Towards the end of the last century, Hindustani music had run into "doldrums". Music had become the monopoly of a small coterie of illiterate professionals who jealously guarded their art. Living luxuriously under lavish courtly patronage, these narrow minded custodians of music took care not to create rivals out of their own pupils. Gradually, these professionals acquired disrepute, and the Muse whom they served fell from her high pedestal into the depths of public apathy and alien contempt. The so
called "intellectuals" began to look down with "moral horror" on this noble art. No other country in the world had placed music so contemptuously low, and "nowhere were the natural instincts of the young, for music and rhythm so completely repressed, censored, and banned, as they happened to be in the country that Vishnu Narain was born to serve". An utterly selfless and dedicated music-devotee was needed to create order out of chaos, to restore harmony into disharmony, and to salvage and re-install the fallen image of the Muse once again on a lofty pedestal, for us to worship today.
Born on the auspicious Gokulashtami day of 1860, Vishnu Narain Bhatkhande was destined to play a most significant role in the renaissance of Hindustani classical music. In the words of a cultured royal patron of music who was a contemporary and a great admirer of Panditji, "When Bhatkhande resolved to translate his love for Hindustani Music into a continued, unwearied day-to-day programme of service, he had to confront social, intellectual, and finally, professional prejudices. These took shape as positive obstacles, definite active resistance. He had to face all this very early in life, even as a student seeking no more than information and enlightenment, and later on, as a crusader in the
cause of classical music".
A lesser man, or a man inspired by a lesser passion for music would have fled from the field defeated and crushed by the endless obstacles in his path. But Bhatkhande's was really a dedicated life, inspired by a single, undivided aim. In the words of the late D.P. Mukerji:- "If the renaissance of classical music in the North is due to one man than to any other, it was due to Bhatkhande."
Born into a cultured, though not well-to-do, Maharashtrian family in Balukeshwar, Bombay, Gajanan (as he was called in his childhood) was gifted with rare musical talent, intense love for the art, a remarkably shrewd brain, indefatigable powers of industry, an impressive personality, and most winning manners. Equipped with so many great qualities, it is no wonder that he finally succeeded in the gigantic tasks of reawakening "the sense of history and pride among people who had slept over this vital aspect of Indian culture", of reconciling the theory and practice of music, and of collecting and putting at the disposal of music lovers, thousands of traditional compositions hitherto closely
locked up by the professionals.
Bhatkhande's life and work fall into four clear stages: The first stage consisted of his own preparation period, his muscial training, and his important association with Gayan Uttejak Mandal of Bombay. His earliest musical education was imparted to him by his pious mother who could beautifully sing passages from the works of great saints and devotees. He had inherited a sweet voice from his mother, and a keen musical ear from his father who could play on the Qanoon. He learnt the flute, Sitar and vocal music from some very eminent gurus like Jairajgir, Raojibua Belbagkar, Ali Husain Khan, Vilayat Hussain Khan and others. Along with his academic studies, he devoted nearly 15 years to the study of all the available ancient music-treatises in Sanskrit, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu, German, Greek and English with the help of scholars and interpreters. After taking his B.A. and LL. B. degrees,
Vishnu Narain joined the Karachi High Court and became a very successful lawyer. But his highly successful legal career was only a brief interlude in the life of this Sangeet-Bhakta who was destined for work of a nobler kind. With the death of his young wife and only daughter, he decided to give up Law and dedicate his entire life to the cause of Music. He had earned just enough to keep his body and soul together; and that was all that this devotee needed for the simple life of ceaseless service for music that he had chalked out for himself.
