Mahagami Aurangabad supports the arts through old world values combined with state of the art technology

Mahagami (Mahatma Gandhi Mission Sangeet Academy) Aurangabad is a world in itself where the best of the value-based gurukul system of art training vibes harmoniously with modern technological aids in helping promote, disseminate and conduct research in the arts. Most imaginatively conceived and led by the tireless zeal and enterprise of director Parwati Dutta, a Kathak/Odissi dancer, disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kelucharan Mohapatra and Madhavi Mudgal, and powered by the management of Mahatma Gandhi Mission Trust, a charitable and educational organisation, the entire space of Mahagami with its cosy cottages provides comfortable accommodation spaces, an aesthetically designed Sadhanalaya with large mirrors, audio systems, instruments, a library of precious books, a Baithak Sangraha, Dyavaprithvi an open air stage seating 350 people, ‘Parnakuti’ its dining cottage and not the least ‘Kriti-Kon’ an “out-let store catering to the academic, aesthetic and artistic needs of students and art lovers.”

In diligently interweaving learning and research in music (with special emphasis on Dhrupad) and the pakhawaj, dance, and other support disciplines like photography, and lighting, Mahagami activities since its establishment in 1993 have followed the inter-disciplinary approach, which forms the very basis of our classical arts. Above all the organisation has also been intensely involved in informing, educating and helping create discerning audiences, its outreach programmes of ‘Anubhuti’ having covered over a lakh of people so far.

For Parwati Dutta, the karmabhumi of Mahagami, with the magnificence of cave sculptures and paintings at Ellora and Ajanta, the Devgiri Fort bringing back memories of Sharangadev (13th century), the author of the Sangeet Ratnakara, who lived in the court of King Singhana, the Yadava dynasty ruler with his capital at Devagiri (present day Daulatabad), along with the great saint poets who lived here, speaks eloquently of the 1000 year art consciousness and contribution of this region.

Parwati with her disciples presented a programme in the open-air theatre the evening before the Art Writing event organised by Mahagami. The very opening on “Barah Jyotir ling paran” , (the Hrishneswar Jyotir Ling temple is a famous pilgrim centre) revealed deep research from working closely with Dhrupad and pakhawaj maestros — with events like Alakshita having been hosted for pakhawaj documentation under the Sancheya Project, and ‘Kan’ delving into Dhrupad music for Kathak. The parans built round the pakhawaj prastaar with the Chautal tihai at the finish, done by the group with involvement and perfect technique made a fine invocation. Parwati’s solo was based on Padmakar’s poetry, the picture on the morning after Holi, with the telltale marks on the gopis of Vrindavan of having danced with Krishna “Bhaag bharat bhala, Suhag bhare sab ang” followed by the disciples presenting Vasant Ritu, where the beauty of Nature and the view of the gajagamini-s and hamsagamini-s, and the arrival of Kamadev (set in Surtal) with his panchabana (five flower arrows) was visualised with aesthetic restraint. After the group presented a tarana in Keerwani (composed by Birju Maharaj), “Varna Reeti” was yet another highly introspective composition. built round the pakhawaj syllable Dhaan (which Birju Maharaj Parwati’s guru had said stood for ‘Dhyaan’ or meditation), and ‘Din’. Through the movements and footwork, the meditative quality was preserved. Equally commendable were the clarity and well informed introductions of the Hindi compere, Vrishal Deshpande.

After this came a most entertaining Gotipua presentation by young boys of Nakshatra Gurukul, who, after all the Bandha Nrutya display, rose to the occasion to oblige a fan’s request with an unrehearsed Odiya song “Dekho go Radha Madhavi Chali”. True to the thoroughness with which Mahagami undertakes each venture, it was heartening to see young journalists from various dailies who attended the Art Writing event and persons like Prasenajit, Shyamal Ingle, Asha Deshpande spoke of their early impressions, some of them writing and reading out what had been written. While senior journalists talked about their experiences, and aspects of writing aspirants need to pay attention to, young journalist Ranjana from Mumbai spoke with commitment on the need to change ways of writing on art — so as to attract young people to this discipline. One would have liked more active interventions from the young aspirants, still timid in voicing their innermost thoughts. But most encouraging were management personnel from dailies like Mr. Pande of Divya Marathi, and Ramesh Bhonsle of Dainik Lokpatra who readily came forward in support of art coverage. Grooming writers for art events is yet another of Mahagami’s efforts at working to provide the right support structure for dance and music. It was also interesting to see what Mahagami had designed as video material, using software, for dance education This is an institution about whose serious work so little is known outside. Mahagami should be strengthened and supported by Cultural Affairs Ministry grants, which so far have eluded this institution. Sad!

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