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In the throes of joy

NARESH GULATI

The Pink City celebrates the annual Jaipur International Heritage Festival.



FESTIVE MOOD A decorated elephant adds to the festivity of the ongoing Jaipur International Heritage Festival.

Come January and the Pink City falls in the grip of heritage fever. Indeed, this Makar Sankranti day marked the beginning of the fifth version of the ten-day Jaipur International Heritage Festival (JHIF) in the city. The festival promises to showcase almost everything under the heritage umbrella that this city and the state of Rajasthan hold to the world. And not only that, quite a bit of the Western art is here too, as if to reciprocate and fuse with its Oriental counterpart.

Started in 2002 by a group of individuals who later organised themselves into a trust called the Jaipur Virasat Foundation (JVF), the Jaipur Heritage International Festival is projected as an effort "to revitalise dying arts and crafts, create employment opportunities, conserve, restore and find new uses for historic sites, promote sustainability, diversity and celebration". Obviously, it was the concern for the traditional forms of design, craft and community entertainment that led to the coming together of these individuals. While the names on the Foundation include former rulers, former bureaucrats, philanthropist businessmen and cultural activists, entrepreneur-turned-conservationist Faith Singh, the founding trustee, remains the moving spirit of the initiative.

The big event has performing arts, visual arts, craft design and shopping, workshops and added from this year is a special Literature Festival that gives the festival an entire new dimension. As contrasted to the oral tradition of kathavachan seen in the whole country and baatposhi, a localised form of the genre in Rajasthan, doesn't the written word constitute a tradition of its own even if it is not so much threatened like the performance traditions?While the fest does offer a window on the world music, nay UK-Asian music what with the presence of musicians like Shri from London, as also a peep into the literary world, including the Indian English writing here and abroad, the core of the fest one must say, is comprised of the folk forms and the craftsmen of the state and elsewhere; for these are the forms that are being patronised in a big way by the ordinary Jaipurite, be it at Jawahar Kala Kendra in South Jaipur, Ramganj Bazar in the Walled City or Sanganer on the rural side.Much of the credit for this must go to Vinod Joshi, Cultural Development Coordinator of the fest who has taken on him the responsibility of tracking the rarest of the rare forms from across the state. Helped by classical musician Krishna Mohan Bhat, Joshi travelled to Hadoti region on one side and Shekahwati on the other to discover forms like Sankariya, a love tale of Kalbelias, Swang of the Saharias of Baran district (the community better known for starvation deaths in Rajasthan), Mayna of the Garsias of Mount Abu and Bhope (the man and wife narrators of the folk hero Pabuji's tale of bravado) of Pabusar in Churu district who have performed for the first time outside their respective regions.

Heritage venues

To present these and other folk performers, the fest has put up a chaupal at the Shilpagram at JKK where the city audiences have also witnessed the Jatha-gers of Barmer district and Kachi-ghori from Tonk, besides seeing the craftsmen at work. Like the chaupal, another permanent venue is the heritage hotel Diggi Palace. Located in middle of the city, the venue is `The Festival Culture Space'. Throughout the festival, the `Festival Café' here is offering typical regional food. Rajasthani and international musicians have been playing experimental music at the lunch hour and at the `Late Night Stage' using different instruments each day. This heritage hotel will also be the venue for the three-day Literature Fest that starts this coming Saturday. While Shobhaa De would certainly be the attraction with her glamorous claims to `socialite evenings', others include William Dalrymple , Hari Kunzru , Alka Saraogi , Sheen Kauf Nizam , etc.

Not to forget the National Crafts Bazar sponsored by the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, the Comic Art Workshop at Rajasthan School of Arts, Design Workshop by the British Council, exhibitions by Tarshito of Italy and Bajrang and other local artists, Barsana textiles, Balotra Prints, Public Art Installation providing an imaginary axis to the City and perhaps the fest. The list goes on, making it difficult for any one to savour everything.

Even as it may be a bit early to gauge the success of the festival, what has been much visible through the initial days of the fest is the celebration - of the tradition and the life that creates it!

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