I have been in Khajuraho for a week. I arrived just on time for Navratri Festival, the festival of worship of the goddess Durga. Also called Durga Festival, it lasts nine days ('nav ratri' means 'nine nights') and ends, on the last day, with Dasahra Festival, which celebrates the victory of Lord Rama against demon Ravana and the rescue of Rama's wife Sita.
Durga Festival is a celebration of the feminine, especially of unmarried girls who are considered to be a part of the goddess Durga. On one of the nine days of the festival, every Hindu family offers a meal to young girls of their neighborhood, and they decorate the girls' feet with pink colour which is believed to bring them good luck. During the whole nine days of the Durga Festival, music is played everywhere, day and part of the night, and every evening girls perform music and dance on the numerous stages built around town. On the ninth day, all the Durga statues that decorated the stages will eventually be disposed of in a nearby lake or river; this is an event in itself and each statue is carried across the town for people to see, on trucks playing pounding loud music and followed by processions of excited, dancing people. It always amuses me how western disco-type music can be associated with religion in India... But then I guess, disco music doesn't have the same stigma in the traditional Indian mind than it has in the Westerner's... Incredible India! And so, hard beats accompany devotional lyrics such as "Ram Ram Sita Ram" everywhere...
As soon as I arrived in Khajuraho I contacted the Pandit, my music teacher here ('pandit' means Brahmin (the highest cast in Hindu tradition)/ priest/ learned man.) From the following day I started my daily routine of giving violin classes to his son (his daughter no longer seem motivated) in exchange for the music classes he gives me. It is such a beautiful exchange, of pure dedication and love for music, deprived of all financial motivation. The Pandit straight away went on to teach me more bhajans (devotional songs), this time in homage of the goddess Durga obviously, and he also asked me to accompany him and his pupils on stage every evening of the nine festival days for the daily aarti (religious "fire" celebration)!
And so I have been involved in a wonderful routine for a week; my approximate timetable has been as follows:
6-8am: Yoga/meditation/reiki practice on the rooftop of the house, facing the temple, the lake and the pipal tree under the the rising sun.
10am-12:30: Personal violin practice.
2-5pm: Music classes at the Pandit's house.
7-8pm: Short rehearsal at the music school and accompaniment of the aarti/bhajans with the Pandit and his pupils.
I would never have dared imagine that such musical activity in Khajuraho could be possible... And it makes people here very happy. Most, if not all, of them have never seen a violin and so they are fascinated by the instrument. It is also quite exceptional for them to see a foreigner play their own devotional music... For me it is my own way to get to know a tradition better which would otherwise be difficult to dig into, and to feel closer to its people... One evening after the aarti, the Pandit told me: "You will have to play a lot more in the future." I don't know where this will lead me, but it is such a beautiful journey that I welcome it with open heart...
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.