The rich culture of Rajasthan has presented traditional art forms in all the spheres. Be it the architecture, apparels, dance or music, Rajasthan left nothing when it comes down to classical art. In fact, in Rajasthan one can find specific communities whose ancestral occupation is associated with one or the other form of an art. In this post, we are going to discuss about the Rajasthani community, which has been known for its musical expertise, since its very origin.
Manganiar, or more famously known as the musical community of Rajasthan, are the poetical people who have their tradition, culture, and source of income, all linked to the classical folk music. De facto, the name of the community itself is derived from their work as musicians, who had survived on the alms they’d earned in lieu of the musical entertainment they used to provide.
In medieval period, highly skilled Manganiars used to acquire permanent position in the palaces of aristocrats as the court musicians. The other people of the Manganiar community, who didn’t get the similar fortunate opportunities, would survive on the alms they’d receive by performing on the special occasions (marriages, birthdays) of wealthy landlords of the time.
Manganiar people, though not essentially nomadic in nature are known to have travelled across the land of Persia. Their traditional folk songs that include heroic poems on the valor of Alexander III, and other foreign heroes, are the live testimony of this fact. At present, the community has established its residence in Barmer, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer districts of western Rajasthan.
When it comes to origin, Manganiar people consider themselves to be descendents of Rajputs who got exceptionally talented as musicians. They were all converted to Islam some 400 years back, which for all parties concerned wa a favorable incident. After converting to Islam their songs got meliorated with fine Urdu vocabulary. Furthermore, musical instruments like Kamancheh (an Iranian musical instrument), that were found nowhere near Rajasthan have gotten their way in through this community, enriching the already rich musical culture of the Manganiars.
The music of Manganiars has both classical folk and Sufi touch to it. The combination of both very different kinds of music makes Manganiar melodies easily detectable. Another prime feature that contributes to its uniqueness is the frequent and swift change in notes, which gives their compositions a wavy touch. To get an abstract taste of what a real Manganiar music is like, see this documentary of World Music from India – Râjasthân.