on speakers
and almost a wedding like celebration of a neighbor’s daughter attaining
puberty. My friends from the North viewed this with amazement not without a
twinge of disbelief. But then moving on from what not half a century ago was an
area of high mortality, a girl child and her coming of age meant progeny and
prosperity. Bedecked processions as rites of passage for the deceased among
some communities is set to blaring music and fire crackers, the unsuspecting
mute soul bathed and decked in his or her finest is made to sit on a decorated
chair and driven through every street he or she must have walked through his or
her living days. Strange, but if death meant giving way to a new life, it is
cause enough for celebration, is it not?
In a country that has as many multiples of festivals as
there are languages and states, every religious festival has its own connotation
and every periodic event spells a celebration.
My travels then have sometimes
taken me to some celebrations that is not any one of the popular festivals. These
are Festivals that celebrate art, music, dance, culture, mysticism and
therefore life and living. Even more intriguing are the modern day festivals
that have made icons of destinations. You would have heard of Sunburn festival
every jam and rock fan's annual ticket to Goa, have you heard of the CALM (Creative
Arts, Literature and Music) in Shillong – India’s unprecedented Music capital,
or the summer's Lake Side Jam in Naukuchiatal in our own Lake District
in Kumaon. Lake side jam began with a rather lofty agenda when "Friends of
music" a self-made group of music enthusiasts coined this jamming festival
many summers ago, till last year it was an annual event that most of Delhi's
young and swinging would loathe to miss.
Two of my absolute favorites
are the Chennai Music Festival celebrating Carnatic Music in all its
contemporary as well as traditional nuances in the mild winter months of
December. To live through a season of Chennai Music festival is to enjoy a few
weeks as 'Mylapore Mami' airing my kancheevarams and tasting superb tiffins
and filter coffee in the Sabhas set up to celebrate South Indian classical
music. The second is the Kenduli Baul Mela, celebrated near Shantiniketan
every January drawing mystics from across the world. This festival is an
intense mélange of music and spiritual camaraderie not without some high notes!
The Konark, Khajuraho and the
Mamallapuram festivals are now legendary celebrations of music and dance forms
of India, have you heard of the latest one - the Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy
festivalthat was organized by the Mehrangarh Trust in March in Jodhpur.
This unique festival brings together the Flamenco dancers of Spain and draws
parallels with our own nomadic dancers of Rajasthan.
A festival that since it began
about 5 years ago is now an international favourite is the World Sufi Spirit
festival held in February every year in Naguar followed by Jodhpur. A
special mention also of the Sufi festivals that is celebrated in various towns
like Jaipur Patna, Delhi etc. is the "Jahan-e-Khusrau" a
tribute to the soulful mystic, a poetry festival for Ghalib celebrating the
sultan of couplets and Urdu poetry, and the many literary festivals, important
among them being the Jaipur Literary festival, a classic example of how
a destination has been wedtoa festival. Every year the Jaipur Lit-fest also
celebrates a few controversies!
One interesting festival that celebrates
India’s inclusiveness is the Annual Eunuch Festival held every April in
Koovagam in Tamil Nadu. Transgenders from all over the country meet here and ritually
marry Iravan, a character from Mahabharata revered as a patron god of the
transgender community. When you travel in the tribal areas of Orissa and
Chattisgarh, every market day is a celebration; Music, dance, Mahua and
shopping complement a day of barter and revelry.
For the fall and spring of
2014/15, I have two festivals on my agenda – World Mouth Harp Festival in
Goa and Ruins of Renaissance, Bengaluru’s mega festival to celebrate all forms
of creative expressions – films, music, dance, art and after parties!
This is but a brief list of
alternate festivals, I am aware of many that I do not mention in reverence to
word count. Each day I hear of something
new to celebrate. Imagine my joy on a bus trip to Manali, my co-passenger was an astrophysicist who was curating
a new festival in Goa this winter; Story of Light Festival – an
intersection of science, art and culture.
I am convinced the world has much
to celebrate and as I travel, I am inevitably a part of some of them !