About Virāsat – Arts and Heritage Festival in the Himalayas

 

The Festival...

What started twenty-three years ago as an effort to sensitize young men and women to the grassroots' arts of India, has now evolved into Afro-Asia region's most vibrant and invigorating arts' event.The Festival has been instrumental in revitalizing several rural art forms, teetering on the brink of extinction due to a lack of audiences.Virāsat has been instrumental in bringing the spotlight back on our village traditions – music, dance, crafts, painting,sculpture, theatre, storytelling, health and wellness, cuisine and several others; traditions that have now come to be recognized as the wellspring of our classical and contemporary arts.The Festival has played a significant role in engendering 'local pride' in these art forms by exposing urban audiences and young minds to these traditions, that are presented after due diligence into their authenticity.Some of the biggest names in the arts and culture fraternity, including Late Jagjit Singh, Gulam Ali, Hariharan, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. HariprasadChaurasia, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, ShyamBenegal, AdoorGopalakrishnan, GovindNihalani, ManjitBawa, SonalMansingh, Naseeruddin Shah, Anjolie Ela Menon, , I. Alan Sealy, to name just a few, have been intimately associated with the event.
 

The Background...

No country can aspire to greatness unless its grassroots traditions are strengthened and respected. While government policies have done little in this regard, civil society initiatives have been few and far between.

REACH has taken upon itself the task of generating the spirit of enterprise within the rural folk themselves to make their arts and products accessible to wider audiences. We work towards generating means of economic growth in the rural sector through eco-friendly means, the means of arts, culture and crafts, the aesthetically produced utility objects, produced with manual labour, using sustainable materials.Today, India stands at the threshold of opportunity. If we are to ensure that the vast multitude of our rural folk also prosper with the industrialized urban centres without inflicting irreparable damage to the fragile environment, new models of rural growth need to be looked at.

Virāsat presents one such template which is inspiring several similar initiatives across the nation. The event's success can be amply measured in the large number of overseas performance requests and visitors that we have been receiving over the years.

However, the phenomenal success of the festival also means that it requires additional support, in terms of funding and sponsorship to carry forward its work of helping local arts go global and reacquainting us with our roots.The Virāsat Festival was started in the year 1995. The Festival is celebrating 29 years in the service of arts and cultural heritage of India. The Festival has the following activities where artisans and artistes from across India participate:
 105 concerts of classical and folk music and dance
 300 artisans showcase their skill in a crafts’ village
 VirāsatSaadhana is a 3 day festival for young people to perform
 Craft workshops for four days are held for young people
 Exhibitions on arts and heritage
 Wisdom Talks on Indian Culture
 Film screenings and film retrospectives of great masters in their presence
 Urdu Poetry Festival
 Hindi Literature Festival
 Workshop and exhibition of painters’ and sculptors’ of national repute
 Promotion of subaltern arts like kite flying and pottery
 Seminars and panel discussions
 Heritage and Nature Walks

 

The festival attracts participation from more than a million people and over 50,000 school children. All programmes are free and open to members of public and art lovers. The Festival is widely recognized as Afro-Asia’s biggest heritage and arts festival. It has revived several local art forms like the Dhol-Damau tradition, RadhakhandiRaas, Nanda Devi Jagar Singing. At the national level, we have presented several researched projects which have revived performing arts. Some of them include Nautanki Theatre, JugalbandiBenarasKathak and Thumri, NaayikaBhed Singing, Kissagoi, Old compositions of Gaya Gharana etc.The last few years of the Festival have witnessed convergence of all-time greats Bismillah Khan, Shiv Kumar Sharma, HariprasadChaurasia, RajanSajan Mishra, BirjuMaharaj, Pt. KishanMaharaj, SonalMansingh, ShyamBenegal, Indian Ocean, ManjeetBawa, Anjolie Ela Menon, AdoorGopalakrishnan, Naseeruddin Shah, GovindNihalani, AmolPalekar, WadaliBandhu, Mohan Agashe, Jagjit Singh, Kailash Kher, Hariharan, Bhupinder-Mitali and thousands of subaltern performers who contribute in making the warp and weft of India’s rich cultural tapestry. Several international troupes and scholars from Pakistan, USA, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, Peru, France, Mexico, Estonia, Indonesia, Mauritius, Austria, Ireland, Hungary and Germany have participated in this festival. The festival has a truly national presence with an international footprint. Sangeet Natak Akademi has always supported and has handhold REACH in its initiatives for which we are very grateful and hope to continue receiving your generous support as ever in our all future endeavours.