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In the temple town of Alandi near Pune, devotees and music lovers often flock to the Narsimha Saraswati Swami Mandir to listen to the semi-classical bhajans sung by young priest called Avadhoot Gandhi. His chants rise over the temple bells and waft out with the fragrance of the incense sticks. Today, Gandhi will headline the seventh edition of Ruhaniyat, a day-long Sufi festival, at the Purana Qila.
"Bhajan or, for that matter, singing any kind of prayer is a way to be one with the Almighty. This isn't a new concept," says Gandhi, who will perform abhangs and bharuds (forms of devotional poetry sung as an ode to Hindu God Vitthala) by Sant Tukaram, Sant Eknath and Gyaneshwar Maharaj, and a few duffgaan, ie,"devotional music accompanied with a duffli".
Organised by the Mumbai-based Banyan Tree, the 12th edition of the festival has added Raipur and Ahmedabad to its seven-city list of performance venues. Another focal point of the festival will be qawwali by the Warsi Brothers from Hyderabad, whose ancestors used to sing in the Mughal courts. Parvathy Baul, dancing dervishes from Egypt and sufi qalam and mystic songs by Mamme Khan and group feature in the line-up.