Friday, 6 November 2015

Trippingg on Culture Smorgasbord of Delhi – Part I

October 2015

After the unforgiving summers, evenings in October become crisp and laden with hint of chill. This is the time the cultural milieu of beautiful Delhi comes alive to give you the buzz to help you survive the cold winters. The festivals of Pujo and Dusshera add joy to these beautiful evenings.

Get ready to be captivated by Delhi

This is the month of discovering the present and living Delhi. Though you love walking among the ruins of different cities of Delhi built over the last 1500 years, this time you want to discover the people of this great city. A city is reflected in its people and culture. It is possible that this peek into the culture will provide you with answers behind the city’s longevity and its continued attraction to people over the ages.

The Old Fort Dance Festival at Purana Qila, 8th to 12th October 2015
No backdrop in Delhi is as spectacular as the iconic Humayun Gate in Purana Qila. Together with Qutb Minar and Jantar Mantar, the gate is the most recognizable structure in Delhi. Purana Qila or Shergarh was Delhi’s Sixth City built by the great Sher Shah Suri. It is believed Purana Qila was the site of Mahabharat’s Indraprasth. The stage of the annual Old Fort Dance Festival is set in this backdrop. The five day festival will see names like Leena Samson and Briju Maharaj.

On the second evening, Raja Radha Reddy & Group presents a sensational Kuchipudi performance. The performance is a great jugalbandi of dance, singing and music even as the well known couple strikes the Ardhnarishwar poses. Temple iconography has come alive at Purana Qila. Humayun would have been impressed. It is quite possible that in his haste to make to the performance in time, he stumbled and rolled down the steps of Sher Mandal and died.

Old Fort Dance Festival at Purana Qila, New Delhi

The Incredible Old Fort backdrop

Raja Radha Reddy & Group striking a pose

Kali Mandir, Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi – Making of Durga Idols
You have lived in the Chittaranjan Park area for years but never got around to visiting Kali Mandir; and here you are and what a perfect timing as Durga idols are getting readied for the big day.

Kali Mandir, Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi

Triveni Kala Sangam, Mandi House, New Delhi

You might have found Delhi’s oldest temple built during Mahabharat’s time (the Nili Chattri Temple is the site where the Pandavs conducted the Das Ashwamedh Yagya after the conclusion of Mahabharat and is on the road between Salimgarh Fort and the Yamuna).

Here in the cultural hub of Mandi House area where you are finding jewels is the Triveni Kala Sangam. Triveni Kala Sangam is a junior Indian Habitat Centre and then you discover it was too designed by Joseph Stein. The place is a neat surprise with art galleries, indoor and outdoor theatres, sculpture court and a terrace cafeteria with great food and marvellous vibe.

Open Air Gallery and Tea Terrace Restaurant at Triveni Kala Sangam designed by Joseph Stein in 1957 is another symbol of post independence India

The signature Jaali of Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi

Inside Madan Meena who did his doctoral dissertation on the wall art by women of Meena tribe is holding an exhibition of his minimalistic paintings depicting nature and animals. He finds his inspiration in the miniature painting tradition of Kota and Bundi.

Madan Meena's Masterpieces

On your second trip to Triveni Kala Sangam you are lucky to bump into the Paris based photographer Antonio Martinelli. Now Antonio is your kind of photographer who likes architecture and history and is an indologist. This particular exhibition is about changing face of Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh. He first visited Chandigarh in 1974 as a 22 year old when he was robbed of everything but his camera survived! Since then he has visited Chandigarh twice and the last time was in 2014. The exhibition shows the changing face of a city that was a symbol of free India.

Last year Met Museum of NY had commissioned him for the exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500 – 1700: Opulence and Fantasy where he documented the land, art, architecture and remains of the Deccan Sultanates.

You had a great chat with Antonio who seems to have travelled across places that you love. His coming trip is to Burhanpur (you want to go back!) and to photograph the Bani Begum Bagh (you have missed it so far!) in Khuldabad, Aurangabad. You are ready to hitch a ride with him. Asked what his favourite historical place in India was and he mentioned Gingee. One more reason why you need to visit TN soon!

What luck meeting Antonio and then to realise no newspaper carried the event info.

Antonio Martinelli posing in front of his photographs in Shridharani Gallery at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi

Safdurjung Railway Station, New Delhi

Now Safdurjung Railway Station is easily the most interesting of all railway stations in Delhi. This is the second time you are visiting after you stumbled onto it while looking for National Rail Museum. First it does not look or smell like a railway station. The reason is clear soon. This is the station where the luxury trains like Maharaja Express and Palace on Wheels take off to exotic locations across India. On this particular evening they are decking up the entrance and the platform as guests are supposed to arrive around nine.

Of course you have not come here to board the Maharaja Express.
You are here to see the Science Express which is chugging out of the Safdurjung Station for a seven month odyssey across India as it tries to educate about the perils of Climate Change and how this is the gravest challenge faced by our planet today. But who really gives a hoot – we still like our ACs at 16 degrees and those leisurely showers and car rides to market fifty yards away.

You talk to some of these great bunch of students who will be travelling in the train - most have masters in BioTech and other science degrees you have never heard about and who are passionate about our planet and want to save it for some more years.

You had heard of Lifeline Express so it is nice to experience the Indian Railways in their new avatars.

Decked up elephants wait to welcome guests of Maharaja Express at Safdurjung Railway Station, New Delhi

In Titarpur Village, Tagore Garden, New Delhi

In the village of Titarpur below Tagore Garden Metro Station there are thousands of Ravan heads sprouting. In the days leading to Dusshera, the street turns into an assembly line churning out Ravans and his kin.

