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The big fat Indian wedding with a royal Maratha touch

The wedding of Rigvedita Deo, daughter of the Mahurkar family, with Raj Ratna Pratap Deo, scion to the royal state of Nagar Untari, Jharkhand, was both grand and traditional.

Anshu Khanna

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The Mahurkar family and friends during the wedding.

The Maratha royals or the Maratha Confederacy were a conglomerate of princely states that ruled a large part of western and southern India, starting from the Deccan Plateau. The empire dates back to the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1674. The Maratha warriors were singularly responsible for wiping out the Mughals and also maintaining their strong, rooted identity during the British Raj. Many Maratha states were the highest in the order of the gun salute like Baroda and Gwalior. But many remained insulated in their own world.

Even today, the Marathas remain deeply-rooted, Indian and tradition bound. Their women wear the most spectacular Chanderi and Maheshwari saris that were immortalised by ruling women like Rani Ahilyabai Holkar, Maharani Chimnabai of Baroda and more recently Rajmata Vijaye Raje Scindia of Gwalior. There are many Ravi Varma portraits of women wearing Navsaris draped in nine-yard Chanderis, even mounting horses in them. The men wore pagris, made from stretched and starched Chanderi, the pugri of one state being unique from the other. They were known to wear angarkhas, resplendent with regal, precious buttons.

I had the great fortune of attending a true blue Maratha wedding of Rigvedita Deo, daughter of the Mahurkar family, with Raj Ratna Pratap Deo, scion to the royal state of Nagar Untari, Jharkhand. One of the largest states in Jharkhand, Nagar Untari is a Rajput state, while the Mahurkars were one of the most prominent Sardars (nobles) in the Gwalior state. The father Uday Mahurkar is an author whose book Marching with a Billion on Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a best-seller. A well-read historian, he is known for his vast knowledge on Maratha history and his special insight into the life and times of the Chhatrapati.

Rigvedita, meanwhile, is a foodie, a restaurateur and now a Kunwarani who is looking at ways to turn the distant state in Jharkhand and its fort into a glorious destination. While her husband, a marketing professional, hopes to market the state for its great historic value.

The wedding was held at the fabled Lakshmi Vilas Palace, home to the Gaekwads of Baroda, and seen as the largest private residence in the world, four-times the size of Buckingham Palace. The festivities began with a tilak ceremony where the groom was greeted by the bride’s family with gifts, an auspicious tilak and many platters full of mithais. The bride meanwhile sat in her chamber, surrounded by her bridesmaid and women of the family dressed in a Chanderi sari. At this time it is considered inauspicious for the bride and the groom to see each other.

PM Narendra Modi also attended
the ceremony.

The wedding itself was resplendent with the bride wearing a beautiful Rajput poshak, which is traditionally gifted by the groom. Her face was totally covered in a veil that she could only raise after the wedding. And the groom came riding the traditional elephant with a battery of folk musicians and dancers leading an all men’s baraat. Yes, women traditionally never attended their son’s wedding.

Yuvrajsab & Yuvranisab Rewa with princess Survandita
Rajasab & Ranisab Nagar Untari

The bride was welcomed with flowers and diya aarti rendered by Hiteshwari Mahurkar, the sister-in-law, as brother Samarjit led her to the dais. Before the wedding the very touching Maratha ceremony of Mangalashtak was held. The couple hidden from each other with a muslin cloth held between the two was blessed by a battery of pundits who recited shlokas. These shlokas are very auspicious and not to be heard by the groom’s mother. The bride’s maternal uncle stood by with a sword in hand, auspiciously protecting her. The guests at this time are each given a silk pouch filled with kesar and rice, which they have to bestow on the couple on completion of every verse. The Marathas have eight pheras around the havan kund and they are known to keep to the wedding traditions very formally.

The palace, with its very maverick Indo-Saracenic architecture and domes, was all lit up, the array of amazing Maratha food and the sheer magnificence of the guests dressed in their royal finery left an impression that could be lilting for life.

The wedding took place early this year, before Covid-19 brought the nation to an unprecedented halt.

