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Naad Yatra - Sona Pani

23- 26th May, 2019

Instead of giving an official account of naadyatra, we invited one of the participants, Sidharth Sahai to share his experience.....

Here is a photo essay by him

I have been fortunate enough to have had music in my life since childhood, but my journey in the beautiful world of Dhrupad really started around 2 years ago.  Dhrupad to me is not just a form of singing, it’s a way of life, it’s a path which takes me to the inner sanctums of my very own self. My classes with my teacher act as a catalyst, slowly transforming, slowly evolving, slowly re-engineering.

When I heard about Naadyatra in March this year, I saw it as an opportunity to spend some additional quality time with my teacher. The location and the itinerary did not matter.  All that mattered was the opportunity to delve deeper in this mesmerizing world of Dhrupad. So I registered for the event and started waiting for the day of our travel.


On the morning of 23rd of May, I promptly caught the train to Kathgodam, all armored with my small back pack, a book and my precious tanpura.  Accompanied by like minded and generous fellow-travelers, the journey to Kathgodam was both enjoyable as well as re-assuring.  As we approached our destination, the sight of the mighty Himalayas moved a certain emotional string in our hearts.

We got off the train and embarked on our comfortable two-hour cab ride to “The Himalayan Village Sonapani”.  The en-route breaks for “Pahari-samosas” and “kafals” made the journey even more “satisfying”. Sonapani is a beautiful piece of heaven, tucked in an almost untouched corner of the Kumaon hills in the state of Uttrakhand.  It’s quiet, its serene and is everything a heart could desire when looking for a place to unwind. We were welcomed by the gracious owner and his family and of course the beautiful spread of delightful lunch which was like nectar to our famished stomachs!


The resort itself is a well spread out property with small but elegantly laid cottages which are connected by beautiful flower bed laden natural paths.  Each step transports one to a world of dreams which revolves around nature in its complete grandeur. With the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas and the spreads of large green woods ahead, this truly is a piece of heaven on earth.

In the evening we all got together at the patio overlooking the beautiful blue mountains to set the tone of the retreat by talking about our own musical journeys and expectations from the yatra itself.  It was a wondrous experience for me. It underscored the unity of our journeys and also gave a fresh perspective on the challenges one faces when walking on the path of one’s true calling. The discussion was both candid as well as heart felt. It was truly overwhelming to witness the opening of these treasure-boxes of experience and wisdom.  I felt like there was a little bit of me in each of the stories which these courageous people narrated. These stories were filled with hardships, bitter-sweet experiences, challenges and nostalgia. These were stories of hope and resilience.


The session was followed by a performance by Sajan Sankaran, student of the Padma Shri Gundecha Brothers. His beautiful renditions of the evening raags in the backdrop of these enthralling Himalayan mountains truly cast a spell on those present. The performance was followed by a sumptuous dinner, post which we retired to our respective cottages in laps of this picturesque resort.


The next morning started with a session of yoga and Vedic chants led by Vandana Ghadiyali ji. The sessions successfully set a sacred tone for the entire day.  This was followed by a session on “Kharaj Riyaz”- early morning practicing of the lower notes, led by the talented Bihar Bothers, Sri Sanjeev Jha & Sri Manish Kumar. While practicing the notes one felt a powerful pull towards certain inner chambers of consciousness, which were completely unexplored up until this point.  The experience was levitating and annihilating at the same time!


This was followed by a long walk into the woods surrounding the resort.  This walk gave us a unique opportunity to interact with each other and share some light moments drenched in the emotion of companionship.  This walk also gave me an opportunity to interact with my teacher on some of my personal challenges around my riyaz and musical understanding. The scenic beauty and the tranquility of our surroundings completely rejuvenated us.


After the walk and a fabulous breakfast, we all got together in the woods itself for a music session with our beloved teachers, the Bihar Brothers.  The setting was truly magical. Sitting in the laps of nature and trying to re-connect to our own individual Shadaj or Sa was a spiritually uplifting moment. Through the activity we were able to access our inner most selves in a way which was unknown to most in the group.

The evening brought along with itself a divinely rhythmic experience for us.  Sri Ramesh Chandra Joshi; a disciple of Sri Akhilesh Gundecha ji; took the group through the powerful world of Pakhawaj, the ancient percussion instrument. He underscored the importance of taal, both in music as well as life, and taught us the Chautaal. He emphasized the purity of the taal and the strength required to immaculate the same. This was a very important session for most of us aspiring to learn music, as without the understanding of rythm, one could not expect to go too far in this field.


