Kavi Sammelan (Hindi: कवि सम्मेलन) is a gathering of poets in Hindi-speaking belts of northern India. The participants recite their poetry to each other and have a general discussion of literary issues. This may take place among the poets but is mostly done before an audience. Kavi sammelan specifically dedicated to comedy (Hāsya) are known Hasya Kavi Sammelan.
Although small kavi-sammelan gatherings have been in existence since time immemorial, the first grand kavi sammelan was organized in the year 1920, which included many poets and large audiences. After that, kavi sammelan has become a large part of Indian culture. The Mushaira of Urdu poery gave rise to the modern Hindi Kavi Sammelan, and 'Mushaira cum Kavi Sammelan' is organised throughout the Hindustani speaking world.
In India, the period from Indian independence in 1947 to the early 1980s was a golden phase for kavi sammelan. From the mid-1980s up to the late 1990s, the Indian population, and especially its youth, was suffering from issues such as unemployment. This took its toll on kavi sammelan, as did newer modes of entertainment such as television and the internet, as well as the quantity of Indian cinema releases. Kavi sammelans had started losing their standing in Indian culture, both in terms of quantity and quality.
In the era before economic liberalization(1991), kavi sammelans were a popular part of everyday life. They were often broadcast on the state-owned Doordarshan TV network. Post-liberalization, with increasing westernization and proliferation of electronic media, the frequency of such gatherings has reduced. One good trend that has been observed in Kavi-Sammelan is that, it has taken its roots in other countries too. With its increasing frequency across the globe. Moreover, now many Indian television channels giving airtime to programmes based on Hindi poetry recitations like Wah! Wah! Kya Baat Hai!, Kavi-Sammelan have got a fresh breath of life with increased audience base and liking.
Kavi Sammelan literally means a gathering of poets. The traditional format of a kavi sammelan has a Sanchalak (anchor) and a few poets. The number of total poets vary from three to twenties and even thirty. In the traditional format, all the poets sit on a mattress on the stage. The mattress is decorated by flowers, and traditional cylindrical pillows are kept for each poet. There is one standing mike, and one sitting mike. The sitting mike is kept in front of the Sanchalak. He introduces the whole team to the audiences, and then calls the poets one by one. These poets come to the standing mike and recite their poems to the audiences. The order of recitation is generally from most junior to the most senior poet. Most of the traditional kavi sammelan have 7–12 poets.Solo poetry recitations are also sometimes referred to as kavi sammelans (although the term 'kavi sammelan' literally means a 'gathering of poets'). The positioning of Kavi-Sammelans have come out of the traditional set-up. Although it is a matter of discussion among the experts that whether the change in format of Kavi-Sammelan is an up-gradation or a down-gradation, most poets have adopted the changes in the format.
Kavi sammelans have undergone many changes in the last few decades. There are some challenges to these traditional literary gathering as kavi sammelans have now been marred with tasteless crass humor and canned jokes. The influence of TV laughter shows can not be denied. Many contemporary hasya kavis are critical of TV laughter shows and their so-called humour poetry for being short on taste and finesse. These days at kavi sammelans poets make jokes and perform antics, which were never considered good form in a hasya kavi sammelan. But some oldtimers are optimistic. “Everything in life goes through a cycle of ups and downs, the same applies to Hindi poetry,” says Chakradhar.
Indian and International Organizers
Hindi kavi sammelans are organized across the globe by Hindi lovers. The US, Dubai, Muscat, Singapore, UK are the places that organize highest number of kavi sammelans after India. In most of the kavi sammelans organized in these countries, the poets are generally invited from India.
Earlier, Kavi-Sammelans were organized by social and cultural groups. But these days, the kavi-sammelans are very mush popular among Universities], Colleges and Even corporate. Most of the Kavi-Sammelans organized in colleges and corporates do consist of a small team of 3-4 poets, and this is the most prevalent tradition now-a-days.
The later part of 2000s also saw a change in the way kavi sammelan are being organized. Even online booking of kavi sammelan was started in this time
Famous poets of Kavi Sammelan
There have been thousands of poets who performed in kavi sammelan at one place or other. But there are some names, who would always be remembered for their contribution to kavi sammelan. There have been many great poets who never performed on stage. The most prominent names of kavi sammelan stage performers right from the post independence (and a few last years on British rule) days are Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Pt. Vanshidhar Shukla, Mahadevi Verma, Padma Vibhushan Gopaldas Neeraj, Santosh Anand, Balkavi Bairagi, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Bhawani Prasad Mishra, Bharat Bhushan, Sharad Joshi, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Hullad Moradabadi, Kaka Hathrasi, Shail Chaturvedi, Alhad Bikaneri, Ashok Chakradhar, Suryakumar Pandey, Omprakash Aditya, Manik Verma, Pradeep Chobey, Hariom Panwar, Gajendra solanki, Padma Shri Surendra Dubey, Madhup Pandey, Urmilesh Shankhdhar, Vimlesh Rajasthani, Ramanath Awasthi, Dr Kumar Vishwas, Gemini Haryanvi, Surendra Sharma, Sampat Saral, Aashkaran Atal, Uday Pratap Singh, Kunwar Bechain, Nityanand Tushar, Arun Gemini, Chirag Jain, Mahendra Ajanabi, Vedprakash Ved, Sunil Jogi, Shambhu Shikhar, Vishnu Saxena, Charan jeet charan, Vineet Chauhan, Suresh Albela, Kesar dev marwadi, Rahul Rajasthani, Janardan Prasad and Sarita Sharma, Deepak Gupta are well known names these days.
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