The next stage in Bbatkhande's life was a period of extensive touring for the purpose of deep musical research, study, and discussions with the ustads and pandits all over the country. He toured the entire length and breadth of the country from Kashmir to Rameshwaram, and from Surat and Broach to Calcutta and Puri. He visited all the important music libraries, avidly going through ancient Granthas, and meeting every living authority on music then. His bulky private diary running into hundreds of pages gives us glimpses into the pattern of frugal living and high thinking that he had set for himself. For instance, it was one of his self imposed rules that he would devote every day of
his tour entirely for study in music libraries, and never waste a single day for amusements like sight seeing or social engagements. By his infinite patience, presuasive ways, and utter sincerity of purpose, Bhatkhande was gradually able to break down the opposition and suspicion of some of the great ustads of the day. Those who scorned him for "looting the great treasures of Ustads," stayed to become his associates, teachers, and friends. Among the many who helped him immensely were great Ustads like Mohammad Ali Khan, Asgar Ali Khan and Ahmed Ali Khan of Jaipur; they gave him more than 300 precious compositions of the Manarang Gharana.
Then followed a period of prolific publications. After pondering deeply over the voluminous materials he had collected during his exhaustive study-cum-research tours, Panditji sifted the valuable materials and set about the magnanimous work of publishing all this laboriously collected material in a large number of volumes in Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi and English such as: Abhinavaragamanjari, Abhinavatalamanjari, Lakshya Sangeetam, the Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati, the Kramik series in 6 volumes, the Swara-malika and Geet Malika series, Grantha sangeetam, Bhavi Sangeetam, A Short Hiytorical Survey of Music, Philosophy of Music, and so on. Thus be has unstintingly spread out before the music loving public his entire musical wealth. As he himself wrote:- "My sole object has been to place before my educated, music-loving brothers and sisters, the present condition of the Art". The fact that he
published all his works under his pen-names "'Vishnu Sharma" or "Chaturpandit" shows his utter indifference to fame. Besides hundreds of traditional Dhrupads, Dhamars, Khayals, Sadras,
Taraanas, Chaturangs, Thumris, etc. that he has published with notations in his Kramik series, he has also composed and included in this series, scores of his own compositions, mostly Khayals
and Lakshangeets (nearly 250 or so) under his pseudonym "Chatura". He also published several ancient music-granthas whose manuscripts he had salvaged during his country-wide tours.
Although Bhatkhande shunned fame, it came to him unsought. His fame spread. The cultured rulers of various states like Baroda, Gwalior, Rampur, Dharampur, Akbarpur etc. became his staunch sup-
porters and admirers. They sent students to study music at his feet. Under his inspiration, and direction, music colleges sprang up in various places like Baroda, Gwalior, Lucknow, Bombay, Nag-
pur and so on. Besides these institutions which Panditji used to visit and guide till the end of his life, there were several others which uniformly followed his system of teaching, syllabus, textbooks and notations. There are critics galore who "pooh pooh" at the idea of learning music in music colleges. But if you ask these critics how else interest in classical music can be awakened widely, they have no alternative constructive suggestions to offer. It is not possible for every music-student or music- lover
to go and stay with a guru for years and years trying to squeeze out some "ilm" out of him by propitiating him with services. A well-known music connoisseur who is no more with us today, wrote
: "Bhatkhande has done perhaps most for the reawakening of interest in Indian music and its proper development through its organisation in educational institutions throughout Northern India. In the provinces where he started music colleges, his efforts have borne a rich harvest by training up batches of accomplished music teachers who have spread far and wide the gospel of this great and noble heritage of our country".
Rightly called the "Father of Music Conferences", Pandit Bhatkhande was the life and soul of five consecutive All India Music Conferences held in Baroda, Delhi, Lucknow (twice) and Varanasi. These conferences were not merely entertaining but were highly educative as well, since they provided a common platform for musicians and musicologists from all over the North and South to listen to one another, to discuss, and come to an agreement on disputed aspects of music. These conferences achieved a lot for Hindustani classical music and paved the way for the Chaturpandit's favourite dream. "The mighty mansion of music," he wrote, "should become accessible to all - rich and poor, high and low, girls and boys - irrespective of age, and social status." TodayAll India Music Conferences are the order of the day not only in big cities, but in smaller towns as well.
