The Manganiyars

With the upcoming Jodhpur RIFF which has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development,” we bring you a blog on the legendary Manganiyars by Malvika Singh.

The Mangiyar tradition is passed down through generations.
The Mangiyar tradition is passed down through generations.
Each Manganiyar is a specialist with his instrument of choice.
Each Manganiyar is a specialist with his instrument of choice.

The vast, unending swathes of sand and dune that is the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, has been home to some of the finest music of India. It was from here, between Jaisalmer and Barmer and beyond, that the Mangniyars, a community of musicians and singers, would move from hamlet to village, narrating the myths and fables, history and legends, of Kings and Conquerors, sages and saints from the region. Local people would feed and house these itinerant singers as they crisscrossed the land of their ancestors sharing history through music and song. Today, the Mangniyars continue to be the repository that conserve a very tactile, special and extraordinary oral tradition, keeping it alive for the generations that will follow.

Wild open spaces resound with the sound of their music: an orchestra of the khartal, akin to small castanets, the morchung which is much like the Jewish Harp, the Khamaicha that is the Mangniyars version of a mandolin, an upturned hollow earthern pot used as a percussion instrument, and the dholak, the drum, played with skill and dexterity, as the accompaniment to the singer. Their music is grounded in classical Indian ragas, complicated musical structures. Mangniyars men are trained in this art from the moment they are born. It is the only profession they know.

There is nothing more delightful than experiencing the music of the Manganiyars on the cool sands of The Serai, Jaisalmer, under a dome of stars.
There is nothing more delightful than experiencing the music of the Manganiyars on the cool sands of The Serai, Jaisalmer, under a dome of stars.
New Year's Eve 2010 saw a 100 Managniyars on the steps of The Serai, Jaisalmer for a private party. The sound that evening was a once in a lifetime experience.
New Year’s Eve 2010 saw a 100 Managniyars on the steps of The Serai, Jaisalmer for a private party. The sound that evening was a once in a lifetime experience.

At The Serai, Jaisalmer we have our own troupe of Manganiyars who will mesmerize you and transport you to another world through the night. Enquire now and book a stay with us to coincide with Jodhpur RIFF (17-21 October 2013).

Written by Malvika Singh
Photography by Hajra Ahmad

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