India's Heritage of Gharana Music: Pandits of Gwalior is about the history of the Gwalior gharana. Gwalior's rise to being known as the cultural capital of India owes it to the patronage that it enjoyed in pre- independence times leading to the blossoming of two important styles in the music of north India, namely dhrupad and khayal.
Gwalior was the abode of music. There was a saying that even when a child in Gwalior cries, he cries in sur. The patronage by the two dynasties namely the Tomars and the Scindias, made it possible to reach its pinnacle. This book is about the transition from dhrupad to khayal style in north Indian classical music and from the Khans to the Pandits.
It is the remarkable journey of how the Pandits of Gwalior imbibed this heritage at a time when it was unthinkable for Hindus to learn music from Muslim ustads who enjoyed all creature comforts provided by their patrons. It highlights the selfless guru bhakti, sadhana for attainment of highest level in any art. It is also about the contribution of the individual members of the Pandit family of Gwalior to Hindustani music. The book provides deep insight into the depth of the gayaki of Gwalior and the generosity with which the art disseminated all over India. Numerous legends, rare anecdotes, folklore, narratives make it a very interesting reading along with rare pictures from the family archives interspersed throughout the book.
Meeta Pandit belongs to the Gwalior gharana and she is the sixth in the unbroken lineage of legendary musicians. She is the first woman in the family to take up music professionally. Granddaughter and disciple of Padma Bhushan Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, the doyen of Northern Indian Classical music in the 20th century and daughter of Pt Laxman Krishnarao Pandit, Meeta is a leading artist of India today and has been invited to perform in more than 20 countries. A doctorate in music, she is a top grade artist of All India Radio.
Prasar Bharati & Public Service Broadcasting Trust jointly made a film on her titled Meeta : Linking a Tradition with Today. She is a recipient of many awards and honours including Sangeet Natak Akademi Award- Bismillah Khan Award, Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award, Jayprakash Narayan Award, Sur Mani, Yuva Ojaswini, Yuva Ratna, and FICCI Award for music. She has also many albums to her credit.
Meeta Pandit has been very active in promoting and propagating Indian classical music worldwide. She has presented Sunehere Pa/ in Subaha Savere which was a popular morning breakfast show presenting ragas used in Bollywood songs. She has also presented a popular music appreciation series on North Indian Classical Music called Swar Shringar on World Space Radio etc. She has been consultant to Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, a premier arts Institute of the country. Meeta carries forward the tradition by grooming budding singers from India and abroad.
The publishing of India's Heritage of Gharana Music: Pandits of Gwalior, is a personal satisfaction on many levels for me. I wanted to bring out the facts which I happened to know being the sixth generation of the Pandit family of Gwalior gharana in the field of music. It took me 17 years to pick up the threads and revisit memories to publish the same. This was the topic on which Tushar (my elder brother) was pursuing his PhD. He was doing it from the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, University of Delhi, when he tragically met with a fatal road accident on September 1, 1994. He was 27.
Tushar's death was a deep shock to everyone. I was in particular very close to him and he was more like a friend than an elder brother. We shared a lot since we had our talim in music together and travelled with our father accompanying him in concerts. Tushar was an ardent bhakt of our grandfather Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit whom we called azoba (in Marathi). His bond with azoba was special and azoba really loved him. He had great hopes for him. He gave Tushar the original handwritten manuscripts of the registers of compositions and notation of Pt Shankar Pandit, Pt Eknath Pandit, Pt Ganapat Rao Pandit and his own hand-written diaries, his memoirs, Modi script diaries, etc. Tushar was devoted to the gharana and had great insight into research. The challenging and vast topic was chosen by him. Perhaps the reason for choosing this topic was to let people know the sacred relationship between guru and disciple besides showing the pinnacle example of guru bhakti and guru seva to the world of music and to bring out the facts which were familiar to him being the son of the Pandit family of Gwalior gharana. His research has been the guiding light for me.
After he died, I was very clear regarding my academic position, as I was in the third year of Lady Shri Ram College for Women in Delhi and pursuing BCom (Hons) at that time. I shared with our family my wish to pursue a career of a performing artist. But my father felt that it was very important to have academic qualifications in music as well, considering the nature of the profession. Moreover, the accident site was close to the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, which deterred me from joining the institute. The trauma of having to pass through the same spot gave me cold feet. So I decided to do my MA in music as a private candidate and did my PhD on the same topic in English. This I did under Dr (Smt) Bharti Sharma who was the Head of the Music Department, Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak at that time. I re-registered the same topic in English and completed my PhD in 2000. I had got very busy with my performance career by then and to be honest avoided reviving old memories.