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Rajputana’s debutant cartist: Chirantana Kumari

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Hailing from the house of Jamnia in Madhya Pradesh, Chirantana Kumari was raised by a family of petrolheads. Both her father, Raja Saheb Shaliwahan Vats, and brother Yuvraj Saheb Shailaditya Singh join the nation’s conglomerate of vintage car enthusiasts, and I am yet to find a make or model that the young Yuvraj doesn’t recognise. Recently, he even directed a promo film for Rajkot’s iconic Rolls Royce Phantom II, which is popularly known as ‘The Star of India’. 

Chirantana’s fascination over vintage automobiles found expression in the form of fine arts, wherein the budding artist has hand-painted a striking series of ceramics. A national-level sharp shooter, Chirantana’s balanced stillness further enriches her creative adroitness. She is now married to the house of Ramgarh, wherein she is devising an entrepreneurial model for her artwork. For the time being, her newly-launched Instagram handle, @the_ mystic_trunk reveals brief snippets of her ongoing work, and also mediates any product inquiries that one might have. 

Elaborating upon her family’s penchants for vintage automobiles and art, Chirantana says: “Vintage cars are a legacy of the nostalgic bygone era. I’ve always been fascinated by these old cars since my childhood. My grandfather, his friends and other family members owned vintage cars that were designed in the absence of constraints such as crash tests. Instead, automobile makers of those days created streamlined designs that were reflective of the trends and moods. Every vintage car tells a story of its own, and the history that went into its inception is a sub-genre that piqued by interest for a long time. For example, extravagant metals such as gold, silver and gems such as diamonds were used while crafting vintage cars for the rulers of various princely states. Most of these masterpieces continue to be impeccably restored and adored by enthusiasts all over the world.”

 She elaborates, “When it comes to creative arts, the various women of my family have involved themselves in painting on different mediums as a leisure time activity. So, I followed suit and studied the detailed anatomy of vintage cars in order to paint them in my free time. When one of my uncles, who happens to own a handicraft showroom came across my work, he encouraged me to occupy a corner of his space where I could showcase my talent. In no time, the paintings began to sell, and I received several orders by vintage car enthusiasts for their archives and regal garages.”

 “Now, when I look back, I see that my combined love for painting and vintage cars, which started as a leisure time activity, has culminated into a specialisation in its own right. Even though I am busy pursuing my PhD in Economics, I continue sparing some time to feed my creativity,” Chirantana adds.

 Automotive artist, research scholar and sharp shooter, Chirantana sure is a jack of many trades. Sooner or later, she is likely to join India’s leading cohort of automotive artists (also known as ‘Cartists’ in trendier nomenclature), such as Vidita Singh of Barwani, Himanshu Jangid, Nikki Chauhan and Nidhi Agarwal.

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An introvert’s kaleidoscope with Jahnvi Singh of Rohet

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Dualism is a word that most of us Rajput millennials know too well. We have grown up juggling with two parallel worlds. On the one hand, there is the bygone era of Rajput glory that continues to resonate in presentday rituals, folklore and songs. On the other hand, lies an expanding world of liberal ideas, freedom and change that we begin dissolving into once education and schooling begin. No sooner do we come of age and return to our ancestral dwellings than that contrast between these two worlds becomes all the more apparent. It is no less challenging for our parents to ensure the mutual involvement of traditional restraint and liberal modernity in our upbringing. Some of us are more aware of this dualism than others, but we are all mediating with it day in and day out, and are often torn between the two in terms of our choices.

 The 22-year-old Jahnvi Singh of Rohet is no exception to this existentialist angst. She too shuttled between two distant but equally urgent sensibilities until one day, when she felt too exhausted by it. Instead of constantly trying and failing to be in two places at once, Jahnvi decided to step away from playing mediator to becoming an observer. What started off as a tiny change in perspective ended up culminating into the most radical shift of perspective that she had ever made. 

