Poetry Festival on Bhakti Poetry in Translation

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Pune, 27th March 2017: Pune International Centre (PIC) will hold an exceptional event with Bhakti Poetry at its heart. “Bhakti: Many Voices, Many Ways”, will bring together several of India’s most renowned and awarded poets/translators who will present their own English translations (as well as translations done by others) of India’s well known bhakti poets. They will also discuss the strength and significance of bhakti poetry in its many forms in India. The event will take place on Sunday, 2nd April 2017 at YASHADA, Baner road, Pune in between 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The event is open to all and some seats will be reserved for PIC members.

The event is being held in collaboration with the Raza Foundation, an art and culture organization, set up in 2001 under the guidance of Sayed Haider Raza, a celebrated figure of modern Indian art. The Foundation has been instrumental in creating spaces for a wide variety of art and culture programmes and publications, and providing research fellowships to young artists.

Inaugurating the event will be Ashok Vajpeyi, a renowned and award-winning Hindi poet-critic, translator, editor, culture-activist, erstwhile civil servant and a major cultural figure in India. With more than 14 books of poetry, 10 books of criticism in Hindi and 4 books on art in English (including two on S H Raza) to his credit, he was the editor of prestigious publications on literature and the arts. He set up the multi-arts centre, Bharat Bhavan, in Bhopal and was the first Vice-Chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (established by the Govt. of India). For more than a year he doubled up as Director General of the National Museum, New Delhi, and Vice-Chairman of the National Museum of Man, Bhopal. Until recently he was Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi.

Poet Arundhati Subramaniam will discuss some significant features of bhakti poetry, and will read the poems of 9th century Tamil Vaishnava poet Nammalvar, the Marathi women mystics (translated by Neela Bhagwat and Jerry Pinto) and, among others, the 15th century Tamil mystic Abhirami Bhattar which poems she has translated. Sumana Roy will read from her translations of kirtans from northern Bengal (especially those of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) while Priya Sarukkai Chabria will read from her translations of two 9th century Tamil mystic poets, Andal and Manikkavacakar.  Andal was venerated as a goddess, while Manikkavacakar (one of the four mystics who revived Shaivism in medieval South India) wrotesongs in which he acknowledged human frailty in spite of spiritual longing.

Rahul Soni will read from Mirabai, one of the most significant poet-saints of the bhakti movement who lived in the early 16th century, and whose bhajans speak of despair, longing and the ecstasy of union. Translations of dohas of the Sufi/Bahkti poet Rahim Abdurrahim Khaan-e-khaana (one of the Navratnas in Emperor Akbar’s court) will be read by Mustansir Dalvi. These couplets are infused with a deep reverence for Ram and Krishna.

H S Shivaprakash will concentrate onvachanas –compositions of 12th Century Veerashaiva saint-poets of Karnataka. Vachanas – like bhakti poetry -speak of thelove of God, social criticism and an engagement with ineffable mystical experience. Uniquely, they celebrate labour as a path to liberation.

Ranjit Hoskote will discuss vaakhs(poems of the venerated 14th-century Kashmiri mystic, LalDed). LalDed’s “voice and presence”, says Hoskote, “remain profoundly germane to our turbulent present,”.  They have inspired innumerable authors who came after her, both in form and content.

Well-known classical singers from Pune, Mandar and Dakhshayani Karanjkar, will present – from a contemporary perspective – the poetry of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram, while Suresh Chabria, former Prof of Film Appreciation at FTII, will screen and discuss excerpts from the classic film, Sant Tukaram.