I am one good looking Don

At Luv Kush Ramleela, Red Fort Grounds, Delhi

In the backdrop of Red Fort, you witness probably Delhi’s best Ramleela - Great performances, huge crowds and Old Delhi food spreads. There was a steady stream of actors from Mumbai. This year Asrani appeared in the role of Narad, Gajendra Chauhan did a Shiv cameo, Zareena Wahab was Shabari and Ravi Kishan played the role of Bharat.

This is the Luv Kush Ramleela held in the August Kranti Maidan with the Red Fort forming the majestic backdrop. Of course Red Fort is the crown jewel of the Seventh City of Delhi Shahjahanabad.

At the end of the performance brass band accompanied by artists riding horses and chariot goes around the ground.

In comparison, the Ramleela Ground’s Ramleela was pale and sleepy. This Ramleela is possibly the oldest in Delhi and was started by the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar 160 years ago.

Did you say this is your first time at Ramleelas in Old Delhi?

Now only if you could figure out why Lord Parashuram is in such a bad mood on finding Ram has broken Shiv’s bow.

Red Fort looking over the Luv Kush Ramleela

Angry Parshuram confronting Ram (Vijay Kumar) & Lakshman (Sunny Kumar) - what a great episode and Lakshman here played his part beautifully

Old Delhi finger licking food

Ramleela at Ramleela Grounds

Halloween has come early at Ramleela Grounds

Of course they have the world's tallest guy here

In addition to cops, the tallest guy, the bhoots, of course the politicians also make their appearance

At Old World Theatre Festival in Stein Auditorium, Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi, October 10th to 18th 2015

You discover the charms of theatre in a place you love. You love everything about it – the red brick walls, the chirping of birds, and the unmistakable vibe that puts you in the zone. Indian Habitat Centre is the place to be in to experience the arts of Delhi.

Watching personalities like Shernaz Patel and Sohrab Ardeshir come alive few feet away is awesome. The play ‘The God of Carnage’ was Savage, Vicious and Hilarious (promotion blurb) as couples go after each other’s throats (literally). All married people can empathize with their blessed lives.

No place like Indian Habitat Centre in the whole wide world!

The God of Carnage at Stein Auditorium, IHC

North East Festival at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, 16th to 18th October 2015

You discovered one of the earliest Delhi’s built structures in the backyard of Suraj Kund. It is called Anangpur Dam which was built by the Tomars in around 10th century. You had to hustle across wild grass and rocky ridge to get to this valley across which the stone dam is built. Set in the sylvan shadow of India Gate you have recently discovered the charms of IGNCA. Spread across acres with few buildings in between, IGNCA is home to outdoor exhibitions and performances. Anangpur Dam can be ascribed to Delhi's First City of Qila Rai Pithora while India Gate belongs to Delhi's latest reincarnation - Lutyens' Delhi.

The North East Festival is an annual event that celebrates the eight NE states. The festival is about connecting people, building bridges and creating awareness of India’s diversity. The festival is seeing photo exhibitions and live performances.

But you are here for the rock bands.

And then SKD from Guwahati blows the roof off the dump. You can't remember the last time you attended a rock concert. Your ears are still ringing.

Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi

The Maati Ghar at IGNCA

SKD rocking the house

Floss Silk Flowers of New Delhi

So while Delhi is immersed in the cultural deluge, flowers of Floss Silk are blooming in their pink glory. Delhi has only a few of these trees but the flowers are a splendid sight as they fill up the gap in relatively quiet month of October.

Durga Puja Pandal at Bengali Senior Secondary School, Alipur Road, Delhi

The Civil Lines area hosts the oldest Durga Puja Pandal in Delhi. It is believed that the puja was started by the earliest Bengalis who came to Delhi during the shifting of capital from Calcutta.

Delhi International Arts Festival at Nehru Park, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi, 16th to 31st October 2015

DIAF in its 9th year hosted about 250 events spread across 45 venues.  On the eve of India Africa Forum Summit, DIAF put up an African show of music and dance set amongst the greenery of Nehru Park. The event was called Welcome Africa – Indo Africa Cultural Confluence.

You are treated to one great uplifting and so energetic dance performance by kids from Ethiopia - the dance was a medley of short dances at the end of which the kids would scamper down the stage, change costumes and again start jigging to the awesome music. And you thought Hindi film songs were colourful.

Teen Murti decked up for India Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi

Delhi doesn't get such skies very often - at Nehru Park, new Delhi

At Nehru Park, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi

Delhi Inde Project or Dilliwala Band at Delhi International Arts Festival

African Fusion Drums by Emmanuel O Awuku and George Abban of Ghana have the crowds wanting more - at DIAF 2015

Whirling Derwish from Egypt

Dance Troupe from Ethiopia had the audience spellbound with their fervour and colour

Ravan Burning on Dusshera at Sector 33, Noida, 22nd Oct 2015

After getting to know Ravan and his family up close and personal in Titarpur village, feelings are mixed seeing them chained here waiting for the inevitable.

Time stops for no one.

Sun sets on Evil

To be continued...

Related Links

Links related to Antonio Martinelli

Link related to Madan Meena


  1. Wow what a snippet post on Delh's cutural events...never knew that so many events from Kuchipudi to SKD from visitation by Ma Durga to annihilation of Ravana from theatre to photographer Martineli would overwhelmingly crowd the thirty one days of October...just waiting for your reporting on the November culturalatti scene!!

    1. Yes Aparna!

      Discovering another side of Delhi besides its monuments. This quiet of the monuments and the throb of the cultural side adds another dimension to this wonderful city people have called home over centuries.

      Oh yes November - now that will take lot more compiling!