The inaugural edition of ‘The Sacred Amitsar’ celebrated the city of Amritsar with a rare sense of bonhomie and euphoria marked by the best of music and poetry. An ode to the spirit of the city known for its indomitable spirit, the festival also witnessed some great moments of zeal and patriotic fervor such as during the scintillating musical performance based on the poem ‘Khooni Vaisakhi,’ which featured former diplomat and author Navdeep Suri and the highly versatile singer-songwriter Harpreet. On April 13, 1919, Suri’s poet grandfather Nanak Singh protested against the Rowlatt Act. He miraculously survived the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and went on to write ‘Khooni Vaisakhi,’ a poem which was banned
soon after its release in May 1920. But, sixty years later, Suri has rediscovered and translated the poem into English.
The festival was inaugurated by Managing Director, Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy alongside Navdeep Suri and Namita Gautam (Director, Sleepwell) and various prominent personalities from the world of media, art, and culture. Renowned artistes such as Shabnam Virmani, Sandeep Singh, Swagato Sivakumar, Askari Naqvi, and Valentina Trivedi were also present at the inaugration. “The underlying idea of this festival is to focus on spirituality and built heritage, celebrating the tangible and intangible through music and poetry aligning the mind, body and soul. We are paying homage to revered poets such as Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Kabir, Amir Khusrau, Mirabai, Bhai Vir Singh, Puran Singh, Amrita Pritam, and many more, through a wide spectrum of immersive experiences, including musical performances, poetic recitations, stimulating discussions, and heritage walks,” rejoiced Roy.
Other than offering an eclectic mix of music, poetry, heritage walks, food trails, literary discourse and workshops, the festival also offered the visitors with the opportunity of a guided tour of the world’s first Partition Museum, which housed at the historic Town Hall building in Amritsar, a 5-minute walk from the Golden Temple. One of the major highlights of the festival’s morning programme was an electrifying duet performance by Askari Naqvi and Valentina Trivedi. While Naqvi is a Dastango and an internationally renowned exponent of Soz-khwani (a lyrical recounting the tragedy of the Karbala recited during the month of Muharram), Trivedi is a writer, performer and education consultant who performed at numerous literature festivals in India and abroad.
“Participating in ‘The Sacred Amritsar’ festival was a palpable experience. I experienced a sacred thread of oneness with the audience while performing ‘Dastan Miyaan Azad Ki’ with Askari Naqvi,” revealed Valentina Trivedi. For the uninitiated, the dastan is a carefully curated selection of 3 nuggets of different moods, from ‘Fasana-e-Azad.’ Authored by Pandit Ratan Naath Sarshaar, this gem of Urdu literature was hugely popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is a compilation of anecdotes and encounters of its central character, Miyan Azad, and brings alive, in its word pictures, the Lucknow of the post-1857 era.
Valentina added, “The ageless appeal of this Urdu classic lies in its rich tapestry of colloquial language, ornamental expressions and lyrical writing peppered with occasional couplets, to describe festivals, rituals, festivities, mourning, feasts etc. It’s like a brilliant multifaceted diamond, flashing various moods and flavours.” Published in book form first in 1880, ‘Fasana-e-Azad’ was serialised from December 1878 to December 1879 in ‘Avadh Akhbar’, an Urdu weekly published from Lucknow by Munshi Nawal Kishore. She further said, “Pandit Ratan Naath Sarshaar, the author of ‘Fasana-e-Azad’, had command over colloquial Urdu spoken in and around Lucknow. Blessed with intelligence and wit and an avid reader, he is said to have taken inspiration from the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’ seminal masterwork ‘Don Quixote.’”
Teamwork Arts has been looking to set up festivals around the theme of the ‘sacred.’ “The idea of these festivals is really to look at the mind, body, soul aspect. So, of course at the Mahindra Kabira Festival, our whole business is Kabir and Varanasi. But in Amritsar, it is a much wider range. I mean you know it›s one of the few traditions in the world where you have an array of poets who spoke of spirituality, wrote of spirituality and celebrated the very essence of spirituality as opposed to specific to religion. Really, it›s tradition of poetry. It›s tradition of love and inspiration. And this is something that had taken us a while, like it›s been in our mind and you wanted to come out with it, and it›s finally happened and it›s going to be part of a series,” summed up Roy.