FINDING GOD IN KABIR’S CITY MAINSTREAMING KABIR
THE FIRST ANNUAL MAHINDRA KABIRA FESTIVAL GAVE A GLIMPSE OF KABIR DAS’ KASHI THROUGH A THREE-DAY CULTURAL SOJOURN.
THE POET AND HIS CITY
As the sun sets, the Dashashwamedh Ghat gears up for the evening aarti—a sight that brings hundreds of tourists and pilgrims to Banaras. The Ganga aarti is an ode to the river Ganga, that lights up each night with flickering diyas on the ghats. Against the gentle calmness of the river is a strong juxtaposition of a city that is forever bustling with pilgrims searching for the gods that are said to have occupied its banks many moons ago. Benaras or Varanasi was made from the grand union of rivers Varuna and Assi and is considered to be one of the oldest living cities in the world, as well as the centre of Hinduism. But there is a Benaras that exists apart from the temples, the heavy commercialisation in the name of religion, the famed handloom textiles or even the delectable Benarasi paan—the Benaras we talk about belongs to the mystic Kabir Das, who transformed the city into the focal point of Indian spiritualism. For many of us, Kabir merely resides in our school textbooks, where his dohas made an integral part of our Hindi syllabus. But there are a few, like filmmaker Shabnam Virmani, who has pulled out Kabir from social amnesia and made the saint’s socio-cultural relevance stand out to the world through the Kabir Project, an artist-in-residency project at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore. “This journey with Kabir started in 2002 when I was living in Ahmedabad, in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots which was a time to introspect and understand the prejudices around caste and religion,” says Virmani. The project that started in 2003 has manifested through 4 films, 6
Vocalist Devashish Dey brings a local flavour to the festival