Maharaj fell in love with the arts, after watching his Guru (teacher) Madhurita Sarang perform in Indian.
Maharaj fell in love with the arts, after watching his Guru (teacher) Madhurita Sarang perform in Indian.
Manesh Maharaj is exposing and reviving solo artists in the Indian classical music and dance discipline.
Manesh Maharaj is exposing and reviving solo artists in the Indian classical music and dance discipline.

Aimed at exposing and reviving solo artists in the Indian classical music and dance discipline, Durban’s Kathak artist, Manesh Maharaj, formed the festival Sankalp.

Maharaj fell in love with the arts, and more specifically Kathak, after watching his Guru (teacher) Madhurita Sarang perform in Indian.

He then began his formal training in this art form in Mumbai, under the same Guru, where he spent seven years undergoing rigorous training. He is also a qualified musician and on returning to South African, launched the Kala Darshan Institute of Classical Music.

Then, three years ago, under his directorship came Sankalp.

Sankalp, a Sanskrit term which translates to “a solemn vow to uphold one’s purpose with the highest trust”, is a motto that holds strongly for Maharaj.

“I recognise my purpose to be the preservation of Indian classical music and dance in South Africa as this needs attention, if not we could lose a precious aspect of our heritage and identity. I also endeavour to pass on this heritage to the next generation as the standard, respect and sanctity of our classical performing arts lay in their hands,” he said.

In its third year, the festival educates and enlightens the Indian community of their cultural heritage of the classical arts. It also inspires youth to pursue the classical arts as a means towards self empowerment and self realisation steering them away from the negative influences and vices of life.

“The festival is for young and aspiring artists who wish to showcase their talents, seasoned exponents of classical music and dance as well as artists who have taken a respite from a performing career and wish to make a comeback. Sankalp affords them a conducive platform and a rare opportunity to present their work and share their artistry with the audience,” Maharaj said.

The festival line-up include, Rory Booth, a Kathak performer, Pradosh Maharaj, a Hindustani vocalist, Mahesh Narotam, an Indian bamboo side blown flute player, Pruthvi Karpoormath a Carnatic vocalist, Rishalan and Cameron Govender, both Bharata Natyam dancers and Taresh Harreeparshad a Kathak performer.

The highlight of the festival is the launch of an all-male classical Indian dance ensemble titled, Purusham, meaning “the cosmic man”.

Maharaj said this group was inspired by his experiences in the discipline, where young males who have the potential and passion to dance lack the support of their family.

“In some cases a complete negative stance has been adopted by parents if their sons wish to pursue dance. Purusham aims to create a conducive platform for male dancers and to eradicate stereotypes. It hopes to inspire male dancers to follow their passion and for society to recognise Indian classical dance as an integral part of our cultural heritage,” explained Maharaj.

He said, as a classical artist himself, the need to preserve Indian culture and heritage required serious attention.

“As an Indian community we are largely influenced and sometimes defined by what is seen in Bollywood movies. This is misleading. The true essence of culture is reflected through the classical performing arts.  This gives a community its depth, richness and identity. It provides us with a legacy that will help sustain the culture of a community, strengthening its roots in the process,” Maharaj said.

*Kala Darshan will be presenting SANKALP – the 3rd annual festival of classical music and dance on May 27 at the Thekwini College Auditorium (262 Daintree Avenue, Asherville) at 5:30pm.

Tickets will be available at the door prior to the performance or can be reserved by calling 0824226865.