art world

In photos: Madhya Pradesh’s beauty through Ramleela performers and Allauddin Khan’s old home

‘Disappearing Dialogues’ aims to reacquaint Indians with indigenous traditions either lost or dying.

A section of the gallery space at Bikaner House in New Delhi is covered with images of characters from a village production of Ramleela, a dramatic enactment of the life of the Hindu god Ram. The photographs by Mumbai-based photographer Sandeep Dhopate showcase the colourful, kitschy costumes sported by residents of the Maihar town of Madhya Pradesh during the show. Dhopate, who was visiting Maihar in 2016 during the days of Navratra festival to research for another project, said he just chanced upon the performance and decided to photograph it.

The photographs are a part of Disappearing Dialogues, a multimedia art exhibition, featuring paintings, videos, book art and photography, created by 14 artists from India and abroad in collaboration with the people of Maihar and its surrounding areas. Curated by Nobina Gupta, the exhibition has been put together in collaboration with Art Ichol, a Maihar-based art residency.

A character from Ramleela named Jatayu. Image credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
A character from Ramleela named Jatayu. Image credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

“I was standing in a corner watching the Ramleela performance and thinking about the inherent lack of grace in the show – the ill-fitting outfits coupled with tacky accessories, the medley of contrasting colours and haphazard styling,” said Dhopate. “It was far from the notion of a god, but the visuals were still striking to me and I decided to just document that without thinking how I would use it later in my project.”

Dhopate set up a little studio of sorts near the stage and spent the next six nights shooting the performers in costume.

Hanuman. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Hanuman. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

Maihar is most famous as the place of residence of Baba Allauddin Khan, the Hindustani classical maestro who founded the Maihar Gharana. It was Khan and his musical legacy that brought Dhopate to Maihar in the first place. A part of his exhibition is dedicated to Khan’s home, Medina Bhavan. “I did extensive reading on the philosophy behind Hindustani classical music and tried to understand its nuances,” said Dhopate.

Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

“The walls of Medina Bhavan have heard music literally being played 18 hours a day every single day for several decades,” added Dhopate. “In my view, the walls of this place still have his energy. I have attempted to convey that feeling by splashing the walls of Medina Bhavan with colours that celebrate life. What appears to the naked eye might be a silent dead space, but what one can hear is anything but silence. Walking through the abandoned walls of Medina Bhavan, it’s hard to miss being part of the taleem (teachings) that the torchbearers of Hindustani classical music went through.”

Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

The focus of Disappearing Dialogues, according to Gupta, is on reacquainting Indians with indigenous traditions either lost or dying. “Madhya Pradesh is a place of rich histories and cultural and musical legacies and traditions that are hidden deep in the area,” said Gupta. “This heritage should be valued and preserved before it disappears. For this project, the artists have used their creativity and research abilities to study disappearing practices and develop thought-provoking artwork and material in response to their findings.”

Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.
Medina Bhavan. Photo credit: Sandeep Dhopate.

Along with the photographs, there are 3D models on display of small residential mud buildings created by Australian architect Clare Elizabeth Kennedy in the tradition of building techniques from Madhya Pradesh, along with textile artist Nidhi Khurana’s vibrant cloth creations demonstrating the techniques of natural dyeing, like bandhani and shibori.

Gupta’s own project, titled Dharohar, involved interacting with children studying in the schools in Maihar and encouraging them to use art to explore and express what they wish to achieve in life.

Art work by children in Maihar on paper kandas. Image courtesy: Nobina Gupta.
Art work by children in Maihar on paper kandas. Image courtesy: Nobina Gupta.

“It was interesting how their choices depended so much on the kind of experiences they had seen their parents have,” said Gupta. “Most girls wanted to be doctors because they noticed how far their parents had to travel for basic medical care. Some children wanted to be police officers and one even had aspirations to become a designer.”

The children doodled illustrations on paper plates or on handmade local khaprel tiles.

Art work by children in Maihar on khaprel tiles (image courtesy: Nobina Gupta).
Art work by children in Maihar on khaprel tiles (image courtesy: Nobina Gupta).

Many artists have also engaged with Bagheli language spoken in the Baghelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Classical Odissi dancer Shashwati Garai worked with local folk singer Shashi Kumar Pandey to fuse Bagheli music with contemporary idioms and has created an interactive performance installation at the show venue that will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Bagheli.

Disappearing Dialogues is on display at Bikaner House, New Delhi, till November 29.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.