~ YASHIKA SEHGAL
The World Sacred Spirit Festival is an initiative by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and aims to promote soulful music that transcends all boundaries of culture, community, and creeds. The World Sacred Spirit Festival is a cultural extravaganza and promotes talent from different parts of the world and mainly focuses on the spiritual significance of music. The main aim of this festival is to awaken the divine in us.
In the 4th century BC, Nagaur was discovered. It is historically significant because of its geography as it lay along ancient trade and invasion routes of the Thar desert. Sufism was practised by people on a large scale in Nagaur and the festival here carries forward that heritage in the gorgeous Ahhichatragarh Fort. The fort was constructed in the initial 1100s. It is a beautiful example of Rajput-Mughal architecture. So, there could not be a better venue for the festival because Nagaur is an unbeatable setting for the spiritual experience that the festival offers. Earlier, the festival was called Nagaur Sufi Festival and aimed at promoting the rich culture of Rajasthan. Over the years, the festival got a life of its own and today it is called the World Sacred Spirit Festival.
In 2020, we celebrated the 13th edition of the festival. It first began in 2007 in Nagaur’s Ahhichatragarh Fort where practitioners of traditional music had gathered to pay an ode to the fort’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award of Excellence for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The Nagaur edition continues to date and concludes just a few days before the grand musical spectacle at the Mehrangarh Fort.
HOW IS IT CELEBRATED
The festival showcases Rajasthan’s rich musical and cultural heritage. The festival is celebrated in 2 parts. The first 3 days of the festival is at the Nagaur Fort. This event is extremely exclusive and only visitors staying within the fort walls can experience the music and the fort. The second part is the next 3 days, where the celebrations of the festival move towards Mehrangarh Fort, a Jodhpur Fort, where the event is grander in scale. Visitors from across India and the world are present there. This is a world-class event that includes great lighting, acoustics and other attractive elements. The sunrise performance is held at Jaswant Thada Temple, the evening functions are by the lakeside, the smaller qawalis are at the Bhure Shah Mazhar at the Fort. For the midnight performance, the performance is held on the Fort Ramparts. At times Period rooms like the Pearl Palace Room or the Sheesh Mahal are also opened for performances. Famous musicians like Ustad Shujaat Hussain Khan, who has a mastery over sitar leaves the listeners in a trance; Lingling Yu, who plays the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute, is spell-binding; Ambi Subramaniam, a Carnatic violinist, who is an amazing performer take part in the festival and help in making the festival a great success. The festival celebrates Sufi, Bhakti, mystical and spiritual music. It experiences artists from all over the world such as from India, Argentina, Iran, China, Mongolia, Sweden, Scotland, France, Turkey, Spain, Algeria and Azerbaijan. The festival is recognized as one of the finest music festivals in the country.
THE FESTIVAL AS A TOURIST ATTRACTION
Sufi music including Indian Qawwali has always acted as a bridge between the eastern and the western cultures.it goes beyond the boundaries of religion and allows us to spiritually connect with our creator i.e God. This festival is celebrated every year in February. It brings together eminent musicians from all over the world to connect with the almighty in the form of music, dance, art and poetry. Over the years, it has become one of the most awaited music festivals that welcomes artists from across the globe and showcases their enthusiasm towards music. It is a part of every traveller’s itinerary travelling to Jodhpur, Rajasthan. It attracts thousands of audience every year. During the festival, the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort reverberates as musical strains filled with ecstasy, joy and euphoria.
EFFECT OF COVID-19 ON THE SACRED SPIRIT FESTIVAL
The remote communities and musical groups that take part in the sacred spirit festival have suffered a lot due to the covid pandemic. The lives of these musical groups have been impacted on a large scale. Jodhpur RIFF, in partnership with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, and the World Sacred Spirit Festival, has launched the Coronavirus Relief Project. They are identifying families and villages that are the neediest and have put in place the mechanisms to ensure that they receive food in the coming weeks, regularly.
Working together with local artists and volunteers in each village, they are providing emergency food packs that are purchased locally. They also take care of the necessary medical expenses for the senior-most musicians, our living legends and those who need urgent medical treatment.
In 2020, the festival was celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm in Rajasthan in February. The festival took place before the large scale advent of covid. New norms of social behaviour such as social distancing and personal hygiene measures were fully taken care of. All the guidelines issued by the government of India were implemented.
Therefore, The World Sacred Spirit Festival, a Sufi festival is an amalgamation of cultures across the globe. It focuses on unity and our connection with the creator of our universe.
It is a great initiative by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust to protect and promote the cultural heritage of India. Over the last few years, the festival has achieved validation and appreciation from all over the world. Great performers from across the globe take part in this festival and make it a visual treat for the viewers.