Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan
Serendipity seeks the seeker as much as the seeker seeks serendipity
— harivallabh —
The metaphor of music being the closest depiction of god is well, a metaphor to many. But definitely not to those who have attended the Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, the oldest Hindustani classical music festival in the world. Held overnight on three nights straight in the chilling last week of December on the banks of a talab [pond] called Devi Talab [The pond of the goddess] in Jalandhar.The pond is now ‘developed’ and lies within the shrine of Devi Talab Mandir which is considered to be pios enough to be a replacement of the revered Vaishno Devi [The holiest shrine of the Hindu goddess in the Himalayas] for those who cannot climb the mountains to reach it.
The minimum temperature around Christmas hovers at Zero in Jalandhar, yet the festival goes overnight with full enthusiasm inside the cozy tents heated adequately for the singers to perform freely on the divine stage. Blankets are provided to listeners, and so is chai, gajar halwa, expresso coffee, chat etc. Although none of the eatables can be brought inside the cushioned listening area which must be entered without shoes. The sound quality is top-notch and so is recording quality because the fest is shown live on YouTube, DD Bharti et al.
After the quintessential darshan of Devi around 8:00 PM, one enters the tents. If you are lucky to have an invite to the front row, you would be rubbing shoulders with yesteryears’ mahrajas and mahranis — immaculately dressed-up yet very friendly and authentic lovers of classical music. The festival has been around for 143 years, so each year they honor the ‘service givers’ who are now in their twilight years but once held the torch of this music festival high in rough weathers.
Like every connection, there have to be two parties, two entities, two bodies that want to ‘connect’. On the outward while music pulls you in and rubs the magic potion at the surface level in all cases, it is these gestures — the honoring of yesteryears’ martyrs, the long history of 143 years that you live [realize — see gyan vs bodh] in those moments that make you sthit [stable] inside the realms of timelessness even before the first note is played!
One way of explaining it is when you travel to the deep mountains or deep into the sea — the vastness suddenly makes you realize how small a particle you are. Not only that, you live in that realization for quite some time, it is the same vastness, al beit on the scale of time that makes you sit and realize how little time you have had and are going to have. The illusion that we carry on our miniscule timeline [frame of reference: life] is akin to someone imagining the universe based on the sky visible to them.
So, this is one you, as one party become automatically ‘open’ to the connection. God, if there was any, is already open.
Purely commenting as a listener (amateur listener, not an intellectual connoisseur who can identify raag/taal etc), the first of the two characteristics that I find unique about the festival is the music itself. There was a time when I used to visit almost all these classical music gigs…. (none of them overnight though), I didn’t find this much of aqueedat [must be written this way — cos devotion/reverence are not one-on-one match for the meaning of this beautiful word from Urdu language] among the singers, anywhere. So, one is this devotion/reverence among even the A+ performers that they have the coveted opportunity to perform at the samadhi of Babaji — Swami Harivallabh.
Second factor, again as a listener, is the amount of time each singer gets…. Roughly 75 min. Again, in none of the gigs I have been, this much of time is allocated to one performer.
So, all in all, the performers are in their element on that night. For them also, it is the performance of their lifetime.
The Connection Again
Open, if you are and if you can remain that way, music does the rest. So many listeners have reported divine epiphanies that occurred to them at the crescendo of some of the gigs. Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia playing his flute right upto the sunrise is another legend — and those who attended it tell the stories of before & after. Serendipity seeks the seeker only as much as the seeker seeks the serendipity.
For Intense Creatures
From the seeker, I would like to add that I haven’t met many a folks who would sit down for music for 8 hours straight. Here it is different… people sit for the entire night… Session after session — taking chai/chat/dinner breaks… going for a stroll every now and then, getting back inside — but once inside the main tent they become calm and peaceful as a dove within 10 min.
So either those people who reach here are intense [in Jalandhar cold…] or the music does the magic — or both! But if you are not an intense creature, then better stay away. If you are, well — tomorrow may never come, so experience the metaphor of god & music coming together at least once in your life!
PS: From Hindustan Times Article:
Legend has it that Pt Tolo Ram, a devoted disciple of Baba Harivallabh, did not allow Pt BhimSen Joshi [who lived in Jalandhar on this very shrine for many years during his teens] to sing here despite his requests as he said that his voice was not prepared enough to sing at the sammelan. He would instead sit at the samadhi of Baba Harivallabh and sing there.
