جلال‌الدین محمد رومی – The Knowledge Of Silence —- Hazrat Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi -जलालुद्दीन रूमी










Supplication in Nothingness.

zikr e jaana


There comes a time when a man realizes that nothing is truth and absolute except God, the merciful. When there is no sky above, no earth beneath, and no hands left to cradle. All alone, left to shambles, in a ruthless mare’s nest. With all the certainty, this time comes in every person’s life, but alas! when this realization strikes most people tend to run over it, dump it to unseen, so they can escape this blue truth of life. Intoxicated with the pleasures of this ephemeral world. 

In such a state of nothingness, on a dusty and weary shelf, I caught hold of an old book co-edited by my grandfather. Flying through the first few pages, I came across a supplication by Hazrat Mulla Moin Kashifi (R.a), which is often recited in mosques and Khanaqah’s of Kashmir. I knew a few lines but to recite it in its totality was a blessing. Specially, coming to know…

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Math and Myth – John Forbes Nash


John Forbes Nash

Born: 13 June 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia, USA
Died: 23 May 2015 in New Jersey, USA

John F Nash’s father, also called John Forbes Nash so we shall refer to him as John Nash Senior, was a native of Texas. John Nash Senior was born in 1892 and had an unhappy childhood from which he escaped when he studied electrical engineering at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical. After military service in France during World War I, John Nash Senior lectured on electrical engineering for a year at the University of Texas before joining the Appalachian Power Company in Bluefield, West Virginia. John F Nash’s mother, Margaret Virginia Martin, was known as Virginia. She had a university education, studying languages at the Martha Washington College and then at West Virginia University. She was a school teacher for ten years before meeting John Nash Senior, and the two were married on 6 September 1924.

Johnny Nash, as he was called by his family, was born in Bluefield Sanitarium and baptised into the Episcopal Church. He was [2]:-

… a singular little boy, solitary and introverted …

but he was brought up in a loving family surrounded by close relations who showed him much affection. After a couple of years Johnny had a sister when Martha was born. He seems to have shown a lot of interest in books when he was young but little interest in playing with other children. It was not because of lack of children that Johnny behaved in this way, for Martha and her cousins played the usual childhood games: cutting patterns out of books, playing hide-and-seek in the attic, playing football. However while the others played together Johnny played by himself with toy airplanes and matchbox cars.

His mother responded by enthusiastically encouraging Johnny’s education, both by seeing that he got good schooling and also by teaching him herself. Johnny’s father responded by treating him like an adult, giving him science books when other parents might give their children colouring books.

Johnny’s teachers at school certainly did not recognise his genius, and it would appear that he gave them little reason to realise that he had extraordinary talents. They were more conscious of his lack of social skills and, because of this, labelled him as backward. Although it is easy to be wise after the event, it now would appear that he was extremely bored at school. By the time he was about twelve years old he was showing great interest in carrying out scientific experiments in his room at home. It is fairly clear that he learnt more at home than he did at school.

Martha seems to have been a remarkably normal child while Johnny seemed different from other children. She wrote later in life (see [2]):-

Johnny was always different. [My parents] knew he was different. And they knew he was bright. He always wanted to do things his way. Mother insisted I do things for him, that I include him in my friendships. … but I wasn’t too keen on showing off my somewhat odd brother.

His parents encouraged him to take part in social activities and he did not refuse, but sports, dances, visits to relatives and similar events he treated as tedious distractions from his books and experiments.

Nash first showed an interest in mathematics when he was about 14 years old. Quite how he came to read E T Bell’s Men of Mathematics is unclear but certainly this book inspired him. He tried, and succeeded, in proving for himself results due to Fermat which Bell stated in his book. The excitement that Nash found here was in contrast to the mathematics that he studied at school which failed to interest him.

He entered Bluefield College in 1941 and there he took mathematics courses as well as science courses, in particular studying chemistry, which was a favourite topic. He began to show abilities in mathematics, particularly in problem solving, but still with hardly any friends and behaving in a somewhat eccentric manner, this only added to his fellow pupils view of him as peculiar. He did not consider a career in mathematics at this time, however, which is not surprising since it was an unusual profession. Rather he assumed that he would study electrical engineering and follow his father but he continued to conduct his own chemistry experiments and was involved in making explosives which led to the death of one of his fellow pupils. [2]:-

Boredom and simmering adolescent aggression led him to play pranks, occasionally ones with a nasty edge.

He caricatured classmates he disliked with weird cartoons, enjoyed torturing animals, and once tried to get his sister to sit in a chair he had wired up with batteries.

Nash won a scholarship in the George Westinghouse Competition and was accepted by the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) which he entered in June 1945 with the intention of taking a degree in chemical engineering. Soon, however, his growing interest in mathematics had him take courses on tensor calculus and relativity. There he came in contact with John Synge who had recently been appointed as Head of the Mathematics Department and taught the relativity course. Synge and the other mathematics professors quickly recognised Nash’s remarkable mathematical talents and persuaded him to become a mathematics specialist. They realised that he had the talent to become a professional mathematician and strongly encouraged him.

Nash quickly aspired to great things in mathematics. He took the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition twice but, although he did well, he did not make the top five. It was a failure in Nash’s eyes and one which he took badly. The Putnam Mathematics Competition was not the only thing going badly for Nash. Although his mathematics professors heaped praise on him, his fellow students found him a very strange person. Physically he was strong and this saved him from being bullied, but his fellow students took delight in making fun of Nash who they saw as an awkward immature person displaying childish tantrums. One of his fellow students wrote:-

He was a country boy unsophisticated even by our standards. He behaved oddly, playing a single chord on a piano over and over, leaving a melting ice cream cone melting on top of his cast-off clothing, walking on his roommate’s sleeping body to turn off the light.

Another wrote:-

He was extremely lonely.

And a third fellow student wrote:-

We tormented poor John. We were very unkind. We were obnoxious. We sensed he had a mental problem.

He showed homosexual tendencies, climbing into bed with the other boys who reacted by making fun of the fact that he was attracted to boys and humiliated him. They played cruel pranks on him and he reacted by asking his fellow students to challenge him with mathematics problems. He ended up doing the homework of many of the students.

Nash received a BA and an MA in mathematics in 1948. By this time he had been accepted into the mathematics programme at Harvard, Princeton, Chicago and Michigan. He felt that Harvard was the leading university and so he wanted to go there, but on the other hand their offer to him was less generous than that of Princeton. Nash felt that Princeton were keen that he went there while he felt that his lack of success in the Putnam Mathematics Competition meant that Harvard were less enthusiastic. He took a while to make his decision, while he was encouraged by Synge and his other professors to accept Princeton. When Lefschetz offered him the most prestigious Fellowship that Princeton had, Nash made his decision to study there.

In September 1948 Nash entered Princeton where he showed an interest in a broad range of pure mathematics: topology, algebraic geometry, game theory and logic were among his interests but he seems to have avoided attending lectures. Usually those who decide not to learn through lectures turn to books but this appears not to be so for Nash, who decided not to learn mathematics “second-hand” but rather to develop topics himself. In many ways this approach was successful for it did contribute to him developing into one of the most original of mathematicians who would attack a problem in a totally novel way.

In 1949, while studying for his doctorate, he wrote a paper which 45 years later was to win a Nobel prize for economics. During this period Nash established the mathematical principles of game theory. P Ordeshook wrote:-

The concept of a Nash equilibrium n-tuple is perhaps the most important idea in noncooperative game theory. … Whether we are analysing candidates’ election strategies, the causes of war, agenda manipulation in legislatures, or the actions of interest groups, predictions about events reduce to a search for and description of equilibria. Put simply, equilibrium strategies are the things that we predict about people.

Milnor, who was a fellow student, describes Nash during his years at Princeton in [6]:-

He was always full of mathematical ideas, not only on game theory, but in geometry and topology as well. However, my most vivid memory of this time is of the many games which were played in the common room. I was introduced to Go and Kriegspiel, and also to an ingenious topological game which we called Nash in honor of the inventor.

In fact the game “Nash” was almost identical to Hex which had been invented independently by Piet Hein in Denmark.

Here are three comments from fellow students:-

Nash was out of the ordinary. If he was in a room with twenty people, and they were talking, if you asked an observer who struck you as odd it would have been Nash. It was not anything he consciously did. It was his bearing. His aloofness.

Nash was totally spooky. He wouldn’t look at you. he’d take a lot of time answering a question. If he thought the question was foolish he wouldn’t answer at all. He had no affect. It was a mixture of pride and something else. He was so isolated but there really was underneath it all a warmth and appreciation of people.

A lot of us would discount what Nash said. … I wouldn’t want to listen. You didn’t feel comfortable with the person.

He had ideas and was very sure they were important. He went to see Einstein not long after he arrived in Princeton and told him about an idea he had regarding gravity. After explaining complicated mathematics to Einstein for about an hour, Einstein advised him to go and learn more physics. Apparently a physicist did publish a similar idea some years later.

In 1950 Nash received his doctorate from Princeton with a thesis entitled Non-cooperative Games. In the summer of that year he worked for the RAND Corporation where his work on game theory made him a leading expert on the Cold War conflict which dominated RAND’s work. He worked there from time to time over the next few years as the Corporation tried to apply game theory to military and diplomatic strategy. Back at Princeton in the autumn of 1950 he began to work seriously on pure mathematical problems. It might seem that someone who had just introduced ideas which would, one day, be considered worthy of a Nobel Prize would have no problems finding an academic post. However, Nash’s work was not seen at the time to be of outstanding importance and he saw that he needed to make his mark in other ways. We should also note that it was not really a move towards pure mathematics for he had always considered himself a pure mathematician. He had already obtained results on manifolds and algebraic varieties before writing his thesis on game theory. His famous theorem, that any compact real manifold is diffeomorphic to a component of a real-algebraic variety, was thought of by Nash as a possible result to fall back on if his work on game theory was not considered suitable for a doctoral thesis. He said in a recent interview:-

I developed a very good idea in pure mathematics. I got what became Real Algebraic Manifolds. I could have published that earlier, but it wasn’t rushed to publication. I took some time in writing it up. Somebody suggested that I was a prodigy. Another time it was suggested that I should be called “bug brains”, because I had ideas, but they were sort of buggy or not perfectly sound. So that might have been an anticipation of mental problems. I mean, taking it at face value.

In 1952 Nash published Real Algebraic Manifolds in the Annals of Mathematics. The most important result in this paper is that two real algebraic manifolds are equivalent if and only if they are analytically homeomorphic. Although publication of this paper on manifolds established him as a leading mathematician, not everyone at Princeton was prepared to see him join the Faculty there. This was nothing to do with his mathematical ability which everyone accepted as outstanding, but rather some mathematicians such as Artin felt that they could not have Nash as a colleague due to his aggressive personality.

Halmos received the following letter in early 1953 from Warren Ambrose relating to Nash (see for example [2]):-

There’s no significant news from here, as always. Martin is appointing John Nash to an Assistant Professorship (not the Nash at Illinois, the one out of Princeton by Steenrod) and I’m pretty annoyed at that. Nash is a childish bright guy who wants to be “basically original,” which I suppose is fine for those who have some basic originality in them. He also makes a damned fool of himself in various ways contrary to this philosophy. He recently heard of the unsolved problem about imbedding a Riemannian manifold isometrically in Euclidean space, felt that this was his sort of thing, provided the problem were sufficiently worthwhile to justify his efforts; so he proceeded to write to everyone in the math society to check on that, was told that it probably was, and proceeded to announce that he had solved it, modulo details, and told Mackey he would like to talk about it at the Harvard colloquium. Meanwhile he went to Levinson to inquire about a differential equation that intervened and Levinson says it is a system of partial differential equations and if he could only [get] to the essentially simpler analog of a single ordinary differential equation it would be a damned good paper – and Nash had only the vaguest notions about the whole thing. So it is generally conceded he is getting nowhere and making an even bigger ass of himself than he has been previously supposed by those with less insight than myself. But we’ve got him and saved ourselves the possibility of having gotten a real mathematician. He’s a bright guy but conceited as Hell, childish as Wiener, hasty as X, obstreperous as Y, for arbitrary X and Y.

Ambrose, the author of this letter, and Nash had rubbed each other the wrong way for a while. They had played silly pranks on each other and Ambrose seems not to have been able to ignore Nash’s digs in the way others had learned to do. It had been Ambrose who had said to Nash:-

If you’re so good, why don’t you solve the embedding theorem for manifolds.

From 1952 Nash had taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but his teaching was unusual (and unpopular with students) and his examining methods were highly unorthodox. His research on the theory of real algebraic varieties, Riemannian geometry, parabolic and elliptic equations was, however, extremely deep and significant in the development of all these topics. His paper C1 isometric imbeddings was published in 1954 and Chern, in a review, noted that it:-

… contains some surprising results on the C1-isometric imbedding into an Euclidean space of a Riemannian manifold with a positive definite C0-metric.

Nash continued to develop this work in the paper The imbedding problem for Riemannian manifolds published in 1956. This paper contains his famous deep implicit function theorem. After this Nash worked on ideas that would appear in his paper Continuity of solutions of parabolic and elliptic equations which was published in the American Journal of Mathematics in 1958. Nash, however, was very disappointed when he discovered that E De Giorgi had proved similar results by completely different methods.

The outstanding results which Nash had obtained in the course of a few years put him into contention for a 1958 Fields’ Medal but since his work on parabolic and elliptic equations was still unpublished when the Committee made their decisions he did not make it. One imagines that the Committee would have expected him to be a leading contender, perhaps even a virtual certainty, for a 1962 Fields’ Medal but mental illness destroyed his career long before those decisions were made.

During his time at MIT Nash began to have personal problems with his life which were in addition to the social difficulties he had always suffered. Colleagues said:-

Nash was always forming intense friendships with men that had a romantic quality. He was very adolescent, always with the boys. He was very experimental – mostly he just kissed.

He met Eleanor Stier and they had a son, John David Stier, who was born on 19 June 1953. Eleanor was a shy girl, lacking confidence, a little afraid of men, did not want to be involved. She found in Nash someone who was even less experienced than she was and found that attractive. [2]:-

Nash was looking for emotional partners who were more interested in giving than receiving, and Eleanor, was very much that sort.

Nash did not want to marry Eleanor although she tried hard to persuade him. In the summer of 1954, while working for RAND, Nash was arrested in a police operation to trap homosexuals. He was dismissed from RAND.

One of Nash’s students at MIT, Alicia Larde, became friendly with him and by the summer of 1955 they were seeing each other regularly. He also had a special friendship with a male graduate student at this time: Jack Bricker. Eleanor found out about Alicia in the spring of 1956 when she came to Nash’s house and found him in bed with Alicia. Nash said to a friend:-

My perfect little world is ruined, my perfect little world is ruined.

Alicia did not seem too upset at discovering that Nash had a child with Eleanor and deduced that since the affair had been going on for three years, Nash was probably not serious about her. In 1956 Nash’s parents found out about his continuing affair with Eleanor and about his son John David Stier. The shock may have contributed to the death of Nash’s father soon after, but even if it did not Nash may have blamed himself. In February of 1957 Nash married Alicia; by the autumn of 1958 she was pregnant but, a couple of months later near the end of 1958, Nash’s mental state became very disturbed.

At a New Year’s Party Nash appeared at midnight dressed only with a nappy and a sash with “1959” written on it. He spent most of the evening curled up, like the baby he was dressed as, on his wife’s lap. Some described his behaviour as stranger than usual. On 4 January he was back at the university and started to teach his game theory course. His opening comments to the class were:-

The question occurs to me. Why are you here?

One student immediately dropped the course! Nash asked a graduate student to take over his course and vanished for a couple of weeks. When he returned he walked into the common room with a copy of the New York Times saying that it contained encrypted messages from outer space that were meant only for him. For a few days people thought he was playing an elaborate private joke.

Norbert Wiener was one of the first to recognize that Nash’s extreme eccentricities and personality problems were actually symptoms of a medical disorder. After months of bizarre behaviour, Alicia had her husband involuntarily hospitalised at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital outside of Boston. Upon his release, Nash abruptly resigned from MIT, withdrew his pension, and went to Europe, where he intended to renounce his US citizenship. Alicia left her newborn son with her mother, and followed the ill Nash. She then had Nash deported – back to the United States.

After their return, the two settled in Princeton where Alicia took a job. Nash’s illness continued, transforming him into a frightening figure. He spent most of his time hanging around on the Princeton campus, talking about himself in the third person as Johann von Nassau, writing nonsensical postcards and making phone calls to former colleagues. They stoically listened to his endless discussions of numerology and world political affairs. Her husband’s worsening condition depressed Alicia more and more.

In January 1961 the despondent Alicia, John’s mother, and his sister Martha made the difficult decision to commit him to Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey where he endured insulin-coma therapy, an aggressive and risky treatment, five days a week for a month and a half. A long sad episode followed which included periods of hospital treatment, temporary recovery, then further treatment. Alicia divorced Nash in 1962. Nash spent a while with Eleanor and John David. In 1970 Alicia tried to help him taking him in as a boarder, but he appeared to be lost to the world, removed from ordinary society, although he spent much of his time in the Mathematics Department at Princeton. The book [2] is highly recommended for its moving account of Nash’s mental sufferings.

Slowly over many years Nash recovered. He delivered a paper at the tenth World Congress of Psychiatry in 1996 describing his illness; it is reported in [3]. He was described in 1958 as the:-

… most promising young mathematician in the world …

but he soon began to feel that:-

… the staff at my university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later all of Boston were behaving strangely towards me. … I started to see crypto-communists everywhere … I started to think I was a man of great religious importance, and to hear voices all the time. I began to hear something like telephone calls in my head, from people opposed to my ideas. …The delirium was like a dream from which I seemed never to awake.

Despite spending periods in hospital because of his mental condition, his mathematical work continued to have success after success. He said:-

I would not dare to say that there is a direct relation between mathematics and madness, but there is no doubt that great mathematicians suffer from maniacal characteristics, delirium and symptoms of schizophrenia.

In the 1990s Nash made a recovery from the schizophrenia from which he had suffered since 1959. His ability to produce mathematics of the highest quality did not totally leave him. He said:-

I would not treat myself as recovered if I could not produce good things in my work.

Nash was awarded (jointly with Harsanyi and Selten) the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his work on game theory. In 1999 he was awarded the Leroy P Steele Prize by the American Mathematical Society:-

… for a seminal contribution to research.

Nash and Louis Nirenberg were awarded the Abel prize in 2015 for:

… striking and seminal contributions to the theory of nonlinear partial differential equations and its applications to geometric analysis.

A few days after picking up the prize in Norway, Nash and his wife Alicia were killed in an accident to their taxi on the New Jersey turnpike.

Article by: J J O’Connor and E F Robertson

Click on this link to see a list of the Glossary entries for this page
List of References (10 books/articles)

Some Quotations (2)

Mathematicians born in the same country

Additional Material in MacTutor

Raoul Bott on John Nash

Honours awarded to John F Nash
(Click below for those honoured in this way)
Nobel Prize    1994
AMS Steele Prize    1999
Abel Prize    2015
Popular biographies list    Number 25
Other Web sites

Encyclopaedia Britannica
Nobel prize winners
Nobel prizes site (An autobiography of Nash and his Nobel prize presentation speech)
Nash’s home page
AMS [registration required]
Mathematical Genealogy Project

Limits of Linguistic Representation: Wittgenstein and the Unrepresentable that shows forth

Luwig_Wittgenstein_right corner__and his_Family
The paper seeks reexamination of the received critical heritage about Wittgenstein that treats him as a positivist or unquestionably derives inspiration for positivism from him or sees him as a philosopher of language instead of the translinguistic unrepresentable transcendence. It also questions the influential reading of Wittgenstein scholars who argue that he supports only foundationless view of religion and language game is best metaphor for characterizing his religious views. I argue for the centrality of the mystical or transcendence in understanding the whole corpus of Wittgenstein, especially the Tractatus and his ethics. Questioning the approach that writes off a few scattered mystical utterances here and there in Wittgenstein the paper, building on Russell  Neili’s arguments, argues for shift in the paradigm of approaching Wittgenstein by keeping subservient the “positivist” in him  and foreground the broader head of mystic in him. A proper understanding of mysticism is all that we need to have in order to appreciate the mystic Wittgenstein’s transcendence of logic and language in both life and thought and foreground him as a philosopher of transcendence and not merely a philosopher of language. Mysticism is the key to Wittgenstein though most Wittgenstein scholars have failed to put in proper perspective the primacy of the mystical and ignored this vital element that alone explains certain ambiguities and difficulties in traditional Wittgenstein exegeses. Far from being antimetaphysical positivist Wittgenstein is to be read as a mystic in the tradition of great mystical thinkers and can be compared with Simone Weil and other significant mystical thinkers of the recent past. His dialectic of transcendence has significant resemblances with transtheistic mystical philosophies such as that of Buddhism and Taoism. Arguing for continuity of his religious views from Tractatus onwards, the paper seeks to rectify problems resulting from emphasizing later Wittgenstein for deriving a philosophy of religion that has been perpetuating noncognitivist, fideist interpretations of him while failing to properly place ethical and aesthetic in his fundamentally mystical approach to religion and culture.

Wittgenstein’s philosophical reflections are in large part, however indirectly, readings between the lines of the story of the soul in the Western metaphysical tradition.
Fergusson Kerr in Theology after Wittgenstein p.166
I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view.
My thoughts are one hundred percent Hebraic.

Linguistic Representations and Dialogue with the Mystical

What do linguistic representations aim at? Mirroring reality? Or they constitute an autonomous play that gives us no insights into the most important foundation for culture? The dream or motivation has often been access to reality however imperfect that may be. Strangely there now seems to be increasing consensus over the thesis that language and reality are two different things and the latter is either opaque for the former or far too rich a thing to be captured in the net of the former. From Nagarjuna to Wittgenstein and Derrida many thinkers have denied language and thought access to reality. The question is what do mystics say about this problem? Could the path ahead for philosophers dealing with linguistic representations be opening for a cross disciplinary study with mystical philosophers or philosophers of mysticism? My contention in this paper is that it should be so. Particularly focusing on Wittgenstein it is argued that the royal road to reality is not through language and thought but modes of perception that bypass them. The most important point is that what matters at the end of the day is ethics and answer to fundamental existential questions, the problems that Culture and Value embodies and for these questions we need to explore other languages than the one ordinarily known. This language is the language of the Self. Wittgenstein fundamentally preoccupied himself with this problem though this concern has been largely sidelined by Wittgenstein scholars and those working on philosophy of language. The present paper pleads for a dialogue with this ignored Wittgenstein to contemplate the possibility for breaking fresh ground in tackling the nagging problems in the debate on language and reality.

There is hardly any difference in early and late Wittgenstein’s on the question of the mystical and the ethical. He remained Tractarian till the end in his mystical viewpoint. He did abandon parts of the Tractatus later but there was no evolution – and in fact could not by the very logic of mystical experience that converts its subjects for good. The mystics solve – for themselves at least – all important problems – intellectual and existential. In fact experiencing God dissolves all problems. For logical positivists what mattered most was what is in Tractatus but for Wittgenstein himself what mattered most was what was not in there, the unsaid part. That was not in the Tractatus because language could not handle that. That something is neither linguistic nor representable in any other way. However that shows itself and thus need not be spoken of or represented. Wittgenstein’s most decisive move was thus away from linguistic representations and the most important job for the philosopher was to delimit what can be represented and thus related to what only shows itself. Ethics and aesthetics and the mystical all belong to this second category. Man does not live by bread of facts (science, instrumental rationality) alone but needs supernatural manna embodied in ethical/aesthetical/mystical. It is ironic that what mattered most to him has not been given due attention by his successors. All his endeavor was to save the intelligence from the bewitchment of language. He was all for transcendence so that man becomes himself and lives truly, joyfully. In his search for happy life, life lived sub species aeternatatis  he paid great attention  to working of language, how language fails to represent reality and leads us astray by creating problems that are not there. It is how men lived that interested him rather than their speculative exercises. This alone solves the riddles of life. Language has no answers and answers can only be found when we step outside language.
As Wittgenstein was more interested in what cannot be linguistically represented his conclusions are radical. The most important things can’t be talked about. Ethics, religion and aesthetics are transcendental. The very fact that things exist is mystical or linguistically and conceptually unrepresentable. We can only gaze at it and get lost in wonder. We can dissolve into this primordial mystery, love and celebrate it. Wittgenstein lived almost like a saint. He is the most mystical of the greatest philosophers of the modern Western history. He tried to show exit to philosophy. He found no problems once we let intelligence operate naturally and it shatters linguistic cobwebs. He fought against pervasive bewitchment of intelligence by language.
However he also realized all pervasiveness of language and how it constructs the world for us. It hardly needs to be argued that we have nothing but linguistic representations even when we seek to talk about transcendence. Man, as has been observed in the classical ages, is a speaking animal. Language is a house of Being. In language the divine and the human meet. Prophets and saints too have spoken. Even the Buddha, the Prophet of silence, spoke even if it is about the impossibility of speech in matters transcendental. Man is condemned to speak and even speak to God and receive the speech of God in turn as scriptures narrate. Scriptures are all filled with linguistic representations of that which though ideally resists getting represented nevertheless is largely accessible though not quite adequately through language. Masses don’t know silence and even saints can’t afford it for too long. Man lives in dialogue, I and Thou dialogue. The absolute stillness is superhuman and for most humans synonymous with death. It is not given for man to conceptually know Truth or represent the divine. But nevertheless he has no other window to higher worlds. Language though imperfect is normally indispensable for humans. Later Wittgenstein is all about appreciating how divine suffuses and expresses in religious language, how ordinary use of language is steeped in transcendental world.

