I was in Gangtok when I received an invite to the Sirpur Music and Dance Festival from the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go, but asked for some time, so I could get back to Mumbai and check if I could manage to get away for the three days. Eventually, things worked out, and I set off, happy to be visiting a new state, wondering what the experience would be like.
I knew little about Chhattisgarh. The news reports paint a picture of a state beset by naxalism. The few articles I read, told me about its rich tribal heritage and its folk art and craft. I hadn’t heard of the National Music and Dance Festival at Sirpur till I was invited, and looked it up. I wasn’t sure how much time we would have to explore, so I restrained my curiosity, ready to let the state surprise me.
One of the things I looked forward to, was meeting fellow bloggers. Siddharth, I had met before, at Suryagarh, so he was easy to spot at the airport. At Raipur Airport, we connected with Ruchika, and soon met Amrita at the hotel. There were journalists too, like Susheela, Aruna and Arundhati, whose articles I had read, and was happy to meet. I was thrilled to meet Mridula, whom I had known through the blog for almost 8 years, but had not yet met! Along with her were Mariellen, and Gaurav, whose blogs I had read, but hadn’t met either. Finally, I met Rutavi once again, though I missed Thommen, who was around, but busy with his own schedule!
|Our group exploring the Surang Tila at Sirpur|
My Chhattisgarh experience began with finding our way to the Museum at Raipur. I have written about that experience here, and while I loved the museum, and wished I had more time to spend there, I wasn’t really surprised that we had so much trouble finding it. Museums, for some reason, aren’t really counted among places a visitor would be interested in, and I always wonder why, especially when that is the first thing I would look for, in any city!
|An old woman, one of the caretakers, dozing in the museum amidst ancient sculptures|
As always, the museum was a wonderful experience, and, while preparing me for Sirpur, also roused in me, a great desire to visit all the other places and monuments in Chhattisgarh. Each of us enjoyed the museum in our own way, and literally had to be dragged away by repeated phone calls asking us to get back to the hotel!!
Our first jaunt to Sirpur was strictly for the Festival and its inauguration. We spent a little time photographing the Lakshman temple in the fading light, but hurried back to our seats, to enjoy the music. The most fascinating performance of the day was Taal Chhattisgarh, where 60 tribal artistes came together with other artistes from across the world to create a magic melody which literally rocked us! I have written in detail about the Sirpur Fest here, so I will not spend much time describing it once again.
|One of the Rajasthani Musicians who was part of Taal Chhattisgarh|
The next morning, we walked around the streets of Raipur, searching for its elusive Samosas, before heading back to Sirpur, this time to explore the city before the events for the day began. As it turned out, we only had time to visit a few monuments, which I have written about here. We only got a glimpse of the glorious heritage of Sirpur, but what we saw really blew us away! By the time we were back at the venue, I wished I could stay back, and explore Sirpur at leisure. Hope I get that opportunity sometime!
|Shadows on the bent steps of Surang Tila|
We stayed overnight at Sirpur, this time at the Hiuen Tsang, the resort run by Chhattisgarh Tourism, and, after a long morning walk, spent spotting birds and clicking people, we headed to the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary for lunch and a safari. I had one look at the resort, and wished I could stay here too! This was where Mridula and I found time to catch up over 8 years of events and happenings, by the side of the river which flows right past the resort, watching a Common Kingfisher catch its lunch!
|A Hearty Chhattisgarhi breakfast!|
The safari took us through a jungle which seemed to be the perfect place to relax and commune with nature. Though we spotted little other than some birds, some of our friends had better luck, spotting a bear!
|In the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary|
We rushed back to Sirpur, for the final set of performances, and lost ourselves in the melody of Vishnamo, combining instruments such as the Sarod, the Guitar, and the Saxophone, among others. The grand finale was of course, Birju Maharaj, enthralling the audience with his grace and mastery over expressions. Again, I have written more about it in my post on the fest.
|One of the dancers, part of Birju Maharaj's troupe, during the final performance|
The next morning, all we had time for, was to rush to the airport, and get back home, and to our routine, mundane lives, thankful for the break, and the wonderful music, dance, and historical experiences, all of which will remain etched in my memory forever.
And that was MY Sirpur experience. However, the experience would not have been the same, had I travelled alone, or with others. My co-travellers, bloggers as well as journalists, had a great hand shaping the memories I have carried back, so here are links to their posts / articles on the trip, along with mine of course :D
- Also check out Sid’s Instagram series “Tell me your dreams”, where he has chronicled his conversations with people we met.
Thommen Jose was the only one among us bloggers who managed to see quite a bit of Chhattisgarh apart from Sirpur. Here are some of his posts:
Here are a few more links by bloggers I met at Sirpur...
These are just a few of the bloggers whom I personally know and follow, who have written about the trip. There are a lot more, but unfortunately haven’t been able to collate their links. If you have written an article on the trip, or know of any I might have missed, please send me a message or add your link in the comments section. I will certainly add your links to this list.