Varanasi’s Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh aka The Sankat Mochan Music is a musical event held in the Sankat Mochan Temple, throws the western concept of the concert out of the window. It celebrates the city, and the Indian classical music tradition.
Since there is no hall, the audience adjusts themselves within the premises of the temple even as devotees continue to visit the temple to pray. The festival is ‘Indian’ at its core and entrenched in local mores. The stage is simple, small and basic but the event is open with free access to everyone who wishes to witness it. Here art isn’t appreciated by loud, booming claps but by a resounding ‘Har Har Mahadev’ yelled in appreciation with both hands stretched.
Starting as a 2 day event back in the 1960’s, it is now in its 97th edition in the year 2019 and a 6 day event that takes place every night at 7: 30 PM until the wee hours of the morning. Since the use of mobile phones is banned in the temple premises, a photo exhibition is organised at the venue to capture moments.
The Prasad shop every year at the venue is highly praised. The sweets here are well-known even in this town of sweets, lal peda and besan laddu being the stars. If you’re thirsty, the ‘uncle’ at the water-point will hum and sing as he pours water into your cupped palms.
Nandini Majumdar in ‘Why the Sankat Mochan Music Festival in Banaras is so special’ writes:
“A festival like Sankat Mochan – in which artists perform for free, citing their devotion to Hanuman as a reason for doing so, in which ordinary people turn up in the hundreds all night long to listen to ‘classical’ music, and in which the overall ethos is one of the intimate, the humble and the humane – is an example of living, practiced, everyday bhakti that is quite amazing to witness, and is a striking reminder of how it continues to infuse life for many in India’s smaller places with meaning.”
The festival thrives on chaos and defies logic but with an indefinable quality that makes it work– a true ‘Banarasi’ trait.