We must not confuse two senses of the term transcendental in Witttgenstein. Logic too is transcendental and we can only show rather than speak about/represent the correspondence between two pictures. To ‘say’ the correspondence between language and reality would require an intermediate language which in turn will require the same ad infinitum., but then that language would also require the same. This kind of transcendence has logical or intellectual function only and did interest Wittgenstein but what mattered for him both personally and as a philosopher is transcendence in ethical/aesthetic/mystical experiences, in the primordial encounter with the world and finding that things exist. The present paper is about this transcendence. As there can be no propositions about what is not in the world or is transcendental we shall have to focus more on life and experiences of the transcendent than on analysis of some theses regarding language or language games to make our point.

Wittgenstein’s Mysticism

Wittgenstein’s protests against being misunderstood notwithstanding, a great industry propounding a version of him he would strongly resent, has been flourishing. What he considered more important has been relegated to background. There is great agreement between scholars on almost everything except that mattered most to him. His motive for doing philosophy and living philosophy have been absent amongst his admirers, not to speak of detractors. His life has not been taken seriously as an aid in clarifying his basic theses and commitments. He has been read as philosopher of language though for him transcendence is more central for culture and value realization.

The mystical in Wittgenstein has not been duly noticed and if noticed  not quite well understood. His religious thought has been misunderstood and not read in continuation with his fundamentally mystical outlook. All kinds of theories have been put forward for accounting for his scattered mystical statements and observations on religion. The mystical is central for Wittgenstein and his philosophy and he has stated it in his Tractatus, Notebooks,“Lecture on Ethics” and in fact most of his writings develop this theme in novel ways, in so subtle a manner that few can notice. His attitude towards religion, often understood in connection with the thesis of language game, is to be put in proper context by foregrounding the empirical mystical foundation that he gives to religion. Wittgenstein scholars have not generally succeeded in integrating his mysticism with his view of religion, culture and aesthetics. Mysticism is in the background of many a theses of later Wittgenstein as well and not just the Tractatus. Even Philosophical Investigations’ central arguments that foreground illusoriness of the self, critique mentalistic picture of the soul, dissolve subject object duality and plunge headlong into the world which is all there us, alert us of dangers in asserting or making propositions on anything that transcends language.
Wittgenstein deserves a comparison with great mystical thinkers. If we understand that God is what is and is missed when we attempt to think or imagine or make images of Him or attempt to comprehend the Mystery we can understand Wittgenstein. According to mysticism God is the case. The only thing is we don’t see. We verbalize and babble and create theologies and metaphysics. Wittgenstein is a metaphysician in the same way Buddha is or Krishnamurti is. God is above speech. The Absolute has never been defiled by speech. But by metaphysics is here meant living or breathing the noumenal world, dissolving into it and not speculating about it with conceptual schemes. Metaphysics as the knowledge of the supraphenomenal reality is the soul of all traditional cultures or “epistemologies.” Man is made for the Absolute, to die in It and thus to eternally live. Certainty is the requirement of intelligence and man is not absurdity. If man fails to access the most certain, the indubitable, the absolutely safe in Wittgenstein’s terms, he has failed as a man. God is the greatest certainty – the greatest and most palpable of the present facts in Whitehead’s words –and a philosophy or epistemology that doesn’t account for this does not deserve to be called a philosophy. It is failure and betrayal of philosophy and of man and his intelligence if the  real is not knowable though of course not conceptually knowable.  Modern philosophy that is largely ignorant of God can’t qualify as a genuine philosophy, as Indians or great traditional philosophers from other traditions understood philosophy as darsana, as seeing or vision.
Wittgenstein had mystic experiences of both the ecstatic and nature-mystical kind. Seeing creation as wondrous is what Einstein correctly defined as religious or mystical attitude. God is attention without distraction as Simone Weil would say. He is the Mystery at the heart of everything. For Wittgenstein God is approached in all these ways and doubting our experience of wonder, of mystery, of eternity, of the ethical or unconditional goodness or his urge for it is absurd. Indeed God is the case and only the fools say in their hearts there is no God. Nasr has remarked that if it were possible to teach (traditional) metaphysics to everyone there would be no atheists around. Modern man has failed to understand what traditions meant by God. God is Reality for traditions and it is absurd to ask is there a reality. Only mystics can, however, say this so genuinely and Wittgenstein is a mystics. As ethics or aesthetics is transcendental and yet quite human and real concerns and constitute the grounds of all that we value most  so is religion understood as living/talking God (to be distinguished from talking about God or mere propsitional belief statement) so characteristic of human endowment that it is absurd to question it. In fact, as the Quran says, no question or doubt can be entertained regarding God. God is love, superabundant joy, beauty that kills, sweetness of every sweat thing, green in the leaves and red in the golden rays and  mystery that surrounds us.

This is not pantheism which is a heresy for traditions but our experience of God out of the world, so to speak, -and of course we also need to note that samsara is nirvana and this very garden is the Garden of Eden for the seeing or who know. Debating about God is height of folly like debating about pleasures of love by enunchs. Against this folly Wittgenstein asserted what normal men have always taken to be the case that God is reality or Reality and only saints truly live life. Wittgenstein was a saint though not of the order of great Western saints like Eckhart. Saints don’t talk about God but talk God, live God, breathe God and share the great joy that God is with lesser mortals. The real question for traditional philosophies is how we become Godlike (theosis) or prepare for death in life (which is the same thing or means for it) or live and move and have our being in God. All else is vanity.

Wittgenstein stood for this primordial heritage of man and that is why was misunderstood by most of his friends and foes like. Needless to remark that he didn’t consider Western civilization that refused to fully countenance the reality of the sacred as something of a monstrosity and like Gandhi a laughable “interesting” idea He complained of Russell, the paragon of modern rationality or philosophy – to have fatally misunderstood him. In fact what he considered most important has been dismissed by many a modern thinker as folly. God (understood mystically or more precisely metaphysically) is the meaning of life for all religions including transtheistic one as for Wittgenstein. I wish to argue the point that Wittgenstein is to be read alongside great traditional philosophers that saw the Good above everything, had little use for fashionable pursuits of today, considered ethics as first philosophy and metaphysical discoveries as fruits or realizations of real ethical life, were centred on God rather than man and saw quintessentially human in living up to the divine image in him, in transcending himself. There is nothing new or original in Wittgenstein’s mysticism as in fact there can’t be anything new in matters transcendental. One can refer to many mystics while explicating central statements of him. So far we have read – with few exceptions– Wittgenstein as a philosopher or failed to appreciate how mysticism informs/grounds his philosophy.
Wittgenstein is not only a philosopher of mysticism but a mystic, a practical mystic of great standing. All his work was dedicated to the “glory of God” as he once said to his friend Dury (Rhees, 1984: 168) – an expression quite unexpected from modern profane philosophers. He didn’t like philosophizing as a speculative/analytical  exercise, as an academic pursuit as is the case now in modern academies or universities but something that Plato would appreciate or other ancient traditional philosophers would prescribe as a way of life and nothing short of preparation of death. That he wanted his legacy to c of changed attitude towards ethics is hardly surprising.  “I am by no means sure that I should prefer a continuation of my work by others to a change in the way people live which would make all those questions superfluous.”(Wittgenstein, CV: 61). Philosophy, as pursued by his contemporaries or today, is a disease of modern form of life that needs cure. And that cure is ultimately provided by seeing the futility of the game called philosophy.

For ancients it was ethics and a vision and had little to do with language or concepts.  It was, most probably, his deep conviction borne from experience regarding sacrality of the world and thus the truth of the supernatural/eternal that made him loath modern civilization that had banished the sacred. It is in light of mysticism that we can understand his  unconventional attitude towards secular carriers or vocations, his renunciation of his property, his austerity in life and manners, his casual attitude towards dress, his independence in thought and action, his nostalgia for peasant life in Russia, his alienation from his times that he characterized as dark ages and many puzzles in his biography. His view of philosophy’s aim, his attempt at transcending it for getting the vision of the things as they really are, his rejection of the claims of conceptual analysis or linguistic analysis as explaining reality, his rejection of classical dualisms that have bedeviled Cartesian and post-Cartesian thought, his plea for convergence of the ethical and the aesthetic, his view that ethics is transcendental, his rejection of doing science and mathematics as the ideals of philosophizing endeavor, his critique of psychologism and rationalistic attempts at building a metaphysics and our addiction to use metaphysical notions in ordinary discourse at rational plane are all threads in the fabric of mystical tapestry that has so subtly woven. He rejected theological representations as many others before have done but he never rejected the symbolizandum.

He said there is no theoretical content in religious doctrines. This is, in a way, easily understandable. God is not a thing, an entity, a being among other being or existence. “God is not” as Eckhart would put it. God is Nothing as Buddhism would put it. God is all that there is as Sufism and Taoist mysticism see it. Samsara and nirvana are really one.
There can be no doubt about the mystical in Wittgenstein. Amongst the most loved books of him are included William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience and Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief, Augustine’s Confessions, Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov in which Father Zossima figures, and writings of George Fox and Plato. He claimed that Vienna circle people didn’t understand Tractatus and that few will understand it and in fact his learned commentators still mostly miss its kernel, its last pages and especially the closing proposition. His only public lecture is through and through a mystical piece. His only published book during his life time is an attempt to delineate the sacred realm and prevent its debasement by speculative metaphysics and exoteric theology. His notebooks are marked by the mystical passion. His Culture and Value criticizes modern Western civilization on precisely religious-mystical grounds. His Philosophical Grammar, Blue Book and Philosophical Investigations have mysticism in the background and in fact pave way for it. The most important questions of life that science or logical positivism or any reductionist philosophy miss need, according to him, to be treated mystically. His respect for religion as a form of life – though this belongs to the exoteric part of his work – and his refusal to take cudgels on behalf of theologians are explainable through the thesis of the mystical that he values above everything.
If we don’t comprehend such typical mystical statements as “Samsara and nirvana are one,” “God is what is,” “ I see nothing but God everywhere,” “God is the Hidden and the Manifest” “ God is our ultimate concern,” “Eternity is the present moment,” “Don’t prat about God; God is not,” “God is neither good nor true,” “God is the sweetness of all sweat things,” “ God is Beauty and Truth,” “ God is the real Doer,” “It is God that sees and listens rather than we,” “God is the knownest of the Known,” “No doubt can be entertained regarding God,” “God is the Light of the World,” “God is the Totality, the Whole,” “God is the most immediate of the present facts and unattainable quest” we can’t comprehend mysticism of Wittgenstein. He saw everything from mystical (what he wrongly called religious) point of view. His metaphysics of experience is built on the foundations provided by mystical attitude towards life and the world. The central doctrines and conceptions of religion or theology are understood in light of mystical interpretation that informs Wittgenstein.
Review of works on the mystical in Wittgenstein
The problem with most of the works done on this theme is that they have not been done by the students of mysticism but philosophy and that too a very hostile antimetaphysicalantimystical philosophy. How deeply ironic it is that Wittgenstein would be understood as supporter of the manifesto of logical positivism that banished as nonsense everything which concerned Wittgenstein the most. Science for Wittgenstein has not and could not even touch the problem of life, the problem of meaning, the problem of transcendence. His critique of psychologism meant saying good bye to one of the most fashionable reductionist approaches to spiritual reality. His denial of self was negation of everything for which secular humanism and modern individualism stands. His characterization of scientific-technological civilization as dark ages places him squarely with other great religious critics of Enlightenment thought. For him modern positivist civilization lacked culture and therefore was cursed. He lamented that Russell, Carnap and many others who were so close to him didn’t really understand him and those who claimed to be his followers didn’t make spiritual endeavour share the spiritual vacation that moved him. He was every inch a mystic and no doubt should be entertained regarding this. Both Russell and Carnap accused him of mysticism and in fact none of the Wittgenstein scholars or biographers has denied the element of mystical in him but none has been able to see how mysticism is the key to his whole thought not excluding the latter Wittgenstein. Logic is a tool for paving the way to the supralogical or transcendental. In fact mystical is the case for him and needs no arguments. The unrepresentable shows forth. It is there to be contemplated, breathed and enjoyed. God is everywhere and nowhere. Man is not. He lives and moves and has his being in God. My purpose here is to make some general remarks on the centrality of the mystical in Wittgenstein and thus help to put in perspective the critical writings on his religion besides clarifying why it should matter in any discussion of him. I shall particularly focus on his Notebooks (1914-16) to argue my case though I shall not ignore the Tractatus which has been much though still inadequately and often not quite rightly commented upon from this perspective.
Amongst those who have sympathetically written on his mysticism Russell Neili should count as the most important and balanced. Atkinson reads him as a pantheist as if Wittgenstein had not placed transcendence outside the world in so clear terms. Malcolm and some other critics who have written on his view of religion as a language game have missed the mystical core of his religiosity – his metaphysics of experience – to recall Pradhan’s title of his very useful book – I believe it is Indians who can better comment on Wittgenstein because the metaphysics that he affirms – metaphysics as suprarational intuitive or intellectual instead of speculative rational affair – belongs to India especially. (Indians have no difficulty in understanding Buddha as a mystic and Buddhism as a great metaphysic even if Buddha refused to answer 14 metaphysical questions). Brian McGuiness has made a useful small study and there are valuable insights in Kerr’s Theology after Wittgenstein. Mark Lazenby in The Early Wittgenstein on Religion pays attention to the mystical in him and rightly points out that McGuinness’s view that Wittgenstein is a nature mystic in the Tractatus is not correct and instead argues that he is actually a theistic mystic. He notes that there are two worlds in Tractatus, namely the factual and the spiritual and points out that realizing this is in order to understand how there can be value inside the world. Lazenby develops this position by arguing that the factual world is the everyday one which logic characterizes and that value lies outside this world. The mystic looks back upon this world after transcending it and once it has been transcended there is nothing to say and hence silence ensues. Engleman, Dury and other acquaintances of Wittgenstein have also pointed out the profundity of his mystical outlook. In fact logical positivist camp soon discovered that he is not amongst them. Wittgenstein’s differences with Russell and positivist friends are largely attributable to his mystical-ethical convictions. Many papers have been written to argue the point that Wittgenstein had mystical convictions but very few studies have been able to convincingly link his life and work and interpret him consistently on mystical lines. He has been approached more from theological/religious than from mystic-metaphysical viewpoint. The present paper seeks to fill the gap.
K.C Pandey’s edited collection Perspectives on the Unsayable shows a glimpse of confusion on Wittgenstein’s fundamental contributions to the debate on religion or transcendence. There are disagreements over the nature of his religiosity, cognitive status of religious claims, central metaphysical notions such as the self in relation to God, the meaning of the unsayable etc. Wittgenstein has been approached as a philosopher and not as a mystic and this contributes to confusions. So far few scholars specializing in mysticism have written on Wittgenstein and this has complicated problems. Wittgenstein is a mystic and a metaphysician of a different order – he does metaphysics as many traditional philosopher-sages have been doing it. It is nonrational route for doing metaphysics that he takes. I think the best guide to understanding traditional non-rational metaphysics is the trinity of perennialistmetaphyiscians Rene Guenon, AnandaCoomaraswamy and FrithjofSchuon. For Wittgenstein – to refute his postmodernist appropriations that argue he is a prisoner of language and textuality – what can’t be said is the case. The world is not explained by science or philosophy or anything that employs language.
In a remarkable book Wittgenstein and the Mystical: Philosophy as an Ascetic Practice  Fredrick Sontag sets ten themes that run throughout Wittgenstein’s work. The “themes” dominated Wittgenstein’s life and, Sontag argues, provide a way to understand Wittgenstein’s work. The themes are, as his reviewer puts it, : (1) Philosophy as an ascetic practice; (2) The philosopher as existentialist/pragmatist; (3) The monk’s isolated search for forgiveness; (4) The penitent’s search for forgiveness; (5) The struggle with God as an unknown object; (6) Philosophy as a “religious” way of life; (7) Philosophy as a life of courage; (8) Serious philosophical pursuit has an affinity to mysticism; (9) Language has a mystical quality; (10) Insight can be imparted only to one who is serious and dedicated.
The Mystical in Wittgenstein’s texts
I focus here particularly though not exclusively on Notebooks (1914-16) and then subsume those observations and comment on them from mystical viewpoint. Some statements from Tractaus are too well known and commented to need quoting here. Almost all the statements on religion, ethics and aesthetics in the Notebooks need to be kept in focus for appreciating our reading. Here only a few statements can be quoted or alluded to while commentary proceeds.
Ethics is transcendental.
The work of art is the object seen sub species aeternitatis and the good life is the world seen sub species aeternitatis. This is the connection between art and ethics.
The urge towards mystical comes after non-realization of our wishes by science. We feel that even with all possible scientific questions answered our problem is still not touched at all.
It is true: Man is the microcosmos.
There is no such thing as the act of the will. Will is the attitude of the subject to the world.
World in itself is neither good nor evil.
Everything is perfect.
Objects I can only name.
Where in the world is the metaphysical subject to be found?
There is no riddle.
How things stand is God.
…my will is world will.
There can and must be mentioned of I in a non-physcological sense in philosophy.
Skepticism is not irrefutable, but obvious nonsense if it tries to doubt where no question can be asked
For doubts can only exist where a question exists; a question can only exist where an answer exists, and this can only exist where something can be said.

The fact that Wittgenstein had personal mystical experience is well attested. His description of being absolutely safe and seeing creation as a miracle are so compelling that we hardly need to entertain any second opinion about the mystical in him or his encounter with the mystical. The cognizance of the fact that there is a world is enough to make one dance with ecstasy and wonder. Wonder is the beginning and end of human wisdom.
According to him philosophy is not one of the natural sciences. He made the aim of philosophy more a vision than any things else (Pradhan:237). He aims was to get “vision of things as they are and therefore he aimed transcending philosophy itself. Philosophy could be transcended only after it has given us the correct vision of the world. As we have said earlier, this vision consists in man’s knowledge of the world, or in other words, in the metaphysic.” Although metaphysical interpretation of Wittgenstein’s thought has been disputed we can still say that he does argue for a new way of looking at the world which involves a kind of transcendence quite similar to the one advocated by mystics. After enlightenment the world continues to be the same but we have one foot above the ground as famous Zen anecdote recounts. This is the whole burden of a remarkable work titled Wittgenstein: A Way of Seeing. To quote only one statement from Philosophical Investigations “What you have discovered is a new way of looking at things. As if you had invented a new way of painting; or again a new metre or a new kind of song” (401). Wittgenstein is a metaphysician in a special sense. He is a philosopher of transcendence. This point may need a clarification.
Metaphysics as conceived by its greatest masters across traditions from Nagarjuna to Sankara to Lao Tzu to Eckhart and IbnArabi consists in a vision that transforms our ordinary perception or attitude regarding the world. It is not necessarily a vision of beyond in the sense that involves moving out of oneself and talking of an abstraction or higher world ontologically distinguishable from the world we all know. It always presupposes samsara-nirvana or world-heaven equivalence. The immediate is the ultimate and path is the goal as Zen tradition would put it. God is the green in the trees and the red in the sunrays. Transcendence could well be construed as true being of beings as Heidegger would tell us or mystery of things or depth dimension of things. Everything is within according to all traditions.There is no other in absolute sense. All are one. IbnArabi’s words “you are everything, in everything, and from everything” express the vision of all great mystical thinkers. Thus all the higher worlds are part of the Self or consciousness. Ken Wilber has been emphasizing this point especially in almost all his writings. things.

To be open to revelations of transcendence is simply to keep the sense of wonder alive. Philosophy begins in wonder and mysticism makes this wonder a permanent state. The highest stage in the path is the stage of wonder or getting lost as IbnArabi says. Nietzsche was right to emphasize loyalty to this earth. In fact father Zosima in Dostovesky’s mystical work The Brothers Karamazarovsees every garden as the Garden of Eden. He says: “We don’t understand that life is a paradise [at present], for we have only to wish to understand this and it will immediately appear before us in all its beauty.”Rabbi Herschel has made the same point in different terms “Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy.”
The quarrel between transcendentalists and antitranscendentalists of almost all hues is largely verbal quibble. Platonic ideal world is not a separate world, an abstraction. But the world ordinarily thought to be world is also not the whole world but a mental construction. Blake sees eternity in an hour or infinity in a grain of sand. In fact for the mystics everything is, as it is infinite. Eternity is not an abstraction or some new realm as opposed to time but present moment. To live in eternity is to live in the present, to live moment by moment. What characterizes a philosopher of transcendence is he continues to find a depth in the world, something that excites wonder, something that invites our response and even love. Wittgenstein lucidly made this point in these words:

Some philosophers (or whatever you like to call them) suffer from what maybe called “loss of problems.” Then everything seems quite simple to them,no deep problems seem to exist any more, the world becomes broad and flatand loses all depth, and what they write becomes immeasurably shallowand trivial. Russell and H. G. Wells suffer from this (Z, 456).

His remark about Ayer after listening to his debate with Father Copleston  that ‘he has a point but he is shallow’ underscores the same sensibility. His remark that “The I, the I is what is deeply mysterious”(p. 80 of his dairy) is in line with this viewpoint. Though he granted that only strictly scientific statements are meaningful but  he cautioned against positivists that natural science could never touch what was really important in human life, the mystical.
That would have to be contemplated in silence. For “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent/’ as the last proposition of the Tractatusdeclared. We can understand his famous statement “I am not areligious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view”in this light. In fact religions don’t aim at even vision but advocate a discipline that makes us open or vulnerable to reality, to richness of being, to thingliness of things as Heidegger would have it, to essences of things that get expressed through things when looked at rather than thought. Wittgenstein would recommend looking instead of thinking. Transcendence of thinking is what contemplation/meditation is all about. It appears to me that Wittgenstein says nothing because nothing needs to be said. He advocates no position or privilges no point of view because this can’t be done. All his endeavor, like the mystics and prophets, is to emphasize that we need to see with open eyes, unburdened by memories or anxieties of thought. We need to see through God’s eyes. And that consists in nonegoistic vision and this makes it possible to assert that “How things stand is God.”
Wittgenstein gave great attention to language in order to show that what constitutes us and what we value most is delimited from what could be expressed in language, from profane textual domain. The Tractatus’s design was expressly determined by this consideration. For him the metaphysical self that constitutes us transcends the world, the urges that move us point beyond the world, experiences that we most cherish are of the world beyond the ordinarily familiar world, our ethical and aesthetic dimension is anchored outside the world.

For him both the willing subjects and the knowing subjects are one and both are outside of the world, and are the source of our language and world-cognition. However, as in mystical traditions, transcendence is not consummated; it remains an unfulfilled quest. It is movement, perpetual movement and not reaching anywhere. It is the limit that can never be reached. Absolute is inexhaustibly rich. Man must perpetually travel. Experiences are open ended and self is perpetually creative. Our search for transcendence, like our need to engage with philosophy is, as Pradhan has noted, “merely an ideal never to be fulfilled, because the metaphysics of experience as unfolded through our subjectivity has to be constantly guarded against unclarity and confusion through language itself. Therefore, philosophy can never ultimately be transcended, since transcendence of language itself is a continuing activity which is performed by philosophy” (Pradhan, 237). It means one can never stop worshipping or glorifying God and travel on the plane of servitude or perfect his surrender or state of innocence or vulnerability to reality. Mystics, as true philosophers (as traditionally understood activity) are always striving to remove the veils of language and thought in order to reach the still centre of existence that transcends language and thought. Wittgenstein is quite clear on the point that Conceptual analysis can teach nothing about reality. Nor resolve the puzzle of how we should understand the world and how we should live. He leaves all questions open and thus paves way for alternative approaches that bypass conceptual analysis and science for understanding or living the great mystery of life.

