Pushkar (Rajasthan), Nov 22 (IANS) Against the quaint backdrop of the sacred Pushkar lake, the sound of Vedic mantras and the stellar voice of Shubha Mudgal, the inaugural edition of 'Shree Cement The Sacred' -- a three-day music and spirituality festival -- began in a grand manner here on Sunday.
Organised by Teamwork Arts, the festival, which will be held till November 24 ahead of the auspicious Kartik Poornima, began in this ancient city of Rajasthan with sacred chanting at the Raj Bohra ghat, one of the many ghats that surround the lake.
As it is a traditional ghat, the seating arrangements were made in such a manner that guests could sit on the stairs with cushions while being in close proximity to the podium where the artistes performed.
The Vedic chanting, which created a phantasmagorical atmosphere all across the ghat, was soon enriched by the commencement of the 'maha aarti'.
With a hair-raising colloquy of ancient mantras by the sacred ensemble led by a senior Hindu priest, the attendees were enveloped by a mesmerising aura of indescribable spiritual energy.
As the 'maha aarti' came to an epic closure with the priest sprinkling holy water on the attendees, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who was in attendance to inaugurate the festival, lit the lamp as a customary tradition.
Soon after, there was a spellbinding performance by Nathulal Solanki, a renowned nagara (kettle drum) player from here and 52 other performers from across the globe who joined him in the audio-visual spectacle.
Together, they created a martial and royal percussive rhythm that could very well be a soundtrack of a kingly entourage conquering newer territories.
Next to take the stage was acclaimed flautist Sunil Kant Gupta, who displayed his self-crafted flute -- a far cry from the traditional instrument forged in bamboo.
Devoting over 15 years of research, Gupta created a longer and detachable flute, which increased the spectrum of sounds usually created on the instrument.
He wooed the audiences with his renditions of the 'yaman' raga, which is specifically a raga for the evening, along with 'chaiti' from Uttar Pradesh among other ragas.
Lastly, renowned singer Shubha Mudgal took to the stage amid a rousing reception and began singing "Nache chhail chhabeela" in her trademark voice and went on to build upon the stellar opening with "Naam rat laagi".
Known for her versatility, Mudgal exhibited her singing prowess, hitting high and low notes with unmatched mastery, and presented mostly devotional songs that duly highlighted the spiritual leitmotif of the festival.
Day two will feature Kailash Kher, Jaisalmer Boys, Yom and Wang Li and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt who will perform at the sand dunes here.
(Ankit Sinha is in Pushkar at the invitation of the organisers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)