Diwali Pahat: The Diwali dawn concerts that draw a huge audience


How Diwali Pahat, the early morning concerts that originally began in Pune are now held across the globe

How Diwali Pahat, the early morning concerts that originally began in Pune are now held across the globe

The festival of lights is celebrated throughout the country with the same fervour but in a variety of ways. The Bengalis will have their ‘Bhoot Chaturdashi’, the Gujaratis will begin their new year, the Goans will burn the colourful effigies of Narkasur, and the Odias will worship their ancestors.

Apart from religious, Diwali also has social, cultural, and literary significance, particularly in Maharashtra.

Somewhere in the early 1990s, Satish Desai organised a cultural programme in Pune under the auspices of his organisation, ‘Tridal’. Such an event was not unusual for Pune, which is the de facto cultural capital of the state. But what made this programme different was that the concert was held at the break of dawn on Diwali day. And dawn has a special significance during Diwali, as it marks the journey from darkness to light.

Though this radical idea didn’t take off in the first year, Satish Desai persisted and soon rasikas responded positively.

Artistes performing at Diwali Pahat of the Mumbai-based Sanand Nyas that has been organising these concerts for the past two decades.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Pahat in Mumbai

In Mumbai, Diwali Pahat (Diwali dawn concerts) was pioneered by organisations like Chaturang that have featured many a successful artiste.

In the next five to ten years, this idea grew to the point that Diwali Pahat were held not only in Maharashtra but also organised by the Maharashtra mandals in Indore, Hyderabad, and Baroda. Ashish Joshi, who along with Anjali Jambhekar has been organising these concerts in Baroda, says that the programme draws a huge crowd each year.

In the past few years, the Pahat fever has reached the shores of the U.K., Canada, the U.S, and Dubai.

Hindustani classical music or Natyasangeet add to the festive cheer at these concerts. Apart from sugam sangeet, film and folk music even poetry recitation or forms like ‘Abhivaachan’ (theatrical reading) are performed.

You would think that this activity would have dipped after the Internet invasion. But it is surprising and also relieving that to this day the concert halls are full at 5.30 a.m. on a Deepavali dawn in any city of Maharashtra.

Digital pahat

Smrutigandha, a facebook page, organised the first Digital Diwali Pahat when they streamed the concert in 2017. Amit Tillu of Smrutigandha, says that that their activity did not stop even in the two years of pandemic. Last year, the concert garnered seven lakh views.

Though classical music concerts have seen a slight dip at Pahat, hopefully they will see a rise again.

As an artiste I find this concept unique, and the experience, humbling. Humbling because I am filled with gratitude that people devote their special festival time to listen to you. Diwali Pahat may be a relatively new phenomenon, but it has already become a part of tradition. I remember Michael Novak’s words: “Tradition lives because young people come along who catch its romance and add new glories to it.”

The writer is a Mumbai-based music composer.

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