Saturday, April 25, 2015

Of sangeet and sama 

In the process of teaching my son, I came up on the definition of 'sangeet' in Indian classical music. It said that sangeet consists of the coming together of gayan(vocal), vadan(instrumental music) and nritya(dance). It amazed me to find dance there in the middle of defining music. In common man terms, heavily influenced by the western notions, 'music' and 'dance' are two connected yet seperate defintions of art forms. Then 'sangeet' sounded like a novel concept, where all three arts came together!

And 'sangeet' as my dance Guru explained was something very dear to God, a means of aaradhna, reaching closer to God. In aaradhna, as a prayer, all these forms of expression came together to reach out to God. How easily this idea has been understood in not just Indian classical traditions, bhakti sangeet and also the Sufi tradition of sama, where divinity is powerfully experienced through these mediums. The practice and the understanding of this path, unlocks the self to an unlimited state of being, where divinity is one strong presence.

One such new space I discovered lately is the shrine of the reknowned Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. In a walk into Mehrauli village, just behind my locality of Vasant Kunj, lies this powerful space of divinity. The shrine of one of the four of the most important Sufi saints in India. Bakhtiar Kaki was the saint for whom, a sulphur water baoli (step well) was created by the emperor Iltutmish , and the last mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar left a little patch of grass where he wanted to be buried, near his spiritual guru Bakhtiar Kaki's shrine. Unfortunately, the British exiled him to Burma and he was not meant to enjoy that privilege. Till date, a month before the Urs festival, sufis from all over India congregate first at Bakhtiar Kaki's shrine for a three day festival. It is only after paying their respect there that they head towards Ajmer, for the shrine of khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

The Sufi mystic Bakhtiar Kaki was known for his love for the Sama mehfils and organised or attended them regularly.
It is interesting to note that his last few days were closely connected to a sema he experienced. At the sema he heard the following verses:
" Those who are slain by the dagger of surrender, 
Receive every moment a new life from the unseen."
Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki was so overcome and enraptured by these verses that he fainted away. He died four days later while still in that state of ecstasy.

photos credit: Imtiaz khan

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