Bhatkhande's ceaseless efforts for music continued till he became helplessly bedridden in 1933 with a tragic attack of paralysis and thigh fracture. It is a strange coincidence that this great "Sangeeta- Bbakta" who came into this world on the auspicious day of Lord Krishna's birth, shook off his mortal coils on an equally auspicious Ganesh Chaturthi day (1936). The wealth that he earned in his life-time of service to music is the eternal gratitude of music-lovers. Year after year, during Ganesh Chaturthi week, lovers of Hindustani music get together in numerous places all over Maharashtra and North India to pay grateful homage to this unforgettable architect and great law giver of modern Hindustani
From: Great Masters of Hindustani Music by Smt. Susheela Mishra
From: parrikar@ferrari.Colorado.EDU (Rajan P. Parrikar)
Subject: Great Masters 28: Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, the Chaturpandit
Date: 8 Jul 1998 07:17:43 GMT
The late Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande had
numerous critics around 1921-22. After I had succeeded in learning the
elements of music I had frequent meetings with professional singers. On some
occasions there were mehfils in which both Muslim and
Hindu singers were going to take part. I was yet to develop a real insight into
music but owing to my deep interest in the art I would be all ears when professional
singers were engaged in conversation or controversial
discussions. I distinctly remember that prac- tising musicians of the type I
am describing had very little respect for Pandit Bhatkhande. Their principal
contention was that Pan- ditji was a lawyer and knew nothing about music.
Despite this, they argued, "He has now started teaching musicians
like us the rules and regulations of music. Who cares for what he says?"
Since I had, by then, heard only such hostile criticism concerning Panditji, I too was prejudiced against him. Around 1924, I saw at a friend's house a copy of Panditji's book Hindustani Sangeet Pad- dhati, Part 1, and out of curiosity started reading it at random. I found the author talking about microtones, ragastructure, tone- sentences relating to ragas etc., all of which were concepts I had not come across. I was anxious to read the book from beginning to end. So I borrowed it and read it from cover to cover at one stretch. Panditji discussed Indian ragas with an objectivity and thorough- ness very much like a Western scientist writing on a serious subject. I had not seen anything like it before. I became aware of my own imperfect knowledge of music and I had also an desire to meet the author of that book.
Finally, one day taking courage in both hands, I called on him at his place at Walkeshwar. I had seen him only once before - seated on a bench at Chowpatty sands. I entered his room with great
trepidation, stood before him and folded my hands in greeting. On seeing me, he put his hearing aid into one ear and asked, "Who are you and what has brought you here?" I said, "I am a music teacher." "Where did you learn music?" he asked. I told Panditji that I was a pupil of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, and had recently read his book, and wanted to obtain information about some ragas. On hearing the name Vishnu Digambar, he made a wry face and said, "I am a lawyer by profession - neither a musician nor a music teacher. What information can I give you concerning ragas!" I replied, "You have written such beautiful books giving vast information about ragas. How can you say that you do not know music?"
He told me that music was his hobby and that he had studied the science of music. He said, "Whatever information I could collect has been placed before the public in book form. You should read
these books and see if the information you are seeking is there. It is time for my bath now so I cannot spend more time with you. Come some other time."
I was sorely disappointed by his answer and could not see why he gave me the cold shoulder. Some fellow disciples later explained that the relations between Panditji and our own guruji, Pandit Vishnu Digambar, were not good. Bhatkhande's books revealed to me an entirely new way of looking at ragas and he aroused a deep thirst for knowledge in me. Apparently, my discipleship of Vishnu Digambar was going to be an obstacle to my desire. I spent a couple of months in this state of mind. Then I thought of a subterfuge.
One day, around 6 or 6.30 p.m., I saw Panditji seated by himself on a bench at Chowpatty. On my greeting him he asked me to sit by his side. After some small talk I said to him, "Panditji, I have
read Part III of your book on music system carefully. A couple of days ago I heard a recital by Khansaheb so and so. He belongs to a very famous gharana. He sang Puriya Dhanashri for over an hour most beautifully. But his treatment was quite different from what you have described in your book. I am afraid the information given in your book is not correct."
