It was a bright morning. Everyone was busy with their work. At around 11 am I was standing near the main gate of our institution Gram Swaraj Sangh to welcome our first guests for the three day travel music festival– students and volunteers from Kaushala. I was very interested to know about this school when I first heard about the curriculum they follow. In Kaushala, they have developed a syllabus of their own. Students can study the subjects of their interest. While some focus on music, others focus on sports or designing or crafts and so on. Their syllabus and way of teaching is really intriguing. It is quite different from normal schools and routine. Classes are not divided by grades but by different activities. Anyone of age 10-18 can take admission and sit in the class they are interested in.
The guest students of Kaushala were 15 in total and they had cycled over 500 km to reach our campus (GSS). It took them 12 days to cover this distance. They do this to explore different villages, meet people, know about their work (kutch ni kala) and learn new things.
Along with the students most of our guests from different parts of India arrived by the evening of 30th November. We could host around 200 guests in our campus. To make their stay more engaging we had planned the stay of two guests with a family living on the campus. This made it easy for everyone to manage, and also for our guests to know more about the campus. Preparation for this event almost started 3 months ago with registration and followed by other formalities. Guests were warmly welcomed by GSS in the campus, and all the arrangements were done before they arrived.
Kabir Yatra is a travelling folk music festival, celebrating the oral traditions of the bhakti, nirgun and sufi poetries of Kabir, Mirabai and other saints and sages who shared a deep mystic ecstasy sublimated in their poetic voices.
This time Vasundhra ni vaani (Kabir Yatra) was organized by Gram Swaraj Sangh, from 1st – 3rd December. This folk music festival voyages across the rural region of Gujarat every year sharing a spiritual environment for musicians, artists and seekers to immerse themselves in the world of soul driven poetry and music. It features performers and singers from different communities who come together and communicate the works of folk poets through their music. Performers and guests travel in a group from one village to another. They stay with villagers, eat with them and move to another village on the next day.
Our group (performers) decided that we should go to the villagers to spread love, spend some time with them and get to know them better. Where to travel, which village to cover, no. of guests, their stay, food and everything else was planned by us. Everyone was busy doing their work with full enthusiasm since it was a big music festival. As the guests were interested in understanding more about our work, we made sure to provide them a campus tour to help them understand how we follow and work on the Gandhian philosophy.
We believe in the idea of physical labour and self dependence and this is followed by every individual of this campus. We promote girls’ education and also live with love and respect for others. With our interactions with them we tried to instil an understanding and appreciation of the atmosphere of GSS.
On the morning of 1st December, we started our journey from Nilpar (GSS) to a nearby village. Everyone from that village had gathered at one place. It felt like a huge celebration because of the decorations, arrangement, and most importantly, the excitement of the crowd. The celebration of music festival started with the poetry of Kabir.
We travelled to two others villages on the same day. Though the travelling was far and tiring, the music eased it all. In this way, we covered 6 different villages, spent time with people and stayed with them, which was an amazing experience for me.
There were three groups from different places with different types of music forms and musical instruments. All based on Meerabai and Kabir. So energised, devoted and melodious they were, and had such power in their singing that no one could stop themselves from standing and dancing. Everyone around was deeply engrossed in music.
Gaura devi, 85 years old, was one of the performers. Her voice is full of energy and power, amazing everyone around her. Even without sight and despite her age, she sings so well, lifting the spirits of the crowd. She is very down to earth and lives a simple life. I found her very inspirational.
It was my first time watching Bawls of Bengal singing and dancing, and playing khamok, a popular Bengali instrument. It was like painting the air with enchanting melodies that touch the heart. They dance on the beat of their music while singing, and the audience couldn’t control themselves from dancing with the Bawls either.
It was an enriching experience despite the numerous tasks I had to manage, including registration and overall event management. I traveled around different villages, talked with locals, shared meals, and learned about their beliefs and ways of life. I helped with organizing and making sure things ran smoothly. Along the way, I discovered a lot about the traditions of different communities and what makes their culture unique. It was eye-opening to see how they live and what they believe in. These experiences helped me grow and understand their world better.
It was interesting to observe how we stay and live for 4-5 days with complete strangers from very different regions, and at the end we all end up becoming good friends. I believe that music plays a crucial role in connecting people together.