A Cultural Evening to celebrate syncretic culture through song and dance towards the goal of peace, harmony and national integration was organised by Centre for Study of Society and Secularism on 20th February 2016. The annually held cultural event was organised in collaboration with the University Department of Civics and Politics at the University of Mumbai at the Kalina campus. The event was supported by the Joan Memorial Fund.  The event saw the presence of about 100 people committed to the cause of harmony.  Shri. Amrendra Dhaneshwar and Smt. Neela Bhagwat, renowned classical artists of the Gawalior Gharana, Ustad Raja Miya of the Agra Gharana and Radhika Sood Nayak performed in the first half of the event. Accompanying them was Smt. Mukta Raste on the Tabla and Shri. Sangeet Mishra on Sarangi. Radhika Sood Nayak gave a soulful performance of Bulleh Shah’s poetry called Chall Bulleya, chall othey challiye jithay sarey anney, which says Bulleh Shah; let’s go to a place where everyone is blind. The song brought out the poets desire to go to a place where no one is better or worse than anyone else and where everybody is equal. Ustaad Raja Miya accompanied by Naved sang a song a Sufi composition that spoke of the Love between Ram and Sita. He also gave an additional wonderful rendition of Allah. Shri Amrendra presented a song of the description of Allah by Sufi saints and a composition of Lord Ram playing Holi with his wife Sita. Smt. Neela Bhagat then presented a song in praise of Lord Dattatreya.

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The second half of the evening was a set of five dances performed by the world well-known Odissi artist Jhelum Paranjpe along with other artists of the Smitalay Odissi Dance School. The first performance a dance on the song Khara to Ekachi Dharma Jagala Prem Arpave, a song expounding Love as the only true religion pleasingly invigorated the audience with its message. This was followed by a solo performance on a song in which Sal Baig the Muslim poet and devotee of Lord Jaganath asks of the Lord to rescue him.  In the form of a leper Sal Baig wants to see death and makes a plea to the Lord to be rescued.

The performance of Chokhamela depicted the story of Chokhamela a low caste man striving to seek the Lord Vitthal for which he is shunned by the upper caste.  While the society shuns him, it is the Lord himself who appears to Chokhamela and his soul is content while he is left grateful and speechless. The performance brought out the message of the Love of God that shows no bias even as men are judgemental towards their fellow beings.

A delightful performance on national integration combining features of local folk dance like Lavani with Odissi which sent patriotic vibes through the audience marked the final performance of the evening. The show ended with a brief vote of appreciation and thanks by Mr. Irfan Engineer, Director at the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.

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