My audacity had the desired effect. He looked somewhat sharply at me and started talking, "You are very young and without much experience. Have you any idea of the momentous struggle I had to make before finalizing the nature of each of these ragas? I shall tell you." During the subsequent hour and a half he told me in detail from how many different musicians he had heard the various ragas belonging to that particular division, from how many different gharanas he had collected the cheejs from these ragas, with which music experts he had held discussions on the structure of each raga and which different cities he had to visit for the purpose. After he had had his say I quietly observed, "Panditji,
this is the information I was seeking when I called on you three months ago; but I had to go empty-handed - you showed me the door. But today it was all different. You gave me so much infor-
mation about these evening ragas, told me so much about the different gharanas and explained the entire method of your researches, so beautifully - I am most grateful. I always had considerable respect for your scholarship but your exposition today has convinced me that you are a great man par excellence." What I said seemed to please him.
He then gave me a piece of advice. He said, "Try to avoid going to recitals of mediocre people. That will misguide you. There are not many people left who have received proper training from first-rate gurus." I modestly intervened to say, "What I told you about Puriya Dhanashri a while ago was a made-up story. When we met three months ago, I came away empty-handed. But today when I said that what you had written was wrong, you felt insulted and angry and in that excited state you happened to tell me so many things that not only did I get what I was seeking but I learnt precisely how any one who wants to do research in music should proceed." He said, "Yes, it was a clever plot to get your way.
But clearly you are also a music lover. Do come and see me whenever you can."
For nearly two years after this incident we did not meet. Panditji was busy setting up the Marris College of Music at Lucknow. He had also to make frequent trips to Gwalior, Baroda and other
places as an examiner.
Having come to know that Panditji had returned to Bombay, I called at his residence one morning around 9 a.m. Panditji was reading something in his room. By now I knew that the way to get Panditji to talk about anything was to irritate him by praising someone he did not rate high. Accordingly, I lavishly praised two Maharashtrian singers who had recently come into the limelight. I asked Panditji what he thought of them. Panditji said, "Unless you move out of Bombay and listen to first-rate musicians in other cities you will not know what good music is. Which dhrupad singers have you heard?" I said, "There are no good dhrupad singers in Bombay. I have not heard any expert singer in this field. But in any case, what has dhrupad singing got to do with khayal singing?"
That did irritate him. He said, "Unless you know the dhrupaddhamar in each raga you cannot understand the twists and turns and the rules of that raga. Has your guru taught you any dhrupad- dhamars?" I replied that Panditji (Vishnu Digambar) being frequently on tour, those of us who had joined the school recently, had to learn music from other teachers. None of us were greatly interested in the dhrupad-dhamar style but we had perforce to learn fifty dhrupad-dhamars." Thereupon Panditji asked me to sing a dhrupad, which I did. After I had finished, he levelled a barrage of questions at me.
My method of rendering a dhrupad did not seem to be to his liking. He said, "This is not the way to sing dhrupad. You are reciting it monotonously like a poem. I fail to see any 'kanas' in the raga you have chosen. Without these you cannot sing a dhrupad. Now I shall show you what true dhrupad singing is like. Listen." And he began to sing a dhrupad. Until that time I had only heard adverse criticism of Panditji from every direction that he could not sing. But that day, at his house, without even
the bare minimum of accompaniment of the tanpura and pakhavaj he gave a beautiful demonstration of dhrupad singing. Panditji had a very loud voice without much natural sweetness. But the method of
singing was very good. He obviously knew every word of the composition and every important 'kana' without which you cannot do justice to any Hindustani raga. Consequently, a true image of the raga stood before you when he sang. Every glide and procession of short-rapid passages was clearly and powerfully presented. I was reminded of our own guruji (Pandit Vishnu Digambar) who used to sing dhrupad-dhamar if he chanced upon a good mridanga player. It also helped me to understand why our guruji had included so many dhrupad-dhamars in our curriculum.