As Paul Johnson notes: “The conclusion of a Wittergenstein investigation still have all great questions open. As far as the Inner is concerned, in one sense it will always remain as mysterious as life itself” (Johnson: 239). This is precisely mystical attitude towards mystery of life. No question is answered. Only our plane of seeing life shifts and dissolves the ordinary sense of questions. We consent to unlearn. The learned ignorance. “The mystic is an extraordinarily ordinary person” He is a non-knower, non-caner. “The human need for account for the world and our place in it will not disappear, because traditional metaphysics has been shown to be flawed… accepting these points doesn’t involve embracing relativism and is close to a moral argument. (Pradhan, 239). It means the mystic, the artist, the poet, the scientist, shall ever be busy and man needs to be humble. Let Reality speak to him. Let him learn to be receptive. Imposing conceptual structures is violence. We need to learn to be still so that God speaks to us in silence. This opening up, surrender of self, emptying out and polishing our receptivity is what is the crux of Vedanta as Som Raj Gupta has argued in his largely ignored but superb work Word Speaks to the Faustian Man (1991). In fact all religious and mystical traditions are agreed on this point.
Wittgenstein’s statement that ‘God is the meaning of life’ is quintessentially mystical and best understood in light of mystical writings. Underhill’s explication of the meaning of life in mysticism is best commentary on this statement. One can’t be more God intoxicated to equate the most significant thing in life with God. Wittgenstein’s statement that man is a microcosmos is comprehensible only in mystical worldview. He also observed that “As a thing among things each thing is equally insignificant. As a world each one equally significant” (7-10-16) which reminds of Blake’s seeing the heaven in a grain of sand. Mystics have never doubted the significance of the meanest flower or blade of grass seeing everything as the face of the Absolute, as participating in everything.
Wittgenstein famously remarked that the riddle doesn’t exist and the solution of the problem of life is seen in the disappearance of the problem of life. For mystics God is the Light of the world. The question is how to live and that dissolves the problem or riddle. Life is not a riddle to be solved but a mystery to be lived, dissolved in. Riddle exists for those who want to conceptually approach life that resists all logic. The problem of meaning of life is the problem of how to live, how to live so that life stops being problematic.  For him good life is world seen in certain way rather than in a way of behaving. For him there is no value in the world (6.41). It is impossible for to be there proposition of ethics (6.42). The problem of how to live becomes for him not  some epistemological inquiry  the problem of how to  look at that world, the problem of how to find the right spirit in it.
Wittgenstein assigns key importance to art, on the ground that art alone can express the meaning of life. Only the artist can teach the things that matter most in life. For him art is the solution. Compare this with Coomaraswamy or Schuon on art and aesthetics and we get the full import of the statement.
Wittgenstein has categorically stated the error of moderns for believing that laws of science explain nature. The world is suffused in mystery that is divine. The very fact that there is a world is incomprehensible and metaphysical. God has been conceived as mystery, as given, as something that is – ‘what is’ in Augustine’s and Krishnamurti’s phrase. Who can afford to deny the “gratuitous” universe? Philosophy begins and ends in wonder explaining nothing and demanding our opening up towards the transcendent miracle of existence. Modern man’s key problem in engaging positively or creatively with religion/mysticism arises from felt absence/hiddenness of God in contemporary experience.  But taken as synonymous with Reality the complaint seems to lose all warrant. God is the only Experiencer, Knower and Actor.


For IbnArabi, the great Sufi metaphysician, we don’t see but God sees and we don’t hear but God listens. God is immanent in every experience. As he says:
If we gaze, it is upon Him; if we use our intelligence, it is towards Him; if we reflect, it is upon Him; if we know it is Him. For it is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the invisible and the visible. The whole world prays to Him, prostrates itself before Him and glorifies His praise; tongues speak of Him, hearts are enraptured by love for Him, minds are bewildered in Him (Futûhât, III: 449-50).
For Wittgenstein these lines of IbnArabi would be perfectly comprehensible given his notion of metaphysical subject and its role in constituting experience, his view of the world as my world. Here I propose to compare Wittgenstein and IbnArabi by keeping IbnArabi’s explication in the background while applying the same for understanding Wittgenstein. Agnosticism and skepticisms of various orientations in the contemporary world have a point if understood as the declaration of impossibility of conceptually knowing the Reality, Transcendent Principle, the Ground of existence, the whole Truth, the Mystery. However these are often presented in cruder versions that deny men any knowledge of the supraphenomenal or the very existence of the sacred for which Wittgenstein and IbnArabiwill have zero tolerance. The Pure Absolute or Essence (Dhat) in its fundamental aspect – and thus Meaning/Truth/ Presence/ Identity/ Reality per se – is beyond the human quest and all attempts to reach It, track it, pinpoint It, catch It in the net of language or realm of the finite or time, to conceptualize It, to imagine It, to speak about It, to affirm anything of It are doomed. Before the Ipseity or Dhat one can only be bewildered according to Ibn ‘Arabî and Wittgenstein. The world is ultimately a Mystery, a Mystery of Mysteries and no rational or scientific approach could finally and completely demystify it. The world being ultimately a mystery that resists being demystified by means of conceptual intellect is what transcendence implies as Stace has explained in his Time and Eternity (1952). There is no humanely discoverable ultimate truth. All representations of the Real are provisional. Godhead/ Absolute/ Zat-uz-Zat is opaque, deep deep darkness, impenetrable, the absolutely inscrutable unknowable Other. Gnosis consists in knowing that God can’t be known as Abu Bakr is quoted time and again by IbnArabi. As the world is not-He and man ever a worshipper of his Lord or conditioned by his belief – a notion subsumable under the concept of form of life in Wittgenstein, and nothing is ever repeated as God’s theophanies change ceaselessly imply that the world will never cease to be an object of wonder and fascination and Beauty never cease to be worshipped and act as an efficient net through which God catches most of his servants as Plato also noted.
Rationalization, familiarization, demystification and descaralization of the world that ultimately make it inhuman, alienating and absurd and disrespectful towards the Big Other  can’t happen in the Akbarian/Wittgensteinian perspective that sees the mysterious, sacred divine face in everything. Western philosophy, as Heidegger pointed out, is oblivious to the ground of being. It is not open to the sacred mystery of Being. It is not the philosopher but the poet who can show the track of the holy, to the sacred mystery of Being. Nothing in the world of known can express the Divine Darkness. All quests end in wonder. In the last analysis man knows nothing to its depth by means of senses, language and reason. Other modes of knowledge such as intellectual intuition give us another kind of knowledge that instead of making things comprehensible dissolves the knowing subject in the object preserving the ultimate mystery of things in the process. If to comprehend means to have discursive conceptual knowledge we comprehend nothing ultimately. All our explanations, analyses stop at a certain point. Things are as they are. There is something instead of nothing. Being or wajudis in the last analysis a miracle or a scandal to reason. Why should there be a knowing subject and why should our universe be comprehensible are perhaps unanswerable. Man knows but little and this applies to everything from God to quarks. God is incomparable, transcendent. Symbols are all we know. We can only name things and that is all but things escape us as Wittgenstein would say. God alone knows or is Knowledge. The knowledge of reality given to mystics and prophets is of a different order. God remains inscrutable and the sacred inapproachable. Man’s prerogative is to contemplate and dissolve in the mystery of being. Though being is aware of itself this awareness has no analyzable or knowable structure.
We are here and there is no cure for it. But, more precisely, we are not. Only God is. Only the play of divine names is and man happens to be a locus of their action rather than some independent subject or agency. The cloak of mystery can’t be removed from the universe. All human knowledge is progressive unveiling of the ultimate impenetrability of the veil that disguises Reality. Essences are not discursively known.  Existence is a mystery and its grandeur and sublimity defy our reason and its categories. Rereading of Kantian sublime by such writers as Derrida or Lyotard is based on increasingly felt inability of reason to contain the brutal power of imagination. We can’t conceptualize or represent in language the infinity which human beings do encounter. The highest station is that of bewilderment according to IbnArabi and Wittgenstein . All this implies that dogmatisms are unwarranted.  Exoteric theologies need to be on guard and take Wittgenstein seriously as Kerr has also argued in Theology after Wittgenstein.
It is God and not the name of God that religions seek. Exoteric theologies may not distinguish between the Truth and the descriptions or representations of Truth. Nothing can capture the Reality in rational propositional framework. Even ethical propositions are not possible for Wittgenstein. This means we can only know our inability to know God and will good on our own and this means humility in the face of the Great Mystery that God is. This vetoes all self righteous fundamentalist ideologies. Jaina doctrine of syadvada is a corollary of the fundamental mystery and transcendence of the First Principle, the Absolute. This rules out all totalistic or totalitarian claims. Ideological conflicts are based on one’s exclusive claim to have access to truth and denying one’s fallibility. Religions by relegating truth to transcendent realm  and its access to transcendent intellect (which is in us but not ours) veto all quarrels about accessibility to it of any worldly ideology and self-centric person. Secular philosophies that require no moral purification on the part of the philosopher are barred from entering the doors of the great King or Truth.
The essential ethics of Wittgenstein like that of IbnArabi is constituted by such virtues as disinterest, self-denial, charity and love which form the ethical core of all religious/mystical traditions. God is experienced by everyone who sincerely cultivates these virtues. (Post)Modernity has essentially no argument against these values and indeed affirms them. Ibn ‘Arabî has nothing to argue for and against – he only invites us to experience things afresh, to be open to the Real which alone is really experienced in every experience. Wittgenstein’s endeavour is similar in his invitation to transcend language and thought in order to see what is, to see things sub species aeternitatis, to see solution in aesthetics, to live rather than think the mystery that life is. God is not a hypothesis that one needs to prove or could question – He is the ground of every perception, every imagination, every conception or thought, every experience. As Wittgenstein puts it there is no answer as there is no question where nothing can be said.
Wittgenstein is not himself a philosopher in the modern sense of the term which sees reason as the chief if not the only tool for understanding or approaching reality. His view of modern philosophers could not but be largely negative. For projecting IbnArabi or Wittgenstein as a philosopher we need to refer to perennialist conception of philosopher and philosophy. His denunciation of rationalism and much of what today passes for intellectuality aligns him to  perennialist critics of modern thought. It is not a prerogative of ratio or mental faculty of reason but of nous, the supraindividual universal faculty of intellect. For Wittgenstein knowing and willing subjects are one and man is knowledge, so to speak. Instead of conceptualizing we can see and in order to pave way for that direct seeing he removes the traps and cobwebs that language builds. Philosophy should not be a mere theoretical rational inquiry, a conceptual analysis or analysis of language as an end in itself but a realization, intellection or noetic vision that transcends subject-object duality and demands something like ethical discipline that Plato argued for. Philosophy as an abstract philosophical discourse based on rationalistic scientific method and its methodically obtained “truths” is what Ibn ‘Arabî and Wittgenstein  often critique. Philosophy for Wittgenstein is not a method to discover truth but a sort of shock therapy to prepare us for receiving truth, to make us innocent or children again. It is a sort of death to the linguistically/conceptually constructed self. Philosophy implies for all of the ancients a moral conformity to wisdom: only he is wise, sophos, who lives wisely as Schuon notes (8:136). Living happily is living wisely. Living in such a way that problem disappears and there is no more sorrow and one partakes of eternity by living in the present is what  Wittgenstein is all about. Philosophy in the traditional Orphic-Pythagorean sense is wisdom and love combined in a moral and intellectual purification in order to reach the “likeness to god.”( Uzdavinys, 2005). It is contemplation of Beauty and Good. This is attainable by gnosis. By philosophizing ancients meant “both noetic activity and spiritual practice.” Wittgensteinian conception is remarkably similar.
In IbnArabi’s understanding the Real alone is and there is no distance between us and It. We are already there in the lap of God – we have never been really away and cannot be away from It. God has never been missed. We have forgotten or fallen asleep but this doesn’t alter the fact that God is our very being, our inmost reality. Man is inwardly God and outwardly a creature according to Ibn ‘Arabî. The world is God’s visible face. The real, the obvious, that which is always with us, has been always with us, will always be with us, is God. God is the world. God is how things are as Wittgenstein would put it. But this doesn’t make him a pantheist as he has categorically stated also that God is outside the world, the world constructed by language, by a self that sees it as the other.

God is the Isness of things. He is the Meaning of everything as Wittgenstein said. God constitutes all pervasive Environment (al-Muhitin the Quranic parlance) in which normal man lives, moves and has his being.
Realizing that everything is perfect this very moment or, in Buddhist (Nagarjunian) terminology, that samsara is nirvana is realizing God. Wittgenstein’s transcendence of good/evil binary and pleading for a vision of perfect harmony between the self and the “alien will” called God and seeing everything as unalterably perfect makes the same point. Such notions as  “Ground of being” “ depth of life” “mystery of things or existence” which many moderns have advocated as substitute metaphors for what used to be conventionally called God and most often pictured with a human face by anthropomorphic idolatrous imagination seem to be given some representation in this fundamentally Unitarian view of God as Totality, as Reality.
God is not an epistemological problem at all that our mind/reason can investigate. He is a percept rather than a concept for Ibn ‘Arabî and Wittgenstein. In more poetic terms He is a song to be sung rather than an abstract Being, a Being among other beings but a Being of beings. God is “the knownest of the known” and so close that we only need to open our eyes, to cleanse the doors of perception to see how. Belief in God is not a proposition for Ibn ‘Arabî and Wittgenstein but a matter of tasting, experiencing the divine (or the revelations of sheer Being), which, to him, presents itself in all experiences every moment and for everyone – in fact God is the Hearing and the Seeing as is often reiterated in the Quranic verse – and not just to a select few in the so-called religious experience which is a Jamesian construct uncritically accepted by many modern philosophers of religion. All the roads lead to His abode as they proceed from it. God is the name of ‘that which is.’ He is not something within isness, he himself is that which is.
Knowing oneself after denying the illusory desiring ego one comes to subsist in God. All beliefs and disbeliefs are in the realm of duality and need to be transcended. IbnArabi’s and Wittgenstein’s  Unitarian Metaphysics is transtheistic and transcends both theism and atheism. This Unitarianism leads to the realization that the world is ultimately none other than the Absolute and thus finding everything perfect this very moment or seeing eternity here and now.  Wittgen
Modern man’s problems are primarily with a constricted dualistic theological view of God and static absolutes of idealistic philosophies. Ibn ‘Arabî’s and Wittgenstein’s conception of divinity is not vulnerable to these standard critiques of theistic and idealistic philosophical pictures. Most empiricist-positivist-postmodernist critiques look beside the point and based on faulty construction of religious experience. Modern philosophy of religion seems to have gloriously misunderstood the central experience of religion if Akbarian exposition is accepted. It is not a subject that sees something which constitutes the essence of religious experience or mystical vision for Wittgenstein or IbnArabi. It is more a discovery or insight into things as they are, an attitude, a way of seeing the world rather than a particular or extraordinary experience.
Wittgenstein, like traditional philosopher-sages, is more concerned about certainties “seen” or “lived” by the immanent Intellect, as did the best of Greeks than about building rational speculative metaphysics.  Cracks, crises and emasculations of the discipline of philosophy in the modern West could have been avoided if the West had not opted for Latin Averrorism and Cartesian rationalism and consequent dualisms and irresolvable problems that still haunt its epistemology and other areas like ontology.
Wittgenstein, like IbnArabi, provides a possible exit point from the choking morass of skeptical thought currents which otherwise doom us to abysmal ignorance regarding our most important questions in life including possibility of certain knowledge and knowledge of good life or good action.
“The final end and ultimate return of the gnostics … is that the Real is identical with them, while they don’t exist” said IbnArabi. Wittgenstein arrives at similar conclusions through a different route. It is through the metaphysical realization that one realizes that the Self withdraws from the “servant-Lord” polarity and resides in its own transpersonal being. The subject-object dichotomy is transcended by virtue of pure intellect or Spirit, which is identical with the divine Essence” (Qaisar, 2002:133). Once the soul or nafs has withered away in the experience of fana, the self-identity of mystic realization is transformed into the Self-identity of metaphysical realization. In the metaphysical perspective the reality of the ‘I’ doesn’t belong to man or nafsbut to the Spirit which is the divine spark at the center of man’s being identical with the unmanifest consciousness or Divine Essence. The crucial distinction between soul and Spirit is necessary to understand the Akbarian-Wittgensteinian metaphysical conception of religious experience. This distinction is largely forgotten by most philosophical critics of religious experience. Numerous misunderstandings and debates of theological vs. mystical debate in religions and meaning of such notions as soul/spirit, God/man, could be resolved if we keep these key points in mind. A fruitful dialogue with critics of religion and mysticism and in fact with secular thought in general is possible if we keep in mind ingenious interpretations put forward of many exponents of nondualism in the contemporary world.

Love of the World and Discovering God as Unutterable Joy

For Wittgenstein happy life is life divine and the great moral prerogative. It comes by loving the world, byamorfati. It comes from transcending the principle of ego which judges from self-centric perspective. Jesus said “judge not.” For Wittgenstein joy accompanies this surrender of vanity of the self in the All Embracing Divine Environment or “alien” Cosmic Will. He defined God as the Other, the Great Other that dictates terms, that constrains one, that embodies principle of Necessity.
One is reminded of many writings and especially the following from Augustine’s commentary on Psalm 32 in one of his sermons.
As the harvest, in the vineyard, wherever men must labour hard, they begin with songs whose words express their joy. But when their joy brims over and words are not enough, they abandon even this coherence and give themselves up to the sheer sound of singing. What is this jubilation, this exultant song; It is the melody that means out hearts are bursting with feelings words cannot express. An to whom does this Jubliation most belong? Surely to God, who is unutterable.  And does not unutterable mean what cannot be uttered? If words will not come and you may not remain silent, what else can you do but let the melody soar? (Qtd.In Kerr, 1986:167).

In mystical perspective God is joy and awareness of God is joy and thus awareness of reality in which all association with the self is put aside. If it is possible to access Reality or God nihilism is overcome. Weil has an ingenious argument to show that awareness of reality is joy and despair or sadness is a loss of contact with reality. This is her expression of old mystical /metaphysical viewpoint which identifies God as ananda, bliss. Simone Weil expresses the identity of joy with the awareness of reality. Since beauty is manifest appearance, the striking sign of reality, joy can only be a feeling, an awareness of reality. Weil describes sadness as a loss of contact with reality. Through sadness we cannot fulfill our vacation – to understate misery of our condition and to accept our reduction to what we truly are: nothing.  The memory of the revelation of reality through joy keeps us from plunging into despair, and the joy felt in our nothingness can be inscribed in our sensibility only by suffering. “Joy and pain are equally precious gifts both of which must be savoured fully, and each in its purity…” ( Weil, 1951: 132).
Simone Weil best captures the essence of many ideas that Wittgenstein only briefly touches. I think her observations allow us to make sense of Wittgenstein’s many observations from a mystical perspective. I reproduce some of her observations to put Wittgenstein in perspective and make him comprehensible.
Wittgenstein maintained that God is the Meaning of life and one must love the world unconditionally to appropriate this meaning. Weil is at her best in showing how one creates the meaning in life by renouncing all personal meanings, by complete acceptance of submission to the order of the world. One loves the order of the world by renouncing all personal interests. This is, in practice, close to Spinoza’s view of love of God by renouncing every vestige of personal interest. Freedom lies in recognizing our utter dependence on Totality, on God and in fact giving up sense of illusory autonomy or freedom that we associate with a separate individuality. We are not asked to do something against which our heart or head rebels but just shifting the perception in accordance with the nature of things.  One is just asked to accept or recognize the obvious fact that there is the order called necessity, which exists prior to us and which is there for reasons not necessarily understandable in human terms. Reality is there that transcends all our estimates, evaluations, desires and constitutes the given and man has no choice but to accept it by renouncing that which would have led him to rebellion – the sense of individuality and freedom outside God. “Where there is complete, authentic, and unconditioned consent to necessity, there is the fullness of love of God” (Weil, 1956: 267). Other texts identify the supernatural faculty in us as consent. For Weil that consent is always consent to the good, and, as such, it is the good itself. Faith is itself this faculty of submission or consent according to her. Absurdism rejects this notion of consent as a species of bad faith. Affirming the principle of autonomy and freedom in man independent of God it can’t but reject consent and consequently suffer alienation, angst and all those things with which absurdist literature is suffused.
All traditions emphasize remembrance of God. Modern mystics such as Krishnamurti translate it as attention or choiceless awareness. Weil has a similar understanding. Attention bridges division of subject and object, knower and known. Attention consists in suspending thought, in making it available, enmity, penetrable by the object….Thought must be empty, waiting, not searching for anything, but ready to receive in its naked truth the object which will penetrate there (Weil, 1951: 92-3). For her God is attention without distraction. It is living as a witness, a detached subject or awareness that watches every moment, that lives in the present by transcending thinking which distracts one from the given, the present. Living beyond the mind, in what has been called as the space of no-mind where time doesn’t enter and thus neither fear nor hope nor any need of consolation. God is what is in Krishnamurti’s phrase and to live in God is to be aware of what is without judgment, without condemnation, disinterestedly. Wittgenstein pleaded for seeing without the conceptual glasses, seeing things as they are after transcending philosophy. He meant something similar. Contemplation is a means of transcending confusions created by use or misuse of language.
Giving up the centre of one’s own value system is harder, but when we succeed, the very sensibility changes and we become capable of a new way of seeing. We are able to “empty ourselves of little false divinity, deny oneself, to renounce being at the centre of the world, to discern all the points of the world as being centers in the same title and the veritable centre as being outside the world.” Wittgenstein was all for this ascesis, this transformation in attitude and not correcting one’s views by updating our knowledge of history or science. By saying that God is outside the world or aesthetics is transcendental he meant adopting the divine perspective of seeing things from outside the world. This necessitates transcendence of individuality and human way of seeing and judging. When we are no longer centers we can’t condemn anything and can justify the world.
Weil argues that one shouldn’t desire particular things or pray for particular things because that is slavery.  Her argument practically converges with the formula of amorfati and loving everything as if there is eternal recurrence. This alone ensures unconditional love. Total renunciation is demanded for loving the order of the world or affirming everything unconditionally. To quote her:

Nothing can be produced unless the conditions for its production are brought together.
Such and such a thing calls for such and such a condition. But if one thinks: everything can be produced, given the conditions, and everything is equivalent…
If one desires a particular thing one becomes enslaved to the series of conditions. But if one desires the series itself, the satisfaction of this desire is unconditioned.
That is why the one and only liberation is love of the order of the world.
Christ on the cross, the greatest harm inflicted on the greatest good [can anything be more absurd and more revolting]: if one loves that, one loves the order of the world (Weil, 1970:143-144).

