Songs of Celebration

Shubha Mudgal brings ancient poetry from Vrindavan at a Diwali concert.

Krishna caught cheating during a game of dice is not an ideal subject for a bhajan. But if one explores the context, believes classical artiste Shubha Mudgal, interpreting this playful act falls into place. The composition in question, written with the celebration of Diwali in mind, refers to the tradition of playing cards and gambling during the festival. More such fascinating compositions — which have been collected by Mudgal from "the intimate and private world of worship and rituals in Krishna temples in Vrindavan over the last 15 years", will be presented at a Diwali concert to be held at KR Cama Oriental Institute, Fort, on Friday.

Mudgal's interest in collecting these writings stems from her early grooming. "Most of my gurus, such as Naina Devi, Ram Ashreya Jha and Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, had a deep interest in ancient literature," says the vocalist, who had earlier released an album of such songs called Shubh Diwali. However, she does not see herself as a crusader trying to preserve these old and classical compositions. Mudgal will be accompanied by her husband Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla and other senior musicians for the concert. There will also be an exhibition of the works of Ram Soni, a master craftsman of Sanjhi art.

Apart from presenting these rare compositions to public, the event also tries to bridge the perceived gap between the world of corporates and art aficionados. According to Devina Dutt of First Edition, which has organised the event, the broader and more unspecific support from corporates, without an eye on calculating returns, allows art form to retain cultural nuances and their many sidedness. "This will appeal to people more than gratuitous attempts to make things more 'accessible', which is a graph that keeps sliding anyway," she says.

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