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"A Mystical Journey of Music and Dance" gathers thousands

April 2008
"A Mystical Journey of Music and Dance" gathers thousands

On Monday, March 17th, thousands attended the highly anticipated concert tour “A Mystical Journey: Sufi Music and other Expressions of Devotion from the Muslim World.” The international musical concert, sponsored by His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami, Ismaili Council for the Southeastern United States, featured artists from Algeria, Bosnia, United States, India, Iran, Pakistan and Syria showcasing music from various Sufi and other esoteric traditions of Islam.

Whether bringing listeners closer to God, sustaining cultural memory through epic tales, or strengthening the bonds of community through festivity and celebration, music and musicians are central to the cultural life of Muslims throughout the world, “A Mystical Journey of Music and Dance” gathers thousands The Bosnian choir, formed in 1993 during the war in Bosnia, was up first. During the war, the performers, then merely children, found their voices as they sought refuge in a mosque. The soothing sounds of the choir were soon followed by a Punjabi folk singer, Sain Zahoor. Zahoor, inspired by spiritual dreams, used the Ek Tara, (a one-string instrument) to perform an intense rendition of Rumi’s Sufi poetry. “It was like a wave that kept taking you higher,” explained Ms. Tayyibah Taylor of Azizah Magazine. She further added, “The spectacular depth of talent, diversity, and devotion was overwhelmingly beautiful.”

Although a tough act to beat, next up was the electrifying performance of Houria Aichi from Algeria who engaged the entire audience to join her in her chant to praise God.

Following Aichi were the Sufi mystics from Syria and Iran. These Sufi performers, known specifically for their dances of the whirling dervishes, mesmerized the audience with their captivating performance. The Iranians followed with the drumming of the daf, a type of frame drum traditional to Iran.   

As the journey was coming to an end, Salman Ahmad, founder of Pakistan’s biggest rock band, Junoon, brought the crowd to their feet with his mix of modern guitar with traditional tabla. Accompanying him was Parul Shah, a New York based dancer, who brought the grace of kathak, to match the beats of Ahmad.   

The finale, performed by none other than Rizwan Khan, nephew of the world famous late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, combined vocal dexterity with the tranquility of the harmonium and the beats of the tabla, to complete the journey of the mind, body, and soul.

While many attendees were familiar with this genre of music, others not so familiar attended due to their cultural curiosity. It was interesting to notice how the event, attended by Rabbis, Imams, Members of Academia, and CEO’s aside from others, mirrored the diversity seen within the performers.   

Mahashivratri celebrated with devotion

Shiva1.jpg: Hindu Temple of Atlanta priests performing abhishekam on Shiva Lingam in the Shiva temple.

Shiva3.jpg: 151 families performed group pooja at Shiva Mandir’s ShivRatri celebrations.

The Indian community in Atlanta celebrated Mahashivaratri on March 5th and 6th, 2008 with enthusiasm at the Hindu temple of Atlanta (HTA), Riverdale and Shiv Mandir in Global Mall. A large number of devotees thronged various Shiva temples in the city. While many waited in long queues for darshan, some took part in cultural and religious programs. Shri Shakti mandir, Shirdi Sai temple, IACA, Hindu temple of Georgia and Pandit Ved Joshi in Global Mall also conducted poojas to mark this festival.

Hindu temple of Atlanta, Riverdale:

On March 5th, 2008 'Maha-Havarti' with special worship, and bhajans were conducted at HTA. A Rudra homa (havan) was held in the presence of devotees followed by Ekadasa rudrabhisheka amidst vedic chanting by the priests of the temple. In the evening every visiting devotee offered milk to the Shiva Lingam. There was special pooja, abhishekam, and arati on all four ‘praharas’ (quarters) of the night. Simultaneously the devotional bhajans on Lord Shiva also continued through the night. HTA will conduct the Mahakumbabhishekam celebrations of Shiva temple from March 19th through March 23rd. More information on HTA’s schedule of poojas and festivals can be availed at www.hindutempleofatlanta.org

Maha Shiva Ratri Pooja at Shiv Mandir of Atlanta:

Shiv Mandir of Atlanta celebrated Mahashivratri on March 5th, 2008 with great devotion. The group pooja was organized in Ashiana Banquet Hall where 151 special pooja spots were arranged for the families that signed up for the group pooja. Thousands of devotees thronged to the Shiv Mandir on 5th & 6th to offer milk/jal on the Shiv Lingam. It is said that a devotee who performs sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of ShivRatri is absolved of sins and attains moksha (salvation).

The group pooja, conducted by Dr. Ganesh Prasad Ojha, Shiv Mandir priest, started after a brief welcome message from Chairman, Mr. Dinesh Purohit. The main yajman families for pooja were Dr. Aman Kakkar, Mr. Dinesh Purohit and Mr. Sanjay Gupta. Devotees enjoyed performing elaborate Ganesh poojan, Shiv Parivar poojan, Rudrabhishek, Shiv Archana, Arti and chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya.’

After the pooja, Mr. Pushpraj Verma, President of Shiv Mandir, informed the community about Shiv Mandir’s regular activities and events planned for 2008. Mr. Ajeet Das, Vice Chairman of the Board, updated the community about Shiv Mandir’s progress and current year’s goals. Bhajans and Shiv Aarti followed by a vote of thanks concluded the program. Mandir’s annual souvenir book, 2008 calendar, Maha Prasad and Thandai were distributed to all devotees. Later a Prahar Pooja was conducted. Please visit www.ShivMandirAtlanta.org for details.

~Ravi R. Ponangi & Pushpraj Verma

CAMAGA celebrates Great Composers Day

Camaga2.jpg: Mrs. Kirnavali, special invitee, accompanied by Deepa Ramachandran on violin (right) and Dr. Ram Sriram on the mridangam (left).

The Carnatic Music Association of Georgia (CAMAGA) organized a two day music festival to honor the Great Composers of Carnatic Music—Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.

The event took place on February 16th and 17th at The Hindu Temple of Atlanta. The objective was to give a forum to young children learning music, along with music teachers and other adults in the Atlanta region. Over 200 participants, mostly children, sang or played instruments at the event to an audience of 600.

The master of ceremonies for the two day function, Dr. Kalpana Rengarajan, ably managed the time and allowed for all participants to have their time on stage.

Traditionally during the celebrations, CAMAGA invites a professional musician to give a live concert. This year’s special invitee was Mrs. Kiranavali, a disciple of the illustrious Sangeetha Kalanidhi Smt. T. Brinda. Mrs. Kiranavali, accompanied on the violin by Mrs. Deepa Ramachandran and Ram Sriram on mridangam, gave a theme concert that included compositions of the Great Composers from the pre-trinity period such as Oothukadu Venkata Subbier to modern day composers.

On the second day, after individual participants had completed their performances, a group of local artists led by Mrs. Usha Balakrishnan sang the Pancharathna kritis or the five gems of Thyagaraja. Divya Nama kritis and Utsava Sampradaya kritis followed and the event concluded with an arathi.

President of CAMAGA, Dr. Ram Sriram said, “One of the most fulfilling aspects of this two day celebration is the enormous interest, enthusiasm, and talent exhibited by young children. Thanks to the teachers, these young people continue to grow in their talents. I am confident that some of them will soon reach concert level performances. More so than the talent, these youngsters are inheriting the benefits of our musical heritage – modesty, respect to others, and dedication.”

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