After Pandit Bhatkhande had finished his dhrupad he began to explain the finer points of music to me. Before taking up any new point he would sarcastically ask me, "Has any one told you this?" He explained to me the importance of kanas (i.e. the grace notes touched briefly by way of embellishment) in every raga, then asked me, "Do you know the meaning of the dhrupad you sang just now?" To my 'no', he promptly went on to recite the entire dhrupad and explain to me the meaning of every word in it. He also pointed out where I had used wrong words. He not only found fault with my pronunciation of Hindi words but candidly expressed the view that he had not come across any Maharashtrian singer who had the ability to employ the attractive intonation of the original text. He advised me to take up the study of Hindi seriously and told me not to sing any cheej unless I knew the precise meaning of every word in it. He took out his files and showed me the incorrect forms in which he had found cheejs and what stupendous struggles he had to wage for restoring them to their correct forms. He explained the methodology one had to use in removing impurities from old compositions, what precautions to take and the order in which must proceed.
Panditji said, "The first step is to record the cheej as you find it, then show it to some scholar who has made a special study of Braj-bhasha. If the meaning is clear, well and good. In case the meaning is not clear keep it as it is in a safe place without any alteration whatsoever. A cheej with a respectable and long pedigree is generally known to several musicians. When you have collected a number of different versions from several expert musicians you can wade through the different readings and unerringly
arrive at the original and correct version. We, in Maharashtra, do not have an accurate knowledge of Hindi. Muslim singers have no Sanskrit background. So they usually get words (which have originated in that language) wrong. Generally speaking, the words of the sthayi (first part of the bandish) are correct but there are numerous ver- sions of the antara (second part)." He used a sarcastic tone through- out since he wanted me to know the precise depth of my ignorance. But I did not mind it a bit. His knowledge was truly encyclopaedic. By the time he had finished his discourse, it was noon. So he got up to get ready for his bath.
His whole approach seemed so novel to me at the time that I began to feel a complete ignoramus despite the years I had spent in the study of music. Later when I visited other centers of music and
heard the musicians Panditji had specially recommended, I made it a point to listen to them carefully. And invariably, they all made a deep impression on me.
I must have met Panditji another half a dozen times in, what I might call, his abrasive period. He continued to be a most valuable mine of information but every bit I received was prefaced by the usual "I do not suppose anyone has cared to tell you that etc." But thereafter, a favourable development changed the nature of our relationship. One Prabhakar Bijur, who was at St. Xaviers College with me, having come to know about my interest in classical music said to me, "I know a very intimate friend of Panditji's, Shankarrao Karnad. Mr. Karnad is related to me and in fact he is our landlord. I shall introduce you to him." Accordingly, Bijur introduced me as a budding musicologist to Karnad who was duly impressed with the interest I was taking in classical music. In due course, Karnad put in a good word about me to Panditji. As a result of this recommendation Panditji became much more friendly.
I think the year was 1928. I happened to pay a visit to Panditji and found him in a happy mood. He had just received a letter from a well-known Bengali scholar. He gave it to me to read. The writer showered praise on Panditji for his work in the field of music and said that no one, since the time of Sharangadev's Sangeet Ratnakar, had done so much work or written so many books on music. Panditji said, "Do you see how my work is appreciated in other parts of India? But in my own homeland, in Maharashtra, I hardly count." I replied, "You probably do not mix enough with Marathi speaking people. That may be the reason why Maharashtra has not realized your worth." Thereupon he said, "I was deliberately misunderstood. I acted with good inten- tions every time but instead of trying to understand the motive behind my actions, the Maharashtrians were the first to criticize me. No one can beat Maharashtrians when it comes to indulging in battles of words on the scantiest of information. They can only see the faults in anything, never any good. And having pounced on the
faults they wax so eloquent that, gradually, others too are unable to spot anything good in the work concerned. That is why I prefer to do whatever my competence permits, unaided. I am sure that you are genuinely interested in doing research in this field. There are many things still to be done. I have made a list. But every kind of research needs a certain methodology. If you are interested in my methods you might like to see this diary in which I have given details of the travels undertaken for musi-
cal research. Read it." And he gave me a notebook of two or three hundred foolscap pages.
