Culture of Madhya Prdaesh

The Resonating Culture

“Culture is to know the best that has been said and thought in the world” – English poet Matthew Arnold’s words find flawless resonance in Madhya Pradesh, a land that offers the perfect canvas for rich artistic traditions spanning sculpture, music, dance and drama.

Versatile Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh has been home to the cultural heritage of Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism along with the innumerable world class monuments, exquisitely carved caves, temples and palaces tell the story of a rich culture the state continues to preserve.

The Nimar Utsav is held on the banks of river Narmada at maheshwar to celebrate the age old culture of the state and is a visual feast of music, dance and drama.

May it be any one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Bhimbhetka Rock Shelters with stunning examples of prehistoric art, the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence at Sanchi or the Khajuraho Group of Monuments that showcase the arts of architecture and sculpture, Madhya Pradesh has held it’s reputation as the unparalleled seat of culture for the millennia.

And surely, it’s not that just these World Heritage Sites that symbolizes a cultural history etched in stone. On the banks of the Betwa river, Orchha is still as brilliant as ever, a paragon of Bundela architecture. Established by King Rudrapratap Singh in 1501, the chiseled profile of the majestic Orchha fort is cast into sharp relief against the arid red landscape of Tikamgarh district. Located in the premises, Jehangir Mahal is a blend of Islamic and Rajput architecture. The adjacent Rai Praveen Mahal, built in memory of a Bundela courtesan, is the perfect example of Orchha’s whimsy. The magnificient Raja Mahal, the richly ornamented Chaturbhuj Temple and the beautiful Chattris ( Cenotaphs ) along the Betwa stand tall as they characterize the beauty of Orchha.

Over the centuries, the dynasties ruling Madhya Pradesh have extended invaluable patronage to the great gharanas of Hindustani classical music. An important centre of dhrupad in the late 15th century, Gwalior emerged as the cradle of “Khayal”, the modern genre of classical singing. This was in the 18th century, through the efforts of Ustad Naththan Pir Baksh and his decedents Haddu, Hassu and Nathu Khan. The Gwalior gharana style is characterized by the simple, lucid and full throated elaboration of well known ragas. The melodious bandish ( composition ) is at the centre of the raga.

The epic saga of the gharana that has spread it’s wings and deeply influenced Hindustani classical music begins in the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar, the 15th century king who patronized legendary musicians like Tansen and Baiju Bawra.

In the late 19th century, a hitherto unknown Bengali musician began studying the sarod with Wazir Khan Beenkar, a Rampur court musician who was one of Tansen’s last descendants. This musician, Ustad Allauddin Khan, would surge ahead to teach some of the classical world’s foremost instrumentalists. In 1918, he moved to Maihar, where he went on to reshape the Maihar gharana, passing on the Maihar – Senia gharana through disciples such as his daughter Annapurna Devi and Sitar player Pt. Ravi Shankar.

The Tansen Samaroh in Gwalior brings together masters of Indian classical music to pay homage to the legendary Tansen at his birth place.

An instrumental musical group in Maihar, the first Maihar band is said to be originally a group of orphans mentored by Ustad Allauddin Khan.

Annapurna Devi played the surbahar and furthered the gharana by teaching musical maestros like Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Nikhil Banerjee. Khan’s legacy lives on in the Maihar Band, an orchestra of classical musicians he set up.

While furthering the khayal, Madhya Pradesh has also remained a prominent centre of Dhrupad, which is the oldest extant genre of Hindustani music. For a long time, it was home to the legendary Dagar brothers, Zia Fariduddin and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, the 19th generation of an illustrious family of musicians. Their disciples, the Gundecha Brothers – Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha – continue propogating the Dagarvani style of Dhrupad, teaching students at their gurukul outside Bhopal.

Madhya Pradesh has also contributed to popular music it’s iconic female playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar who was born in Indore, where she spend her childhood and made initial debut in Marathi cinemas. Kishore Kumar, basically from Khandwa, too needs no introduction.

