September 28, 2016

Essequibo Coast Praant hosts chowtal sammelan

Phagwah 2016

By Indrawattie Natram

The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha’s Essequibo Coast Praant on Sunday hosted its annual chowtal sammelan at the Colombia Mandir setting the tone for Phagwah celebrations on Wednesday.

A section of the gathering during the chowtal sammelan

A section of the gathering during the chowtal sammelan

The chowtal sammelan was spearheaded by Praant members and attracted several chowtal groups from various mandirs. During the sammelan, Holi songs were sung in Hindi reflecting the spirit of the spring festival – the loveliest of all festivals in Hinduism. Attired in brightly coloured Indian wear, chowtal groups sung gracefully from their hearts Phagwah renditions and Holi songs to commemorate the festival.
Essequibo Coast Praant President, Pandit Kaydar Persaud expressed gratitude to the Colombia Mandir members for hosting the sammelan. The Pandit pointed out that Phagwah was a joyous season and he was happy that many persons from various mandirs showed up in their numbers to set the pace for the observances. He further explained that Phagwah, “the Festival of Colours”, was a season for togetherness, unity and a time when goodness prevailed over evil.
By the middle of the programme, the atmosphere was joyous and jubilant as persons were all in the mood for the grand celebration.
Participating this year were chowtal groups from the Cotton Field, Anna Regina, Reliance, Aurora, Adventure, Airy Hall, Golden Fleece, Spring Garden, Richmond and Colombia mandirs among others.
Chowtal or Taal is a Hindustani tradition that complements Phagwah. It is a form of folk singing that reflects the festival and is performed by mandir members during the Phagwah (Holi) festival.  In chowtal, two rows of singers face each other (semi-circle), with a “dholak” drummer at one end, and sing lines of Hindi text antiphonally. While the melodies are relatively simple, the song undergoes various modulations of rhythm and tempo, alternating between subdued passages and exciting climaxes.
Chowtal comprises various subgenres including chowtal proper, jhumar, ulara, lej, baiswara, dhamar, rasiya, kabir, jogira, and others. They are sung throughout the Festival period and even on the day at the “sampuran”.

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