Sacred River Festival in Maheshwar
One needs a lot of luck in photography and traveling. And this time I was lucky to discover something very unique and elegant called ‘Sacred River Festival’ in Maheshwar. Maheshwar, a holy town is known as Varanasi of Central India. But for me it is something much more, it’s about peace, the positive vibes, the ancient temples and simple locals ; and all these elements make this place a heaven on earth. Set along the banks of the Narmada River, it is the city of Lord Shiva.
Maheshwar was revived by Ahilyabai Holkar, of the Holkar dynasty from Maharastra, who reigned from 1767–1795 and moved the capital there. The dynasty’s culture imprint is visible everywhere in the town. While visiting the Ahilya fort, I came across some men from Indore decorating the fort with flowers. Asking about the same, I got to know that there is a function tonight in the fort, and it is more of private function from Holkar family for their guests of Ahilya Fort heritage hotel, however they welcome the guests from outside as well.
Also read about the famed hand weaved Maheshwari Sarees
I was not sure what it is about and couldn’t find much information about the same; I anyway picked up my camera to follow my instincts. In the evening, the fort was completely transformed like a bride and embellishing with the jewels of flowers and lit up by the lamps. It was such a magnificent site. Soon I saw the guests coming from the fort, mostly were guests staying in ‘Ahilya Fort’ and I secured a seat with my new friend from London who was researching the Indian Architecture for many years now. We have quite a lot to talk about, and he introduced me to nitty-gritty of this festival.
Soon the fort was filled with Ragas and Swars of Veena. The musical performances were such a sweet melancholy between the architecture and atmosphere created by music and sunset. We enjoyed performance by Veena artist Ali Zaki Haider Khan followed by dance and martial art by Manipuri artists. But for me the day two was more special to meet the Bengali classical singer and conducting a quick photo shoot with her. In a chit-chat with her, I got a quick insight about her work, life and more. One of the best performances was the last from the artists of Jharkhand performing ‘Chhow dance’, originally from Orissa.
Have a look at the ceremony of Supermoon (narak chaudas) in Maheshwar
I would like to talk more about this brilliant performance which is about the stories of Indian mythology Radha-Krishna and also good-evil. This folk dance of Orissa has evolved out of the extant war dances of the area. Orissan Chhow has a large collection of over hundred dance forms. The traditional orchestra of Chhow consists of musicians and drummers. It is performed generally during the Chaita Parava. The Chhow dance grew up with royal patronage in the past. Now a day’s people and government patronize it. The artists were wearing the masks to impersonate the Gods. I could only take some snapshots of this magical performance, but I surely insist to watch this performance if you get a chance in Delhi or elsewhere.
The festival is organized for three days in the third week of February to celebrate the Indian arts and rich music heritage. It would be quite an experience to stay in Ahilya fort and know about the legacy of Holkar’s, Rewa society and become the part of river festival. The alternative accommodation is MP tourism hotel ‘Narmada Retreat’ which offers a variety of budget rooms as well as river side camps. I highly recommend this festival as its exclusiveness let you live in the moment and enjoy the music and dance, the way it should be appreciated without any distractions.
Here is the website for Ahilya Fort