Sunday, November 21, 2010

‘Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding’

The world longs for peace, which, as people have now begun to realize, can only be established through mutual understanding between hostile individuals and nations. This simple but established fact was reconfirmed during Saanjh-2010 when the festivities entered their seventh year thanks to immense public support received since its inception in 2004.

It was a proud moment for Punarjyot, Amritsar and Rafi Peer Theatre Group, Lahore, to see this legacy, founded by Late Dr Shivinder Singh Sandhu and Mrs Manveen Sandhu and Mr Faizaan Peerzada, of Rafi Peer Theatre Group, attain another significant milestone.

The celebrations of 2010 too received an overwhelming public support with people in large numbers thronging to be a witness to the bonhomie between Indian and Pakistani people evident through impressive cultural performances by artists from East and West Punjab.


Despite the challenges involved in its orchestration, the celebration began on a high note in the premises of Spring Dale Senior School with Art of Living exponent Sri Sri Ravi Shankar inaugurating the impressive cultural mélange, which not only saw Indian and Pakistani artists sharing the stage as usual in their quest for peace, but also a host of cultural treats introduced for the first time.

Reiterating their commitment to peace through the legacy of Saanjh imparted by late Dr Shivinder Singh Sandhu and Mrs Manveen Sandhu in collaboration with Rafi Peer Theatre Group, Lahore, the doyens of Punarjyot and Pakistani peaceniks represented by Dr Kirat Sandhu Cheema and Ms Saleema Hashmi, a noted painter from Pakistan, respectively, assured the continuity of ‘Saanjh’ to strengthen the accord between India and Pakistan.

To give peace another chance, both budding and established vocalists, musicians and artists from either side of the border were invited not just to regale the audience but also to give voice to the common, but oft suppressed desire for peace by their rendition of Sufi ‘kalam’. The venue Spring Dale Senior School once again reverberated with unique commonality in the culture and language of East and West Punjab, which still binds the hearts and souls of the masses on both sides of the border.

Innovations in Saanjh…

To make Saanjh more meaningful, the organizers decided to use it as a platform to help the struggling but deserving artists showcase their talent at an international level. Hence, Saanjh-2010 had several firsts to its credit. Not only did it emerge as the launch pad for budding Sufi singers Sain Brothers from Chheharta, who till now mainly used to perform at religious functions and ‘mazars’, but it also accorded amateur child artists a chance to share the stage with polished performers.

Sain Brothers…

The inaugural day of ‘Saanjh’ saw 24-year-old Manmeet Sain and his 19-year-old sibling Kiranpal Sain rendering four ‘Qawwalis’-one on the significance of Saanjh, ‘Maa’, on the importance of a mother in one’s life, ‘Tota Aiwen Nahin Bolda’, the first Sufi Qawwali rendered by them and ‘Nai Jana Jogi De Naal’. “This is our first big opportunity, when we have got a chance to showcase our talent at the international level,” said Manmeet Sain.

Having received their training under Ustaad Mithu Khan, who is associated with the Patiala Gharana, the duo rendered their first Sufi qawwali ‘Tota Aiwen Nahin Bolda’ at the age of 14 and 9, respectively. They have also lent their voices to two tele-films ‘Gurpura Sukhdata’ and ‘Kes Guru Ki Mohar’, besides performing at various other peace initiatives at the Attari border.

‘Theatre for Peace-Circus for Peace’…

Another fresh addition to Saanjh-2010 was ‘Theatre for Peace-Circus for Peace’, a production featuring students from India and Pakistan, directed by Austrian Mime Director Andreas Ceska. The production, which is a form of circus art, was staged here for the first time in the country with amateur child artists performing along side professional entertainers.

The performance was about the circus arts, which have become obsolete over the years. It was staged with the aim of highlighting the logical and physical skills that these arts employ and the need to develop these abilities. It was repeated on November 14, the birth anniversary of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, also known as Children’s Day because of his love for children.

Preet Nagar, the visionary rural utopia of the twentieth century, again formed the backdrop for Saanjh and Indian and Pakistani children, again collaborated to offer their rural counterparts here a rare treat.

Performances on Inaugural Day…

Besides Sain Brothers and ‘Theatre for Peace-Circus for Peace’ cultural offerings of the first day of Saanjh-2010 also featured a performance by Kalbeliya Dancers. ‘Kalbeliyas’ are essentially a snake-charmer community from Rajasthan. They earn their bread and butter mainly with the help of these dance performances. Another breath taking performance of the day was the one featuring the Manganiyars, another Rajasthani community that earns its living through musical performances. ipip

The Spring Dale Educational Society supports the Manganiyar Lok Sangeet Sansthan, founded for the children of the Manganiyar community of Rajasthan, based at village Hamira in Rajasthan. This institution has been set up to school Manganiyar children in music and take forward their melodic legacy.

Harbhajan Mann…

Punjab’s reigning singing sensation and heartthrob of Punjabi cinema Harbhajan Mann shared the stage with renowned Pakistani vocalists and musicians on the second day of Saanjh-2010 Seventh Amritsar-Lahore Festival. Euphoria prevailed the moment Mann stepped into the premises of Spring Dale Senior School, as he was mobbed by fans seeking his autograph.

His appearance on stage minutes later again sent them into bouts of ecstasy, with the eager audience whistling, clapping and shouting in glee to express their appreciation for the singer. Some even tried to inundate him with special song requests. The Punjabi vocalist, who shot into fame with his albums 'Chithiye Ni Chithiye' (1992) and 'Oye Hoye' (1999), belted out an assortment of songs that inspired the audience to dance.

Performances on the Second Day…

The second day of Saanjh also saw soulful performances by Pak artists including Sain Zahoor and Rizwaan Muazzam Qawwal Group.

Former Minister and Majitha MLA Mr Bikram Singh Majithia presided over the proceedings of the second day. Addressing the gathering on this occasion, Mr Majithia acknowledged the efforts of late Dr Shivinder Singh Sandhu and Mrs Manveen Sandhu of setting in motion the process of cultural exchange, which, according to him, would one day, establish peace in the region. “I am sure that the earnest efforts of these two beloved souls would definitely bear the desired results and peace would certainly prevail between the two countries one day,” he said.

Director Speaks…

According to Dr Kirat Sandhu Cheema, “Punarjyot and Saanjh are not about an institution or people working for it. It is about the common urge in man for peace. This legacy of Saanjh has not only been passed on to me, but also to my entire team and all the peace lovers that we are associated with.

…It is indeed a proud moment for Punarjyot to see Saanjh enter its seventh year. This has only been possible with the unflinching support extended by all the peace loving people in India and Pakistan and we expect similar cooperation year after year. The journey of Saanjh would continue till peace is established in the region.”

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