A Hanuman Chalisa Rock Version

“Can you make me look a bit fairer?” – that’s what Sumit Raj Kashyap asked when I informed him that the documentary on him was ready to be released. It is this duality of Sumit’s character that makes him so interesting; he’s almost an introvert but he remains very conscious of his image. But this contradiction is what makes him what he is.

A radio producer and a performer, who likes to call himself Bhakt Vanar, Sumit experiments with rock and religion.

Sumit works as a producer at a radio station in New Delhi 
Sumit works as a producer at a radio station in New Delhi  (Photo: The Quint)

Christian gospel bands have been around for decades. Bands like Castings Crowns and Skillet have made religious rock almost mainstream in the West. But here in India, not too many people have experimented with this format.

Sumit stands out in such a scenario. His music is a cocktail of the Hanuman Chalisa, acoustic sounds, and progressive rock.

Sumit’s maiden concert was named ‘Hanumanity’. 
Sumit’s maiden concert was named ‘Hanumanity’.  (Photo: The Quint)

I want to keep the musician in me alive. From 1998 to 2007, I had a band called Nakshatra. It was disbanded but the music never died. Now I want to send out a message of spiritualism, so I am into devotional rock. – Sumit aka Bhakt Vanar

Sumit was part of a band called ‘Nakshatra’ from 1998 to 2007
Sumit was part of a band called ‘Nakshatra’ from 1998 to 2007 (Photo Courtesy: Sumit Raj Kashyap)

Inspired by Lord Hanuman, an otherwise quiet and introverted Sumit magically transforms into a rockstar with a tail buckled to his waist and red face-paint. Thus the name – Bhakt Vanar.

This look brings me closer to Bajrang Bali. We are so stressed out in our daily lives but when I am dressed as a monkey it calms me down and I feel happy. – Sumit aka Bhakt Vanar

Sumit performs at Prachin Hanuman Mandir in New Delhi.
Sumit performs at Prachin Hanuman Mandir in New Delhi. (Photo: The Quint)

Sumit normally finds his audience near temples, satsangs or during festivals like Hanuman Jayanti and Dussehra. That’s when he surprises people with his unique form of devotional music – bhajans and sholaks from Hanuman Chalisa with heavy drums and guitar riffs.

So does he want to reach out to only a particular religious community?

In my band there are not just Hindus, there are people from other religions too. So I guess I am sending out the perfect message, I am creating music for everyone.  – Sumit aka Bhakt Vanar

The poster of the ‘Hanumanity’ concert. 
The poster of the ‘Hanumanity’ concert.  (Photo: The Quint)

This ‘new-age Bhakt’ calls himself a proud Hindu who also respects other religions. He has a simple message for all those who engage in social media trolling.

It’s very easy to troll and abuse people on social media. What’s tougher is to love and respect other religions. Collaborate, contribute, create but don’t hate each other. – Sumit aka Bhakt Vanar

Sumit’s concerts are named ‘Hanumanity’ – a conjunction of Hanuman and humanity. He doesn’t earn from these concerts, instead he spends his own money to organise them. But for Sumit, these ‘Hanumanity’ concerts are the great way to send out his simple message – let religion unite us, not divide us. Jai Bajrang Bali to that !

About Naufal Khan

Naufal Khan was the Publisher at ADISHAKTI MEDIA and the editor-in-chief of the South African Indian news service Indian Spice. Khan was former Sunday Times journalist and also an occult fiction and non-fiction writer with several published titles.