Nietzsche suggests a similar way of overcoming nihilism. Affirming the order of the world, praying for nothing, or letting one consent to the order of the world, freedom from the self that seeks consolation and this or that thing – these are the strategies common to Weil and Wittgenstein and in fact is the mystical position. Eckhart teaches the same thing.
Man has only two choices – to affirm his will, his autonomy or to affirm divine or cosmic will and his creatureliness, his nothingness. The first choice pits him against God and against cosmos and leads him to wail and despair for that which is thwarted, which is not honored in the scheme of things. When one renounces free will and thus choice between good and evil one no longer wishes good against evil to be done to him. Everything is justified because both good and evil are really one. (This relative understanding of good and evil is to be distinguished from that supreme value which Plato calls Good which stands above all relative distinctions.) Camus finds Christianity based on great injustice as an innocent lamb was sacrificed. Weil leaves no scope for any such reading.  We too are asked to consent to die, to be crucified, to love God in utter desolation of the Spirit when He seems absent as He was when the Christ cried.
Wittgenstein wanted us to see things from God’s perspective or sub species aeterneti. Weil asks for adapting the perspective of God or the non-perspective of supraindividual faculty of intellect (nuous as distinct from ratio or discursive reason). For attaining this perspective one has to die first. One starts from the Absolute and from the perspective of the Absolute man, his free will, his dreams, his autonomy is an anomaly, a state of disequilibrium.  If individual is engulfed in the Absolute as critics of perennialists point out or as existentialists argue against monists, it is something for which nothing can be done. If we are concerned with truth and not sentimentalism there is no escape from the tragic fact that individual or ego doesn’t count in the face of the Absolute. Are we after truth as such or truth as it appears to our subjective predispositions, to our heart? God is Truth and man may be in need of consolation though truth need not be necessarily consoling. From perennialist/Weil’s perspective the need for consolation is a weakness and a species of bad faith. This also explains Wittgenstein’s critique of conventional prayer as petition.We need to be iron-willed, capable of facing utter solitude or Void (Neant). It is only the strong man, the superman, who can unconditionally affirm and love fate – a fatalist in this higher sense is a man of strong character – or consent to eternal recurrence. Weil thus advocates the perspective of God in contrast to man-centric perspectives that individualist subjectivist thought currents advocate. This appropriates Keatsian negative capability, Nietzsche’s perspectivism and Jainism’s syadvadaas all these imply openness to infinitely nuanced and multidimensional character of reality or truth.
Meaning of Providence
Wittgenstein observed in Tractatus. “How things in the world are a matter of complete indifference what is higher.  God does not revel him self in the world.” He rejected conception of prayer as petition. He, however, attempted to make sense of religious person’s trust in God and religious language that express care of God. Weil explains this difficult problem in her own characteristic way. We need to note that nothing is gratuitous and nothing is meaningless and nothing is out of God’s control, care and mercy in God-centric view though nothing is respectful of human egoism which wants things according to the self’s desire. Not a sparrow falls except by the writ of providence. There is no role for chance. God is equally present everywhere, in all circumstances. Even rain drops fall in a measured quantity and angel accompanies every drop. This is the conviction of all religions, even those who have no personal God to look into the affairs of the world. However these statements are best understood by those who are familiar with the strange language of God. One can approach such statements not as cognitive verifiable statements that positivist or empiricist could handle but only by being within a “form of life” and mastering the rules and conventions of the particular game. Despite the fact that God is “absent’’ for Weil there is providence, the mystery of which is not decipherable to the uninitiated, to those profane inquirers who refuse to be annihilated in God and insist on seeing things outside God. The following account is irrefutable on its own terms by outsiders.
All the events of life, whatever they may be, without exception, are by conventions or signs of God. God establishes a conventional language with his friends. Every event in life is a word of this language. These words are all synonymous but, as happens in beautiful languages, each of them has its completely specific nuance, each of them is untranslatable. The meaning common to all these words is: I love you.
A man drinks a glass of water. The water is God’s “I love you.” He is two days in the desert without finding anything to drink. The dryness in his throat is God’s “I love you” … Those who are beginning to learn this language think that only some of its words mean “I love you.” Those who know the language know that it has only one meaning (Weil, 1970:128-129).
There is no providence that pertains to our created nature which itself is a result of injustice because by definition it tends to be autonomous and in opposition to the whole, the totality that the term God designates. What transcends the world is indeed indifferent towards the concerns of the world as Wittgenstein would say. To be born is indeed sin according to both Christian and Eastern traditions because it involves separation from the ground and thus a kind of fall. (Redemption consists in, according to Weil, consenting to return to God what is His, i.e. our very being or existence. Metaphysically our being is a non-being and God alone is truly real and the illusory dream of separate existence must be given up and this constitutes salvation.) Providence has, as in Beckett, only a negative meaning, of ensuring decreation so that the dust returns to dust and the uncreated Spirit comes to its own glory. Because creation is abandonment it necessarily implies subjection to necessity and thus, in a sense, absence of providence in the usually accepted sense of the term.

God abandons our whole entire being – flesh, blood, sensibility, intelligence, love – to the pitiless necessity of matter and the cruelty of the devil, except for the eternal and supernatural part of the soul.
The Creation is abandonment. In creating what is other than Himself, God necessarily abandoned it. He only keeps under His care the part of Creation which is Himself – the uncreated part of every creature. That is the Life, the Light, the Word…” (Weil, 1970: 103).

God himself can’t prevent what has happened from having happened. What better proof that the creation is an abdication? What greater abdication of God than is represented by time?
We are  abandoned in time. God is not in time.
God emptied himself of his divinity and filled us with a false divinity. Let us empty ourselves of it. This act is the purpose of the act by which we were created
At this very moment God, by  his creative will, is maintaining me in existence, in order that I may renounce it (Weil, 1970:140).

One doesn’t ask of providence to take care of this and that because if one loves the order of the world one transcends it with all its misery. Love is transcendence. It is we who are asked to redeem or justify ourselves in relation to the Totality. Love of the world takes all its pain. Love, in the final analysis, is the one thing needful that solves all problems. Here Rumi comes to mind who says love cures all ills. As Weil says: “It is sufficient if we consent to this order of things.” Faith is precisely this demand for loving the world which God has made and found good. Faith is trust in the order of things. It is gratitude towards Existence. It is self effacement before the whole, the Totality, the Tao. It is renunciation of all claims to a separate selfhood over and against the Whole.
Meaning of time and Eternity
Weil has a time tested mystical mechanism of ending of time called decreation. Decreation, according to Weil, means the “end of time.” There is an eternal and hidden part of soul which has the reservoir of energy “beyond time.” Through it one lives beyond time. Nihilism is overcome by those prepared to live it to hilt by annihilating oneself, by eliminating the seeking self which lives in time and rising above the mind which lives in past and future and never beyond time, in the moment. Cultivating the faculty of undistracted attention and intelligence one breaks through the prison of time. Weil is convinced as is Beckett that there is a timeless dimension which is our home.
The entire life of the self is directed towards the future because its substratum is supplementary energy, “produced” only by motives whose ends are in the future (or in the past) (Weil, 1956: 184). One should live in the present breaking the ties with the future and the past. Here Heidegger comes to mind who sees life as project into future. Being reduced to the present moment also implies a sinless state, since sin is essentially a claim to mastery over the future, the refusal of future love or suffering, or the refusal to repent of an evil act committed in the past: “If we contemplate ourselves at a specific moment – the present moment, cut off from past and future – we are innocent… Isolating a moment in this way implies forgiveness. But this isolation is detachment” (Weil, 1956: 216).
Remarks on his Ethics and Suffering
In 1939 Wittgenstein said,
The fat that life is problematic shows the shape of your life does not fit into life’s mould. So you must change the way you live and, once your life does fit into the mould, what is problematic will disappear.
Or shouldn’t I say rather: a man who lives rightly won’t experience the problem as sorrow, so for him it will not be a problem but a joy rather; in other words for him it will be a bright halo around his life, not a dubious background  (CV:27).

This is the crux of mystical theodicy. This is what Buddha said in a different way. Eliminate desire and you will be in peace. Wittgenstein said this quite clearly and wondered what for are amenities. He was the monk in the true sense.
‘Ethics,’ Wittgenstein says, has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the ordinary sense (TLP,6.422) and he adds that “the ethical consequences must lie in the action itself. If we assume that it is a person’s actions and the way those actions are performed that create a life, then the ethical desert of those actions is simply that life itself, and since life and the world are said to be one, the ethical reward is nothing else but the fact with which the world looks back at you. To complete the account let us remember that the face that looks back at our is your own: it is tempting to speculate that your ethical reward is no more nor no less than the discovery of your own character.” From Lao Tzu to IbnArabi and Eckhart mystical ethics and its eschatological significance has been almost similarly understood. For mystics like IbnArabi people choose their stations in the other world. God only unveils their reality. People judge themselves in the light of the Absolute. Choosing to live inside the cocoon of limiting self amounts to obstructing Divine Mercy or choosing separation from the Real. Prayer establishes the dialogue between the self and transcendence. Refusing to pray – which is, for IbnArabi, simply gratitude to Existence for the gift of life – amounts to condemning oneself to self referring and self enclosed windowless subjective space. Hell is self love and nothing burns there but self will as one Christian mystic has said.
Modern world is largely convinced that ethics is relative and everything is permissible. There is no ontological foundation for ethics. There are some isolated thinkers who challenge dominant model but in almost all spheres of secular life there are no imperatives like those bequeathed by religions. In contrast Wittgenstein’s  ethics, like mystical ethics, is grounded in ontology. Noble character traits are not merely extraneous qualities that have no bearing upon our mode of existence. They define our mode of existence and the extent to which we participate in the fullness of the Light of Being. He accepted and further developed by including aesthetics also in it Moore’s definition of ethics as a discovery of the Good or Divinity. Ethics, he said, is transcendental. The moral law within is not biological or cultural product. It is the voice of God. Values are from the transcendental world. His disagreements with Plato come to end here. Ethical commandments have to be observed if man desires felicity. Modern wishy washy do goodism or absolutization of ethical relativism or ethics complicit with Capitalism and other power centric ideologies are not compatible with Wittgensteinian theomorphic ethics. Capitalism and State Capitalism disguised as Marxism have little room for attributes of beauty. There is no warrant for ignoring the Scale of the Law interiorized in conscience which provides the norm. Antinomianism which has been popularized by certain libertine Gurus has no place here. Men with all their limitation and imperfections can’t claim to be infinitely beyond this world and thus beyond good and evil which we encounter at every stage of existence. Man must always separate divine viewpoint which is corollary of his incomparability from his own human, all-too-human viewpoint which is a corollary of divine similarity as IbnArabi would insist.

However all this should not be construed to imply that he countenances moralism which is typical modern heresy. The deadly criticism of Nietzsche on morality doesn’t apply to his view of ethics. Wittgenstein read Gospels in Brief by Tolstoy and then read Anti-Christ of Nietzsche and could not be moved an inch from his commitment to Tolstoy’s Christian ethical universe. Postmodern probematization of ethics and modern scientific discoveries implicating relativism of morals can’t problematize Akbarian- Wittgensteinian position as he too, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, speaks from the high mountains of the Spirit which transcends all actions, good or evil. Wittgenstein emphasizes that man is not an agent of action. He can’t will to do good. This is explainable by reference to God as the Only Doer or what Taoism calls wuweiwei, actionless action. Evil action in ordinary parlance is possible only when man is under the dominion of ego or lower self and Wittgenstein’s demand for possibility of ethics is transcendence of this principle of egoism.
It is religion taken as a metanarrative, a system, an ideology explaining things, as privileging of the otherworld or eternity at the cost of this world and time here-now and privileging of soul over body, elaborate creedal formulae coached in terms of propositions privileging the religious as distinct from or opposite to the secular, as unqualified belief in the representation of Reality and their absolutist exclusivism that IbnArabi and Wittgenstein plead for transcending by virtue of their Unitarianism that puts the Real at the centre while questioning absolutization of all conceptions and theorizations of It. The world is one. And It must be affirmed in toto. Language and thought divide the One of experience and integrity of unitary subject and the world.  The Real is the essence of everything and no dualistic apprehension or categorical framework can capture it. It is the totality of all existents, a metaphysical whole that can’t be reduced to an object of knowledge by a subject that is thought to be separate from the object. All this implies that meaning closure, epistemic chauvinism, totalistic thought and consequent war on the basis of a particular conception or delimitation of the Reality/ Truth are unwarranted. Truth rather than discourse about Truth which is the prerogative of exoteric theology and rational philosophy is what the gnostic comes to realize and as it is the One and All it necessarily follows that the knower transcends all particular beliefs and views. Living Truth, dissolving in Truth rather than talking about it and fighting for it is the way to end all conflicts that arise from dualistic theological and rationalistic philosophical approaches.
For Wittgenstein religion gives one new eyes so that everything looks different and redeemed by and  suffused with love. God is wherever love is, beauty is, blessedness is and grace is. In fact God is these things and not an abstraction or object. This solves the important problems of theology as well without making it pantheism either. Seen with the eyes of love, trust and faith everything appears God. God is not the name of a person or entity but the very thingness of a thing, the beauty of beauty, the goodness in the good. As Weil puts it: “God ‘not as I love, but as emerald is green. He is ‘I love.’ And I too, if I were in the state of perfection, would love as emerald is green. I would be an impersonal person (like God)” (Weil, 1970: 129). God speaks these words through all of us who love and more effectively through those who love so intensely and selflessly as to become love. What differentiates a bhakti mystic or Sufi from ordinary mortals or nonmystics is their capacity to love and it is this love which redeems them. All positive experiences – aesthetic, moral, cognitive – are bridges to God-realization.
Representation or Practice of the Self
Wittgenstein is concerned, above all, with t he happy life and that he links with transcendence of desiring or willing self. His problem is ethical and existential and his proposed solution too is on these planes that have little to do with language or representation business. His solution involves contemplating, looking, wondering, loving rather than thinking or questioning. He is struggling with/against language rather than doing business with it. His object (ethical/aesthetical/religious or mystical) is not in the world, is untouched by scientific discoveries or any speculative exercise. His concern is metaphysical and metaphysical is what he calls mysterious, mystical, outside the world, supernatural. He was interested in speaking without words – “conveying thoughts by themselves without words” (CV:15). He thought, with Goethe, that we need to learn from contemplation of untrammeled nature rather than laboratory experiement and hypothesis that distort the truth (CV:11). Like Heidegger he found the richness of being to which poets rather than philosophers point out the key to salvation.
Wittgenstein was supremely religious man and it is because he is religious in every important sense of term (rather than only in a trivial sense as G. H. von Wright claims) that he said he is not a religious man. Humility is the supreme virtue of a religious man. He had not only respect for religion (including even its rituals) but moulded his life by its dictates. One of the things Christianity says, Wittgenstein thinks, is that all sound doctrines are of no avail. One must change one’s life (or the direction of one’s life). According to him Christianity didn’t talk about what has happened or will happen to man but what happens daily to him, every moment (CV: 28). Existentialist theology and demythologization movement have been emphasizing this point as have been mystics in all climes. For all religions the greatest obstacle in one’s journey to God or beatitude is pride/ego and Wittgenstein was supremely concerned about this thing all his life and many of his biographical details can be understood in this light only.
His remarks about symbolic significance of rituals and how they embody our search for the sacred in Culture and Value and elsewhere show how profound his religious sensibility is. His dismissal of Frazer and defence of ‘primitives’ at many points against moderns show what kind of a man he was. His critique of modernity and European civilization is fundamentally on religious grounds. He found in it loss of respect for mystery, the idea of progress, lack of culture and direction or purpose, and the cult of the ugly in its art objectionable. All his beloved writers and philosophers have been religious/mystical.  God was his ultimate concern as shown by exemplary moral life he lived and his wish to have been able to dedicate all his work to the glory of God. His biographer, Brian McGuiness reports that before doing any action, he prayed like this: “God be with me!”, “The spirit be with me.”  Sin and thus hell were terribly real for him. He thought about sin as seriously if not more as about logic as his reply to Russell to the question regarding what he was thinking about when he came to meet him during night. Explanations, reasons, justifications come to an end in religious thinking for Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein, like the mystics before and after him, did not favour a cosmological conception of a Deity. For mystics theology is in fact autology.He was, like Spinoza, God intoxicated and standard reading of him as fideist or noncognitivist is far off the mark. His considering himself wretched and in need of infinite help and never ceasing to scrutinize the desires, vanity and all that religion cautions against shows how seriously he took religion and what grounds it.
Wittgenstein’s stand on different aspects of ethics is the following. Ethics deals with absolute value; value judgments that we often use can be reduced to facts. We can re-formulated them as hypothetical judgments of if …then form and make them to be statements of facts. Paradoxically, Wittgenstein states that we can experience value. An experience, is an event, and hence ought to be factual. It seems strange that Wittgenstein maintains that values are absolute and transcendental and yet we can experience them. Ethical values cannot be spoken or discussed about since they are transcendental
There are explicit statements of Wittgenstein that militate against any kind of fideist interpretation, extreme or moderate versions of it. For him God is the case. How things are is the mystical. These imply Wittgenstein can’t be framed in either ethical or conventional religious frameworks. He is fundamentally a mystic who has made metaphysical claims in the sense metaphysics is understood by perennialists. He has made cognitive claims of mysticism though not of religion. What better argument for cognitivity or knowledge claimand against fidiestic interpretations than his assertion that the mystical shows forth?
Wittgenstein scholars have not paid due attention to the distinction between the religious/theological and the mystical and confounded the two in approaching him resulting in quite divergent interpretations. I have foregrounded the mystical in him which grounds his religiosity and thus gives us a heremenutical tool to make sense of his different observations on religion. I argue that he is an absolutist and we should not approach him from the lens of Philosophical Investigations and then attempt to show that religion is a language game, a foundationless discourse making no cognitive or knowledge claims and a matter of faith. If Sankara or Eckhart or Augustine are absolutists Wittgenstein oo is an absolutist for whom God/eternity is absolute certainty, the first principle and is experienced rather than merely believed
The Unrepresentable shows forth
In a letter from the Russian front date 9 April 1917, to his friend Paul Engelmann, who had sent him a poem by the early nineteenth century poet Johann Ludwig Uhlan, Wittgenstein wrote.

The Poem by Uhlan is really magnificent. And this is how it is: if only you do not try to utter what is unutterable then nothing gets lost. But the unutterable will be – unutterably-  contained in what has been uttered! (Qtd.In Kerr, 1986: 166).

Though one can’t clearly state what he means similar things in the writings of mystics that emphasize how God speaks when we become silent and how everything is lighted up by God and God is meaning of everything, how transcendence and immanence or samsara and nirvana are ultimately linked and even one. The unrepresentable shows forth and the gnostic sees nothing but That which is also the Light of the world, the light that is neither of the sea nor of the land but light that lights everything.
Though we should guard against the identification of the inexpressible and the mystical it is nevertheless clear that the really mystical for Wittgenstein transcends the world but can be accessed in ethical life rooted in transcendence and mystical and aesthetic experiences and concretely lived in religious forms and rituals. If the Unrepresentable were not accessible there would be no meaning for Wittgenstein’s taking cudgels on its behalf and judging modern intellectual thought currents from religio-mystical viewpoint.

Wittgenstein rejects all the important modernist myths such as that of progress and criticizes reductionism in anthropology and psychologism to pave way for faith. He judges modernity in the light of faith. It means how cognitive an affair religion is for him. He takes Frazer and his like to task for rationalistic interpretation of traditional ritual. He pointed out that many religious practices are not generated by any views that one could censure or verify. He saw university educated intelligentsia of the west carriers of moral and spiritual corruption that had thrusted human civilization into a new dark age.
For Wittgenstein “Symbolism of Catholicism are wonderful beyond words. But any attempt to make it into a philosophical system is offensive. All religions are wonderful, even those of the most primitive tribes.” (Qtd in Kerr, 1986). Nothing of this sort could come out from an agnostic. Like mystics he rejects literalism and believes in symbolism. He seems to appreciate the transcendental unity of religions by emphasizing mystical core at the heart of them. Religion for him is deed and not theory. This was so for Buddha also and in fact mystics have seen religion as transformative therapeutic towards a good life. Like mystics he underscored nonanthropomorphic character of belief.  God for him is not a thing, a being, a superbing, an existence.
No doubt can be entertained regarding Wittgenstein’s commitment to religion even if he didn’t deem himself pure enough to be called a religious man. He looked at every problem from religious point of view. He liked to call himself as ‘a truth seeker,’ and he had found it though one can’t claim that he had reached the peaks that advanced mystics have access to. “It strikes me  that religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference, hence though it is belief and assessing life. It is passionately seizing hold of this interpretation.” If religion is a method of assessing life, it is in a way cognitive. If one takes it seriously it means one takes it to be truth of a certain kind. For Wittgenstein religion was a matter of life and death. He was not a phenomenologist observing it with a detachment of a scientist. He plunged passionately into God and found the treasure. He meant business when he talked about religion or philosophy. He had faith and learnt wisdom in the end, the wisdom of an Oriental sage who cultivates detachment.  For him it is wisdom that he finds nowhere in his contemporary professors of philosophy doing sort of a work as appears in Mind that really counts. To conclude there is a path that bypasses language and thought for accessing that which really matters, for realization of what has been eternal quest for values. Wittgenstein has outlined this path that needs to be kept in mind while we ponder on the limits and approaches to linguistic representations. No confusion needs to be entertained in understanding Wittgenstein’ essentially religious/mystical outlook. He was not a great mystic but a great mystical philosopher. He had very few intense mystical experiences.

He often behaved in a way that is not expected from a mystic. Contemplating committing suicide, extreme agitated mind at times, sense of gloom that obsessed him are not the mark of a great mystic. He didn’t take himself to be a saint but had the saintly ideal of moral purity to which he tried to conform. However if religion or mysticism are centred on deeds or practice we can’t but see him as a great soul who renounced wealth, fame, amenities and other guises that self love takes. He did find for himself the truth he sought and for him indeed philosophy has been love of wisdom. He has more wisdom than faith which is passionless and that is a sign of maturity of religion. His fundamental stance can be expressed in few sentences that express a worldview that is hundred percent Hebraic and hundred percent mystical.

I conclude by quoting and commenting on these few sentences.
The problem of life is “seen in the disappearance of the problem.” This means that the answer is not known, but seen and need not be known as the problem doesn’t demand an answer as it disappears. In fact the question can’t be asked. Vanishing of the problem is only found through a way of knowing other than language. “To believe in God means to understand the question about the meaning of life” (NB:74).To believe in God means to understand that there is more than facts (NB:74).  For him to pray is to think about the meaning of life. Further explaining the meaning of mystical prayer he says that “I can’t bend the happenings of the world to my will; I am completely powerless. I can only make myself independent of the world.”It is impossible to know God through what can be said. What one knows about God is that this world exists. To be outside the world means to be outside what can be put into words. “I am my world”(TLP:5.63). Atkinson beautifully explains it:
The separation between the thinker and the thought, or the eye and the object of sight, occurs in language, not in the event itself. Thus the idea of the personal self or subject in terms of  a thinker of the thought among others. The subject is not a thing in the world and the thought one has of it does not correspond to a fact (Atkinson, 2009: 133).
The difference between seeing the object together with and in space and time is a matter of seeing the world from either the outside or the inside. From the outside it is to see the world like one’s eye in its visual field (NB:73). To see the object sub species aeternitatis from the outside is to see it from outside the world and language. Being outside language there is nothing that can be said about an object. Wittgenstein states that there are things that can’t be put into words. These things show themselves. They are the mystical. (TLP: 6.522) These things “don’t point to another world outside the world, but show themselves as the mystical.” The metaphysical interpretation of the Tractatus has been forcefully criticized by a host of scholars including Atkinson. The mystical is what one finds immediately in reality. What “can’t beput into words shows itself as the world that is and what shows itself must be coordinated with the solipsistic self in the moment of experience. This moment, I have argued, is to fell the world as a limited whole” (Atkinson, 2009: 69).

We need not advocate metaphysical interpretation and can remain contended with the fact that there is something that science can’t handle, there is a joy of the spirit available to a happy man who has consented to be nothing, the world is full of beauty, there are no problems and man’s hunger for higher things can be quenched. It hardly matters where we precisely locate transcendence that gives meaning to life and grounds ethics and aesthetics – beyond the world or immanently within its depths. Interpretations, theological and metaphysical ultimately can differ but what matters is what Wittgenstein achieves. He achieves the similar end that religions and mysticisms across traditions have sought. He gets the riddle dissolved and puts thoughts or philosophy to peace and that is the end of philosophical/mystical quest.

Atkinson, James R., The Mystical in Wittgenstein’s Early Writings, Routledge, London, 2009.
Johnson, Paul, Rethinking the inner, Rutledge, London, 1993,
Ibn ‘Arabî , 1972–91, al-Futûhât al-makkiyya, 14 volumes, O. Yahia (ed.), al-Hay’at al-Misriyyat al-‘Âmmali’l-Kitâb, Cairo. (Quotes and translations are mostly from Chittick and Chodkiewicz.)
Lazenby, Mark, The Early Wittgenstein on Religion, Continuum, 2006,
Kerr, Fergus, Theology after Wittgenstein, Balckwell, 1989,
McGuiness, Brian, “Mysticism of the Tractatus,”Philosophical Review, 75, 1966
Neili, Russel, From Mysticism to Ordinary Language Philosophy:A Study of Viennese Positivism and the Thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein, SUNY, New York, 1987
Pradhan, R.C., Wittgenstein and the Metaphysics of Experience
Qaisar, Shahzad, Iqbal and KhawjaGhulamFarid on Experiencing God, Iqbal Academy, Lahore 2002.
Sontag, Fredrick, Wittgenstein and the Mystical: Philosophy as an Ascetic Practice, Oxford University Press, 2000.
Weil, Simone, 1970, First and Last Notebooks, tr. Richard Reese, Oxford University Press, New York. (Here in the text referred to as F).
……. ………..Waiting on God, 1951, tr. Emma Caruford, Putnam, New York, 1951 (referred as WG).
……………..  The Notebooks of Simone Weil, 1956, tr. Arthur F. Mills, 2 volumes, Putnam (referred as N).
Wittgenstein, Ludwig,  Notebooks, 1914-16, 2nd Edition Ed. Wright and Ascombe.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Culture and Value, G.H. von Wright (ed.), P. Winch (trans.), Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1980.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig,TractatusLogico-Philosophicus,D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness (trans.), New York: Humanities Press, 1961.


