Why would you go to Jodhpur? Options could vary:
- You are enroute to Jaisalmer to visit the Sonar Kella (immortalized by Satyajit Ray in the movie by the same name) and are stopping by in Jodhpur on the way
- You love history and want to spend hours at the historic and majestic Mehranghgar Fort
- You want to have dinner at the Umaid Bhavan Palace, never mind the exorbitant cover charges
- You are out of "jutis" (leather shoes) and Jodhpur stocks them in all shapes and colors in affordable prices
- Music..and this is a new reason. Music tourism is still quite new in India and not as widespread as some countries in Europe.But with current Maharaja’s patronage, Jodhpur has transformed itself into a city that lives and breathes music and welcomes people who do the same.
I was lucky enough the attend the World Sufi Spirit Festival hosted at the Fort in February 2014.
Sufi music, at its best, has the power to transport one to a world of oneness with the Almighty where earthly cares cease to exit. Sufi music against the backdrop of the majestically lit Mehrangarh Fort, promised to be just that. Of course, Sufi music of late has been much used and abused in Bollywood with many a movie cashing in on its recent popularity and belting out songs that range from a few divine ones to some plain bizzare ones.And though the organizers did get the usual Bollywood quotient by inviting Kavitha Seth and lesser known, Chintu Singh, they did manage to go much further than that.
The beauty of the festival lay in the other voices it managed to attract - Voices from the Pamir Highlands, voices from Morocco, classical Sufi strains, Sufi music and dance from the Middle Eastern countries.
Music that broke the barriers of language, music accompanied by unknown instruments and powerful voices that reached across the sturdy walls of the ancient fort to reach the hearts of all the listeners.
The listeners too represented a wide spectrum of people – travellers across ages and cultural boundaries from different parts of India, foreign tourists who have seen Sufi music in other parts of the world and came to experience it in India, even some celebrities and some wannabe celebrities. They were all there, united by a common bond of music, the strains of the soulful notes stretching into the starlit night; the shadows of the past merging into a musical journey across the corridors of time.
And when the three official festival days were over, the music still continued. Folk musicians from Rajasthan sat at the corners of the forts, playing the ravanhatta (folk instrument) and singing old folk songs in their raw, powerful voices. The crowds had thinned by then, but the folk singers were oblivious, their voices blending perfectly with the stone walls of the fort, keeping tune with the secrets that the fort would not share with the casual visitors who came to visit just for a few days. The festival was over, the music will continue, forever.