Ruhaniyat: A Celebration Of Mysticism On The Indian Subcontinent

Ruhaniyat |© Ajaiberwal
Ruhaniyat |© Ajaiberwal
Among the many music festivals to which Mumbai plays host, Ruhaniyat – The All India Sufi and Mystic Music Festival stands out in a variety of ways. This traveling music festival is a much needed yet only-of-its-kind celebration of the over 1,000-year-old tradition of Sufi music on the Indian subcontinent.

The festival was founded in 2001 by Mahesh Babu and Nandini Mahesh, Directors of Banyan Tree Events, which has a special focus on discovering and nurturing the rich cultural heritage of rare, traditional performing arts in India through its events. Having successfully completed its 15th edition last year, the festival has carved a unique position for itself in the global music scene for its celebration of mystic traditions and messages from a range of cultures, and for the platform it provides to the mystics of today to collaborate and impart their messages.

Ruhaniyat © Ajaiberwal

Ruhaniyat literally translates to ‘soulfulness’. And accordingly, the very essence of the festival is the desire to rekindle the teachings of Sufi saints and mystics from the past ‘that talk of total surrender of ego, overcoming hatred, universal brotherhood, peace, harmony and oneness of all creation.’

Spanning three months, the festival usually travels to a handful of cities around the country, often including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Pune and Hyderabad. As it travels, it seeks to connect with and absorb the unique traditions, musical styles, and languages of the location with the participation of local artists and audiences.

The festival features acclaimed artists creating work in classical and folk in addition to Sufi music. Prominent performers in the past editions of the festival has included Parvathy Baul, the Warsi Brothers, Ateeq Hussain Khan, Hafiza Begum Choudhury, Rakesh Bhatt and Vithal Rao, among others. The festival also features a considerable amount of international artists who bring their own cultural traditions and messages, with countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Syria being featured almost regularly.

Parvati Baul at Ruhaniyat ©Ajaiberwal/WikiCommons

The 15th edition of the festival saw it becoming a unique platform showcasing musical productions such as Khoomei throat singers from the mountains of Mongolia as well as Nagoni and Balafon singers from Bamako in Mali, for the first time in an Indian event of this scale. More importantly, these artists will be collaborating with each other and with Indian musicians, making this event all the more remarkable.