The recently concluded 15th edition of the Mahindra Sanatkada Festival was a unique extravaganza that celebrated Lucknow's heritage through dance, drama, film, history, literature, music and cuisine, complete with a weaves and craft bazaar. Held at two of the city's iconic heritage properties, Safed Baradari and Salempur House, the festival, which is dedicated to Indira Mahindra's vision, was indeed a cultural feast for the senses.
This year, the festival's theme, "Ashiqana Lucknow," was all about celebrating love in all its forms and splendour and the city's tryst with it.
"In today's world where hatred abounds, we must remind ourselves about Love in all its splendour and forms," said Jay Shah, Head of Cultural Outreach, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd.
To explore the theme's true essence, the team met and interviewed about 100 people from across the city about their personal interpretations of love in the run-up to the festival. During the process, they explored the seven stages of love: dilkashi (attraction), uns (infatuation), ishq (love), aqeedat (trust), ibaadat (worship), junoon (madness) and sukoon (peace). Their research led them to create a few short films—Ishq Kya Hai?," "Ishq ke Naam Pe," "Kuch Ishq Kiya, Kuch Kaam Kiya," "Ishq aur Shaadi," and "Love and Peace"—that were screened during the festival.
The heartbeat of the festival was the Crafts and Weaves Bazaar. This year, a total of 113 craft groups participated from around the country and the world, prominent among whom were Todi embroidery products from Tamil Nadu, handloom from West Bengal, ikkat work from Uzbekistan, northeast weaves and jewellery from Assam, phulkari work from Punjab, jewellery from Afghanistan, tribal streetwear and Kashmiri home decor.
The festival also launched the Meera and Satti Kuckreja Husn-e-Karigari Award to celebrate the unsung kaarigars of Lucknow. Shahid Hussain, who has been a "rafoogar" in the city for the last 40 years, deservedly won the award. Further, "Talking Threads," a play by Swatantra Talim, inspired by real-life stories of women chikan-kaarigari artisans, was staged on the inaugural day.
Given that Lucknow is an epicentre of poetry, the festival also included Urdu shayari recitings, bait baazis (verbal game and a type of Urdu poetry), mushairas (poetic symposium where poets gather to perform their works), dastaangoi (a Persian storytelling tradition) and even a game of antakshari.
In addition, the festival also hosted a number of talks by prominent personalities, such as art historian and curator Naman Ahuja, noted filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, writer and filmmaker Paromita Vohra, as well as authors Mehr Afshan Farooqi and Parmesh Shahani. Culture enthusiasts also got to indulge in several heritage walks and car tours curated across diverse themes, such as Nashte ki Talab, Awadh Ke Qasbati Rang, Francisi Awadhi Ta'alluqaat and Feminists of Awadh, all of which explored different aspects of the city. Music lovers were in for a treat, with a number of lyrical performances, such as ghazals, a dawn concert by Hindustani classical vocalist Manjusha Patil, as well as a Punjabi folk-fusion performance by singer-songwriter Banat featuring Celtic folk violinist Tamara.
The festival also had enough to floor the foodies, who were spoilt for choice. From the famous tunday, chapli and galouti kebabs to biryani and shawarma, the festival had it all. The well-known Awadhi home-cooked food festival is another annual feature, where mouth-watering delicacies, such as Lal Mirch ka Keema, Chicken Qorma, Achaari Fish and Gosht Nihari, are prepared and served by home cooks. All in all, the intimate Mahindra Sanatkada Festival was a complete cultural immersion experience in Lucknow.