A large part of my reference is from the handwritten memoirs of my grandfather which is unpublished. Besides this, I have consulted interviews of my grandfather, father Pt Laxman Krishnarao Pandit, Tushar's research, grandfather's disciples, senior musicians, musicologists, seniors living in Gwalior, etc.
I am most grateful to my father who has played an instrumental role in guiding me periodically. Without his help it was impossible for such a vast task to be completed.
A number of photographs, have been included in the book. These are from my father's collection, Vivek (son of Pt Chandrakant Pandit) who came to Delhi with all the photos, my cousin Shankar Pandit (alias Madan), which I have tried to include as far as possible. Thanks and appreciation are due to my dear friend Padmakar Kate who worked on the old photographs even when he had fractured his finger. I also thank my mother Smt Abha Pandit who inspired me to work diligently during this research project. I am grateful to my older brother Atul, my sister-in-law Kirti who even though being in Australia, motivated me through regular letters and phone calls to complete a thorough research and bring facts to light. This is Tushar's unfinished work that I am completing. Thanks to Sahana Arun Kumar, Aamna Tyagi and Leena Malode for being there. I am very grateful to Smt Geetanjali Chatterjee and Jehanara Wasi for editorial assistance.
I dedicate the book to dear. Tushar. I have a feeling of great satisfaction and happiness. Tushar's soul is content, happy and should rest in peace.
Gwalior is regarded as the land of music. It is said that even a child in Gwalior cries in sur. Faqirullah, an administrator and scholar during Aurangzeb's reign, has in his book Raga Darpan described Gwalior as the cultural capital of India. Gwalior has the oldest school of music, and is referred to as the `Gangotri of Gharanas'. The founder of the Gwalior school of music, Raja Man Singh Tomar's (1486-1516) durbar was adorned by many Nayakas or scholar musicians like Nayak Charju, Nayak Baiju, Nayak Karan, Nayak Lohang, Nayak Bakshu, etc. whose calibre was considered even superior to the court musicians of Akbar. Raja Man Singh and his queen Mrignayani were accomplished musicologists. Raja Man Singh is called the father of dhrupad style. The Raja along with his musicians wrote a musical treatise Mankautuhal, established a music school and innovated and popularized the dhrupad mainly by using Brij bhasha for the lyrics of the compositions. Raja Man Singh prepared the ground for musicians of Tansen's stature of whom it was said: `Bhuto na bhavishayati (there never was nor will there be). Sangeet Samrat Tansen received his initial training during his childhood in Raja Man's school. The Mughal courts resonated with the strains of the Gwalior musicians.
After, the Tomar dynasty, the musicians received great impetus under the patronage of the Scindias who made Gwalior their capital. Amongst the prominent musicians were Ustad Bade Mohammad Khan, Ustad Natthan Pirbux, Ustad Hassu Khan, Ustad Haddu Khan, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, Pt Shankar Pandit, Pt Eknath Pandit, and Pt. Krishnarao Shankar Pandit. Musicians were so greatly esteemed that while government officials were paid a monthly salary of Rupees 15 or Z 20, famous artistes earned hundreds of rupees. But by then, more than dhrupad it was the era of khayal gayaki. The Gwalior singers in dhrupad now played a revolutionary role in the shift from dhrupad to khayal gayaki. Although, khayal singing was not unknown earlier, Natthan Pir Bux can rightfully be considered the innovator of the Gwalior khayal gayaki. Unfortunately not much been written about this land and its great masters.
