Madhya Pradesh: Centuries-old Tradition in Timeless Glory

For the culturally-minded the state offers many attractions, from Gond tribal art and indigenous textiles to royal architecture and symbols of spirituality.  
Orchha's Jahangir Mahal built by Bir Singh Deo for Mughal Emperor Jahangir, is probably the pinnacle of Bundeli architecture, effortlessly blending Hindu and Islamic styles to create an enduring masterpiece. Photo by Hoshner Reporter.
Orchha's Jahangir Mahal built by Bir Singh Deo for Mughal Emperor Jahangir, is probably the pinnacle of Bundeli architecture, effortlessly blending Hindu and Islamic styles to create an enduring masterpiece. Photo by Hoshner Reporter.

The country’s second-largest state is home to a rich and storied heritage. From the unique Bundeli style of architecture to the complex and layered stories depicted through the simple, colourful Gond paintings, a wealth of cultural treasures, from art and architecture to textile and music, showcasing the rich history and traditions of Madhya Pradesh is on offer.

 

Art

 Gond art was traditionally practiced on the walls of village homes, but mediums are now varied with artists painting on paper, canvas and acrylic. The themes however remain focused on animals, nature and the gods. Photo by Hoshner Reporter.


Gond art was traditionally practiced on the walls of village homes, but mediums are now varied with artists painting on paper, canvas and acrylic. The themes however remain focused on animals, nature and the gods. Photo by Hoshner Reporter.

What is arguably some of the most beautiful tribal art in India comes from the dense forests of the Amarkantak range in eastern Madhya Pradesh, the home to the Gond tribes. The Gonds, said to be Dravidian origin, are amongst the earliest inhabitants of the subcontinent, tracing their roots back to a pre-Aryan era. Drawing on a rich tradition of oral history and stories, Gond art embodies and expresses the close, symbiotic relationship they share with nature, animals, birds and the forest, their home. The Gonds believe that good images beget good luck and the vibrant paintings, using natural colours and dyes, first appeared on the walls of their homes to ward off evil. Despite Gond art gaining mainstream acclaim in the1980s, the themes in their art have remained the same. Today, famous Gond artists bring their stories to homes across the country through both canvases and wall art.

Visit: The Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum in Bhopal for a glimpse into the lives and traditions of the Gond tribes. You can experience their beautiful art at a unique Gond museum in the Singhinawa Resort in Kanha.

 

Music

Set in the shadow of the grander tomb of his mentor, Ghaus Mohammed, Tansen's Tomb and its surrounding gardens offer a peaceful space amidst the bustling city. Photo by Hoshner Reporter.

Set in the shadow of the grander tomb of his mentor, Ghaus Mohammed, Tansen’s Tomb and its surrounding gardens offer a peaceful space amidst the bustling city. Photo by Hoshner Reporter.

Ever been spellbound by the soaring melody of a Hindustani classical raga? One of the navratnas of Akbar’s court, Mian Tansen as he was named by Akbar, grew up under the patronage of the maharajas of Rewa, a princely state in north-eastern Madhya Pradesh. Considered by many to be the father of modern Hindustani classical music, Tansen codified the tangle of ragas, organising them into 400 properly delineated ones, leaving behind a rich musical legacy. It is said that Tansen’s voice could ignite lamps and cause the skies to open up. Tansen lives on in his beautiful ragas and still commands such reverence that many aspiring singers continue to visit his tomb under a tamarind tree in Gwalior. It is believed that eating the leaves of that bestow a person with a voice as divine as that of the maestro!

Visit: The Tansen Music Festival held near his tomb in the Behat village of Gwalior district, from 16-20 December to celebrate the virtuoso and his living musical legacy.

  • Ambika Vishwanath is the co-founder of The reDiscovery Project. A junkie for new places, she loves random chats over coffee (or whisky) and believes that there is a story to be found around every corner. She tweets @reDiscoveryProj and @theidlethinker.

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