Culture

Despite threats, Pak maestro singer Ghulam Ali performs to packed devotees at Varanasi Sankat Mochan temple

April 29, 2016 04:27 AM

By Chanchal Manohar Singh

VARANASI: Pakistani music mastero  Ghulam Ali couldn't have found a more apt platform to defy bigots. Hounded for months and refused a stage in most parts of India, he finally performed on Tuesday evening in no less a venue than Varanasi's famed Sankat Mochan temple according times of India report.


Every once in a while, music lovers would burst into Har Har Mahadev as they are wont to as a mark of appreciation. And right through the concerts, the temple rituals like pealing bells and chants carried out. Seasoned performers don't miss a beat through it all, and Ghulam Ali didn't either.

Despite the extraordinary security and a large protective ring of policemen and beefy men with T-shirts proclaiming 'Bouncer', people managed to inch as close as they could to the stage. In the days leading up to the concert, Shiv Sena had been protesting in the city. But in the temple courtyard, facing the sanctum, Ghulam Ali sang to thousands of music lovers and worshippers who were jammed into every nook and corner, many spilling onto the terrace writes ToI.

Music is offered as worship to Hanuman, the presiding deity, by artistes at the thw Six-day annual classical music festival here. It's a singularly secular event notwithstanding the location, and several leading Muslim artistes - starting with the legendary Bismillah Khan whose music was rooted in the temple - play here to mark the ritual hazri (attendance) to Hanuman. Though he was slotted to start first, he came in second. (As a fan noted sensibly: he could hardly be expected to sing the mandatory Ganesh vandana to start the festival, could he?)

"You are an audience that has heard legendary masters sing and knows its music inside out. So I will just sing what the greats have taught me," Ghulam Ali said as he started his concert with a dadra Maine lakhon ke bol sahe. Ghulam Ali's music is grounded in his classical training in thumri and dadra, Varanasi's favourite musical forms. He followed this up with his popular ghazals such as Dil mein ik lehar and Roz kehta hoon bhool jaaon.

Every once in a while, music lovers would burst into Har Har Mahadev as they are wont to as a mark of appreciation. And right through the concerts, the temple rituals like pealing bells and chants carried out. Seasoned performers don't miss a beat through it all, and Ghulam Ali didn't either.

"He told me that he sees singing at Sankat Mochan as an act of devotion to sur, and it is beyond religion and divisions between people," said Anindo Chatterjee, the great tabla player who accompanied Ghulam Ali.

Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the temple's mahant who is also known for his independent political views, said that it was unfair to drag politics into a festival that is one of the biggest spiritual events in the country. "Ghulam Ali was so stunned by the security he asked reporter of ToI  what had happened to Varanasi's mast maula (freethinking) mindset?" said Mishra. Added Mishra, "This is a city with a big heart so why are we trying to narrow down our mentality?"

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