Eminent artists have flourished in Madhya Pradesh, but the secret is that they were bolstered by a society that has always loved arts – a truth reflected in the State’s rich folk traditions. These arts emerges from the lives of resilient people who derive great pleasure from the simplicity of life, finding greater reasons for celebrations in everyday occurrences.  Boundaries of race and class don’t count – people preserve their marriage songs and ritual tunes but are happy to sing the melodies of other communities too. The Bhils of Madhya Pradesh sing healing songs, such as the dhak songs, which are supposed to have a magical effect on physical and mental ailments.

Tribal Culture of Madhya Pradesh

Socio Cultural Prominance

The renowned Bundelkhandi poet Isuri wrote four line composition on the life of Lala Hardaul, a prominent folk figure. Ballads about Chhatrasal and the Rani of Jhansi have also been imbedded into local folk music. Bambulia is a melodious song sung by those on pilgrimages to distant rivers, which is a popular spiritual journey in this part, is also an intregal local tradition in Bundelkhand.

Malwa, the land of Rajputs still echoes the mournful strains of Sati songs. When the Marathas came to Malwa in the 18th century, they ushered in a strong tradition of lavani.

The neighboring Nimar region also encourages lavani in two distinguished forms – the nirguni lavani which is basically philosophical in nature and shringari or erotic lavani.

Never the less, when there is soulful music, can dance be lacking behind.

At the height of the Rabi crop, the local villagers perform the Grida dance, mirroring the swaying crop in a progressively ecstatic dance of celebration. The Bhagoriya dance is performed by young unmarried men and women of the Bhil community. In Malwa, the operatic ballet form of Maanch is performed on open air stages, sourcing its themes from traditional stories and contemporary social issues of concern. Most of these art forms find a source within the local community that have incubated them, they are also visible to a larger art loving audience at the cultural centres like Bhopal’s Bharat Bhavan, a sprawling  multi arts complex designed by Charles Correa.

The Khajuraho dance festival evolved from the land that has held on to its delicate relationship with the classical arts that it has nourished, an event like this is to distill the essence of Madhya Pradesh exquisite culture. Each year the festival showcases India’s best classical dancers against the magnificent backdrop of Khajuraho’s Western Group of Temples. The dancer’s stories and the images on the temple walls seamlessly flow as a single narrative. Thousands of years inscribe themselves on the present in a rare moment of synthesis, making it challenging to distinguish the story from the storyteller.

THE VIBRANT CULTURE OF MADHYA PRADESH

Whether it`s the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters with stunning examples of prehistoric art, the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence at Sanchi or the Khajuraho Group of Monuments that combine the arts of architecture and sculpture, Madhya Pradesh has held its reputation as a seat of culture for millennia.

It`s not just these World Heritage Sites that symbolize a cultural history etched in stone. On the banks of the Betwa river, Orchha is still as resplendent as ever, a paragon of Bundela architecture. Established by King Rudrapratap Singh in 1501, the chiseled profile of the majestic Orchha Fort is cast into sharp relief against the arid red landscape of Tikamgarh district. The fort`s Jehangir Mahal is a blend of Islamic and Rajput architecture. The nearby Rai Praveen Mahal, built in memory of a Bundela courtesan, is the perfect example of Orchha`s whimsy. The magnificent Raja Mahal, the richly-ornamented Chaturbhuj Temple and the beautiful Chattris along the Betwa stand tall as they characterize the beauty of Orchha.

Over the centuries, the royals of Madhya Pradesh have extended invaluable patronage to the great gharanas of Hindustani classical music. An important centre of dhrupad in the 15th century, Gwalior emerged as the birthplace of Khayal, the modern genre of classical singing. This was in the 18th century, through the efforts of Ustad Naththan Pir Baksh and his descendants Haddu, Hassu and Nathu Khan. The Gwalior gharana style is characterized by the simple, lucid and full-throated elaboration of well-known ragas. The melodious bandish (composition) is at the centre of the raga.