The notebook contained details of his travels in south India on a day-to-day basis. On the front page Panditji recorded a set of rules for self-guiclance out of which I recall three:
1. Since I am undertaking this travel purely for research I must not waste time visiting old buildings and places of historical interest.
2. No time is to be wasted in offering or receiving hospitality and on dinner parties.
3. If the names and addresses of talented musicians or learned musicologists are received from someone I shall visit the persons regardless of the distances involved and discuss musical matters with them and collect information.
The next three or four pages contained lists of books Panditji collected on South Indian music, the ideas and questions which occurred to him after he had gone through the books, an enumeration of points which he failed to understand and questions which troubled him; followed by a description of persons he met in all the places he had visited - that was the rough order. Whenever Panditji visited an outstanding scholar he would record the entire dialogue that had taken place between them. Consequently the diary was also a repository of several exceedingly charming character sketches.
The diary provided a clue to how Panditji came to write his Sanskrit book "Lakshya Sangeet." During his visit to Hyderabad state he met a famous Sanskrit Pandit and musicologist - Appa Tulsi. After an exchange of preliminaries Pandit Bhatkhande asked the Hyderabad scholar, "Today's music is a far cry from what is described in ancient books. My question is whether there is any current standard work which reflects the contemporary raga forms?" By way of reply Pandit Tulsi recited a few Sanskrit verses which very ably enumerated the rules governing some selected ragas. Pandit Bhatkhande was surprised that in his extended studies of Sanskrit books he never came across the verses he had just heard. Naturally he begged Appa Tulsi for a loan of the book from which the latter had quoted. Appa Tulsi refused to part with the book. After a lapse of several days, when the two Pandits became close friends, Appa Tulsi confessed that what he had recited did not come from any ancient book - they were verses he himself had composed. Pandit Bhatkhande's note of that day in his diary records his conclusion - "The contemporary raga forms do not conform to what is described in ancient books on music. People do not accept anything unless it can be backed by Sanskrit quota-
tions. The raga forms I have decided on being the correct ones have been taken from musicians of the highest reputation. But the only way the public can be persuaded to accept them as standard forms is by producing a Sanskrit book which gives the new rules. If I produce such a Sanskrit book it will serve a dual purpose. People would be pleased to find that there is substantial (i.e. Sanskrit) backing for the rules and it will also achieve my central objective in understanding all this work which is to provide
a framework of rules for the existing raga forms and systematize the whole thing." Pandit Bhatkhande's book "Lakshya Sangeet" is the result of his foregoing thoughts.
I often wondered why my own guru Pandit Vishnu Digambar and Pandit Bhatkhande showed no inclination to work together on a co-operative basis in the field of music. Around 1928, when Pandit
Vishnu Digambar happened to be in Bombay, I raised this question with him. His reply was as follows:
"I came to Bombay in 1908. Pandit Bhatkhande was in Bombay then and invariably attended my recitals and I think he liked my music. I got to know him socially later and we met two or three times. Around 1913 or 1914 he said to me, 'You run a big, well attended music school. You know how deeply I am interested in this field. I have travelled all over India, met and heard numerous musicians in an effort to find out precisely what is pure in which should govern all the ragas. So why do we not do this? You do the practical job of teaching music and I shall give talks on the science of music.' Pandit Bhatkhande also prepared a scheme for providing musical instruction through books and lectures."
From Pandit Vishnu Digambar's subsequent remarks I got the impression that the two Pandits had serious differences of opinion in regard to the implementation of Bhatkhande's scheme.
