Photo Essay: People love the idea of “bigger and better”. Taj Mahotsav 2015 was nothing if not exactly this. Spread over seven locations in all parts of the city, this year the 10 day long festival from 18th Feb to 27th Feb even got an extension of two days. With a slew of sponsors for the event, a lot of innovation was observed both in the organisation of the event as well as its promotion. Here is a kaleidoscopic view of the Taj Mahotsav through pictures of the mega-festival spread across various days and venues.
For those who may not know, Taj Mahotsav is an event being organised in Agra since 1992. As a handicrafts’ fair, Taj Mahotsav like many other similar festivals such as Surajkund in Haryana, Lucknow Mahotsav etc. attracts many small and medium scale handicraft sellers from all parts of the country. But what is different with this festival is that it has grown from an exclusively handicraft fair to a local festival of theatre, music, art and entertainment. That’s why in the recent years it has become a vibrant festival in an otherwise culturally starved city of Taj. Here is a multi media collection of some ways in which one can witness the many sights and sounds of this mega festival and understand what sense it makes in terms of a tradition, culture and an event.
Art was very much present at Shilpgram in the form of paintings. There were paintings on pillars and a separate art gallery where painted canvases hung. The pillar art seemingly lacked a coherent theme. From some strangely proportioned dancing figures to some paintings of fruit to Noor Jahan (a guess), these paintings had it all. It must have been difficult to paint on uneven pillars but the painters behind these artworks can do with some more conviction to make a lasting impression.
|An assortment of some pillar art works with apparently no coherent theme.|
The canvases in the art gallery were much more well thought out, expressive and artistic but the art gallery itself was a disappointment. Cast aside from the rest of the venue, the gallery neither had proper light installations to highlight the art work nor was there any information regarding the artistes to give them their due recognition. Although some pieces were redundant but here are a few which stood above the rest even though many of them were focussed on Taj Mahal itself. (All pictures of the painting are with courtesy to Shilpgram Art Gallery and have been displayed here to give due and much deserved credit to their artists. If anyone can give more information about these paintings they are most welcome to contact the writer of this blog.)
|One of the rare non-Taj Mahal themed paintings.|
|A more vibrant and situated take on Taj.|
|A different depiction of Taj in Paint and cardboard.|
|An Abstract Painting with Some Powerful Strokes.|
|Taj in the Night Sky.|
|A Slanted take on Taj (Unfairly Deprived of Lighting)|
Taj Mahal may be the most celebrated monuments built by the Mughals for its aesthetic appeal and grandeur but when stars align some of the other Mughal architecture can be as grandiose and magnificent as Taj if not more. And aligned the stars did on 24th February when Agra Fort became the site of a wonderful musical evening with legendary singer Parveen Sultana gracing the occasion with her beautiful voice and mastery of classical music. But what also created a beautiful Mise-en-scéne befitting for some brilliant music was how the empty canvas of the fort was painted by a spectrum of lights dancing in rhythmic patterns along with the music but also adorning the arches and gateways of the fort bringing the place alive in all its glory and romance.
|A Spectacularly Lighted Entrance|
|Bathed in a Spectrum of Lights.|
|The Arches, the Pillars and the Gateways.|
In Events &Posters.
As already stated Taj Mahotsav was much bigger and better this time. Here is a view of all the other things that made it so- the events, the promotional materials such as the posters, brochures and invitations.
Left:Event Management by SOS Care. Right: A poster of the play "Jati Hi Pucho Sadhu Ki" at Sursadan Auditorium.
The Open Air Theatre at Shilpgram hosted recitals and events throughout the ten days of the Festival.
A Poster of the Musical-Dance Recital- "Meera" at Shilpgram.
The Diwan-E-Aam hosted the majestic concert by Parveen Sultana.
In the recent few days the city of Agra has been in the news for all the wrong reasons with controversies around communalism and religion flaring up. Taj Mahotsav 2015 was like a reminder of what cultural potential the city holds not only in terms of organising of the festival but also attending it. This potential though under-utilised still persists. For more than two decades Taj Mahotsav remains one of the rare secular traditions in not only the city but this entire region of Western UP, which gives an opportunity to the residents of the city to be introduced to the various small and medium scale handicraft workers, entrepreneurs and traders and in the process get familiar with the rich and vibrant diversity that India as a society provides.At the same time they also get an opportunity for an interface with art and culture both in a participating but also attending capacity. Art and culture are the most potent ways of enriching people's lives which if left vacant are instantly occupied by the appeals of crass consumerism on the one hand and communal, divisive politics on the other.