The Qawwali Project – An Untold Story

Dinesh Khanna

Sufi Kathak Foundation

Sufi Kathak Foundation
New Delhi, India

The Qawwals repeatedly and hypnotically chant some specific words and lines, coupled with frenzied clapping of hands in the rhythm which transports the audiences to a trance-like state. Impromptu dance is common in Punjab traditions, the turbaned Sahib-e-Mehfil (the host or the head of shrine) leads first and then the people start dancing on the music. The photographer has juxtaposed their two seemingly different cultures (Sikh and Muslim) and captured how the audience in Amritsar reacts in the Punjabi tradition of getting up and dancing for the mood of Qawwali.

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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