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.