Cultural Extravaganza: Taj Mahotsav

Cultural extravaganza: Taj Mahotsav

Md Masarrath Ali Khan takes us through the exciting performances, display of art forms and delicious food being served at Taj Mahotsav

An entertainment programme at the Taj Mahotsav. PIC COURTESY: UP TOURISM

Winter has passed and Agra has begun to wake up from deep slumber to the chirping of birds and fresh fragrance of flowers in full bloom. A dramatic combination of chill, lukewarm sunshine and blue sky provides a perfect backdrop for 29th edition of Taj Mahotsav — a 10-day long cultural extravaganza, which is attracting thousands of domestic and foreign tourists every evening. The magic has begun and will continue to unfold till February 27.


Javed Ali at an earlier edition. 
 PHOTO: UP TOURISM

Taj Mahotsav was started by the Uttar Pradesh State Tourism Department in 1992 to provide a platform for the artisans to showcase and promote their arts and handicrafts, and to promote tourism in Agra. It focuses on recreating the art, culture and essence of Mughal and Nawabi culture prevalent in 18th and 19th centuries in Uttar Pradesh. It also provides a rare opportunity for art lovers to savour the magic and majesty of India’s performing arts and handicrafts.

It is celebrated every year from February 18 to 27, with a focussed theme, at Shilpgram, near the eastern gate of Taj Mahal. This year’s theme is Sanskriti Ke Rang, Taj Ke Sang. One can enjoy a wide range of cultural and entertainment programmes at Shilpgram till night. Some events are also organised at Sadar Gate and Soor Sadan in Sanjay Palace.

Biggest attraction: cultural performances

From classical folk to exotic operas to subtle classical to popular film songs, a wide spectrum of musical performances await at the Mahotsav. The vibrant and colourful artforms of different states — especially those of Brij Bhoomi — offer the spectators an aesthetic and ethereal experience to cherish for a lifetime. World-renowned artistes present classical, semi-classical and popular shows.

Dances like charkula (Brij Bhoomi), nagda (Haryana), sapera (Rajasthan), lavani (Maharashtra), kumaoni Folk, kathak and bharatanatyam are presented in traditional styles. The cultural programmes include: musical nights, Bollywood Star nights, light music, Hindustani Classical Music, vocal and semi classical vocal, Qawwalis, Kavi Sammelans, Mushairas (poetry recitals), comedy nights (laughter shows), mimicry shows, dramas, ballets, dance dramas, fashion shows, art exhibitions, painting exhibition and seminar. A colourful Laser Show is also part of the programme.

In the years gone by, the festival has showcased a profusion of entertainment programmes by exponents like Shiv Kumar Sharma, Padma Shri Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj, Rajan-Sajan Misra, Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Udit Narayan, Sankar Sahani, Hansraj Hans, Daler Mehndi, Wadali Brothers, Sabri Brothers, Nizami Brothers, Alka Yagnik, Shreya Ghoshal, Malini Awasthi, Sunidhi Chauhan, Preeti Jhangiani, Kim Sharma, Meghna Naidu, to name just a few.


A line of shops at the Taj Mahotsav. 
Pic courtesy: NICE STUDIO, AGRA

Handicrafts steal the show

The Mahotsav is a paradise for the connoisseurs of arts and handicrafts. It provides a lavish display of the arts and handicrafts of the region. You will end up unknowingly going on a shopping spree and taking back some wonderful souvenirs and gifts.

About 400 legendary artisans from different parts of the country attend the festival and display their exquisite works of art. Marble work and Zardozi from Agra, Zari work from Benares, shawls and carpets from Kashmir and Gujarat, Chikankari from Lucknow, can be found at the event. Wood carvings from Saharanpur, sculpture and pottery from Haryana, lacquer bangles from Jaipur, clay work from Azamgarh, carpets from Bhadoi, wood carvings from Tamil Nadu, appliqué work from Orissa, jute work from West Bengal, blue pottery from Khurja, brassware from Muradabad, and glassware from Firozabad, all find a place in the stalls and are up for sale at the most reasonable prices.


A view of the Taj Mahal. PHOTO by author

Pamper your tastebuds

As night progresses, the aroma of delectable delicacies lures you to the food festival. This is an ideal place to pamper your taste buds with an endless variety of lip-smacking delicious dishes, especially prepared by oldest exponents of the cooking art, a perfect blend of local flavours and the Mughal cuisine. The visual lure and whiff of the freshly prepared Lucknowi kabab, Hyderabadi biryani, south Indian dosa and gulab jamun is bound to impress.

Flavours like petha, dalmoth, kesari jalebi and bhalla, from Brij Bhoomi and the interiors of Uttar Pradesh are a special attraction. The sweetness of jalebi, the tang of dahi and the spicy bedai — a bite of all the three together gives a burst of flavours in your mouth. Other dishes worth a try include chole bhature, Amritsari naan, samosa, paratha, puri, dahi vada and Indian Veg Thaali. Thickened milk served in a kulhad with malai on the top is a favourite local drink that will keep you warm.

Have some cool fun

While the elders spend time in the cultural programmes, children too get their share of joy at the fun fair. While teenagers and adults enjoy various rides and roller coaster rides, children can take small rides such as merry-go-round, train-rides and Ferris wheel.

 

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