The Pandits of Gwalior who were scholars and of noble descent imbibed the glorious legacy of the Gwalior tradition by their untiring efforts, sincerity, devotion, dedication, constant endeavour, guru bhakti and made a seminal contribution in preserving, vitalizing and popularizing the khayal gayaki. Pt Ganapat Rao Pandit, and Pt Eknath Pandit of the Pandit family learnt music from Ustad Haddu Khan, Ustad Nathu Khan and Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan Saheb. The trio (Pandit Brothers) had the opportunity to listen to the riyaz of the legendary Ustad Haddu Khan for years, before learning from them. Looking at the social system of those times, it seems unbelievable, that a Muslim Ustad resided in a Vedic Brahmin's family, like a member of the family and imparted full knowledge wholeheartedly for decades. But it is a fact, that music makes people from different religions unite. The Pandit family has to its credit, such an unbelievable fact, that Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan resided in the orthodox Brahmin family and taught the art wholeheartedly. Here and there Khan Saheb used to say, 'If you want to listen to the music of my youth, then listen to Shankar. Shankar is like sugar'. His son Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit became a legendary figure in his time. His gayaki was inimitable. Earlier Pt Krishnaraoji was known as 'Pt Shankar Panditji's son', but soon Pt Shankar Panditji was known as 'father of Pt. Krishnarao Shankar Pandit '. Pt Laxman Pandit, son of Pt Krishnarao Pandit is acknowledged as a versatile vocalist besides being an excellent guru.
The book has been divided into five chapters.
The first chapter Gwalior: The Abode of Music gives an account of the glory of Gwalior in the latter part of the 19'" century and the early part of the 20'" century. Besides this, the status of music in the society, with the origin and development of the Gwalior gharana of khayal gayaki has been described. Interesting facts highlighting the status of music such as ragas being pawned, exorbitant salaries paid to musicians and having elephants and horses to carry them, meeting of Raja Man Singh Tomar and Mrignayani have been described. The chapter also describes the life and works of the gurus — Ustad Hassu, Ustad Haddu, Ustad Nathu Khan, Ustad Chhote Mohammad Khan, Ustad Rehmat Khan, and Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan. This period was the golden era of khayal gayaki.
The second chapter From Khans to Pandits contains the description of how the Pandit family assimilated the great tradition with the blessings of Pt Bade Balkrishna Bua, Ustad Haddu Khan, Ustad Natthu Khan, and Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan. The difficulties faced by the Pandit family in assimilating the knowledge has been described. The chapter emphasizes Pt. Shankar Panditji's devotion to his gurus, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan's resigning from the court and living with his dear disciple, which is a unique example of secularism in those days.
The third chapter is The Gayaki of Gwalior Gharana or the style of singing. In this the meaning of Parampara / Gharana has been elaborated. The khayal gayaki of Gwalior has been described thus — naturally toned voice, khayal of dhrupad ang, majestic aakar to transverse three octaves, artistic rendering of the composition or bandish bharana, a rich treasure of different types of compositions and delineation of the raga according to composition with ashtang gayaki.
Besides khayal, the musicians of Gwalior sing styles like tarana, tappa, thumri, bhajans and their allied forms as khayal — numa — tarana, tapp — khayal, chaturang, trivat, pada, ashtapadi, etc. Besides this, Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit's practical tips to performers and students of music are described comprehensively.
In the fourth chapter, the life history of the legendary figures of the Pandit family have been described, namely Pt Vishnu Pandit, Pt Gopal Rao Pandit, Pt Ganapat Rao Pandit, Pt Shankar Pandit, Pt Eknath Pandit, Pt Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, Pt Laxman Pandit, and Pt Chandrakant Pandit. Their talim, riyaz, personality, gayaki, day-to-day life and style of teaching have been well described.
The fifth chapter is the Contribution of the Pandit Family. Their contribution is indeed vast and multidimensional, and has been described under three heads namely — Preservation, Propagation and Enrichment of Music. Under Preservation of Music their contribution to music has been described in respect of — a) Imbibing the great tradition, b) Maintaining the original form of compositions and style of singing and c) Preservation of the composition by recording them.
Under Propagation of Music — a) Reaching out to the masses through concerts, b) Their contribution as gurus, c) Establishment of a school of music d) Thursday Sabhas of the school, e) Invention of notation system, f) Authoring books on music, g) about the Pandits and Pt V.N. Bhatkande and h) Association with All India Radio and Doordarshan.
Under Enrichment of Music —a) Enrichment of gayaki b) Adding new dimensions to the theoretical aspect and c) Their contribution as composers.
The concluding chapter sums up the book and is well illustrated with old photographs of the gurus and the legendary members of the Pandit family.
The book has numerous anecdotes highlighting the status of music in Gwalior, about Tansen and Akbar, Swami Haridas, interesting facts about the hardships faced to learn ustads, their lavish lifestyle, along with vintage photographs as old as 1904 have been included.
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