Jahnvi’s description of her younger self plays a major part in discerning this implication. “I was a shy, introverted kid. The cliché in every classroom, who sits in a corner with a diary drawing something she never shows to anyone. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious or pretentious, the truth was that I was so afraid of putting myself out there that I never ended up trying. This is something that I have recently come to terms with. Somehow through my teenage turmoil, I managed to stick to my pencil set, and that saved me.” 

The budding artist then graduated to college, wherein that whole new world remoulded her reticence into a whole new self that was so unhindered and venturesome, that its misrecognition was indeed plausible. How could such a rapid alteration of an artist’s personality not reflect in their creative expressions?

 “As a teenager, I put a lot of emphasis on questioning what it meant to be an artist. I wondered whether my skills were merely skills, or whether I could really become an ‘edgy artist’ someday. I don’t remember when I started drawing, but I remember doing it a lot. My lockers and cupboards were always full of sketches, there were more doodles on my math textbooks than sums”, she says in hindsight.

 She continued resorting to her drawing tools well beyond her teenage years and as the world unfolded in front of her wondrous eyes, Jahnvi’s art exceeded its graphitic confines. When she was no longer able to channelise her expressions through pencil strokes, she found meaning in paint, ink, pastel, and even installation, fabric, music, dance and writing. To her former self, these would have just been overestimated mediums that she never found herself to be capable of creatively deploying. 

Stir some evolutionary ferment into artistic cultivation and, lo and behold, Jahnvi became the soughtafter artist for Masaba By Nykaa’s cosmetics collection. Her freelance work is getting better by the day and she is also open to pursuing art commissions. Interestingly, each one of her works, whether for cosmetic promotions or alternative exhibitions is unmissable in depicting her inhibited essence. Just like her persona, one finds revelation in what her artboard conceals. Being explicit was never her style, and her growing set of creations is bound together by an enigma that doesn’t give in the very least to its varied interpreters. 

Jahnvi’s concluding remarks aptly explain this essence: “The unexplored leaves hope for more learning in the future and gives perspective to the present. Perfection only eliminates the chances of possibility. Four years ago, I would be uncomfortable with the idea of ‘not doing enough’. Today, the only true intention behind all my work is merelyto better understand’. And I am happier for it.”

 Whoever said existentialist angst wasn’t a good thing? And do introverts really see more colours? Not quite, they just observe a lot more than the rest of us. 

The writer is an author, blogger and editor-in-chief of Rajputana Collective.

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Keeping the heritage of the havelis alive

With House of Badnore’s rich offerings of fabrics, jewels and art objects, blueblooded entrepreneur Rani Archana Kumari has successfully combined the
centuries-old legacy of her family with a spectacular modern aesthetic.

Anshu Khanna

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The world of refinement as we see today owes its allegiance to the myriad craft studios and art ateliers that thrived within the forts, palaces and havelis of India — homes where, in the past century, princely families resided with their royal entourage of personal attendants available to fulfill their every whim. 

Besides their living quarters filled with their staff, the palaces also housed many a ‘palace karkhana’ or studios, where worked and resided jewelers, tailors, folk artists, architects, weavers and craftspeople, each one nurtured and patronised by the Maharaja. In their courts were found singers, who filled the durbar with their Thumris and ragas, dancers, whose ghungroos resonated through the courtyards, and the bards and court jesters, who kept the entire family entertained.

 Cut to 2020, and we arrive at an era of democratic modernism, filled with Western luxury, couture labels and contemporary artists. However, in these contemporary times too, some royal scions are working hard to keep their legacy of patronage alive. They are adopting the local craftsmen of their regions, and infusing their skills with their refined aesthetics to create spectacular designs. These creations are proudly showcased by them in their palace museums, through the regal platform, Royal Fables, and a few handpicked craft-selling portals online. 

One such blue-blooded entrepreneur is Rani Archana Kumari of Badnore who has, in a span of two years, brought alive an enviably exquisite brand. Born into the culture-rich state of Pratapgarh in Awadh and married into the family of Badnore in Rajasthan, which flanked on one side by Ajmer and on the other by Pushkar, Archana Kumari personifies her legacy through her well-curated brand , which she calls, House of Badnore.