Courtesy of : Muhammad Maroof Shah








Madhu_Nath__00001                                                       Madhu Nath and his Sarangi



Madhu Nath and His Performance

Chapter One

First Encounters

Try as I might, I cannot remember the first time I met Madhu Nath, the senior author of this volume. That I came to record his performance of Gopi Chand was initiated neither by me nor by him but by his relatives Nathu and Ugma Nathji—some of my closest associates during my residence in the Rajasthani village of Ghatiyali. Madhu, although born in Ghatiyali, settled many years ago in another nearby village, Sadara. Therefore, although he celebrated life cycle rituals among his kinfolk in Ghatiyali, and periodically performed there, he spent most of his time in Sadara. This accounts for my being unaware of him as a special person after over a year’s residence in Ghatiyali and a deep involvement with several households of his relatives there.

Because of manifold links between pilgrimage and death, I had been systematically recording “hymns” (bhajans ) sung on the eve of funeral feasts by the Nath caste and non-Nath participants in the sect which they led. I had grown increasingly interested in the Naths’ peculiar approach to death and the liberation of the soul (Gold 1988, 99–123). When Madhu was directly introduced to me as a singer, in January 1981, I was reminded that my bhajan recordings of April 1980 were made at hymn sessions, first for his son and then for his wife. I had actually attended both their funeral feasts. This latter significant connection was phrased as, “You ate his son’s and his wife’s nukti” —nukti being the little sugary fried balls that are one of the most characteristic foods of ceremonial village feasts (called nukta ). During these particular feasts I must have seen Madhu, as I have seen so many
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other hosts at dozens of similar events, harried and anxious to keep all his guests satisfied, with no time for casual conversations. Madhu always wore his pale red-orange turban tied low, almost hiding and also supporting the heavy yogis’ earrings that might otherwise have caught my attention.

My memorable and formal introduction to Madhu Nath took place over half a year later when, after six weeks in Delhi and Banaras, where I had been recuperating from hepatitis, I returned to Ghatiyali accompanied by Daniel Gold (then friend and colleague but not yet husband). Daniel, as a historian of religions researching the sant tradition in North India, had become interested in Ghatiyali’s Naths when I showed him the transcribed texts of their hymns—many of which had the signature (chhap ) of the poet-saint Kabir, and some of which employed the coded imagery common to Sant poetry (Gold 1987; Hess and Singh 1983).

Daniel expressed his desire to talk with persons learned in Nath traditions, and my research assistant Nathu Nath introduced to him several members of his family and sect. The last person he brought to us was Madhu, and that evening—Daniel’s last in the village—Madhu performed, and I duly recorded, Gopi Chand’s janmpatri or birth story. I was immediately intrigued and delighted: here was a living bard singing a story that was obviously about the same character as Temple’s Punjabi version, yet evidently startlingly different in certain prominent details. I recalled from Temple nothing about Gopi Chand’s being won as a boon by his mother’s ascetic prowess or borrowed from the yogi Jalindar. Yet these were the dominant elements that framed the plot of Madhu’s “Birth Story.”[1]

Until that first evening with Madhu Nath I had largely confined my recordings of folklore to much briefer performances: women’s worship tales and songs, and men’s hymns. Yet now I felt compelled to obtain the whole story of Gopi Chand, despite its lack of direct relevance to my pilgrimage research, and the perceptible ticking away of my finite time in India. My recording sessions were not continuous; Madhu made a trip to Sadara to look after his fields when he had finished the “Birth Story” (in one night) and the “Journey to Bengal” (in two). Persuaded to return so that I could have the complete tale of Gopi Chand, he next gave me “Gopi Chand Begs from Queen
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Patam De,” which belongs chronologically between the segments on birth and Bengal, and “Instruction From Gorakh Nath”—the conclusion. Seven years later I returned to Rajasthan with the express purpose of recording from Madhu the tale of Gopi Chand’s maternal uncle, Bharthari of Ujjain. Despite the gap in time, the circumstances of the recording sessions in 1988 were not very different from those of 1981, except that the loudest crying baby on the second set of tapes belonged not to my host’s household or neighbors but to me.

In January 1981 when I came to know Madhu Nath he did not strike me as a man undone by loss and mourning, although in 1980 he had buried first one of his two sons and then his wife. The son had suffered a long and debilitating illness through which he was intensively and devotedly nursed by his mother. She had, I was told, kept herself alive only to serve her child and had not long outlived him. Accompanying this double personal loss, Madhu had incurred the great economic stress of sponsoring two funeral feasts. I saw others driven to or beyond the brink of nervous collapse by just such accumulated pressures.

Yet Madhu Nath was calm, confident of his power with words, always entertaining, and sometimes very humorous. Retrospectively, I wonder if he did not derive some of his solidity, following this very difficult period of his life, from the teachings of the stories that he told so well again and again—stories with the bittersweet message that human life is “a carnival of parting.” Another factor in his equilibrium could have been the Nath cult’s promise of release from the pain of endless rounds of death and birth, and thus certainty of his wife’s and son’s liberation.

It is also true, however, that I approached Madhu Nath as a source of art and knowledge rather than as a man who had recently suffered much grief. We never spoke of his family; indeed, we hardly exchanged any personal courtesies of the kind that constitute much of normal village social intercourse. Madhu teased me sometimes—making jokes at my expense during the spoken parts of his performance—but outside the performance itself we did not talk very much in 1981. In short, although he was a wonderfully expansive storyteller, Madhu seemed to me a reserved and veiled person.

I did not attempt to obtain even a sketchy life history from Madhu Nath until my 1988 visit. My experience then confirmed in part the intuition that our lack of personal relationship could be attributed to
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him as much as to me. My attempt at a life history interview rapidly degenerated, or evolved, into an illuminating session of “knowledge talk,” rich in myth but skimpy on biography. What follow here are the bare outlines of Madhu’s career as I gleaned them from that leisurely and rambling conversation, supplemented by a few inquiries made by mail through my research assistant Bhoju.

Madhu, a member of the Natisar lineage of Naths, was born in Ghatiyali, but in his childhood he was sent to live with an elder brother already residing in nearby Sadara. His brother was pujari or “worship priest” in Sadara’s Shiva temple.[2] The thakur or local ruler of Sadara—and this would have been in the thirties when thakurs still ruled—came into possession of a pair of yogis’ earrings and took a notion to put them on somebody. Madhu, and other Naths who were listening to our conversation, concurred on the consistent if seemingly superficial interpretation that the Sadara thakur was endowed with great sauk (a term translatable as “passionate interest”) in such works. Perhaps more salient, they also suggested that enduring “fruits” (phal ) accrue to the one who performs such a meritorious act. And they offered as evidence the information that, even today, when independent India’s concerted attempts at land reform have greatly reduced the circumstances of Rajasthan’s former gentry, there is “nothing lacking” in the Sadara thakur’ s household.

Whether we see Madhu as beneficiary or victim of the thakur’ s sauk, the rationale for his becoming the recipient of these yogis’ earrings appears to have been more economic and social than spiritual. The landlord deeded some fertile farmland to Madhu’s family in exchange for cooperation on the family’s part. As for Madhu himself, he was young and clearly his head was turned by the attention he received in the ceremony, and the pomp with which it was conducted. Fifty years later he described to me with pleasure the feasts, the processions, and the “English band” that were for him the most impressive and memorable aspects of this function. He stated that, although two “Nath babajis”[3] were called to be ritual officiants, he had no personal
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guru. For Madhu, his own ear-cutting seems to have been completely divorced from the kind of spiritual initiation with which it is consistently associated, not only in the tales he himself delivers but in other published accounts.

Nevertheless, this experience and its visible physical aftermath—the rings themselves—surely set Madhu apart from the other young men of his village world. Although Madhu did not state this in so many words, what he did make clear was that after the ritual he found himself restless and unsatisfied with the life of an ordinary farmer’s boy. His brother sent him out to graze the goats, but he felt this was “mindless work” (bina buddhi ka kam ) and quarreled with him. Evidently the economic fruits of Madhu’s ear-splitting were being reaped not by Madhu but by the senior male member of his household. The brother declined to support a non-goatherding Madhu; Madhu declined to herd goats. At this juncture, Madhu decided to set off on his own. As he put it, “There was no one to control me so I had a sarangi [the instrument he plays to accompany his performances] made by Ram Chandra Carpenter.” Madhu continued, “I rubbed it,”—meaning he did not know how to play properly—”and went to all the big feasts.”

Madhu then listed a number of events (weddings, holiday entertainments, and so forth) that he had attended in several villages where Naths performed their tales, both for their own caste society and at the request of other celebrating groups. In the course of these meanderings Madhu hooked up with his mother’s brother’s son, Sukha Nath, who was already an accomplished performer. Madhu began by informally accompanying and making himself useful to Sukha. Eventually they agreed on an apprenticeship. Madhu said, “I’ll go with you,” and Sukha said, “Come if you want to learn.” Madhu then sought permission from his grandmother in Ghatiyali, telling her—as he recalled it for me—”I’11 wash his clothes, I’ll serve him, I’ll live with him.”

Madhu appeared to remember the years of his discipleship fondly, and no doubt selectively. He described eating two meals a day of festive treats for weeks at a stretch when he and his cousin were commissioned to perform for relatively wealthy patrons. It was particularly at such special events—the only occasions when the stories are narrated from beginning to end rather than in fragments as is the usual custom—that he mastered Sukha Nath’s repertoire. This comprised the three epics Madhu himself performs: Gopi Chand, Bharthari, and the
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marriage of Shiva. Madhu also knows countless hymns and several shorter tales.[4]

At a time that Madhu estimated to be about five years after he acquired the yogis’ earrings, he was married, eventually becoming the father of two sons. After his brother’s death, the Sadara property came fully into Madhu’s possession, as did the service at the Sadara Shiva temple. He seems then to have settled into a life divided between agricultural and priestly tasks in Sadara and exercise of his bardic art in a group of nine surrounding villages, including Ghatiyali.
Madhu Nath’s Performance

Members of the Nath caste in Madhu’s area of Rajasthan inherit and divide the right to “make rounds” (pheri lagan!a) and to collect grain donations, just as they do any other ancestral property. When a father’s right must be parceled out among several sons, they receive it as “turns.” The Rajasthani word for these turns is ausaro, but English “number” is also commonly used to refer to them. Of course, some who inherit the right to perform have no talent to go with it. For example, Madhu explained to us, when his cousin Gokul Nath’s “number” comes, Gokul seeks Madhu’s assistance and they make singing rounds together, for which Madhu receives a part of Gokul’s donations.

Besides what a performer collects while making rounds, designated Nath household heads also receive a regular biannual share of the harvest—called dharo —in the villages with which they are affiliated. In 1990 this share, for Ghatiyali’s Natisar Naths, amounted to two and one-half kilos of grain at both the spring and fall harvests from every landed household in eight villages. In Ghatiyali itself, where the Natisar Naths are landed residents, they do not collect dharo, although they receive donations on their performance rounds. Madhu explained that dharo was not allotted to Naths for singing, but rather for the “work” of removing locusts—a magical power that the caste claims. Nowadays, he concluded, they sing because there are no
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locusts, thanks to a governmental extermination program (clearly a mixed blessing for Naths).

It seems that performing Gopi Chand-Bharthari may have recently been transformed into an inherited right, in order to preserve the patron-client relationship founded on locust removal.[5] By asking the kind of imaginative “what if” question that I always felt was too leading but from which we often learned the most, my assistant Bhoju elicited further support for this interpretation. What, he asked Madhu, would happen were he to practice his art in someone else’s territory? Would there be trouble? Madhu responded with a firm denial: “We jogi s make rounds; we could go as far as Udaipur. We are jogi s so no one could stop us.”

Twice a year, when it is his turn, Madhu Nath makes rounds in his nine villages. In any village on any given night, rather than remaining in a single location, he moves from house to house in the better-off neighborhoods, or temple to temple among the lower castes. At each site he sings and tells a short fragment of one of his lengthy tales—choosing what to sing according to the request of his patrons or his own whim.

Madhu is highly respected as a singer and storyteller of rich knowledge and skill who can move an audience to tears. His performance alternates regularly between segments of sung lines, accompanied by music which he plays himself on the sarangi —a simple stringed instrument played with a bow—and a prose “explanation” (arthav ). In this explanation he retells everything he has just sung, using more colorful, prosaic, and often vulgar language than he does in the singing. The spoken parts are performances or communicative events as clearly marked as the musical portions are. Whereas Madhu’s ordinary style of speaking is normally low-key and can seem almost muted, his arthav is always enunciated distinctly and projected vigorously. The arthav, moreover, often incorporates the same stock phrases and poetic conceits that occur in the singing.

During both my 1981 and 1988 recording sessions, Madhu was

usually accompanied by his surviving son, Shivji, who sang along in a much fainter voice that was prone to fade away when, presumably, he did not remember the words. However, there were some occasions—notably more in 1988—when Shivji carried the words and Madhu faltered. Shivji played no instrument and did not participate at all in the arthav .

As I worked on translating Madhu’s words, I replayed the tapes of his original performance. Inspired by Susan Wadley’s exemplary demonstrations and discussions of the ways an epic bard in rural Uttar Pradesh self-consciously employs various tunes and styles (Wadley 1989, 1991), I began to try, in spite of my musical illiteracy, to pay attention to Madhu’s use of “tune.”[6] My initial impression of Madhu’s music had been that it was monotonous; what kept you awake was the story. This is partially but not wholly true. Compared to the bard Wadley describes, Madhu Nath’s range of musical variations seems limited; yet he does deliberately modulate emotional highlights of his story with shifts in melody and rhythm.
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Madhu uses two patterned tunes, which he calls rags , in Gopi Chand and two different ones in Bharthari, where he also recycles both Gopi Chand rags . All four melodic patterns are flexible in that although each engenders verbal verse patterns, the melodic patterns frequently and readily change to accommodate narrative needs. In what I call Gopi Chand rag 1, for example, each verse normally has three similar lines and one longer concluding one. Long narrative sequences, however, may repeat the short lines many more times than three before concluding. And for an emotional or dramatic climax the long concluding line may repeat once or even twice. The main rag identified with Bharthari begins with a prolonged Rajajiiiiii —”Honored King … “—that seems to signal the plaintive voice of the king’s abandoned wife. Part 1 of Bharthari is performed in a style different from any of the others, its melody less interesting and less emotional, that seems to me in keeping with its orientation to external action.

Ethnomusicologist David Roche (personal communication 1991) describes Madhu Nath’s musical style as one influenced by caste traditions but infused by new influences. He says that the melodic phrases are “pan-North Indian”—not particularly Rajasthani. Madhu Nath’s musical style is, according to Roche, a “contemporary bhajan style” reflecting the influence of regional religious dramas and mythological films. Roche finds Madhu’s music historically influenced by the harmonium—an instrument introduced to India by Christian missionaries from the West in the late nineteenth century and soon passionately adapted to Hindu devotional singing. This influence is apparent to Roche in Madhu’s “intonation and diatonicism, with emphasis on major and mixolydian mode tetrachords.” Although Madhu uses no harmonium—nor do other Rajasthani Nath epic performers I have met—many of Madhu’s relatives and caste-fellows in and around Ghatiyali participate in bhajan -singing groups regularly accompanied by harmoniums.

That Madhu employs the term rag to refer to the melodies he plays probably represents a folk usage rather than a significant link to Indian classical traditions. Once Madhu told Bhoju that he “always” sang in asavari rag , a named rag within the classical system. Because I was hearing four distinctive melodies, I hoped that Madhu had a name for each of them. I made clips from the tapes and sent this “sampler” back to the village with Bhoju. Bhoju wrote, “I took that
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rag tape and listened to it with Madhu Nath, Shivji Nath, Ugma Nath, and Nathu all together, but no one could tell a particular name of the rags .” Rather, the assembled Naths used labels such as “the melody of rounds” (pheri ko rag ) or “Gopi Chand’s melody” (Gopi Chand ko rag ). This seems to confirm Roche’s suggestion that Madhu’s music is not to be labeled among any fixed traditional systems but rather is part of a creative synthesis continually emerging in North Indian folk music.

It is widely acknowledged that any folk performance situation is a dynamic, interactive event,[7] and this statement certainly describes Rajasthani performances in general and Madhu Nath’s in particular. I shall examine the several ways in which Madhu and his audience sustain this dynamic during individual performances. Before doing so, however, I wish to suggest some broader contextual factors that contribute to these occasions but are more diffuse and difficult to pinpoint.

Rajasthan’s regional culture includes a rich and diverse body of living oral performance traditions. These enliven a daily existence that may be both monotonous and laborious. On the one hand, an urban Westerner like myself, landed in a place like Ghatiyali, is overwhelmed by the abundance of festivals, rituals, all-night singing sessions, storytelling, and other lesser and greater artistic and communicative events; during my first months in the village I often felt that I was feasting at a perpetual banquet of live music and theater, with no tickets required. On the other hand, in 1979 81 the villagers had no TVs and few radios or tape recorders, while the nearest cinema was a costly three-hour journey distant. Any performance event punctuated the humdrum grind of labor-intensive agriculture.

Nath performance traditions must be viewed within this cultural frame: they exist as one genre in a wealth of related genres; they also exist as valued entertainment in a society not yet made blasé by multiple media. Rural Rajasthani society, moreover, venerates religious experts and accords recognition to many from different ranks and with varying sectarian affiliations. Like most of the region’s popular folk traditions, Madhu Nath’s performances meshed with his audience’s twin passions for entertainment and enlightenment. Although Madhu himself protests that his stories are not siska , or
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“instruction,” audience members claim that they are. The Nath tales are not unique, nor are they the most highly prized of performances available to Rajasthani villagers. Yet they have a welcome and secure place in the annual round.

Madhu Nath at times refers to the entire tale of Gopi Chand or Bharthari as a byavala , a term that one dictionary defines as a god’s wedding song (Platts 1974). Before returning to Rajasthan in 1987 I speculated that both tales might be so described because they were somehow anti-wedding songs. However, as I was to learn, a third long narrative in Madhu Nath’s repertoire is “The Wedding Song of Lord Shiva” (Sivji ka byavala ); it seems clear that he has named the others accordingly. Most villagers do not use the term byavala to refer to Madhu Nath’s performances and often simply call them varta . This label reveals their kinship with other epic tales of Rajasthani herogods whose singing and recitation may be called varta , too.[3]

According to the sensible, informed, and flexible definitions proffered in the recent important volume Oral Epics in India , the Bharthari-Gopi Chand tales fall beyond doubt in the epic genre. Epics in general are characterized as narrative, long, heroic, and sung (Blackburn and Flueckiger 1989, 2–4; Wadley 1989, 76). In the South Asian context, Blackburn and Flueckiger suggest, the quality “heroic” may be understood in three distinct ways. An epic may exhibit martial, sacrificial, or romantic heroism. Both the martial and sacrificial types “turn on themes of revenge, regaining lost land, or restoring lost rights,” and stress “group solidarity”—all of which would apply to other Rajasthani epic-length tales. Romantic epics, by contrast, “celebrate individual actions that threaten that solidarity” (1989, 4–5). Clearly the tales of Bharthari and Gopi Chand belong in the “romantic” category if they belong anywhere. Yet our heroes are hardly traditional, undaunted lovers.

It might seem that the tales celebrate individual action that threatens group solidarity, but as I will discuss in more detail in the afterword, yogis gain nothing from a damaged social order. Rather, they maneuver for an intact social order that supports yogis. What then makes these tales romantic? Unless we consider them as stories of the union between guru and disciple, Bharthari and Gopi Chand are romances of parting. The theme of love in separation is a pervasive
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one in Indian literature. Longing for an absent lover—whether soldier, ascetic, or clerk in the city—has inspired much poetry on mortal love (Kolff 1990; Vaudeville 1986; Wadley 1983), as well as an entire genre of devotional expression. But most literature inspired by love in separation suggests at least a movement toward, or the possibility of, future reunion. Bharthari and Gopi Chand, by contrast, continuously and irrevocably move farther and farther from their loved ones. Madhu Nath’s performances of Bharthari and Gopi Chand can be styled romantic epics celebrating separation rather than union, if we keep clearly in mind that the separation they establish is eternal.[9]

One factor distinguishing these stories from many others heard by villagers is that, although sung and told in the local dialect, they are not indigenous to Rajasthan—a matter I will deal with more extensively in chapter 3, where I attempt to trace their origins. Gopi Chand and Bharthari have been incorporated into Rajasthani traditions, and Rajasthani traditions have been incorporated into them. But these Nath tales are not self-defining epics that contribute to the identity of a regional culture—the kind of tales that people call “ours” (Blackburn et al., eds. 1989; Flueckiger 1989). Indeed, for Rajasthani farmers, Gopi Chand and Bharthari are stories of the exotic, in two senses. First, they are about other lands; second, they are about world-renouncers.

That Gopi Chand and Bharthari were understood in some ways as alien was brought home to me very strongly in 1988 when I asked some village men if they would want to be like Bharthari or Gopi Chand, and some village women if they would like their husbands or sons to emulate those figures. An almost universal answer from both sexes was “No, I wouldn’t have the courage.” Although some renouncers encountered and interviewed in temples spontaneously referred to Gopi Chand or Bharthari as exemplary in their capacity for tyag , or “relinquishment,” no ordinary persons held them up as role models.[10]

There is a real difference between my “induced”[11] performances
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of both tales and the performances that most villagers hear twice a year when Madhu makes his rounds. They hear fragments, and often their favorite fragments are repeated from year to year. People’s understanding may be limited by lack of familiarity with the whole story. Most of those whom Bhoju or I questioned were easily able to retell the most popular episodes from both tales.[12] Few villagers, however, had heard either tale from beginning to end from Madhu, although a number had seen theatrical performances at religious fairs. Several members of leatherworker castes (regar and chamar ) claimed to know very little about the stories; one complained that when Madhu came to his neighborhood he only spoke “a few lines” and left again.

My own experience of immediate audience reactions to the performances of Gopi Chand and Bharthari is limited to the context of the event which I sponsored, for I never observed Madhu “making rounds” (although he was recorded doing so by my colleague Joseph Miller). In the setting of my performance the responses were quite limited. After three or four hours of listening, until well past midnight, we would usually hurry home when Madhu ended his singing. Indeed, he often closed a night’s session by saying to me, “Now go to bed.”
Madhu Nath’s Stories in Synopsis

It has been said of at least one Indian epic—and may be true of most—that no one ever hears it for the first time. Western readers, who have not participated from childhood in the culture that produces these stories, may need a “pony.” Throughout these introductory chapters I often talk about events and characters in Madhu Nath’s versions of Bharthari and Gopi Chand. Therefore, as points of reference for those citations, I offer skeletal plot summaries in advance, segmented and ordered according to Madhu Nath’s performance as it is translated in this book (see also figs. 4 and 5).

Bharthari’s “Birth Story” (part 1) describes how his father was cursed by his own father to enter a donkey’s womb. The donkey suc-
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4. Family relationships in the tales of King Gopi Chand and King Bharthari.

ceeds after lengthy efforts in marrying a princess and founding a city, Dhara Nagar, where his three offspring—Bharthari, Vikramaditya, and Manavati—are born.

In part 2, Bharthari is king of Dhara Nagar and married to Queen Pingala. He rides out hunting and kills a stag, whose seven hundred fifty does, widowed, curse King Bharthari that his women will weep in the Color Palace as they do in the jungle. They then hurl themselves on the dead buck’s antlers and thus commit sati .[13] Bharthari wonders if his own wife is equally devoted. He sends her a handkerchief soaked in deer’s blood with the message that he is dead. Pingala knows this is a test but decides to die anyway. Bharthari has other adventures in the forest but eventually returns home to find Pingala a heap of ashes. He goes mad with remorse, until the yogi guru Gorakh Nath arrives, demonstrates the illusory nature of life and death, and finally restores Pingala to the king.

Part 3 finds Bharthari sleepless and unsatisfied. Convinced that nothing in the fluctuating world matters, he abandons his wife and renounces his throne to seek initiation from Gorakh, who sends him back to the palace to beg alms from Pingala and call her “Mother.”
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5. Nath guru-disciple lineages in the tales of King Gopi Chand and King Bharthari.

She reproaches him but gives the alms. This difficult task accomplished, Bharthari returns to Gorakh Nath’s campfire.

Gopi Chand’s “Birth Story” (part 1) opens with Manavati (Bharthari’s sister, married into “Gaur Bengal”) instructing her only son, Gopi Chand: “Be a yogi.” She then reveals in a long flashback how she obtained the boon of a son from Lord Shiva although no son was written in her fate. In order not to break his promise, Shiva allows her to borrow one of the yogi Jalindar Nath’s disciples, and she chooses Gopi Chand. The loan has a limit: after twelve years of ruling the kingdom, Gopi Chand must become a yogi or die. As a wandering ascetic, however, he will gain immortality. Gopi Chand, possessing eleven hundred wives and sixteen hundred slave girls, is not pleased with his mother’s bargain.

