The King's Speech
An excerpt from our conversation with His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur.
What was Jodhpur like when you were young?
It was a lovely city; quiet, peaceful and without tourism. In those days, people pursued the Golden Triangle of Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi; 'Jaipur' being 'Rajasthan'. When I came back in 1970 after attending university in England, I thought I’d try and make some changes and put Jodhpur on the map. It started with the opening of the Umaid Bhawan Palace as a hotel and also a museum at Mehrangarh Fort.
How did you veer towards classical and Sufi music?
I like to experiment with all genres of music but I’m particularly fond of Indian classical and jazz. There was a time when Indian classical music didn’t mean much to me. It was when I attended a concert featuring Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Allah Rakha, and Zakir Hussain in Kolkata that it all came together for me. I was in my teens.
How did the idea of a Sufi music festival come about?
We had undertaken the restoration of the Ahhichatragarh Fort in Naguar with the Helen Hamlyn Trust a long time back. As we neared completion, I wished the world would see it. That’s when we came up with the idea of a music festival at the fort. We took to Sufi because the disciple of Ahmed Chishti went to Nagaur, eventually making it the second seat of Sufi after Ajmer. It was a natural connection.
How do you think the festival has evolved over the years?
After ten years, we have now reached a stage of smooth sailing, though we continue to struggle with sponsors. We’ve got regular visitors and an increase in international tourists who are knowledgeable about this genre. The festival creates a wonderful setting for people to mingle and learn new things.