The Qawwali Project – An Untold Story

Dinesh Khanna

Sufi Kathak Foundation

Sufi Kathak Foundation
New Delhi, India

Ustad Ranjhan Ali is a traditional Qawwal from Punjab where Qawwali is notably popular. He belongs to the Qadiri Silsila Sufi tradition. This region has been home to many Sufi saints and mystical traditions. The Qawwal sings at the shrine: in contrast to the bright colours around him, he is in a sombre mood, lost in praise of the Almighty where he leads with just his voice. His team of musicians wait for their turn to add to the music.

The Qawwali Project, is an initiative conceptualized by Manjari Chaturvedi where the untold story of Qawwali unfolds through the eyes of photographers. The practitioners are photo-documented with their performance art, their lives and their association with the Sufi shrines where they perform. Qawwali is the performance art and Qawwal is the practitioner. This is an attempt by the Sufi Kathak Foundation to document the traditions as they exist at the shrines itself.


  • Title: The Qawwali Project – An Untold Story
  • Creator: Dinesh Khanna
  • Location Created: Dargah Hazrat Bannnay Shah, Qadiri Silsila
  • Original Language: Text: Manjari Chaturvedi
  • Type: photo
  • Contributor: Sufi Kathak Foundation
  • Rights: Dinesh Khanna
  • Region: Amritsar, Punjab
  • Qawwali practitioner: Qawwal Ustad Ranjhan Ali
  • Photographer's biography: Dinesh Khanna is a managing trustee of Nazar Foundation, and one of the co-founders of the Delhi Photo Festival and was also a photography curator for the first two editions of the Serendipity Arts Festival. He is the visual consultant with Sahapedia and advises on the ‘Sahapedia Frames’ Grant for cultural photography. He teaches photography in various institutions, and is a Director of the Dhrish Academy at the Museo Camera: Centre for Photographic Arts. He has published four books of photography — Bazaar (Penguin: 2001), Living Faith (Penguin & Harper Collins: 2004), Right of the Line: The President’s Bodyguard (Rashtrapati Bhawan, 2014), and Life in Rashtrapati Bhawan (Rashtrapati Bhawan, 2015).

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