In part 2 Gopi Chand tries to get rid of the guru by putting him down a well. But it is Gopi Chand who dies, and only the power of yogis saves him. Restored to his palace, he follows his mother’s instructions and has his ears cut by Jalindar. The guru then sends him to beg alms from Queen Patam De, his chief wife, and to call her “Mother.” Although Patam De finally fills his alms bowl, when her mother-in-law literally twists her arm, Jalindar has to rescue Gopi Chand from the palace, where he is surrounded by weeping women.

Against his mother’s and guru’s advice, Gopi Chand heads for Dhaka in Bengal to say goodbye to his sister, Champa De Rani (part 3). On the way he is harassed by seven lady magicians who transform him into various animals and abuse him. Jalindar sends a party of yogis to rescue him but it fails. The guru himself then accompanies
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a second group, which succeeds. Gopi Chand proceeds to his sister’s; she dies of grief in his arms but is brought back to life by Jalindar. Gopi Chand spends some happy time with her and then leaves alone.

In part 4 a dispute arises between,Jalindar’s disciple Kanni Pavji and Gorakh Nath. Kanni Pavji tells Gorakh that his guru, Machhindar Nath, is enjoying women and lathering sons in Bengal; Gorakh tells Kanni Pavji that his guru,Jalindar, is at the bottom of a well. Gorakh goes to Bengal and rescues Machhindar, destroying his wives and sons along the way. Gorakh then brings seven species of locusts out of the well, tricks, Jalindar into giving immortality to Gopi Chand and Bharthari, and convinces him to emerge. All the great yogis then feast one another. At Gorakh Nath’s “wish-feast” Kanni Pavji’s disciples wish for improper foods and are degraded.
Madhu Nath’s Performances for Me

It is winter. We assemble in that part of the Rajasthani village house called a pol —a covered entranceway wide enough to form a room that lies between street and courtyard, often with raised platforms on either side for storage or sitting. This area is a shady breezeway in the summer and a shelter in the winter. By the time we gather there after the evening meal it is already dark and slightly chilly. Everyone, male and female, has wrapped a shawl or blanket over his or her usual daily attire. In the center of the pol is a small fire of dry sticks that burns low, even its frugal warmth a luxury in this wood-impoverished region.

In January 1981 I had already lived fifteen months in the village, but recording Madhu Nath was my first experience as performance patron. I received a quick education in how to fulfill this role with appropriate liberality. I must supply the singer and his son with a “bundle of biris”—biris being harsh, leaf-wrapped cigarettes smoked by almost all males who have not taken a vow of abstinence. I must treat performers and audience to tea each night, which involved purchasing tea leaves, sugar, and milk in advance—the last item not always easy to buy in the evening. In addition, a quarter- or half-kilo of gur , unrefined brown sugar, was indispensable. The singers required gur to soothe their throats (Madhu had an awful cough, which did not deter him from relishing the biris ). A generous patron should pass small lumps of gur round to all the listeners once or twice in the course of an evening.
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At the beginning of our recording sessions my comprehension of the sung segments of Madhu’s performance was very limited. How pleased I was to benefit from the custom of arthav or explanation, in which Madhu repeated everything he had sung and elaborated on much of it. During the arthav , members of the audience who have passively listened to the sung portions are more actively engaged by a vital performer. A formalized element of performer-audience interaction in Rajasthan is the part played by the hunkar . A hunkar , which can only be awkwardly glossed as someone who makes the sound hun —a kind of affirmative grunt—is a standard feature of any storytelling event, from women’s worship stories to men’s informal anecdotes.

At first I thought the hunkar ‘s function was to offer a perfunctory reassurance to the performer that at least one person was really listening. Given the distracting surroundings of many village performances—often including clamorous childern and simultaneous competing activities—such assurance may indeed be needed. However, after being pressed more than once into fulfilling this role myself (which my frequent misunderstandings at times made me bumble or fake quite awkwardly), I began to perceive that a good hunkar can elicit a tale-teller’s enthusiasm whereas a poor one can discourage a full telling.

A hunkar ‘s responses can shape the performance content as well as its quality. This too I learned from personal experience. On relistening to my tapes it was evident to me that when I played hunkar to Madhu, if he was in a generous mood, his arthav was noticeably changed: he used more standard Hindi (versus Rajasthani) vocabulary; he explained cultural phenomena he thought I might not understand; he glossed terms he suspected I was failing to grasp. For example, to my uncertain grunt following the line “Gopi Chand ruled the kingdom,” he added, “Gopi Chand ruled, like Indira Gandhi rules.”

The opposite case, a situation far more comfortable if sometimes less educational for me, would be when someone who knew the story well acted as hunkar . That person might even supply key lines if Madhu seemed to be dallying before giving them. During climaxes other audience members chimed in, adding their bit to the hunkar ‘s own responses, which also became less perfunctory. Thus when King Bharthari surveys the seven hundred fifty magically created look-alike Queen Pingalas—a vision both awesome and slightly comical—a number of spontaneous commentators (audible on the tape but only selectively included by the scribe) added their exclamations to the
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hunkar ‘s: “They looked just alike, all seven hundred and fifty!” Their faces were exactly the same!”

Madhu deliberately evoked audience participation by identifying persons in the story with persons in the audience.[14] One way he did this was by caste. For example, when Jalindar Nath’s disciples arrive in Bengal they encounter a gardener. Since there was a man of the gardener caste in the audience, Madhu named the gardener in the story with his name. Besides naming story characters after audience members, Madhu sometimes named audience members after story characters. Thus throughout the Gopi Chand performances he gently teased a younger relative by calling him “Charpat Nath” after one of the powerful yogi figures. This stuck, so that when Bhoju or I met that young man outside the storytelling context, we would call him Charpat.

The entire performance of Gopi Chand took five recording sessions, each from three and one-quarter to four and one-half hours long; it filled the better part of eleven 90-minute cassettes—or over sixteen hours of tape. Each night’s session was broken up by short intervals of batchit (conversation), during which the recorder was shut down, usually following the arthav and preceding a new sung section, but sometimes coming between singing and arthav . During one of the breaks strong sweet tea would be passed round and eagerly swallowed, its caffeine and warmth both welcome.




The first part, the “Birth Story,” was recorded in its entirety on 24 January 1981. It took two sessions, on the nights of 26 and 27 January, to record the whole “Journey to Bengal” episode. This was followed by a twelve-day hiatus in our recording (during which much transcription and translation work went forward). Madhu then performed “Gopi Chand Begs from Queen Patam De” on the night of 9 February and “Instruction from Gorakh Nath” on 10 February.

When I returned to Ghatiyali at the end of 1987, after an interlude of almost eight years, it was in order to record Madhu Nath’s version of the tale of Bharthari, and my arrival was no surprise. I had written well in advance to Nathu and Bhoju. There were several surprises in store for me, however—one so serendipitous that, looking back, it seems like a most improbable stroke of fate. The very aged mother of
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Nathu Nath, my former research assistant, had died. His caste had decided to hold a major funeral feast to which Naths from villages all over the area were invited. Because this feast coincided almost exactly with the time I had to spend in Ghatiyali, it was certain that Madhu would be there, and not in Sadara as I had feared. It also presented a remarkable opportunity for Daniel Gold and me to meet many knowledgeable Naths. Much of my understanding of that caste’s identity, presented in chapter 2, is the result of our conversations with Nathu’s guests.

Word circulated among those attending the funeral feast that a foreigner was interested in their verbal art, and their caste lore in general. Several groups of strangers knocked at my door, a number of whom announced their capability and willingness to perform Gopi Chand-Bharthari. Even Nathu, who seemed to be annoyed with Madhu for reasons that never became clear to me, strongly suggested that I should record someone else’s version. But I held out for Madhu, feeling that the continuity of my translation project required the same bard and that all these other potential singers presented an almost frightening distraction.

It was out of the question to record in Nathu’s house, as we had in 1981, because the rooms were virtually overflowing with guests and all seating and tea-making resources were seriously overtaxed. Instead, we spread a carpet on the newly plastered courtyard of the Rajput house that had been my home in 1979–81 and was my camp this trip. We thus had cloistered Rajput women in the audience, and I was able to compensate for an old injury done to my former landlady. She had been angry with me eight years ago for not inviting and escorting her to the Gopi Chand sessions. Now she was able to savor Bharthari in the comfort of her own home.

Again, it was winter and we wrapped ourselves in shawls, savored our tea breaks, and sucked on gur . Madhu’s performance got off to a somewhat slow start; Bharthari’s birth story has more repetition in it than any other segment of either text. But soon Madhu warmed to his themes. His rendition of the central part of Bharthari—containing the best-loved climax when the king madly circles Pingala’s pyre—was perfectly delightful and aroused much audience appreciation. Besides myself, Daniel, and our two inattentive sons, our gathering always included my research assistant Bhoju; my landlady; her daughter-in-law, grandchildren, and nieces; and a variable number
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of neighbors and friends, who wandered in by plan or chance. Nathu, immersed in the work of the funeral feast, was unable to attend.

Madhu completed Bharthari’s tale in three recording sessions held on the nights of 28, 29, and 30 December 1987. This represents approximately eight hours of recording, filling five and one-half 90-minute tapes. On the whole, the performance atmosphere for Bharthari was very similar to that for Gopi Chand eight years before, with only a few perceptible differences. Madhu’s cough seemed a little worse; Shivji’s singing seemed a little better; Bhoju was the hunkar most of the time and played his part vigorously.
Translation in Practice and Theory

Toward the conclusion of part I of Madhu Nath’s Gopi Chand, Manavati Mother has at last won the boon of a son. She goes to select from among the yogi Jalindar Nath’s fourteen hundred visible disciples the one that pleases her the most; then Jalindar will loan him to her by having him reborn as her child. But until she spots beautiful Gopi Chand, the queen is far from delighted with her prospects as she scans the meditating yogis. Her words—as Madhu Nath narrated them and I recorded them in 1981—were as follows: “What will I do with such bearded fellows? What will I do with such twisted limbs, or ones like this who don’t even understand speech (boli hi na hamjai )? What will I do with them?”

When Madhu Nath thus elaborated the queen mother’s expressions of distaste there was laughter among our small company—laughter that was dutifully noted in parentheses by Nathu Nath when he transcribed the recording. Why was there laughter? Because, as Madhu enunciated “those who don’t even understand speech,” he gestured toward me. True to his characterization of me as uncomprehending, although I laughed along with the rest, I did not catch this quick jest at my expense. I thought we were laughing at the images of yogis as unattractive, defective persons not likely to make it in the world. But Bhoju, my research assistant, explained Madhu’s jibe to me, as kindly as possible, when we read the transcribed text together a week or so later and the scene was still fresh in his memory. Over the words “those who don’t even understand speech” I penciled “like Ain-Bai,” my village name (this third-person notation symptomatic I suppose of self-alienation common in fieldwork experience), and soon forgot about it.
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Six years later, as I embarked on a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship that centered on the Gopi Chand tale, I rediscovered Madhu’s little “joke” and paused to ponder this characterization of me—a confident, well-funded translator and published ethnographer—as someone who didn’t even “understand speech.” It brought to my mind a moment described in the preface to my book on pilgrimage: my first evening in the company of Bhoju Ram Gujar, the young village man who was later to become my closest assistant, pilgrimage brother, and eventually coauthor. During this night he had excited and tired us both by steadily imparting to me in lucid grammatical Hindi the mystical and multiple meanings of esoteric Rajasthani hymns as they were being performed during an intense all-night singing party celebrating the new benign identity of a restless ghost.

When it became apparent to this young man, around two or three in the morning, that I was exhausted and had ceased to absorb his explanations, he chided me by quoting a Rajasthani saying. “For you,” he said, “all this is ‘brown sugar for a deaf-mute’ (gunge ka gur ).” Steeped as I was in the rich village world, consuming its sweets but unable to hear its language clearly, where would I find the tongue to tell of it? In my published preface I exclaim, “What a perfect metaphor for the anthropological enterprise!” (Gold 1988, xiv). This metaphor, simultaneously evoking inexpressible delight and human disability, seems equally applicable to the efforts of translation—especially the translation of a multidimensional, interactive communicative event into a linear, soundless, printed story. In the remaining pages of this chapter I examine the phases of my translation efforts, returning in the end to some other metaphors—of hopelessness and possibility.

The first round of translation for Gopi Chand was certainly the most enjoyable. During February and March 1981 except for two short trips, each of a few days’ duration, to wrap up loose ends in my pilgrimage research, and the usual distractions of festivals, rituals, and the interpersonal psychodramas that I had finally come to accept as part of village life, my time and attention were remarkably centered on the recordings and rapidly emerging written text of Gopi Chand.

I employed both Nathu Nath and Bhoju Gujar full time during this period. Ugma Nathji, nonliterate but more knowledgeable than Nathu in his caste’s teachings, was also often on the scene. We worked in two neighboring rooms, each opening on the same courtyard but not adjoining the other, as was the architectural custom in the village. Nathu (with or without Ugma Nath) would sit in one room, listening
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to tapes and transcribing Madhu’s words with painstaking accuracy. In the other room Bhoju and I sat side by side at a small desk doing our “translation work” (anuvad ka kam )—as we explained it in most unsatisfactory fashion to the many skeptical questioners who wondered how we passed our days. This work involved reading through the pages Nathu had transcribed and stopping everywhere I had a problem with the Rajasthani. Bhoju would then endeavor to clarify my confusions with explanations and glosses in Hindi. I made notes in pencil directly on the transcription, in an ad hoc mixture of English and Hindi.

Occasionally, when confronted by something extremely puzzling, we would resort to the nine-volume Rajasthani Sabad Kos (Lalas 196–278; hereafter RSK ) with its ponderous definitions in Sanskritized Hindi. Far more often I just wrote the meanings of words as Bhoju dictated them to me. Sometimes he embellished his verbal descriptions with sketches, demonstrating, for example, the design of a kind of earring or the shape of a particular clay pot.

In midafternoon scribe and translators all took a long tea break together and often talked and joked in terms of the stories and the bard’s language. If Nathu, whose caste identity was Nath or Yogi, had to go somewhere, Bhoju would recite the bard’s favorite couplet: “A seated yogi’s a stake in the ground but a yogi once up is a fistful of wind.” Gossiping about the passion of an illicit lover when aroused by his woman, Nathu might say, “It was just as if a wick were lit to one hundred maunds of gunpowder”—parroting the bard’s stock metaphor for Gopi Chand’s emotional crises. Thus the text’s special language merged as I learned it with everyday life.

I had not the slightest sense of what I would do with the results of all this effort. But I found the protracted routinized translation work to be very soothing. It filled my days and kept my mind from dwelling on all the things I would never be able to finish, or even begin, as time ran out. Inevitably but nonetheless abruptly, when we were but a few pages into part 4, I at last had to leave Ghatiyali. I did not spend any time with the text again until 1987—six years later. The summary of Gopi Chand’s story, which I included in my dissertation (Gold 1984) and ensuing book (Gold 1988) as well as in the article that I coauthored with my husband (Gold and Gold 1984), was done from memory. As I discovered to my chagrin when I did return to the text, it contains a few errors, the result of my imperfect compre-
― 27 ―

hension and memory lapses, combined with Madhu’s occasional vagueness. For example, I stated in that summary that Jalindar Nath rescues Gopi Chand from Death’s Messengers; actually it is Gorakh Nath who, after taunting Jalindar with the news that his given disciple is dead, frees Gopi Chand so dramatically.

The second round of translation work, still only for Gopi Chand, began in 1987 when, supported by a Mellon Foundation Fellowship at Cornell University, I sat daily at a computer with Nathu’s transcription in my lap and typed directly onto the screen a rough and literal English version. I never lifted a dictionary during this stage but worked entirely from my own knowledge of the language and Bhoju’s glosses that I had jotted down six years earlier. By late summer 1987 I had a 250-page double-spaced English typescript. The last 80 pages were by far the roughest since they covered the final segment that I had never read through with Bhoju. I think of this as the “reading-for-meaning” phase of my translation. At this point I felt I had a full understanding of the story and wrote several interpretive essays (Gold 1989, 1991).

Convinced, however, that nothing I said about Gopi Chand’s story would be fully valid unless I knew Bharthari’s as well, I made plans to return to Rajasthan over winter break 1987–88. During that hectic six-week trip I had nothing comparable to the earlier daily routine of eight or nine hours in which I used to sit peacefully reading with Bhoju. I did manage to go over and solve most of the problems encountered in part 4 of Gopi Chand. Although I set the transcription process in motion for Bharthari, I left the village with only twelve pages on paper. Nathu completed the rest after my departure; Bhoju made interlinear notes in red ink and forwarded it to me.

Later still (from June through September 1989) supported by an NEH translation grant, I entered yet another phase, during which I relistened to all the tapes. The tapes made me aware of nuances of meaning totally lost in transcription and helped me to relive interactive dimensions of the performance in which I had participated but which I had forgotten during my subsequent fixation on the story. As Madhu’s wonderfully gruff and expressive voice, or his minor-key melodic sarangi riffs filled my ears, and I stared at fiat words on the grey shrunken screen, I despaired over the inadequacy of all translation.

While my ethnographic self retreated, stymied, I became obsessed
― 28 ―

with definitions. During these months I compulsively read dictionaries, searching for every word I did not “know”—a category arbitrarily comprising every word for which I was relying solely on Bhoju’s glosses—in a series of dictionaries (Rajasthani-Hindi, Hindi-Hindi, Hindi-English as required). I made alphabetical lists with cross-references. Words that I found in none of these references, or whose dictionary definitions did not coincide with Bhoju’s, I listed, and every month letters filled with these queries flew back to India. Bhoju often consulted Madhu himself or Madhu’s son, Shivji, before responding.

Toward the end of this unpleasant and laborious period, another translator and I were able to bring Bhoju to America. I had the uncanny experience of sitting in my Ithaca office, subzero temperatures outside, with a village voice in my ears. By then my involvement in these stories and the tradition that generated them extended beyond firsthand ethnographic experience; I had read numerous variants from other regions and times and was working out my interpretations. No longer did I passively take dictation from Bhoju; occasionally I found myself arguing with him.

When Gopi Chand’s wife reproaches him for becoming a yogi, she says: “Grain-giver, I taste bitter to you, but you think that yogi’s just swell. He shoved a loincloth up your ass and put these earrings on you. He pierced your ears and put these great big earrings in them.” In the village in 1981 Bhoju told me that the word the queen used for “earring” meant “yogis’ earring” because of course that’s what she was referring to—the yogis’ earrings her husband wore. But the word itself, muraka , refers to a small earring worn by ordinary men. It is not one of the several special words for yogis’ earrings, most often called darsai or “divine visions.” I thought the queen was being deliberately disrespectful by using this word, as she surely was about the loincloth up the ass—employing a crude term for anus. Bhoju, however, said she was just an ignorant woman who didn’t know the right word for yogis’ earring.

Later in the scene Gopi Chand calls on his guru for help and threatens that if the guru doesn’t come he’ll go back to taking care of his kingdom and get rid of his “earrings-and-stuff”—calling them murakyan vurakan —thus further exaggerating the queen’s disparaging terminology. The echo-word formation readily implies “earrings and all the rest of this yogic paraphernalia.” To me it seems to confirm
― 29 ―

Gopi Chand’s interpretation of the queen’s language, adopted when he is momentarily swept over to her perspective (and I see him as constantly backsliding thus from a yogic to a householder’s viewpoint). The bard is quite unlikely to have used the wrong word by accident as he himself wears these “divine visions” and is extremely conscious of their special power. Bhoju was still not convinced.

I relate this dispute because it reveals nicely how much of a translator’s problem lodges not so much in words but in contexts. To translate muraka as yogis’ earring—even though that is what it refers to—would be simply wrong. But to translate it as “earring” also leaves something out: the fact that it is the wrong word for the type of earring referred to. Any solution to such moments must transact a compromise between fluidity and semantics. As is no doubt too often the case, I resorted here to a footnote where I gave both sides of the argument.

Eventually I arrived at the most challenging and vexing task: to take the repetitive, awkwardly phrased, but reasonably accurate product of all this labor and transform it into something palatable, pleasurable, charming. After all, Madhu’s performance was all those things. I no longer feel quite deaf and dumb, but what I have to offer is not exactly brown sugar. My first decision was to use the written word and the printed page traditionally. I respect and admire the groundbreaking efforts of Dennis Tedlock (1983) and Elizabeth Fine (1984) among others, who have tried to develop innovative ways of putting oral performances on paper. Yet I myself find it difficult to enjoy their productions aesthetically. Such devices as uneven type sizes, slanting lines, and coded symbols do provide a far better record of oral performance than plain linear print. But as access to an aesthetic experience, for me at least, they fail. My immediate reaction to uneven type and arcane symbols is an almost automatic blurring or skimming impulse rather than transformed awareness. Whether this is common or idiosyncratic I do not know. In any case, I have taken a different route.

Surrendering music and largely surrendering audience interaction, in a sense I gave up on sustaining an oral mode; readers will have to supply that from my descriptions and their own imaginations. What I tried to reproduce is the rough charm and spontaneous flow of Madhu’s speech, without falsely embellishing it. The fourth round was literally countless rounds, for I could not say how many times I went over the English version, rearranging, rewording, and cutting.
― 30 ―

Eventually I had to make substantial cuts, by which something is certainly lost, but much is gained for all but the most patient English readers.

I cut in three ways, or at three levels. On the grossest of these, I made the decision —after translating the entire performance — to omit the sung portions except for those that open and close each of the seven parts of the two epics. A few other maverick segments of sung text slipped in because they advance the plot significantly with no spoken explanation covering the same ground. Normally, however, the explanation gives all that was sung and more. The singing does not present beautiful poetry; it lacks rhyme and its meter is strongly subordinated to the sarangi rags . The pleasure in it, I have come to believe, both from discussions with Madhu’s audience and from my own experience, is largely musical. But the pleasure of the arthav is intentionally verbal—and is therefore a pleasure much more easily translatable to the printed page.

The second level of cutting involved condensing most of a particular scene when it replicated almost exactly another that was fully translated. Such scenes are limited. The biggest reduction from the original involved the encounter between a begging yogi and a group of slave girls that occurs once in Bharthari and three times in Gopi Chand. Of these four instances, two were substantially condensed as noted within the text. Another highly repetitive moment is the contest between yogis and lady magicians; I gave Gopi Chand’s initial encounter fully but condensed whenever possible, and so noted, the subsequent encounters between Charpat Nath, followed by Hada Nath, and their Bengali enemies.

The third level of cutting is the one that makes me as a folklorist most uneasy, but its execution may contribute most to making this text generally accessible. This is the excision of innumerable internal repetitions—repetitions that give the oral performer time to think, that give his audience time to take it all in, but that on the printed page become rapidly tedious. My aim was to retain enough of these to leave the English with a colloquial, oral “flavor,” but to remove enough to keep the story moving at an acceptable pace.

Let me give an example, from the opening scene of Gopi Chand. The queen has just told her son to be a yogi, and he is questioning her knowledge of yoga. My translation in this book is as follows:
― 31 ―

Then Gopi Chand said, “But mother, you live in purdah inside the palace, and yogis live in the jungle. They do tapas by their campfires in the jungle. But you live in the palace. So, how did you come to know any yogis?”

Madhu Nath’s original speech translated word for word goes like this:

Then Gopi Chand said, “Oh, Manavati Mata, you live in purdah inside the palace and a yogi, yogis, they live in the jungle. They live in the jungle performing tapas by their campfires, and you stay in the palace, so how did you come to know yogis? How do you know them? Yogis live in the jungle, in the woods. And you live inside the palace, so how did you get to know them, you?”

I think this example speaks for itself, and it is perfectly typical.
Pottery Lessons

The act of translation is often enough metaphorically maligned, in images that include the translator as executioner, bigamist, and traitor.[15] Fortunately, more benign images also exist. Perhaps the most pleasing of these, especially to an anthropologist steeped in notions of empathy, is that of the translator as friend, sharer, intimate—evoked by Kelly, who cites Rosecommon’s seventeenth-century essay. Kelly writes of a “sharing between friends” that is “not merely informational: friends add to the information they share, a joy in the act of recounting it and a vicarious sharing of each other’s experience on terms special to the friendship” (Kelly 1979, 63).

