Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav: A date with music, culture for Puneites

Three generations of city families revelled in music and festivities as they enjoyed the culture and tradition of musical fest Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav this year.

pune Updated: Dec 17, 2017 15:55 IST
Anjali Shetty
Anjali Shetty
Hindustan Times, Pune
sawai gandharva bhimsen mahotsav,music,classical hindustani
(From left) Avaneesh Kulkarni, Milind Bhide, Purva Kulkarni, Swati Bhide and Anjali Kulkarni at the Sawai music festival.(Sanket Wankhade/HT Photo)

The Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav witnesses a huge crowd every year. In these huge numbers you see the young and old alike enjoy music to the fullest on all five days. Concluding today, the music fest prides itself for an exceptional line-up of artistes. While the stage performers come from rich and technically sound backgrounds, the audiences too are not left far behind. HT came across families that have been coming together to witness the fest for several years.

A family ritual

The first family to grab our attention is the Kulkarnis, who are seated in the first row, right in front of the screen in the Bharati Baithak section. Sitar player Kushal Das is performing and the Kulkarnis are glued to the screen. Ashwini Kulkarni (43), the mother of Swamini (17) and Mohini (7), has been coming to the festival with her mother Asawari since she was a child.

Ashwini said, “My grandfather Bhairav, father Ashok and mother have been religiously coming to Sawai every year. We are a musically inclined family and Sawai is a yearly ritual for us. Now my husband Mahesh Kulkarni and daughters Swamini and Mohini also accompany me. We have a fixed spot too, this is where you will find us every year.”

The younger the better

Ashwini brought her first born to the fest 17 years ago when Swamini was barely two months ago. “I wrapped her in my dupatta and brought her to the fest. I believe that the exposure of music given to kids at a young age stays on with them. She is training to be a vocalist now and I would like to believe that all these years of attending and witnessing such music stalwarts has helped her hone her skills,” Ashwini said.

Similarly, Avaneesh is visibly thrilled with the music playing and the two-year-old is patiently sitting at the sofa section. His mother Purva Kulkarni and grandparents Milind and Swati Bhise and mother-in-law Anjali Kulkarni are engrossed in the performance on stage. Purva said, “My dad used to bring me here when I was a toddler, hence I decided to bring Avaneesh at a young age too. These are the years when they grasp a lot. He does get restless after a point, but this is his second year and he seems to be enjoying it this year.”

Milind has been visiting Sawai for 40 years now. He started as a teenager in college with a group of friends. “We were very young and heard of this classical music fest. We decided to give it a try. We have been hooked on to it ever since, my group of friends also visit every year. I installed the same music sensibilities in my daughter and she is taking it forth by doing the same with her son.”

Sawai over the years

In its 65th year, the festival has undergone many changes and Milind points out that the changes have been for the good. “The arrangements have improved and most importantly commercialisation has come in but it hasn’t left its roots. New artistes have been a wonderful addition. Also, for us audience it offers a wide range of artistes to listen to. Madhavi Ghaisas, 59, however misses the late night and three-day fest that would be held earlier. She said, “I remember we would sit and listen to Anna (Late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi) perform till the wee hours of the morning. The ambience and feel at that point was priceless. Now, the five long days get hectic. It becomes difficult to come all the way for just a few performances spread across five days.” Madhavi visits Sawai with her daughter Dhanashree and granddaughter Avni.

First Published: Dec 17, 2017 15:53 IST