Revisiting the Urdu heritage

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The ghazals of Begum Akhtar echoed in the bustling lanes of Old Delhi, Ghalib revisited his old haunts, mushairas had listeners hooked for hours, chaar bait (a traditional style of singing in Urdu), qawwali lifted the spirits and sufi renditions soothed the souls. Centuries old traditions came back to life against the backdrop of the magnificient Red Fort during the five-day long Urdu Heritage Festival organised by Urdu Academy Delhi, Department of Art, Culture and Languages.
The event, says organiser Anis Azmi from Urdu Academy, is an attempt to restore the Urdu language and traditions, which has been a part of the city culture. “Not just Urdu culture but the language is also getting a fillip because of social media, internet and television. From ghazals, qawwali, mushaira, sufi music to chaar bait performance (sung to uplift the spirit of soldiers during battles) we have tried to cover various aspect of Urdu tradition,” says Anis.
Some of the country’s most loved Urdu poets including the likes of Waseem Bareilvi, Ahmar Jalesri, Kaleem Qaiser, Qasim Imam, Rahi Bastavi, Agha Sarosh and Rehana Shaheen were among the participants. Talking about youngsters increasingly forgetting the Urdu heritage, ghazal singer Mitali Singh says school students need to be introduced to Urdu language and culture. “It is an important part of Indian heritage and we should make efforts to revive it,” says Mitali, who performed with Bhupinder Singh at the festival. “I met many youngsters who attended a ghazal evening for the first time and came up to thank us for introducing them to the world of Urdu,” adds Bhupinder.
However, Vidya Shah who concluded the festival by singing Begum Akhtar’s ghazals insists that we need to think of innovative ways to retain the interest of youngsters in the language. “I believe presentation and packaging is very crucial. Uploading ghazals, qawwali and other videos on the online platforms will introduce youngsters to Urdu culture. During one of my performances in the city, we not just sang but also had a presentation on Begum Akhtar’s life. It was a big hit among the younger population of the city,” says Vidya.
Meanwhile we can only try to keep the tradition alive, says actor Danish Husain, who presented Daastan Goi at the festival. “We have been performing Daastan Goi for a while now and have seen an increase in interest among those who had forgotten the art of storytelling. It is a small effort in the monumental task,” he says.
The festival also had book exhibitions, calligraphic displays and sufiana kalams at stalls available at the venue.

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