If part of a positive vision of translation is intimacy, another part is craftsmanship. Yet it is just such praiseworthy traits as skill, technique, and knowledge that contribute to the translator’s self-image problem. If translation is skill then it is something less than art, a secondary act. Among all the metaphors proposed for translation, one of the most elegant and subtle is that of Walter Benjamin, whose essay “The Task of the Translator” begins with the skilled but artless act of gluing together pot shards but moves rapidly beyond this mundane figure into luminous visions.
― 32 ―

Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way, a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel.

Later in the same paragraph Benjamin continues: “A real translation is transparent; it does not cover the original, does not block its light, but allows the pure language, as though reinforced by its own medium, to shine upon the original all the more fully” (1969, 78–79).

Several metaphors are working on several levels here. On the one hand matching the pieces of a broken pot is like the reproduction of meaning in translation; and on the other the original and the translation are themselves both fragments, not wholes. Abandoning the pots with their shapes, Benjamin goes on to speak of covering and translucency. The translation does not cover the original but allows light to shine through—not from it, however, but upon it. There appears to be, in that light, a premise of a reality bigger than both translation and original. When I read Benjamin it reminded me of a broken pot in the Rajasthani bard Madhu Nath’s own stories—a pot that can be neither glued together nor replicated.

This pot appears in King Bharthari’s tale in the central episode of part 2. Here the yogi Gorakh Nath mourns for his broken clay jug, deliberately mocking King Bharthari’s mourning for his cremated queen. The king says the jug is easily replaced, and the yogi retorts that the queen is too. They agree that the yogi will restore Queen Pingala to life if the king replaces the jug. The king commandeers the labor of scores of potters, but the yogi uses his “divine play” (lila ) to spoil the potters’ work so they fail to get the original jug’s color just right. When cartloads of jugs are delivered by exhausted potters, Gorakh Nath scorns them, holding up his shards of a slightly different color, and demanding once more a jug just like the one that broke:

So King Bharthari grasped his feet and prostrated himself. “Grain-giver, I’ve done the best I could, good or bad, I’ve ordered what I could. Now, Grain-giver, that’s enough. Good or bad, black or fair, make me a Pingala. Just as I’ve brought these jugs, black or yellow, so bring her, black or yellow.”
― 33 ―

Of course, the yogi is able to summon up not one but seven hundred fifty identical queens and the sameness of their faces, clothes, and jewelry are elaborated upon to the audience’s considerable wonder. On the surface the point seems to be that yogis are more powerful than kings or potters: without divine power, a king can’t even replicate the form and color of a common clay jug; with it a yogi can infinitely multiply the form and color of a human being who has burned to ash.

Gorakh Nath’s pottery lesson, however, goes beyond such trumpeting of yogis’ magic power. For even perfect reproductions are illusions, if there is no graspable reality in the original. This lack of reality operates on several levels. We do not even know whether any of the seven hundred fifty Pingalas is the real Pingala—since she burned up and all these may just be Gorakh Nath’s saktis , enslaved female spirits in Pingala’s form. But, even if one of the restored queens is the real one, she is still no better than a whore (as Gorakh Nath makes clear) because no human love endures forever. All of them, perfect copies though they are, are just as false as the cartloads of jugs that do not match the original jug. They represent distractions from higher or calmer realities for which the yogi’s unblemished and irreplaceable jug of pure cool water may itself be a sign.

Walter Benjamin’s pottery lesson indicates that translating from one language to another might be like the act of matching fragments to rebuild a shattered whole, but that this work is neither perfect reproduction nor an illusory effort doomed to failure. Ultimately, Benjamin’s images push our thoughts beyond the translator and his work, to consider the relation between languages, suggesting that a shared human capacity for communication exists beyond particular tongues.

Why do I thus laboriously juxtapose these very different uses of broken-pot images emerging from different cultural discourses and created for different didactic aims? One solid if small reason is that it seems to me auspicious that for both Nath yogis and European literary criticism a broken pot and its reconstruction or replication may become metaphors for the possible and the impossible, indicators of communication between two worlds (whether of French and German poetry, or of yogis and kings, or of Rajasthani peasants and Western readers). One ephemeral but larger reason for this pottery lesson is that both Benjamin’s and Gorakh Nath’s metaphors point beyond cycles of disintegration and reconstruction to some more stable area of light
― 34 ―

or truth. For those of us who spend our days translating texts and cultures, this is encouraging.

Yellow or black, I have tried to make these tales stand up. Lacking yogis’ magic along with much other knowledge and skill, I have labored even longer and harder than Bharthari’s potters. I can only hope that the imperfect results presented here are, as Benjamin advises, limpid to the light of the original.






(Courtesy of UCLA)




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משה װאַינבערג

Paul Klee - Ancient Sound,-Abstract on Black - 1925

Моисей Самуилович Вайнбер
Light in the Dark

The Music of
Mieczyslaw Vainberg



When the history of 20th-century music is written in the next several hundred years, will it bear much resemblance to how we think of it now? My encounter with the works of Mieczyslaw Vainberg (1919-1996) makes me doubt that it will. So much music has been ignored or suppressed for aesthetic or political reasons during the 20th century that it will take some time for it to surface and receive a fair hearing. Enterprising record companies, such as Olympia, are in the vanguard of excavating our recent past, and their efforts are already shifting the perspective from which 20th-century music will be judged.

In an extraordinary feat of dedication, Olympia has released 16 CDs of Vainberg’s music. These discs, many of them Soviet-era recordings of live premiere performances, give a substantial representation of Vainberg’s enormous output. Vainberg composed 26 symphonies; seven concertos; 17 string quartets; 28 sonatas for various instruments; seven operas; several ballets; incidental music for 65 films; and many other works, including a Requiem.

One would think the sheer size of his output would command attention. Yet Vainberg is absent from every 20th-century musical reference work I have checked and receives a paltry two paragraphs in The New Grove Dictionary (under Vaynberg). What deepens the mystery of this neglect is that a number of his works are masterpieces that belong in any evaluation of 20th-century music. Thanks to Olympia, and a few other labels, a reevaluation can now begin.

The story of Vainberg’s neglect is a history of the 20th century at its worst, encompassing both the Nazi and Soviet tyrannies. Vainberg was born in Warsaw, where his father worked as a composer and violinist in a travelling Jewish theater. Vainberg made his debut as a pianist at the age of ten. Two years later, he became a pupil at the Warsaw Conservatory. In 1941, his entire family was burned alive by the Nazis. As a refugee, Vainberg fled first to Minsk and then, in advance of the invading Nazi armies, to Tashkent. In 1943, he sent the score of his First Symphony to Shostakovich, who was so impressed that he arranged for Vainberg to be officially invited to Moscow. For the rest of his life, Vainberg remained in Moscow, working as a freelance composer and pianist. He and Shostakovich became fast friends and colleagues.

Vainberg was to discover that anti-Semitism was not only a Nazi specialty. In 1948, at the Soviet Composers Union Congress, Andrei Zhdandov, Stalins cultural henchman, attacked formalism and cosmopolitanism, which were code words for Jewish influences. During the meeting, Vainberg received news that his father-in-law, the most famous Jewish actor in the Soviet Union, Solomon Mikhoels, had been murdered (as it was later learned, on direct orders from Stalin). At first, Vainberg, who always refused to join the Communist Party, seemed safe and was even praised by the newly elected head of the Composers Union, Tikhon Khrennikov, for depicting the shining, free working life of the Jewish people in the land of Socialism.

Nonetheless, Vainberg was arrested in January 1953 for Jewish bourgeois nationalism, on the absurd charge of plotting to set up a Jewish republic in the Crimea. This event took place in the midst of the notorious Doctors Plot, used by Stalin as pretext for another anti-Semitic purge. Seven of the nine Kremlin doctors were Jewish. One of them was Miron Vovsi, the uncle of Vainberg’s wife. Vovsi was executed [see Note 1]. Speaking of Vainberg’s arrest, his wife Natalya said, to be arrested in those times meant departure forever. Expecting her own arrest, Natalya arranged for the Shostakovich’s to have power of attorney over her seven-year-old daughter so that the girl would not be sent to an orphanage.

According to Olympias consultant for its Vainberg series, Tommy Persson, a Swedish friend of the composer and his family, Vainberg thought he would not survive his internment, if only due to his poor health at the time. In -30 ÞC weather, he was taken outside in only his prison garb and shorn of all his hair. He was interrogated and allowed no sleep between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. In an act of great courage, Shostakovich sent a letter to the chief of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB), Lavrenti Beria, protesting Vainberg’s innocence. But it was only Stalins death in March of that year that opened the prison gates for Vainberg and many others. To celebrate his release, the Shostakoviches and Vainberg’s held a dinner party at which they burned the power of attorney papers.

These events are worth recounting in detail because of the attitude that Vainberg took toward them and that is, in turn, reflected in his music. He seemed to regard his imprisonment with some diffidence. Of the Stalinist peril, he said, It wasnt a sword of Damocles, because they hardly locked up any composerswell, except meand they didnt shoot any either. I really cant claim, as other composers do, that I have been persecuted. Vainberg must have possessed an extraordinary spiritual equanimity to say such a thing.

What sort of music does one write in the face of the horrors of Nazi genocide, World War II, and the Gulag, especially if one has been victimized by all three? In his December 19 article on 20th-century music after the war, New York Times writer Paul Griffiths opined that since what had recently happened was inexpressible, the only appropriate course was to express nothing. And indeed that was the course chosen by many composers in their increasingly violent and abstract works. The more repugnant the world, the more abstract the art.





The only problem with this approach is that the art it produces is itself repugnant because it is inhuman. Vainberg chose another course. It was neither one of denial, nor one of submission to the Soviet mandate to write happy-factory-worker music. He said, Many of my works are related to the theme of war. This, alas, was not my own choice. It was dictated by my fate, by the tragic fate of my relatives. I regard it as my moral duty to write about the war, about the horrors that befell mankind in our century.

Yet Vainberg was able to address these issues with the same spiritual equanimity with which he regarded his imprisonment. Though his music is certainly passionate, he seems to have been able to recollect the most horrible things in tranquility. Since so little is known about Vainberg, it can only be a guess as to how he was able to do this.

In conversation with Persson, I was told, Vainberg could always see the bright light in dark circumstances. What was the source of this perspective? Much is revealed in a remark from an interview Vainberg gave after the collapse of the Soviet Union: I said to myself that God is everywhere. Since my First Symphony, a sort of chorale has been wandering around within me. If God is everywhere, then there is still something to say. Vainberg found the means to say it in music of great passion, poignance, power, beauty, and even peace.

Vainberg’s musical language may be another reason for his neglect. He frequently sounds exactly like Shostakovich, and that similarity will be the first thing likely to strike any listener. Vainberg embraced the similarity, declaring unabashedly, I am a pupil of Shostakovich. Although I never took lessons from him, I count myself as his pupil, his flesh and blood. In turn, Shostakovich called Vainberg one of the most outstanding composers of the present day.

Shared stylistic traits are immediately recognizable in the frequent deployment of high string and horn registers, and the sometimes-obsessive use of themes. Like Shostakovich, Vainberg wrote open, expansive music of big gestures and extraordinarily long-lined melodies. Both composers were classical symphonists who wrote essentially tonally oriented music.

Though ridiculed as a little Shostakovich, Vainberg actually was sometimes the one influencing Shostakovich, rather than the other way around. Vainberg seems to have been the primary source of the Jewish musical influences in Shostakovich’s works, most certainly in Shostakovich’s song cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry. And who was influencing whom in 1962, when Shostakovich composed the Thirteenth Symphony, Babi Yar, about Nazi atrocities against Soviet Jews, and Vainberg wrote his Sixth Symphony memorializing children who were murdered or orphaned? So close were the two composers that they observed a steadfast practice of playing for each other every new work as soon as it was finished. Also, each composer, in tribute, liberally quoted the others works.

However, there are defining differences. Vainberg wrote with irony (and sometimes even humor) but without Shostakovich’s sardonic bombast and cutting edge. He held his musical onslaughts more in check. Vainberg’s music can be very turbulent and bleak, but the bleakness and turbulence are not unremitting. They are, in fact, relieved by a fundamental optimism in Vainberg’s outlook that clearly differentiates him from Shostakovich. The frequent diminuendos with which Vainberg ends his works do not signify resignation or death but peace.

Vainberg was more a romantic than Shostakovich; he wore his heart more on his sleeve. As a result, his writing is more florid, though his symphonic structures remained more classical than those of Shostakovich. In his later years, Vainberg’s music, as evident from his last several chamber symphonies, even increased in lyrical beauty and contemplative value.

The similarities with Shostakovich may also cause one to overlook Vainberg’s own significant melodic gift and his extraordinary ability to develop his themes, which cannot be the product of imitation. Vainberg knew how to take a simple idea and build it into a major edifice. There is also the matter of his remarkable fluency. Vainberg’s music seems to burst forth from such an abundance of ideas that one can only assume that music was his natural language.

Russian composer Boris Tishchenko said of Vainberg, The music seems to flow by itself, without the slightest effort on his part. This fluency, he said, allowed Vainberg to make a game of music making. But even so, this game never becomes simply amusement. In every composition, one can hear his pure voice, the voice of the artist, whose main goal is to speak out in defense of life.

In The New Grove, Boris Schwarz calls Vainberg a conservative modernist. The reverse would be more accurate. In musical idiom, he was a modern conservative. Besides Shostakovich, other palpable influences are Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and especially Mahler. Vainberg worked with traditional harmonic and tonal expectations and rarely failed to meet them in satisfying and novel ways. He could sustain a sense of expectancy over long spans of time with vast melodic and contrapuntal structures.

The symphonies are often masterful in their thematic coherence. The whole of Symphony No. 19, for example, is developed out of its gorgeous opening theme over the course of more than half an hour. Although the symphony is subtitled The Bright May and has extramusical associations with the end of the war, it is musically satisfying in the profoundest way. Vainberg’s music is also highly variegated, encompassing calliope music, circus marches, Jewish and Moldavian folk song and dance, Shostakovich-like onslaughts, and extremely moving Malherian adagios.

The Symphony No. 2, for strings alone, written in 1945 to 1946, should serve as fair warning to those who wish to tie this composers work to his biography. In the wake of the wars devastation, Vainberg produced a meltingly lovely, thoroughly charming, and relatively untroubled work. More than 40 years later, Vainberg added timpani to strings to produce his Chamber Symphony No. 2, another completely beguiling, classically oriented, if somewhat more weighty work. These are entrancing pieces.

Symphony No. 4 has immense propulsive drive, an engaging telegraphic theme, and wistful Stravinskian interludes. It is coupled on an Olympia CD with Vainberg’s Violin Concerto, a work of the first rank, charged with breathtaking vitality. Shostakovich said, I remain very impressed with the Violin Concerto by M.S. Vainberg…. It is a fabulous work. Though the Soviet-era recordings leave something to be desired, the quality of this music and the outstanding performances are thoroughly winning. If you are not engaged by these works, you need proceed no further.

Of Vainberg’s Sixth Symphony, Shostakovich exclaimed, I wish I could sign my name to this symphony. This is the work through which I first became acquainted with Vainberg on a now-deleted Jerusalem Records CD, appropriately coupled with Shostakovich’s From Jewish Folk Poetry (curiously, the two works share the same opus number, Op. 79).

The symphony begins with a hauntingly beautiful trumpet theme, which recurs and is developed throughout. Several of its movements include a childrens choir. Despite its gruesome subject matter, the murder of children, this ultimately affirmative work is a moving example of Vainberg’s ability to recollect in tranquility. Only someone secure in faith and hope could treat this agonizing subject matter in this way. The closing line of the text is: There will be sunshine again and the violins will sing of peace on earth.

The Symphony No. 12, dedicated to the memory of Dmitri Shostakovich (and here conducted by his son ,Maxim) is a poundingly ferocious and poignant piece. It is magnificent music, but not for the faint of heart. The remarkable first movement, close to 20 minutes long, exhibits Vainberg’s ability to move seamlessly from angry outbursts to lyrical introspection. This is a stunning work.

The Symphony No. 19, The Bright May, is music of a man who more than simply survived and who did not return empty-handed from the hell through which he lived. An incredibly long and elegiac melodic line of great beauty begins and almost continuously winds its way through this single-movement masterpiece, which ends in a most poignant way. May may be bright, but it is also haunted. Along with the Sixth Symphony, this is perhaps Vainberg’s most moving work; he certainly wrote nothing more beautiful.

The Piano Quintet demonstrates Vainberg’s prowess with chamber music, and almost equals in brilliance and vitality Shostakovich’s great Piano Quintet.

The lovely Childrens Notebooks for piano proves that Vainberg was a master miniaturist as well as a great symphonist. His abundant charm and humor are evident here.


After a life of much pain, Vainberg spent his last several years in bed suffering from Crohns disease. On January 3, 1996, less than two months before his death on Ferbruary 26, he was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church, one final act by a man who could always see the bright light in dark circumstances.
Courtesy of Robert R. Reilly (c)





Mieczysław Weinberg, piano sonata No.6, op. 73 (1960)
Мечислав (Моисей) Вайнберг, шестая соната, соч. 73 (1960)
I. Adagio






Mieczysław Weinberg (Moisei Vainberg)

(1919 – 1996)

Mieczysław Weinberg was one of the twentieth century’s most powerful and prolific composers, and one of its least well known, certainly outside of his adoptive Russia. His death in Moscow on 26 February, 1996, at the age of 76, brings to an end to a life that was far from easy but which was borne with the fortitude that gives his music its toughness and strength.

Weinberg was born on 8 December 1919 in Warsaw into a musical family: his father was a composer and violinist in a Jewish theatre there. He made his first public appearance as a pianist at the age of ten, and two years later became a student at the Warsaw Academy of Music, then under the direction of Karol Szymanowski, where he took piano lessons from Josef Turczynski. His graduation in 1939 was soon followed by Hitler’s invasion: when his entire family was killed, burned alive, Moisei fled eastwards, taking shelter first in Minsk, where he studied composition with Vassily Zolotaryov. Two years later, as Hitler now pushed into Russia, Weinberg again had to flee, this time finding work at the opera house in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan. It was there, in 1943, that he took the action that was perhaps to be the most decisive in his life: he sent the manuscript of his newly completed First Symphony to Dmitri Shostakovich in Moscow. Shostakovich’s response was typically helpful and immediate: Weinberg received an official invitation to travel to Moscow, where he was to spend the rest of his life, living largely by his compositions, though he also made many appearances as a pianist. One of the most prestigious was when, in October 1967, with Vishnevskaya, Oistrakh and Rostropovich, he played in the first performance of Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok, replacing the ailing composer. And when Shostakovich presented his latest works to the Composers’ Union and to the Soviet Ministry of Culture, it was generally in four-hand versions in which Weinberg was his habitual accompanist (in 1954, for example, they recorded the Tenth Symphony at the piano – a document of immense importance which has appeared in the West on LP and which ought now to be resuscitated on CD).

Having only just escaped the Nazis with his life, Weinberg was not to find matters much easier under Stalin. During the night of 12 January 1948 (the day before the opening of the infamous “Zhdanov” congress at which Shostakovich, Serge Prokofieff and several other composers were denounced as “formalists”), Solomon Mikhoels, Weinberg’s father-in-law and the perhaps the foremost actor in the Soviet Union, was murdered on Stalin’s orders, an early victim of the anti-Semitic campaign that was to be a feature of his last years in power. When, in February 1953, Weinberg himself was arrested, it seemed that he, too, might “disappear”; fortune intervened and Stalin’s death on 5 March removed the imminent danger. (In the meantime Shostakovich had acted true to form, taking the step, one of almost foolhardy generosity and courage, of writing to Stalin’s police chief Beriya to protest Weinberg’s innocence.) A month later Mikhoels was posthumously rehabilitated in the Soviet press, and soon after Weinberg himself was released.

Weinberg’s association with Shostakovich was not based only on mutual personal esteem. Shostakovich often spoke very highly of Weinberg’s music (calling him “one of the most outstanding composers of the present day”); he dedicated his Tenth String Quartet to him; and in February/March 1975, although terminally ill (he was to die on 9 August), he found the energy to attend all the rehearsals for the premiere of Weinberg’s opera The Madonna and the Soldier. Weinberg’s identification with Shostakovich’s musical language was such that to the innocent ear the best of his own music might also pass muster as very good Shostakovich. Weinberg was quite unabashed, stating with unsettling directness that “I am a pupil of Shostakovich. Although I have never had lessons from him, I count myself as his pupil, as his flesh and blood”. But there is much more to Weinberg than these external similarities of style, although his music – some of which achieves greatness – has yet to have the exposure that will allow his individuality to be fully recognised. It also embraces folk idioms from his native Poland, as well as Jewish and Moldavian elements; and towards the end of his career he found room for dodecaphony, though usually set in a tonal framework. His evident taste for humour, from the light and deft to biting satire, was complemented by a natural feeling for the epic: his Twelfth Symphony, for instance, dedicated to the memory of Shostakovich, effortlessly sustains a structure almost an hour in length; and Symphonies Nos. 17, 18 and 19 form a vast trilogy entitled On the Threshold of War.

The list of Weinberg’s compositions is enormous and deserves serious investigation both by musicians and record companies: there are no fewer than 26 symphonies (the last to be completed, Kaddish, is dedicated to the memory of the Jews who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto, Weinberg donating the manuscript to the Yad va-Shem memorial in Israel; the twenty-seventh was finished in piano score though not fully orchestrated); two sinfoniettas; seven concertos (variously for violin, cello, flute and trumpet); seventeen string quartets; nineteen sonatas for piano solo or in combination with violin, viola, cello, double-bass or clarinet; more than 150 songs; a Requiem; and an astonishing amount of music for the stage – seven operas, three operettas, two ballets, and incidental music for 65 films, plays, radio productions and circus performances.

Weinberg was never a Party member, although he turned in his fair share of celebratory “socialist realist” commissions. But the horrors he had lived through underlined his genuine antipathy to war, which was far from the empty harrumphing of the Soviet peace movement – it can be heard in (for example) how he treats the theme of death in his passionately humanist Sixth Symphony, to be found on one of four discs of Weinberg’s music released by the British company Olympia towards the end of the composer’s life (more releases are planned, apparently).

He spent his last days confined to bed by ill health, often in considerable pain and afflicted by a deep depression occasioned by the wholesale neglect of his music – an unworthy end to a career the importance of which has yet to be recognised. The news that a trust has been formed to promote his music may be the first sign that a revival of interest is at hand. Not before time.

Courtesy of Martin Anderson, 1996




Claes Gunnarsson, Svedlund, Göteborgs Symfoniker

Adagio • 7:20 Moderato – Lento • 12:59 Allegro – Cadenza. L’istesso tempo, molto appassionato – Andante – Allegro – Andante • 21:42 Allegro – Adagio – Meno mosso



Please note also : http://claude.torres1.perso.sfr.fr/Vainberg/WeinbergDiscographie.html













2014 A Review



Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 45,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.






Click here to see the complete report.


“Maelzel’s Chess-Player” and Poe’s Reverse Constraints




Antebellum AI:

“Maelzel’s Chess-Player” and
Poe’s Reverse Constraints

Abstract In his essay “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846), Edgar Allan Poe
describes how he composed his lyric poem “The Raven” by following a series of
predetermined steps. My essay shows how Poe’s description of composition as rule
following both has suggestive affinities with and significantly alters the Oulipian
understanding of constraints as axioms that precede composition. Looking closely
at Poe’s earlier essay “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” (1836) and the way it anticipates more
recent debates in artificial intelligence, I show how Poe’s (1984d [1846]: 13) constraint,
as stated in “The Philosophy of Composition,” “I prefer commencing with
the consideration of an effect,” is a matter of concealing a decade of experimentation
in previous magazine essays with the effect of a poetry-making algorithm.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect.