The story of the gharana that has spread its wings and deeply influenced Hindustani classical music begins in the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar, the 15th century king who patronized legendary musicians like Tansen and Haiju Bawra. In the late 19th century, a hitherto unknown Bengali musician began studying the sarod with Wazir Khan Beenkar, a Rampur court musician who was one of Tansen`s last descendants. This musician, Ustad Allauddin Khan, would go on to teach some of Maihar-Senia gharana through disciples such as his daughter Annapurna Devi and sitar player Pt. Ravi Shankar. Annapurna Devi played the surbahar and furthered the gharana by teaching musical greats such as Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Nikhil Banerjee. Khan`s legacy lives on in the Maihar Band, an orchestra of classical musicians he set up.

While furthering the Khayal, Madhya Pradesh has also remained a prominent centre of dhrupad, which is the oldest extant genre of Hindustani music. For a long time, it was home to the legendary Dagar brothers, Zia Fariduddin and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, the 19th generation of an illustrious family of musicians. Their disciples, the Gundech Brothers—Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha—continue propagating the Dagarvani style of dhrupad, teaching students at their gurukul outside Bhopal.

Madhya Pradesh has also given popular music its most well-loved figures. Lata Mangeshkar , for instance was born in Indore, where she spent her early years and made initial forays into Marathi cinema. Kishore Kumar is another home-bred icon, both in Khandwa during the British rule.

Great artistes have flourished in Madhya Pradesh, but the secret is that they were bolstered by a society that has always loved the arts—a truth reflected in the State`s rich folk traditions. These arts emerge from the lives of resilient people who derive great joy from the simple pleasures of life, finding cause for celebration in everyday occurrences. Boundaries of race and class don`t count—people preserve their marriage songs and ritual tunes but are happy to sing the melodies of other communities too. The Bhils of Madhya Pradesh sing healing songs, such as the Dhak songs, which are supposed to have a magical effect on physical and mental ailments.

Bundelkhandi poet Isuri wrote four-line compositions on the life of Lala Hardual, a popular folk figure. Ballads about Chhatrasal and the Rani of Jhansi have also been assimilated into folk music. Banbulia, a song sung by those on pilgrimage to distant rivers, is also native to Bundelkhand. Malwa, the land of the Rajputs, still echoes the mournful strains of Sati songs. When the Marathas came to Malwa in the 18th century, they ushered in a strong tradition of lavani. The neighbouring Nimar region also sustains lavani in two forms—the nirguni lavani that is philosophical in nature, and shringari or erotic lavani.

Where there is music, dance is never far behind. At the height of the rabi crop, villagers perform the Grida dance, mirroring the swaying crop in a progressively ecstatic dance of celebration. The Bhagoriya dance is performed by young unmarried women and men of the Bhil community. In Malwa, the operatic ballet form of Maanch is performed on open-air stages, sourcing its themes from traditional stories and contemporary issues of concern to society. While all these arts find expression within the communities that have incubated them, they are also presented to a larger art-loving audience at cultural centres like Bhopal`s Bharat Bhavan, a sprawling multi-arts complex designed by Charles Correa.

Speaking of a land that has held on to its inextricable relationship with the classical arts it has nurtured, perhaps it takes an event like the Khajuraho Dance Festival to distil the essence of Madhya Pradesh`s exquisite culture. Each year, the festival places India`s foremost classical dancers against the backdrop of Khajuraho`s magnificent temples. The dancer`s stories and the images on the temple walls seamlessly flow as a single narrative. Thousands of years inscribe themselves on the present in a rare moment of synthesis, making it hard to separate the story from the storyteller.

An instrumental musical group in Maihar, the first Maihar Band is said to be originally a group of orphans mentored by Ustad Allauddin Khan.

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