So here is the 20th edition of Ruhaniyat, all set to take off. As we look back, on one hand it seems like a long journey and on the other hand it feels like yesterday when we presented the first ever Ruhaniyat in Mumbai at the Horniman Circle Gardens. In 2001, the first year, it was just one day event. But the following year onwards it has always been 2 days in Mumbai. The third year Ruhaniyat was extended also to Hyderabad and the next year Delhi and Chennai and then Pune, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Ahmedabad were added. Now since past many years Ruhaniyat is presented in these 8 cities covering North, South, East, and West of India.
While in the initial years we were discovering and presenting rare living traditions of India, by the time Ruhaniyat was six we already started inviting artists from other countries. In almost all the ancient civilizations, number 7 has been associated with tremendous spiritual significance and hence from that year onwards we ensured that this sojourn of enchanting Spiritual hues must have a global participation. So, every city has at least one group from a guest country.
However, it was only after completing 10 years that we started experimenting with collaborations featuring groups from India and other countries. The main reason being each stream, each tradition of music was so complete in itself. We didn't need any enhancements. Moreover, we felt the carriers of those traditions should not feel as if we were tempering with them.
But then one evening as we were discussing the impact of Ruhaniyat not just on the audience but on performers too, we realized that the participants of Ruhaniyat felt like one huge family. And, this gave us the courage to think of bringing them together even on the stage. What was seen and felt behind the stage was so beautiful, so unique ... all the difficulties, differences of Language, culture, gender, religion simply melted away. There was a unique camaraderie, a rich bond they shared and it was so real that we felt now we were all ready to take the next step.
As always, we started the experiment right at home, in Mumbai. That is how we created two specific global production series:
1. Mystic Pathways
2. When Hearts Connect
And, with each passing year these two collaborative series are most eagerly awaited productions not just in Mumbai, but across the country.
So far Ruhaniyat has presented musicians from Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Turkey and this year we will be adding three new countries to Ruhaniyat family: Spain, Taiwan and Morocco.
As a rule Ruhaniyat is always presented in open air venues. Just as unique as the music are the venues across the country; for instance in Mumbai it is the lawns of the Museum with the ancient building as the majestic backdrop, in Delhi it has been the 800 year old fort Purana qila, Chennai has the rustic stables surrounding the open air arena and in Hyderabad the festival unfolds at the Taramati Baradari, an amphitheatre with the ancient Baradari as the backdrop and so on. The finale is always in Pune in a Botanical garden which looks more like a jungle and the audience and performers are surrounded by 17 ancient Banyan Trees.
Actually, more than a concert, Ruhaniyat is an enriching experience emerging from the combined power of music and spirituality; opening the hearts, and minds of all witnessing it. As the works of great masters and mystics come alive, they remind the listeners of the blissful path of spirituality, of the basic oneness of all creation beyond all man-made divides of class, religion, race, language and nationality.
The only festival of its kind, it is like a timely reminder of the human capacity to love, to nurture, to guide. A reminder of the alikeness of all faiths, that becomes a unique binding chord, which is so liberating.
Brain child of Mahesh Babu, the festival is among the most awaited events in India, and according to the audiences it brings peace, calm and joyous serenity. Naturally the audience and organizers wait with same eagerness, for; it is an experience where all feel transported to another world ... to another realm, to a world of love, harmony, equilibrium and unity. In that sense Ruhaniyat is about world peace too.