After that, Joshi became a frequent performer in the sammelan and his voice became unparalleled. His bhajan ‘Jo bhaje Hari ko sada’ became a huge hit with the audience: https://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/visiting-harivallabh-s-history-a-stage-that-created-legends-of-classical-music/story-LUYe9Ur0f4hdM4c3kmRx6H.html
Friday, December 28, 2018–5.00 p.m. onwards
Documentary Film Saraswati & Harivallabh Vandana i) D.A.V Collage, Jalandhar. ii) Hans Raj Mahila Maha Vidalaya Jalandhar. Sh. Lokesh Anand.,Pt. Shailendra Mishra (Tabla) Sh. Mann Singh (Dukkad), Sh. Kapil Kumar (Shehnai), Sh. Ravi Kumar (Sur Shehnai), Sh. Vijender Kumar (Sur Peti)Shehnai Ustad F. Wasifuddin Dagar, Sh. Mohan Shyam Sharma (pakhwaj)Dhrupad Sh. Chetan Joshi,Pt. Mithliesh Kumar Jha (Tabla), Dr. Samir Chandra Seth (Flute Support), Dr. Santosh Kumar (Flute Support), Mrs. Chhaya Joshi (Tanpura)Flute Pt. Rajan-Sajan Mishra, Ustad Akram Khan (Tabla), Sh. Sumit Mishra (Harmonium)Vocal S. Raaginder Singh MomiViolin Dr. Vaishali DeshmukhVocal
Saturday, December 29, 2018–4.00 p.m. onwards
Documentary Film Saraswati Vandana & Harivallabh Vandana — i) Lyallpur Khalsa College for Women, Jalandhar. ii) Maharishi Ved Vyas Gurukul Vidapeeth, Delhi. Mr. Surjeet Singh (Last Year’s Music Competition Winner)Tabla Ms. Arul Seth (Last Year’s Music Competition Winner)Vocal & Vocal-Thumri S. Shaminder Pal Singh & S. Satwinder Pal Singh, Sh. Madhuresh Bhatt(Tabla)Sarangi (Jugalbandi) Sh. Kumar Gaurav Kohli, Sh. Chiranjit Mukherjee (Tabla), Sh. Zakir Dholpuri (Harmonium)Vocal Dr. V. Balaji & Sh. B. Anantha Raman , Pt.Shailendra Mishra (Tabla) Sh. Ankit Parikh (Pakhwaj)Violin(Jugalbandi) Ms. Sulochana Brahaspati,Sh. Harish Jha (Tabla), Pt. Vinod Mishra (Harmonium)Vocal Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Pt. Salil Bhatt, Pt. Ram Kumar Mishra (Tabla)Mohan Veena (Jugalbandi) Ms. Mahalaxmi Shenoy , Pt. Ram Kumar Mishra (Tabla),Ms. Paromita Mukherjee (Harmonium)Vocal
Sunday, December 30, 2018–4.00 p.m. onwards
Documentary Film Saraswati Vandana & Harivallabh Vandana — PCM S.D College for Women, Jalandhar. Mr. Atul Krishan (Last Year’s Music Competition Winner)Flute Ms. Priyanka Bhise (Last Year’s Music Competition Winner)Vocal Mr. Shubham Ugale (Last Year’s Music Competition Winner)Pakhawaj S. Balwant Singh Namdhari Sh. Harpreet Singh Namdhari (Tabla), Sh. Thakur Singh Namdhari (Harmonium)Vocal Pt. Partha Bose,Pt. Sanju Sahai (Tabla)Sitar Pt. Suresh Talwalkar,Ms savani Talwalkar (Tabla), Sh. Abhishek Shinkar (Harmonium), Sh.Nagnath Adgaonkar (Vocal)Tabla Sh. Jayateerth MevundiVocal Dr. Pt. Narasimhalu Vadavati, Sh.Venkateshwaraya Vadavati (Clarinet), Sh. M.S. Pavan Kumar (Tabla)Clarinet Ms. Indrani Mukherjee,Sh. Apurba Mukherjee (Tabla), Sh. Vinay Mishra (Harmonium)Vocal