Having spent a great part of her life promoting silver – smith work of heritage value with Frazer and Haws , Archana is also a writer (she was the editor of the Gems and Jewelry magazine), a sharp entrepreneur and a design addict who understands gems and precious metals. Backed by this reservoir of skill and experience, she forayed into creating what she calls a ‘past forward’ brand. With its ethereal collectibles, fashion knick-knacks, travel jewels and art objects, House of Badnore resonates with Archana’s rich family legacy which dates many centuries. 

It is a legacy where “the clash of swords, blood, sweat and tears in the tough terrain was juxtaposed with a life of refinement lived within palaces; where Rao Jaimal ji’s heroic bravado and Mira Bai’s divine ardor co-existed”. Archana, a mother of two gorgeous girls, one a banker and the other an art historian, tries to create a bridge between “the sheer romance of past royal art bastions and a modern and chic design language”. The polo memorabilia, the shikaar, the birds found in miniature art, the Maharaja’s horse, his favorite Cecil Beaton portrait in a carved silver frame — all these and more are inspirations she recreates into memorabilia which can be gifted. Each piece is packaged in a very stylish box with the Badnore seal. While the inspiration is one, the interpretations are many.

 From buttons embellished with precious stones to embroidered stoles with falcon motifs, and from photo frames polished with silver to silk kerchiefs matched with hand-painted cuff links, each of these gifts are made for those with exquisite taste. “Indians love gifting, especially at weddings, and I find that my main market,” she says. This festive season, she is adding travel jewels and exquisitely designed floral saris to her repertoire.

The Badnore saris are reminiscent of the past, with their vintage borders, woven by hand and attached to floral chiffons, reminiscent of the chiffons imported for the Maharani from the mills of Manchester in the Raj era. There are also the exquisitely embroidered saris with sumptuous motifs of the rose spread all across them. “In the end, I simply want to celebrate royal crafts which, one day, one of my daughters will adopt and take forward, just like how I picked up the baton from my ancestors,” she concludes.

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How kingdom of Panna turned into a wildlife sanctuary

Anshu Khanna

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Panna is a sleepy town of Madhya Pradesh, known both for its now dried diamond mines and the wildlife sanctuary that houses the Kohinoor of Indian wildlife: The tiger. Few know that it is also the princely state historically ruled by the Rajas of Bundelkhand, famed for their bravehearts on the battlefield and their bravado in the jungle. Surrounded by the densest of forest covers, it today thrives as a pristine sanctuary where wildlife sightings are easy. We chat with the petite and pretty princess of Panna, Krishna Kumari, as she is passing the pandemic time in Panna. 

Half bundelkhandi and half Gujarati (her mother Dilhar Kumari hails from the royal family of Bhavnagar), she is a cordon bleu tigress, a free spirited adventure buff who also surprisingly doubles up as as a sensitive artist… Painting her beloved animals on Porcelain, a medium of expression that is known to be tough to manoeuvre but exquisite to behold. And this artist paints extreme close ups of tigers, zebras, deers and elephants that she encounters on a regular basis. Both back home in Panna and in Africa which she admits is like her second home. “I love travelling to Africa. 

Princess Krishna Kumari of Panna

To the forest reserves. That to me is the most precious of places in the world.” Living between Panna, Bhavnagar and Mumbai, Krishna, very visible on the social landscape of Mumbai and much loved too, is actually happiest when behind the wheels of her SUV manoeuvring through tough terrains. Quick to drive off at a whim she has, “Driven the length and breadth of North India in my SUV. I find it the easiest mode of transport and also love taking part in car rallies through the desert and the mountains.” 

