For a civilisational meeting, the setting couldn’t have been better. The text was the Bhagavad Gita, the city was Jerusalem and the orchestra was the Israel Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta. The epic dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield was translated into western classical music, with a hundred musicians bringing that ultimate dilemma to life. It was yet another landmark in the unusual journey of a man named Naresh Sohal.
Sohal wrote The Divine Song, a grand operatic composition, for Zubin Mehta, to mark the maestro’s 70th birthday. It premiered here last week to sustained applause and the sounding of conch shells, as if the audience were born to the idea of karma and dharma. Sohal took a bow, happy that he was able to bring the intricacies of Indian philosophical thought to this citadel of three monotheistic religions through the medium of music. “I’m glad I was allowed my voice in Jerusalem. Between the Judeo-Christian axis and Islam on the one hand and Hinduism on the other, most of humanity is covered,” he said. He chose the Gita because the delineation of the concept of karma and dharma in the battlefield offered something unique—philosophic thought in a dramatised context.