When the first Taj Mahotsava was held 23 years ago no one gave it half a chance that it would gain in strength from year to year and become a worthy platform for artistic and cultural expression.
Through thunder, heavy downpours, fire, controversies and all manner of man-made problems, the show has gone on merrily, providing a rich feast for the locals who had long ago lost interest in traditional fairs and community get-togethers.
The Taj Mahotsava is now an annual event that is anxiously looked forward to by all segments of society in Agra. This year – the 10-day-long event began Tuesday – some of the programmes have been planned at indoor auditoria, but the chief focus would continue to be on the Shilpgram venue.
Over the years, the event has the whole of Agra hooked for its duration. All roads lead to Shilpgram, with the district authorities providing 20-odd buses from five points in the city to ferry locals to the festival.
The whole city gets involved in festivities and cultural presentations which are proving quite popular. The media too gets involved in discussing arts and crafts, which would not be the case if the festival was not held. In a city where nothing much happens on the culture front, the Taj Mahotsava is indeed a ray of hope.
“During the ten days, hundreds of young talent from schools and colleges get ample opportunities to showcase their achievements. The traditional media, the folk singers, the dying arts like Bhagat singing, the local theatre, the poets, artistes, collectors and photographers all get huge opportunities to exhibit their skills,” said Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
But there’s a flip side.
“It’s a pity that the local tourism bodies do not lend a helping hand or support the festival. Their indifference is not desirable,” a tourist guide commented.
Even so, this is one event which brings together private sponsors and local government departments in a common venture that allows people an outlet for creative expression.
Organised by the Taj Mahotsava Samiti propped up by Uttar Pradesh Tourism, the Mahotsava is a joint venture of the district administration, the municipal corporation, Agra Development Authority and the Cantonment Board. The local tourism industry comprising hotels, travel agencies, tourist guides, emporia and other private segments generally keeps away from the festival.
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Sydney)