With India is at its peak of modernisation - technologically if not socially - it’s easy to forget the many centuries of art and culture that led us to this point. We’ve unthinkingly moved along and dismissed the possibility that even though they may have not had the current context, the words of India’s ancient poets still have bearing today. That’s the very idea behind the Kabir Festival; that the messages delivered by mystic poets of the subcontinent like Bulleh Shah, Tukaram, Meerabai and of course, Kabir are still relevant. According to the founders of the festival, religion, wealth, power, geographical boundaries and differences stemming from culture is what’s keeping urban societies from uniting in the spirit of brotherhood.
The festival is an attempt to probe urban audiences to erase these boundaries through the voices of ‘the Mystics.’ The annual event, which came into being in 2011, returns to Mumbai for its eighth edition and will run for four days from January 18 to January 23. Spread across the city of Mumbai - from Dahisar to Juhu in the North to Prabhadevi and Fort in the South - the festival is run by volunteers and funded solely by donations. Kabir Festival, at its core, was conceptualised as an incredible platform for rural artists like folk musicians, poets and filmmakers to showcase their talent, in a world which rarely gives them a chance.
Some of the highlights of the festival include movie screenings - make sure you catch So Heddan So Hoddan, by Anjali Monteiro and KP Jayasankar, which is an essay on life and has music from the Rann of Kutch and the Baani grasslands on Gujarat. The festival provides soulful music by the Manzil Mystics along with workshops like Singing and Understanding Kabir by Prahlad Tipaniya, a renowned folk musician. The Kabir Festival would be incomplete without beautiful poetry recitals - Dastan Akhar Ki by Ankit Chadha is a dastangoi-style oral storytelling performance of Kabir’s work. Though 4 days is a paltry sum to devote to such a vast pool of knowledge and experience, it’s a worthy beginning.
Venues at the Kabir Festival are spread across the length of the city and are as varying as book shops, schools, colleges, amphitheatres, gardens and even footpaths and streets of the inner city. All events are open to the public – free of cost Click here to view the festival schedule.
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