Harvard to host Lucknow storyteller’s ‘qissa’ on Amir Khusrau on October 8 – art and culture


Lucknow’s popular storyteller Himanshu Bajpai is set to enthral a global audience with tales on Sufi poet-philosopher Amir Khusrau at a special event being organised by the US-based Harvard University.

To be held on October 8, Bajpai’s session is titled “Khusrau’s River of Love: Cosmopolitanism and Inclusion in South Asian Traditions” and will be a part of the fourth annual ‘Worldwide Week’ at Harvard, according to the varsity’s invitation letter to him.

Bajpai, 33, will be accompanied by international singer Ali Sethi in the musical storytelling session interspersed with analysis and commentary by Harvard professor Ali Asani, stated The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute linked with the Harvard University.  

“The ‘Worldwide Week’ will be delivered entirely virtually for fall 2020, allowing audiences to join in from all over the world and affording attendees even greater opportunities for participation,” it stated.

The ‘Worldwide Week’ kicked off on October 2 and shall continue with events through October 9, it added.

Bajpai, a qissa-go, an author and expert in the Awadhi or ‘Lucknawi’ culture, said it was a matter of pride that the world renowned university has chosen him for the programme.

“Through my art, I have also tried to highlight the great culture of Hindustan and especially my city Lucknow, and I am looking forward to doing it from the Harvard’s platform also,” he said.

“Be it the languages, the literature or the music of the Indian subcontinent, Amir Khusrau has made an unforgettable contribution in all fields,” he added.

Born in the Raja Bazar area of Old Lucknow, the storyteller is among the few who have had a major influence on making the traditional qissa-goi (story-telling) a full-time profession in recent years.

Over the last six years, he has travelled to countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe performing more than 150 story-telling sessions on subjects like ‘Kakori’, Mahatma Gandhi, Kabir, Chandrakanta, Tulsidas, and Mangoes. “Qissa goi is one of the oldest art traditions in India, and the world. The form that I practice is daastan-goi that belongs to the medieval era. My city Lucknow is considered the epicentre of the medieval era of qissa goi, the ‘Mecca’ of daastan goi, in eighteenth and nineteenth century,” he told PTI.

“Now I am the only full-time qissa go in Lucknow and hoping to take this tradition further,” added Bajpai, who was honoured by President Ram Nath Kovind in February 2020 for his art at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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