Post the session, the group was treated with a riveting performance by the Bihar Brothers.  Their rendition of raag Bihag swept everyone off their feet. With each alap the listeners were being elevated to a new level of consciousness. Our beautiful surroundings seemed to disappear, the noises of birds and the thundering clouds seemed to have been quietened by the swirling swaras, our very own thoughts just melted away in the beauty of their singing.  The evening was truly magical, it was a testimony of the power of music and the impact it could have on people like us.  As we retired to our cottages that day, one couldn’t help but experience a small but significant shift in one’s own self-understanding and that of the world we’ve inherited.


We were woken up by the clear Himalyan sky next morning.  The beautiful mountain ranges of Nanda Devi and the Trishool Parwat graced us with their vision.  It was a divine experience wherein Mother Nature compelled us all to be in awe and bow our heads in devotion and humility.


Post our Kharaj practice, we were taken through some yoga practices aimed at helping us cope with our modern-day city lives.  These were asanas which were to prepare us to live a more balanced city life. Vandana ji took the efforts of giving individual attention to correct out strained postures. The session was informative as well as a lot of fun.


After breakfast we got together under a canopy overlooking the lush green Himalayan valleys for our next session with our teachers. We were introduced to the beautiful raag Bhupali and were taught some basic alaaps bound in this “audav” five-noted raag. Its was the sheer brilliance of our teachers that the group was able to imbibe to their teachings almost instantaneously. People who had never sung a single note, were able to sing the alaaps in a matter of an hour. There must have been some Divine intervention, the raag simply flowed on its own.  Or maybe it was the power of our teacher’s intentions…… All I can say is that it was a very powerful and a moving experience. Through the session we got a glimpse into the idea of “dhyan through music”, which was one of the key objectives of the retreat.


The evening was an equally magical affair. Our teachers started teaching us a bandish - simply a song, based on raag bhupali.  Tu he Chandra, tu he surya, tu hi pawan………, as they took us from one line to another it seemed like the elements which were being evoked through the song were physically presenting themselves to illustrate and emote. For me, this was one of the most powerful experiences from the retreat wherein at the very uttering of the name of an element, it was manifesting infront of us in all its glory.  May be it was the Grace of our teachers or the power of music itself or maybe they all cumulatively opened up a certain dimension in one’s inner being…….can’t say what it was. But what I can say is that the memory of that evening would remain with me for a long time to come.


This powerful session was followed by a soulful performance by our teachers, The Bihar Brothers, Sanjeev Ji & Manish Ji. To our pleasant surprise they decided to extend our ecstasy by singing the very raag they introduced to us earlier: Bhupali.  Each note was cast in perfection, each syllable was a sign of mastery on the craft. As they progressed, the entire audience was spell-bound. We were all transported to a completely different dimension. It seemed like we were listening to them for the first time. Time literally flew by. There were moments where I couldn’t even feel my own breath, to me the world seemed to have submerged itself in the laps of these beautiful notes from this sublime raag. As they closed their performance I simply bowed and retreated back towards the silent but vibrant valley, cause I was speechless and completely enchanted

The next morning was a special one.  We were all asked to reach a lower deck, almost in the middle of the thick woods, where the Bihar Brothers were to give their final performance of the yatra. This was a wooden deck with branches of trees drooping over, giving it a surreal, almost mystical look.  That day the brothers decided to sing raag Ahir Bhiarav.  This ancient raag is usually sung in the mornings and hence was perfect for the occasion.  As the performance progressed, rays of the sun started showering from the middle of the thick branches, almost trying to physically touch the beautiful musical notes. And then suddenly right in the middle of the performance a large sound of thousand of crickets murmuring together enveloped the entire gathering. The sound was impossible to miss and was empowering all other sounds.  But to our delight, and as pointed out by the performers as well, the sound was in perfect sync with the taal playing on the pakhawaj.  It was like, the crickets were all accompanying and supporting the performance by providing rhythmic support.  Things like this cannot be planned. These are once in a life time experiences which cannot be replicated and are purely accidental.  


This was a perfect finale to a perfect retreat. A lot of credit goes to Sangeeta ji, Sanjeev Sir & Manish bhai who put in a lot of effort in organizing the event.  They planned each and every detail of the event so meticulously that the whole retreat seemed like an organic movement of activities customized to the needs of all the individual participants.

We left with a heart full of memories and a renewed love and appreciation for music and the tranquility and peace which it can bestow on its devotees.


Sidharth Sahai

Sidharth is a senior manager at an mnc

He has been pursuing Dhrupad training under the tutelage of Sanjeev Jha ji since 2017

He is also an avid blogger since 2010

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