Bolava Vitthal- 2014 came to New Delhi for the first time with rousing performances by leading vocalists

A balmy July evening this past week brought more than a rainy breeze for lovers of Indian classical music in the Capital, as the city witnessed the first leg of Pancham Nishad’s eight-city musical tour celebrating “Bolava Vitthal” at Siri Fort Auditorium. This is a series of concerts featuring devotional songs in the Abhang genre, in praise of Lord Vithala. Though started in 2006, this was the first time the festival was held in Delhi.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Pancham Nishad founder Shashi Vyas — son of veteran vocalist late Pandit C.R. Vyas — said, “Bolava Vitthal was started in a temple with an audience of about 800 in Mumbai. We have come a long way since with a response of as much as 3000 at present. The response has been tremendous. The Indian devotional genre is now getting worldwide audience. It gives me immense pleasure to spread the Marathi culture in various parts of the world. In this generation of different cultural and social backgrounds, music plays an important role in uniting the people.”

The event commemorates Ashadi Ekadashi — the 11th day after the full moon. The celebration dates back to the 12th Century when saints like Sant Tukaram, Jnaneshwar, to name a few, set out on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Lord Vitthala in Pandharpur. They reached in 15 days on Ashadi Ekadashi. Since then, devotees, referred to as Varkari, set out on this pilgrimage, the Dindi Yatra, from Dharmavaram in Andhra Pradesh to Pandharpur in Maharashtra.

Celebrated musicians like Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra, and santoor exponent Abhay Rustom Sopori were present. The artists of the evening mesmerised the audience with their rousing performances singing their choicest abhangs accompanied by tabla, harmonium and cymbals. The subtle yellow and blue lights complemented the beautiful music of the performers, and the audience comprising the young and the elderly, was visibly enchanted. The opening concert was by Rahul Deshpande, followed by Devaki Pandit, with Jayateerth Mevundi bringing the evening to an end.

The festival will travel to Kolkata, Nashik, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Nagpur and Panaji, culminating on July 13