Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, day one: Admirers span generations, all in harmonious attendance
Vocalist Archana Kanhere paid tribute to Firoz Dastur, senior disciple of Sawai Gandharva, on first dayUpdated: Dec 12, 2019 16:22 IST
In its 67th year, Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav has managed to maintain its basic essence of music, art and nostalgia. The new venue is just a physical change for the festival loyalists and patrons. To ensure that they did not miss any scheduled performances, people trickled in at venue as early as 2.30pm.
The first day of the festival, which had performances by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Archana Kanhere, left Pune residents mesmerised, with magical swaras, bandishes, and ragas, performed by the veteran and young talents.
Started in 1953, then called Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav, it was renamed Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, after the demise of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in 2011. Organised by the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal, the festival aims at promoting the rich, cultural and musical heritage as well as provide a platform for new singers.
Legendary classical music doyen, the lat Pt. Bhimsen Joshi started the festival 66 years ago. Shrinivas Joshi, executive president, Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal, said, “We see an audience of 10,000 that goes up to 15,000 on weekends. This comprises people of all age-groups. Initially, we just had a select age group. However, my father worked towards nurturing people’s music senses and that’s how we have generations following the Sawai attendance tradition.”
The new venue witnessed an attendance that spanned the generations, with families, couples and students sitting harmoniously under one roof. For 62-year-old Satish Godbole, a retired professional, Sawai has been on the must attend list for the past 18 years. “I moved to Pune from Satara in 2010, and since then I have been religiously attending the festival. My wife Rekha also accompanies me on specific days for particular performances.”
The festival has had stalwarts right from vocalist Pandit Jasraj and santoor player Rahul Sharma to vocalists Ashwini Bhide, Ajay Pohankar and Shounak Abhisheki.
Joshi added, “If you ask me the highlights over the years, then I am bound to be biased and pick my father’s performances. Also, all the performances have always resonated with the audience. Each performer gets applauded equally and enthusiastically by them.”
On the changes over the years, Joshi shared, “Initially, the event would be held all night. It was the USP of the show. However after 2011, with the 10pm deadline, it has become very formal.”
For first time-visitor Anagha Tamhane, 60, Prabha Atte’s performance is what she is looking forward to. “I have come all the way from Nashik. I had heard so much about Sawai, that this year I decided to come down for five days and enjoy it thoroughly.”
Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav was officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the garlanding of the statue of Sawai Gandharva situated at Sambhaji Park on Jangli Maharaj road. ‘’This tradition is followed from more than six decades. Every year the members of Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal and music connoisseurs gather in the morning of the first day of the festival and express their gratitude for Sawai Gandharva. This statue was established in the 60’s and was inaugurated at the hands of Acharya Atre and then Mayor Nana Gore,” informed Shrinivas Joshi.
The Rickshaw Panchayat of Pune along with CityGlide Auto service received a decent response on day one. Rahul Shitole, CEO, CityGlide Auto, said, “We received at least 50 requests and arranged for autorickshaws through our app for the visitors. We are looking at making their travel safe and easy for the next five days.”
Merging melodies with perfumes
Anand Jog and Mandar Lele, of Rusit Ragas, have displays of perfumes based on classical music at the venue. The idea works on the principles of aromatherapy, music therapy and scent. “I am a violin player and deeply inspired by music. So I decided to combine my love for music and perfume to create Rusit ragas. We are merging melody and scent for a soothing experience.” The perfumes are of varied tones and layers.
Anand explains, “For example, Lalat, is a morning raga, so we have tones of sandalwood and rose. It gives out a peaceful and spiritual aroma that helps start a pleasant day.”