All the same, within a year of my conversation with Pandit Vishnu Digambar, I got an opportunity. to bring the two great men together. It happened this way. On January 6, 1929 my school (i.e. Deodhar's School of Indian Music) was to celebrate its annual function in the main hall of Wilson College. Pandit Vishnu Digambar was in Bombay then and he readily agreed to attend the function when I told him about it. I told him that I had also invited Pandit Bhatkhande to attend the function and he had agreed. I said, "I fervently wish that you and Pandit Bhatkhande sit close together and give us all the great pleasure of seeing two such eminent personages in the field of music close to each other." My guruji said, "As you wish. Pandit Bhatkhande has performed the magnificent task of providing a scientific framework to music. I greatly value his pioneering effort and I have the deepest respect for the man." Pandit Vishnu Digambar turned up a comfortable ten minutes before the ceremony was to commence at the Wilson College Hall. I showed him to his seat on the dais. In that very instant I saw Pandit Bhatkhande entering the hall. I immediately rushed towards him to welcome him but before I could reach the entrance he had already taken a seat at the rear of the hall. I respectfully requested him to move to his proper seat on the stage but all I succeeded in doing was that he moved a couple of rows forward. Sir Chunilal Mehta, Barrister M.R. Jaykar and Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyyar were also among the invitees. Seeing Pandit Bhatkhande, they all went up to him and, despite his protests, succeeded in escorting him up to the stage and made him two Pandits to the accompaniment of a tremendous applause from the audience. These two top figures in the field of music sat next to each other for over an hour and a half and I also saw them amiably engaged in conversation. The members of the audience too sensed the unique nature of the occasion and there was a general air of delight and gratification amongst them. In 1930, I happened to be boarding a bus which would take me from
the Fort to Opera House when I found Pandit Bhatkhande doing the same. We took adjoining seats. Seeing the conductor approach our seats Panditji said, "Deodhar, you pay your own fare and so
shall. No one is to spend for the other's journey." After an exchange of pleasantries, Panditji began to talk About my guruji. He said, "Your guruji is one of the most outstanding figures in the field of music. Music needs him and would need him for many more years. But it is rumoured that your guru has taken up religion in a big way these days - that he has become an ardent devotee of Rama. I understand that at Allahabad, in mid-winter, he stands for hours in waist-deep water at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna repeating the name of Rama. At his age this is most unwise, he will not be able to stand it; it will ruin his health. You and his other disciples should immediately write to him and persuade him to give it up." Panditji's concern and advice left no doubt in my mind that he had considerable admiration for our guruji's achievements. Around the same time (i.e. in 1930 or thereabout), there was an English Collector called Clement at Ahmedabad who used to preside over the Ahmedabad Philharmonic Society. The society was to organize a music conference at Ahmedabad in order, among other things, to pass a resolution to adopt the Western staff nota- tion in Indian music. Pandit Bhatkhande had hardly the backing of any powerful organization(s) behind him but he was completely against letting anyone implant staff notation into our music by force. During that bus journey, Panditji casually told me about the meddlesome Clement Saab's nefarious plans and expressed the hope that I, and other disciples of Pandit Vishnu Digambar, would write to our guru and draw his
attention to the development. "A highly placed British officer with all the power of the British Raj behind him can do practically anything he wants," Panditji said. "The only person in our country who is capable of foiling Clement's aims is Pandit Vishnu Digambar!" he added. As a matter of fact, I had already received intimation of this business from Pandit Narayanrao Khare. Pandit Khare simultaneously wrote to Pandit Vishnu Digambar about what was happening. The latter promptly instructed Khare to put up large placards all over Ahmedabad announcing that Pandit Vishnu Digambar and his students were to visit Ahmedabad shortly and hold a series of concets there. Pandit Vishnu Digambar's expectation was that the announcement would suffice to bury Clement's plans. And that is exactly what happened. As soon as Clement heard about Panditji's plans he cancelled the music conference. Pandit Bhatkhande was visibly relieved to hear all these details from me.