That is when Krishna is not undertaking a motorbike tour through Ladakh or driving across the wild life parks of Uganda with her compatriot Radhika Raje Gaekwad, the Maharani of Baroda. “We did this trip through Uganda last year, encountering chimpanzees and gorillas. This year we were slated to go back but then the world got gripped by the pandemic.” When not sighting wild life for real she is busy capturing them on porcelain tiles, trays, plates and bowls. Often monochrome with a dash of yellow or ochre highlighting the tiger’s stripes or the zebras eyes, Krishna shares that, “I stumbled upon this art form by a stroke of luck when I met a seasoned artist in Mumbai and took part in her art camp. Though tough, the art form captured my imagination and I decided to travel to cities where it is truly practiced: Spain, Portugal, France. I trained to understand its nuances and carefully mastered it.” Today she creates a body of work that is wild life inspired. 

She says, “Principalities like ours that lived on the fringe of the jungle knew what to hunt when to hunt. We were told to leave the animals be at breeding season. I see my art as a turn from hunting animals to nurturing them and capturing their immense beauty inside a canvas that is as pristine as them.” Or as pure hearted as this artist who, when not trotting across the globe, is busy teaching art to the tribal girls who come to study at their girls school in Panna, named after her grandmother Maharani Durga Laxmi. And when stuck in the pandemic she is converting one of the family homes on the fringe of the park into a homestay heritage property. She smiles, “I got into my car with my mother and drove off from our home in Mumbai straight to Panna, the moment we were allowed to… I want it to look like a mini-jungle.” 

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Reviving the bygone glories of kullu dussehra

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Once upon a time, the then Raja of Kullu erroneously convicted a holy man of royal intrigue. His misjudgment cost the innocent victim his life through self-immolation, and until his very last breath, the burning man cursed the Raja for his haughtiness. In lieu of insulting him, the puritan vindictively prophesied the entire royal dynasty to be doomed. And sure enough, Karma caught up with the Raja’s misdeeds. 

All vitality drained out of his body, and his skin began to fester at an alarming rate. Petrified by his downfall, the Raja urgently solicited the royal priest for divine intervention. Indeed, he had committed blasphemy by wrongly accusing an innocent and virtuous man. His posthumous forgiveness could only be sought by by personally invoking Lord Rama in his birthplace. Without a moment’s delay, the Raja sent his man to clandestinely abduct the Lord from Ayodhya, such that he could be reinstated as the Raja’s guardian in Kullu.

 The daring loyalist was successful in lifting the deity off its consecrated birthplace, but just as he was wading through the Sarayu’s waters, a few localities nabbed him. Outraged by the sacrilegious extent of his theft, the people of Ayodhya were close to executing him when he uttered the circumstances that landed him into this grim situation. 

Once they were fully apprised of the Raja’s mishaps, Lord Rama’s devotees were filled with empathy and remorse. However, much as they intended to help reverse the royal curse, they couldn’t justify the parting of Lord Rama from his historical birthplace. 

They regretfully assembled to take their Lord back to his holy chambers, but what happened next left everyone agape in astonishment. Even though there were many of them, the people of Ayodhya were unable to lift their Lord’s deity in his homeward direction. On the other hand, the Raja’s man didn’t encounter the slightest hitch in carrying him towards the Himalayas. Perhaps, Lord Rama himself was implying divine judgment.

 Thus, the stalemate ended with Ayodhya’s priests awarding the Raja’s man with a miniature form of Lord Rama’s deity on two conditions. First, that he be placed upon the throne of Kullu, and the Raja’s dynasty serve their people under the Lord in all humility. And second, that his lineage must never forget the generosity granted upon them by the people of Ayodhya. That Ayodhya’s priests be invoked every Dussehra to conduct the festive rights in Kullu.

 Should the King breach either of these two conditions, he could be sure of eternal peril. No sooner had his man returned with the miniature deity than the Raja followed the priests’ commandments. 

Under the Lord’s miraculous tutelage, he regained his vitality and spent every remaining day of his life in gratitude. Centuries later, the Raja’s descendants have continued to devoutly adhere to their ancestor’s divine commitments. Every year, they hand out personal invitations to every temple in the Kullu Valley on behalf of Lord Rama, or Lord Raghunath as he is affectionately known, to join them in celebrating the auspicious festivities of Dussehra. 

