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Sindh comes alive on Capital stage

Sindh comes alive on Capital stage
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A cool breezy evening with rainclouds hovering over Delhi, the narrator started talking about the love story of Leela and Chanesar. With limited knowledge of Hindi and a smattering of Punjabi, I looked around completely bewildered, unable to make any sense of the epic about to be played out on stage at the Sindhi Sufi Music Festival performed by Padmashri Rani Karnaa’s students.

A friend’s mother came to my rescue, patiently explaining the entire story for me. Sajan Rahiyo aa Ruha Mein brought to life the lovers from Sindh - Leela and Chanesar. How the epic lovers lose their love forever because of a mistake by Leela which paves the way for her to unite with the divine; for as Karnaa explains, ‘I have always been influenced by the Sufi saints of my native land Sind. For me Sufi means pure being derived from the word safa... there is no union with God without illumination and that can only come from pure soul.’

Love betrayed is love fulfilled, says Karnaa in her introduction to the performance. Chanesar, the king of Devalkot was devoted to his wife Leela. Leela had all the luxuries in the world but her heart went out to a precious necklace offered to her by a common maid. The maid, Kumro, asks Leela for one night with her king in exchange for the necklace. Leela complies. When Chanesar comes to know of this he gets furious and abandons Leela. The dejection, the agony of separation makes Leela suffer till the end untill she surrenders herself to God for mercy and finally is allowed to transcend her pathos, pain and suffering.

Her students recreated the love story on stage ending their riveting performance  with a special dedication to the legendary whirling dervishes who are intrinsically tied to Sufism and its celebrations, called Tarana (derived from Tarannum). The qawwals offers prayers that involve continuous singing of a specific composition which brings the singer closer to God in a feel of sublime frenzy or junoon, or the trance that we most associate with sufism. The audience got a chance to witness Karnaa on stage for a brief spell to pay the perfect tribute to her art through the higher being. ‘What fascinated me the most about the sufi path to reach God was the role of dance, music and poetry,’ she says.

The evening that had Vice President Hamid Ansari as chief guest ended with the powerful performance of Taj Mastani from Sindh. Mastani is one of Pakistan’s most popular folk singers who presents an eclectic melange of folk and Sufi repertoire with a rustic touch to it, replete with the original favour and dialect.

With the Shiv Sena protestors raging outside the venue (which was smoothly handled by the police), the festival was the sign of how art and culture can help bring two nations closer.‘The festival was not only a celebration of the joint Sindhi heritage of India and Pakistan, it was also a tribute to the shared legacy,’ says Sindhu Mishra Bhagia, Secretary of Sindhi Academy. The tie that binds? Why not!
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