Around 1932 or 1933 I found Panditji seated on a Chowpatty bench one evening with another person. The stranger was apparently trying to persuade Panditji to write on Indian Music in English. Panditji firmly ruled this out. He said, "Do the British write their scientific books in Marathi so that Marathi speaking people might understand them? Those who are sufficiently interested in our music should learn Marathi and read what I have written." At this the stranger pleaded that Panditji should at any write in Hindi or Urdu. Panditji glanced at me and said, "Firstly, Hindus have virtually lost this art - it is entirely in Muslim hands. Although at one time it was a purely Hindu inheritance, no Hindu can aspire to acquire it unless he is prepared to demean himself before his Muslim masters and to do everything he is asked to do. All that remains with us today is the science. I have written my books in Marathi in the hope that the science at least remains with us, if not the art. Hindus, at any rate, should be able to
quote what is written to the Muslim performers - the one thing that will hold them in check. Hindus will be honoured at least as Pandits, if not as great performing artists! I have so far written only one book in English. In fact it was not meant to be a book at all - it was an essay written on the existing literature
on music for the music conference in Baroda." Panditji looked at me and added, "Remember what I just told you. Whatever you want to say on music - say it in your mothertongue as far as possible."
Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande was extremely studious. He visited most of the libraries in India and read every book on music they had to offer. He studied Urdu and Persian literature on music with the assistance of munshis specially employed for the purpose. He reprinted and published a number of rare books on music. He arrannged for many singers of long standing and erudition, from different gharanas, to visit Bombay in order to collect cheejs. If any great Muslim singer seemed unwilling to part
with the music of his gharana he was not above agreeing to become his shagird in order to acquire the store of learning. Temperamentally, he was somewhat shy but at the same time outspoken. He was somewhat of a lone wolf; he did not believe in spending money on others and neither did he let others spend money on him. He had few friends - one always saw virtually the same small group of people around him. Shankarrao Karnad of Bandra seemed to be an especially favoured and trusted friend.
Panditji and Karnad used to meet often and discuss anything Panditji had recently written or any recent additions to Panditji's stock of cheejs. He seemed to value karnad's judgement. Whenever
Panditji came across a particularly rare cheej he invariable made three copies of it: one for himself, another for his closest disciple Principal Ratanjankar and the third for Shankarrao Karnad. Not only was he averse to pushing himself forward, he was almost allergic to publicity. he never craved for riches. People used to say that the late Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda had great regard for Panditji and had given subtantial financial assistance to Panditji for his researches in music. Pandit Bhatkhande was deeply religious. After his daily bath and prayers he used to do a set number of repetitions of rudra. He was meticulously regular in his habits and, as a rule, avoided late nights. he enjoyed good health virtually till the end.
In 1935, Pandit Bhatkhande fell ill and was confined to bed for almost a year. He would seem to recover a little at times - only to fall deeper in the throes of the disease, once again. The end finally came on the morning of September 19, 1936. According to the Hindu calendar it was Ganesh Chaturthi, the first day of the Ganapati festival. Bhalchandra Sukhtankar promptly conveyed the news to Vamanrao Deshpande and me though a messenger. We both went over to Panditji's residence to Walkeshwar. It was decided that Vamanrao should remain at Panditji's residence to attend to the visitors who would come to offer condolences. I engaged a taxi to go round to the place of every musician friend, singers and instrument players, to convey the sad news.
My first halt was near Chowpatty Bandstand where Khansaheb Alladiya Khan used to live. After informing Khansaheb about what had happened I contacted various other singers in the city and
then returned to Walkeshwar. There were not more than half a dozen people assembled there, including the Thakur of Dharampur, Prabhat Devji, Dr. Bhajekar, Barrister Jaykar, Dr. Gharpure and a few others. With the exception of two or three music teachers in Municipal Schools no other musicians turned up there. The funeral procession started at 10 a.m. The bier was carried by persons who had already assembled to Walkeshwar crematorium where Panditji's body was consigned to fire.
Pandit Bhatkhande formulated the scientific laws of music. The entire world of music owes a permanent debt of gratitude to Panditji for his unique contribution.
From: "Pillars of Hindustani Music" by B.R. Deodhar
Translated by Ram Deshmukh
Bombay Popular Prakashan (1993)
Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande
by B.R. Deodhar
Posted on RMIC by Rajan Parrikar as part of the Great Masters series
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