Ayodhya’s designated priests remain the master of ceremonies in a ten-daylong festival that assembles over three hundred deities from all over the region. On Dussehra, which marks the first of the ten days, the divine entourage arrives from their various abodes at Lord Raghunath’s door on foot. Their arrival of these glistening deities on palanquins under fine drapery and flower decks is exalted with beating drums and trumpets. Kullu’s incumbent Raja welcomes them on behalf of the Lord, felicitating the deities before they are carried into the town’s Dhalpur grounds.

 All the deities and their accompanying devotees camp at this site for the next ten days such that the visiting pilgrims are able to immerse in veneration to their heart’s content. An elaborate fair is held for these ten days as well, with vendors of fast food & souvenirs flogging the streets. When the day begins to draw to a close, Himachali Nati performances take over and go on until the wee hours. Anyone and everyone who has witnessed this grand affair is likely to remember it for a lifetime. 

 With the sheer quantum of festive participation, a supernaturally high vibration saturates the air and causes the kundalini or spiritual energy to rise exponentially. In fact, several mystics enter a trance-like state, some swooning, some jumping as if they were on an invisible trampoline. Interestingly, the Kullu Dussehra is perhaps the only one that subtly sidesteps the incineration of Ravana. On the contrary, the festival here culminates into a Rath Yatra presided by Lord Raghunatha and Hadimba Devi.

 The sight of them leading a three hundred deities-long divine procession makes for an unmissable sight. Now, one might wonder how deities belonging to two separate epics come together. After all, the Ramayana dates back to the Treta Yuga and Mahabharata to Dwapara. Well, that is one of the many features of the Kullu Dussehra that make it India’s most unique and fascinating celebration of good over evil, love versus hate, and most importantly, of life itself.

Book your stay at Urvashi’s Retreat for the Dussehra experience of a lifetime.

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A legacy lives on

Maharaja Brajraj Singh of Kishangarh on how he revived the legacy of music that filled the royal courts of Rajasthan in the past.

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A rich patronage to performing arts was integral to imperial durbars. The journey of classical Indian music would not be so enriched if the erstwhile rulers did not have such a refined ear for music.  Music known as ‘havelisangeet’ set foundations for dhrupad and dhamaalgayaki. While most of music played in the darbars has been relegated to shared history and verbal narrative, one master project of restoration is the one being led by the Maharaja of Kishangarh. It was in his father, Maharaja Sumer Singh of Kishangarh’s rule that the pre gramophone era of powerful voices filled the darbars of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Kishangarh. 

As their thumris and dadras filled the air, Maharaja Sumer Singhji captured voices of legends like Lalitabai, Allah JillaiBai, GauharJaan Niyaz and Gauri Bai on his spool leaving an illuminating legacy for his son, the present Maharaja Brajraj Singh of Kishangarh to revive. Years of restoration and sound correction, the meticulous removal of moisture from neglected tapes and the careful exclusion of ambient voices later was born this inimitable body of work.

 The singing stars of this era were many: Naseem Bano who spent two years in Rampur in the as well were born nightingales who took khayalgayaki to a new realm, blending it to the lilting notes of folk music, thumris and dadras. The royal courts were resonant with the voices of legends like Lalitabai who lit up the Kishangarh courts with her music. Allah JillaiBai rose to fame under the patronage of Bikaner while Gauhar Jaan Niyazi was the jewel of Jaipur courts and Gauri Bai sang in Umaid Bhawan. 

Music revivalist, Maharaja Brajraj Singh of Kishangarh revived the legacy of music that filled the royal courts of Rajasthan in the past which included the melodious renditions of semi-classical and folk court music include genres like thumri and mand singing style. In a freewheeling conversation, Maharaja Brajraj Singh shares his lilting legacy.

 Q. What were the challenges faced by you? 

A. These rare voices have been captured and preserved over the years. It took me three years to get it right! I remember how mesmerising it was when Gauri Bai sang at my wedding and it felt like the right thing to do to keep this legacy going forward.

 Q. Rajasthan is known for its beautiful colours, its music and its craft. Dance is integral to its legacy. How do you connect your latest compilation of dance music to this rich culture?

