There is something evocative about Rajasthan, with the images it conjures up of exotic colours and camels and fortresses in the sand, that perhaps makes it the natural backdrop for a host of cultural festivals. A relatively new entrant is Soul Connect, a monthly performance event that started quietly in 2017, and has gained momentum as a staple event in the Jaipur calendar for those in the know. By Radhika Tandon
The brainchild of Mita Kapur, founder and CEO of Siyahi and Vinod Joshi, Community Director at the Jaipur Virasat Foundation, this event is held early on one Sunday morning of every month, in various, usually lesser-known temples around the city.The performances are followed by a traditional breakfast that includes Jaipur’s famous hing ki kachori and kulhad chai.
Soul Connect serves a dual purpose. It aims to revive the morning music tradition of the city. Some of the finest musicians from around the country, such as Astha Goswami, Shri Hariharan Sharam Bhatt and Dr Hanuman Sahay have performed here. It also hopes to revitalise the many forgotten temples that stand neglected, sometimes in the middle of the city. One example is the Mandir Shri Kalki Ji, unique because it is the only temple dedicated to the yet-to-be-incarnated 10th avatar of Lord Vishnu, located in the middle of the busy Hawa Mahal bazaar. Most people, including long-time Jaipur residents, were unaware of its existence until Soul Connect brought them there. Another example is the Pratapeshwar Temple, one of the oldest in Jaipur, hidden in plain sight in Chandni Chowk, close to the City Palace. Their mission is proving successful, as Mita and her team have found that the shows bring more visitors to the temples, as a result of which they’re being better maintained.
I was in Jaipur for the full moon weekend 18-20 May, and caught the special edition 21st episode, celebrated at the Mandir Shri Radha Saral Bihari ji temple as a one-off evening show. It was preceded by an aarti inside the temple after which guests moved to the lawns behind it for a stirring performance by the Momasar Ensemble, which included illustrious Manganiyar artists Manzoor Khan, Bhugra Khan, Latif Khan, Bhutta Khan, Nehru Khan and Safi Khan. The Manganiyars are best known for their haunting folk songs, but for this occasion they performed a specially-curated set of devotional music.
The performance was just over an hour, after which we moved to another part of the grounds for a traditional prasaadi dinner. We sat outdoors in rows, under the full moon, and were served a home-style feast of Rajasthani fare on banana leaf plates, servings of which were replenished almost before we finished. I chatted about the arts scene in the city with the Jaipur culturati who had turned out in force.
From colourful local markets to exclusive boutiques, grand havelis, culture, architecture and fine dining all available in one vibrant city, Jaipur has much to offer as a weekend getaway.
And Soul Connect, combining fine performances with an insider’s peek at Jaipur’s hidden treasures, topped off by a traditional breakfast, and all achieved in under two hours, is well worth adding to a weekend itinerary. Catch the next performance by Santoor artist Anwar Singh on June 9 at the Mandir Madan Mohanji.
GETTING THERE: drive from Delhi in approximately four hours (268 km); there are also daily flights on Air India and Indigo (INR 1,700 upwards).
MORE INFORMATION: for details on upcoming performances click here