 A. Dance music dates back to the colourful Gangaur festival, observed throughout Rajasthan, as a celebration of Shiva and Parvati. During this time the ladies call upon the gods for their protection. The women take to singing and dancing the ghoomar, which has many versions. There is even a Gujarati ghoomar that has the beats of the garba but the singing has a Rajasthani accent. My father encouraged the women of Kishangarh to take up this dance form. This then turned into a 3-day festival for which the women practiced for months. My compilation of Rajasthani dance music is inspired by these dance performances. The album has an earthy, traditional sound that adds a nostalgic touch to the music belonging to the royal era.

 Q. Has anyone in your family learnt any form of classical dancing?

 A. My aunt learnt Kathak and was fond of dancing, but the women from the royal family were not allowed to dance in public. They had to cover their heads while dancing with a ghoonghat and dancing in public was not considered socially acceptable. However, they did teach this form to other women. 

Q. The dhol that we hear in your music CD has a soulful and beautiful quality to it and does justice to the beauty of pure Rajasthani music; the instruments have a distinct quality that give to the music a trancelike feeling, and bring back the riches of music that your father wanted to maintain. Can you tell us a little about a few of the musical instruments that were used?

 A. The instruments that were integral to Rajasthani dance music were the dhol, which was used for the purpose of dancing, and the bankiya, a very interesting instrument because it is very challenging to play. It is like a trumpet, which adds to the whole sound. These are accompanied by a harmonium and majeera, which are essential in Rajasthani music. My father loved music and dance, which is what inspired him to start this whole concept in the first place. 

Q. You have featured iconic singers like Allah Jillai Bai in your album. Were there any recordings at that time? 

A. At that time, the instruments used were very simple and limited, like the harmonium, sarangi, manjeera, bankiya and dhol, and the singers used to play with a specific group of musicians. They wouldn’t get musicians from outside so there were no recordings of the same at that time. It was all more about the performance. I can proudly say that this dance CD is the finest quality that one could possibly get of that time and it caters to an audience that would truly respect this music.

 Q. Are there any fond memories that you can recall from that time period? 

A. In Rajasthan people live in communities and take up professions like cooking, singing, dancing etc. No one breaks out from their traditional heritage, roots when it comes to talent. This talent is passed on for generations. I remember the jaats and gujjars coming to Kishangarh, they too inspired the dance. The audience always loved what they saw and the performances were truly great and memorable.There was also this story about a princess of Bundi who married the Maharaja of Jodhpur in the late 1800’s. She composed a particular version of the ghoomar that is still extremely popular and now has many versions. For that time, she was very modern and had a commanding presence. 

Q. Your father was a man of vision and a patron of the arts. Anything else that you can tell us about him?

 A. Oh yes! He was an avid lover of living the great life. In those days, they all lived in style. I have films he recorded at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He filmed Milkha Singh live at these Olympics! He used to go for Wimbledon and was a huge fan. The quality of life then was very different from how it is now.

 Q. Coming back to this dance CD, tell us what these songs are about and what inspired their creation? 

A. In Rajasthan there is a song for every occasion. That is what makes this music so beautiful. Women sing when their husbands are away, they sing when their husbands return! Every song has a message, a beautiful one. Combining music with dance has been a thrill and keeping this tradition going forward is what I plan to do. One of the songs in the album, ‘Ghumoor’ has various versions but the famous one has been recorded and produced in this album. A princess of Bundi composed this version of the song in the 1890s. She was a farsighted and modern girl for that era. 

Q. The way the folk community takes to music and dance is almost like fish to water. Was there a lot of folk music and dance at the time these recordings were taken?

 A. When you look purely at folk music, it is a different genre altogether and is a form derived from classical music. I believe that folk music and dance music cannot have the same impact as that is created by classical music. Thus, it was a challenge to produce this music in the classical folk manner, which is not done anymore in this day and age. This is my way of contributing to the revival of classical Indian folk music and inspire the folk musicians of today to not forget their classical roots.

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