—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”

Poe and Rules

In his 1838 tale “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” Edgar Allan Poe
caricatures some formulas of British magazine writing of the time, namely,
the display of erudition and the sensational depiction of death. The
story is both a transcript of Signora Psyche Zenobia’s discussion with a
“Mr. Blackwood” and a facsimile of the story she proceeds to write based
on his advice. This advice includes everything from using “very black ink”
to making sure one’s writing contains “taste, terror, sentiment, metaphysics
and erudition” (Poe 1978b [1838]: 339). Zenobia manages to bungle most
of Mr. Blackwood’s rules, notably his suggestion that she make literary
allusions in foreign languages. Thus Cervantes’s (2003: 708)

Ven muerte, tan escondida
Que no te sienta venir
Porque el placer del morir
No me torne a dar la vida

(Come, death, so secret, so still
I do not hear your approach
so that the pleasure of dying
does not bring me back to life)

becomes, in Zenobia’s version:

Vanny Buren, tan escondida
Query no te senty venny
Pork and pleasure, delly morry
Nommy, torny, darry, widdy!
(Poe 1978b [1838]: 354)

If the paradox of Death’s approach rousing the dead back to life is lost in
Zenobia’s rendering, the original nevertheless prefigures her own sensational
fate—as she tells it in her story, her head is sliced off by the hands
of a giant clock. That her narration continues, Orpheus-like, even after the
Scythe of Time has had its way with her is part of Poe’s send-up of the kind
of thing he imagined a Blackwood’s audience liking (erudition plus shock).
But in casting his tale in the form of a “how-to” manual, which, if followed,
will lead to the composition of a tale suitable for publication in Blackwood’s,
Poe, as Thomas O. Mabbot puts it, “consciously describes some of his own
methods” (Poe 1978a: 335). In a period when innovators like Poe were constantly
having to come up with ways of filling the columns of American

the kind of literary journalism found in Blackwood’s. Thomas O. Mabbott writes that Poe was
“undoubtedly familiar with Blackwood’s Magazine . . . since his foster father dealt in imported
books and periodicals [and so Blackwood’s] provided a source for ideas made use of, in one
way or another, in many of Poe’s stories” (Poe 1978a: 357).

2. In fact these lines are not even Cervantes’s (2003: 708) but are quoted from Commander
Escrivá, “a fifteenth century poet from Valencia, whose work was greatly admired by many
writers of the Golden Age.” In the prologue to Don Quixote, Cervantes himself spoofs the idea
of rules for literary composition (ibid.: 3–9).
magazines (Poe is of course the inventor of, among other things, the detective
story), “How to Write a Blackwood Article” is not only an example of
Poe’s shrewd imitative ability but an index to his own growing interest in
literary composition as rule following.

Four years after “How to Write a Blackwood Article” appeared in the
American Museum (under the title “The Psyche Zenobia”), Poe published
a review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales in Graham’s Magazine.
Deepening his interest in the idea of compositional rules, he couched his
praise for Hawthorne in the following terms:

We need only here say, upon this topic [of the superiority of the tale as a literary
form] that, in almost all classes of composition, the unity of effect or impression
is a point of the greatest importance. . . . A skilful literary artist has constructed
a tale [and has] conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect
to be wrought out. . . . And here it will be seen how full of prejudice are the
usual animadversions against those tales of effect many fine examples of which
were found in the earlier numbers of Blackwood. (Poe 1984c [1842]: 571–73)

In the four years that separate the Hawthorne review from “How to Write
a Blackwood Article,” Poe both has changed his tone from parody to
approval (he may as well be talking about his own earlier piece when he
condemns the “prejudice [of the] usual animadversions against . . . Black-
wood”) and has arrived at a more explicit formulation of his ideas about
compositional rules. Whereas in “How to Write a Blackwood Article” such
rules were a matter of imitating (and caricaturing) the “fine examples” of
Blackwood’s, the Hawthorne review abstracts a general principle from those
earlier examples: the production of “a certain single or unique effect.” In
this way, Poe hints at what will become the premise for his later essay, “The
Philosophy of Composition” (1846), in which he tells us that in all of his
literary compositions he has “prefer[red] commencing with the consideration
of an effect” (Poe 1984d [1846]: 13).

In what follows, I want to consider Poe’s emphasis on “effects” in light of
the Oulipian notion of “constraint” as “a strict and clearly definable rule,
method or procedure or structure that generates [a] work” (Mathews and
Brotchie 2005: 131). While Oulipian constraints are formal rules for generating
“potential” literary works, this does not mean that texts arising from
the use of constraints are “demonstrations” in the sense that mathematical
proofs are demonstrations. That is, while Oulipian constraints are indeed
“axioms”—“Proposition 14: A constraint is an axiom of a text” (Roubaud
1986: 89)—the relation between a constraint and its potential text is not
analogous to the proof-like relation between axioms and theorems. As
Jacques Roubaud (ibid.), himself a mathematician, puts it in an essay on
Raymond Queneau: “One may think that a text composed according to a
given constraint (or several constraints) will be the equivalent of a theorem.
It is a fairly interesting hypothesis. It is nonetheless true that the foreseeable
passage from the statement of the constraint to its ‘consequence,’ the
text, remains in a profound metaphorical vagueness.” Such “metaphorical
vagueness,” I take it, refers to the fact that the results of the application
of a constraint are not formally derived in the way that theorems are formally
derived from axioms. For example, and to invoke one of the more
celebrated Oulipian works, the move from Georges Perec’s adoption of a
lipogrammatic constraint (the removal of the letter e from the alphabet) to
the final shape and makeup of La disparition (1969) could not be described
as one of necessity.

Emphasizing the way Oulipian constraints are defined as preceding literary
composition, Eve Célia Morisi (2008: 113) points out that in the case
of Poe’s “Philosophy of Composition,” “constraints . . . no longer come
first, prior to the writing, and are no longer preeminent. Their formulation
follows the poem’s composition instead of preceding it, and therefore cannot
be proved to have presided over it . . . [and thus] the a posteriori writing
of ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ symbolically destabilizes the notion of
literary constraint.” Poe’s description of how he composed “The Raven” is
(of course) formulated a posteriori; but rather than “destabilizing the very
notion of constraints” (what Morisi [ibid.] also calls his “capsizing” the
notion of constraint), Poe leads us to rethink how constraints might work.
If “commencing with the consideration of an effect” (Poe 1984d [1846]: 13)
can be thought of as a constraint, then in Poe’s case it will remain a consistent
starting point no matter how unforeseeably myriad or “vague” its consequences.
If Poe seems to be saying that “The Raven”—in all of its jumpy,
trochaic detail—arose step-by-step from a series of axiom-like rules, then
this is just the effect he hopes to create in “The Philosophy of Composition”:
the sleight of hand by which a constraint derived a posteriori is
made to look like one which has preceded composition. Thus what Morisi
(2008: 111) calls a “textual inconsistency,” rendering Poe’s account of the
composition of “The Raven” “inauthentic” (ibid.: 112), misses the point,
since “inauthenticity” is just what enables Poe to create his desired effect.
And if Stuart Levine (2009: 58) is no doubt right when he says “no critic,
no literary historian, no poet has ever believed that Poe literally wrote

4. According to the Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics, a theorem is a “statement derived from
premises” (Nelson 2008: 417).

‘The Raven’ as systematically . . . as he says [he had],” this does not change
the fact that Poe was trying to get his antebellum audience to believe that
“The Raven” had been so composed and so remains in accord with his
declared constraint of “commencing with the consideration of effects.” It is
perhaps in this sense that Harry Mathews and Alastair Brotchie (2005: 211)
include Poe in their list of “anticipatory plagiarists” who were “creating
paleo-Oulipian texts without acknowledgment.”

In what follows, I want to uncover a precedent for Poe’s reverse constraints—
the way “effects” are a matter of both enticing and duping an
audience—in looking closely at his essay “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” (1836),
a piece that predates both “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and the
Hawthorne review. When Poe attended an exhibition of Johann Nepomuk
Maelzel’s automaton chess player in Richmond in 1836, he saw not just a
machine that seemed to play (and win at) chess but the effect the performance
had on an audience. Poe treated this performance, I want to argue,
as a model for the kind of effect he wanted the magazine article (whether
short story, poem, or critical essay) to have on a reader. What struck Poe
about the exhibition was the combination of a carefully controlled management
of theatrical artifice with the sensational notion of a thinking
machine. “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” sets up the relation between rule following—
a chess-playing machine would need to follow programmable
rules for making meaningful (and not just random) chess moves—and the
creation of the effect of such a mechanical intelligence. Poe’s earlier essay, I
want to argue, serves as a template for the way his proposed starting point
of the “consideration of an effect,” in “The Philosophy of Composition”
is, as John Tresch (1997: 289) has put it, his “attempt [to] present himself
explicitly as a poetry-automaton.”

Many literary scholars have characterized Poe’s tone of clinical detachment
in “The Philosophy of Composition” as a matter of theatricality and
showmanship. Kenneth Burke (1966: 25), for example, suspects that Poe’s
essay was written “for purposes of showmanship or to compensate for
his own personal shortcomings by representing himself as a paragon of
rational control.” Daniel Hoffman (1972: 83) is careful to mention that Poe
“compar[es] the composing of a poem to the management of theatrical
props and machinery.” Eliza Richards (2004: 53) compares Poe to a “show
man [who] opens the curtains on the theatricality of the lyric.” Lois Davis
Vines (1992: 105) says that in “allowing spectators to witness the process of
creation,” Poe gives them access to an “intellectual drama.” And Levine
(2009: 72) says that Poe “makes obvious use of stage effects of the sort
popular in productions in American cities.”

But none of these critics traces such “stage effects” and “showmanship”
back to Poe’s witnessing, and writing about, the sensational spectacle of
the mechanical chess player. Nor do they consider that part of the performance
of “The Philosophy of Composition” is precisely the way it creates
the illusion of a literary composition which appears to arise by necessity
from the following out of a set of axiom-like rules. If Poe (1984d [1846]: 15)
says he composed “The Raven,” “step by step to its completion with the
rigid consequence of a mathematical problem,” he simultaneously conceals
a series of prior experiments like “How to Write a Blackwood Article,”
the Hawthorne review, and the essay on the chess player itself. “Maelzel’s
Chess-Player” lays out in detail Poe’s interest in the way the careful creation
of surface effects—what appears to be going on—informed his understanding
of how literary compositions could produce similar effects on a
reader. Such illusionism is analogous, I would argue, to the reversal at
work when “effects” are generated from a hoax-like transposition of an a
posteriori explanation into an axiomatic starting point. “The Philosophy
of Composition” makes a “constraint” not out of the determinate algorithmic
series by which Poe claims to have composed the poem but from the
effect of having composed the poem in this way.

Antebellum AI

“Perhaps no exhibition of the kind has ever elicited so general attention
as the Chess-Player of Maelzel” (Poe 1984b [1836]: 1253). So begins the
unsigned editorial Poe contributed in 1836 to a new Virginia magazine
called the Southern Literary Messenger. In it he attempts to debunk the illusion
produced by the chess-playing automaton of the Bavarian inventor
Maelzel, a traveling exhibition he saw on a number of occasions during one
of its U.S. tours. Closely observing the way Maelzel’s machine appeared

6. Maelzel purchased the chess automaton (sometimes called “the Turk” because of its
sultan’s attire) from the German inventor Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen. After touring
Europe a number of times and being sold to Maelzel, the chess player made a series of
appearances (often accompanied by musical automatons) along the eastern seaboard of the
United States in the 1820s and 1830s (Standage 2002). Before seeing Maelzel’s chess player,
Poe relied heavily on pamphlet copies of David Brewster’s Letters on Natural Magic for his
knowledge of the machine. Poe’s essay appeared in the April 1836 issue of the Southern Literary
Messenger. For a detailed publication history of how Brewster’s writings about the chess
machine reached North American periodicals, see Wimsatt 1939: 144–46.
to win chess games against volunteers picked from the audience, Poe was
fascinated by the effect it had on a paying spectator and was convinced that
the machine was a fake.

Poe (1984b [1836]: 1253) begins his essay by pointing out the distinction
between a piece of mechanism and a human mind. “Everywhere
men of mechanical genius, of great general acuteness, and discriminative
understanding . . . make no scruple in pronouncing the Automaton a pure
machine, unconnected with human agency in its movements.” Poe (ibid.:
1255) then compares the chess-playing automaton to Charles Babbage’s
difference engine, saying that a machine able to win at chess must be a far
more complex mechanism than a machine that merely churns out sums:

It will perhaps be said in reply that a machine such as [Babbage’s calculating
machine] is altogether above comparison with the Chess-Player of Maelzel.
By no means—it is altogether beneath it [since] arithmetical or algebraical
calculations are, from their very nature, fixed and determinate. Certain data
being given, certain results necessarily and inevitably follow. These results have
dependence upon nothing, and are influenced by nothing but the data originally
given. And the question to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final
determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject
to no modification. This being the case we can without difficulty conceive the
possibility of so arranging a piece of mechanism, that upon starting it in accordance
with the data of the question to be solved, it should continue its movements
regularly, progressively and undeviatingly towards the required solution,
since these movements, however complex, are never imagined to be otherwise
than finite and determinate.

Poe is concerned here with making the distinction between Babbage’s difference
engine and Maelzel’s chess player as that between a “determinate”
calculation and making inferences about data that cannot be known in
advance. A machine like Babbage’s calculator “proceeds . . . to its final
determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and

7. Interestingly, von Kempelen himself alludes to the importance of the “effect” of the
machine upon a spectator in a quotation Poe includes in his essay: “[The chess player] is
a very ordinary piece of mechanism—a bagatelle whose effects appeared so marvelous only
from the boldness of the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods adopted for
promoting the illusion” (Poe 1984b [1836]: 1256–57).
8. Babbage was a British mathematician who takes his place in history as the inventor of
the first programmable calculating machine. For accounts of Babbage’s place in the history
of computing, see Morrison and Morrison 1961; Haugeland 1986; Breton 1990; Swade
9. The difference between intelligence understood as rational calculation and intelligence
understood as skillful coping in the world (and so involving embodied experience) is the
main animating issue in research and debate on artificial intelligence. See especially Haugeland
1986; Boden 1990; Dennett 1998; and Dreyfus 1999.
subject to no modification,” since it treats the data fed into it in a “fixed and
determinate” manner, with the conclusion implicit in the premises from
the beginning, just as a deductive inference moves from a major premise,
through a particular case, and to the conclusion by necessity. 0 Maelzel’s
chess player, on the other hand, would have to respond in real time to an
opponent’s chess moves and convert those data into meaningful moves of
its own. Thus with the chess player,

there is no determinate progression. No one move in chess necessarily follows
upon any one other. From no particular disposition of the men at one period
of a game can we predicate their disposition at a different period. Let us place
the first move in a game of chess in juxta-position with the data of an algebraical
question, and their great difference will be immediately perceived. From
the latter . . . the second step of the question, dependent thereupon, inevitably
follows. It is modeled by the data. It must be thus and not otherwise.
But from the first move in a game of chess no especial second move flows of
necessity. (Ibid.: 1256)

If algebraic data, according to Poe, advance inexorably from premise
to conclusion, moves made by the mechanical chess player would occur
without such predeterminations. Poe’s contrasting of Babbage’s difference
engine and Maelzel’s chess-playing machine is thus a matter of spelling out
the difference between a priori deductions and a posteriori inductions—
a distinction that will serve as the basis for his argument attempting to
debunk the machine as a fake.

For Poe’s readership, the most captivating question concerns whether or
not somebody is concealed within the machine—a question that amounts, for
the antebellum audience, to “Can a mechanical contraption actually think?”
or, to update the wording, “Is there such a thing as artificial intelligence?”
Poe (ibid.: 1264) takes up this question with a lesson in inductive reasoning:

Some person is concealed in the box during the whole time of exhibiting the
interior. We object, however, to the whole verbose description of the manner in
which the partitions are shifted, to accommodate the movement of the person
concealed. We object to it as a mere theory assumed in the first place, and to
which circumstances are afterwards made to adapt themselves. It was not and
could not have been arrived at by any inductive reasoning. In whatever way the
shifting is managed, it is of course concealed at every step from observation.

As with the distinction between the “determinate calculations” of Babbage’s
calculating engine and the more improvisatory making of chess
moves, Poe will not accept the inference based on a “mere theory assumed
in the first place.” One should not speculate about hidden partitions,
because one should not make inferences about what cannot be observed.
As a matter of fact, Poe was only partly correct in his assessment of the
chess player’s mechanism—yes, there was somebody concealed within the
cabinet guiding the movements of the chess player’s mechanical arm, and
his or her remaining concealed during Maelzel’s exposing of the cabinet’s
interior did depend on movable partitions. But what concerns us here is
less the final accuracy of his inferences than the way the staged effect of
Maelzel’s performance serves as a kind of template for Poe’s later devising
the constraint of “commencing with a consideration of effects.” In making
explicit the link between the mechanical chess player enchanting spectators
with the effect of artificial intelligence and a kind of magazine writing
that would entice potential readers of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe
translates the effect of the exhibition into a writing designed to seize a
reader’s attention. This dynamic, which James Berkley (2004: 369) calls
Poe’s “tak[ing] up and usurp[ing] the sublime theatricality that had previously
belonged to [the exhibition of ] Maelzel’s Chess Player,” is, as I will
show below, the germ for Poe’s reverse constraints.

Deep Blue

It is just this dynamic—the way the difference between Babbage-like
necessity and real chess moves can be manipulated for the creation of a
theatrical effect—that animates some of the key debates in a more recent
discussion about artificial intelligence. Describing the chess match in 1996
between IBM’s Deep Blue computer and Russian chess champion Gary
Kasparov, John Searle (1999) writes:

When it was first announced that Deep Blue had beaten Gary Kasparov, . . . I
suspect that the attitude of the general public was that what was going on inside
Deep Blue was much the same sort of thing as what was going on inside Kasparov.
. . . [But, unlike Deep Blue,] Kasparov was consciously looking at a chessboard,
studying the position and trying to figure out his next move. He was also
planning overall strategy and no doubt having peripheral thoughts about earlier
matches, the significance of victory or defeat, etc. . . . [he] was, quite literally,
playing chess. None of this whatever happened inside Deep Blue.

In contrast with the description of what Kasparov was doing when he was
playing chess, this is how Searle (ibid.) describes Deep Blue:

11. For a detailed description of the truth behind Maelzel’s illusion, see Standage 2002:
12. Searle’s example is a slightly altered version of the “Chinese Room” argument from

Imagine that a man who does not know how to play chess is locked inside a
room, and there he is given a set of, to him, meaningless symbols. Unknown to
him, these represent positions on a chessboard. He looks up in a book what he is
supposed to do, and he passes back more meaningless symbols. We can suppose
that if the rule book, i.e., the program, is skillfully written, he will win chess
games. People outside the room will say, “This man understands chess, and in
fact he is a good chess player because he wins.” They will be totally mistaken.
The man understands nothing of chess, he is just a computer. The point of the
parable is this: if the man does not understand chess on the basis of running the
chess-playing program, neither does any other computer solely on that basis.

Searle couches his concern over the confusion of “understanding” with
the running of a program (in this case, a man in a room converting symbols
from a book into chess moves) as something an audience presumes
to be going on “inside” Deep Blue. For Searle, it is a mistake to imagine
the complexity of human neurochemistry as being synonymous with the
manipulation of “meaningless” tokens. Poe’s analysis of Maelzel’s chess
player is also a matter of making the distinction between a “pure machine”
that would win at chess due entirely to a formal system of symbol manipulation
and the theatrical effect of such a machine. This effect is something
close to what those standing outside the room in Searle’s example perceive
when they see chess moves made upon a chessboard. Deep Blue, perpetually
translating “meaningless [to it] symbols” into moves in the game,
creates the illusory effect of somebody (or something) that “knows” how to
play chess, just as Maelzel’s exhibition—as the word exhibition literally indicates—“
showed mechanism without itself being mechanical, and provoked
evaluation of the secret workings of the machine, beyond the spectacle of
its effect” (Sussman 1999: 83). Whatever the relative abilities of Maelzel’s
chess player and Deep Blue, then, the link between Poe and Searle is their
having in common the way theatrical artifice works to generate the effect
of a machine that thinks.

This resemblance between their descriptions of Maelzel’s chess player
and of IBM’s Deep Blue nevertheless arises from a very important differ-

his essay “Minds, Brains, and Programs” (1990). The essay is a critique of what Searle calls
“strong AI,” the claim that intelligence is formal symbol manipulation. Searle thinks that
no system of formal symbol manipulation can amount to intelligence understood as belief
and intentionality. For some counterarguments to Searle’s critique of “strong AI,” see Boden
1990; Copeland 1993.

13. An important practical difference here between Poe and Searle is that Searle is talking
about an algorithm that really can play good chess, whereas Poe had no concept of something
as sophisticated as Deep Blue (with processors able to make about 200 billion calculations
per second). But in 1836 Poe was justified in his skepticism about such a mechanical

For Poe, winning at chess serves as a valid example of thinking (as
something Babbage’s machine cannot do), whereas for Searle, winning at
chess might be merely the result of a program translating symbols into
positions on a grid. Unlike Deep Blue, Kasparov was “consciously looking
at a chessboard, studying the position and trying to figure out his next
move . . . planning overall strategy . . . having peripheral thoughts about
earlier matches, the significance of victory or defeat,” all things that the
IBM machine does not do, because it is not (and cannot be) programmed to
do them. Thus winning at chess is not, for Searle, an example of thinking,
whereas simply playing chess is, with all of the errant, peripheral thoughts
that would accompany such an activity (like “What time were we supposed
to meet?” or “I wonder what this chessboard is made of ?” or “I smell
smoke; is the building on fire?”—all cognitive operations of which Deep
Blue would be incapable). While Poe was, as Shaun Rosenheim (1997: 100–
101) points out, “striving toward a notion of artificial intelligence” in his
essay on the chess player, by the time we get to Searle the effect of thinking
shifts from a surface illusion of intelligence to machines that actually play
chess (and win, even against human world champions) but for all that do
not “understand” chess.

At issue in the convergence, and divergence, between Poe and Searle
is the relation between artificial intelligence and what we might call artificed
intelligence. Whether you are standing outside the sealed room saying
“this man understands chess” or are convinced by the performance of a
chess-playing automaton, in both cases the question of what is to count as
evidence of intelligence is bound up with the observable effects of intelligence.
This is exactly what Poe takes up from the performance of Maelzel’s
chess player and will later use as the basis for the constraint he claims
has guided all of his compositions. If audiences remained captivated by
the illusion of a piece of mechanism able to do things that they felt only a
human being could do (an issue that continues into the present, as we’ve
seen with Searle’s argument), then Poe sees this as an opportunity to dazzle
his readers by presenting himself as a poetry-making machine.

Reverse Constraints

Just prior to the publication of his poem “The Raven,” Poe published an
essay, “A Chapter of Suggestions,” in which he proposed an idea for a new
kind of magazine essay:

An excellent Magazine paper might be written upon the subject of the progressive
steps by which any great work of art—especially literary art—attained
completion. How vast a dissimilarity always exists between the germ and the
fruit—between the work and its original conception! Sometimes the original
conception is abandoned, or left out of sight altogether [but] pen should never
touch paper, until at least a well-digested general purpose be established. In
fiction, the dénouement—in all other composition the intended effect should be
definitely considered and arranged, before writing the first word: and no word
should be then written which does not tend, or form a part of a sentence which
tends, to the development of . . . the strengthening of the effect. (Quoted in
Levine 2009: 56)

When “The Philosophyof Composition” appeared in Graham’s in April 1846,
much of the material of this essay (which appeared in the Opal in 1845)
was reworked for the larger audience Poe had gained with the intervening
publication of “The Raven,” a poem that brought him wide fame. Levine
(ibid.: 55, 59) writes that it was a “crowd-pleaser [and its] fame [was] probably
critical [to Poe’s] decision to write an essay on how a poem is made,”
and Richards (2004: 53) says that “The Philosophy of Composition” “rode
the wave of [‘The Raven’s’] success.” Such descriptions make clear Poe’s
keen sense of an expanded audience for the just previously published idea
about an essay that would explain the compositional process.

Modifying slightly, but tellingly, the language of “A Chapter of Suggestions”
for his now more confident performance in front of the audience he
had amassed with “The Raven,” Poe (1984d [1846]: 14) begins his account
in “The Philosophy of Composition” as follows:

I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any
author who would . . . detail step by step, the processes by which any one of his
compositions attained its ultimate point of completion. . . . Most writers—poets
in especial—prefer having it understood that they compose in a fine frenzy—an
ecstatic intuition—and would positively shudder at letting the public take a
peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought . . .
in a word, at the wheels and pinions—the tackle for scene shifting—the step ladders
and demontraps—the cock’s feathers, the red paint and the black patches,
which, in ninety nine cases out of the hundred, constitute the properties of the
literary histrio.

Poe’s rhetoric here, in which literary production is propelled by the “wheels
and pinions” of hidden contraptions and the “tackle for scene shifting” of
the theater, recasts Maelzel’s mechanical spectacle into the backdrop for
his constraint of effects. But something curious occurs in this comparison.
What Poe (ibid.: 13) had derided as mere “calculation” in the essay on the
chess player has now been elevated to the process by which he claims to
have made “The Raven”:

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality
always in view . . . I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects,
or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is
susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?” Having chosen
a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can best be
wrought by incident or tone—whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone,
or the converse, or by peculiarity of both incident and tone—afterward looking
about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best
aid me in the construction of the effect.

The “combination of event and tone” that Poe “selects” here, I would
argue, is the one he remembers being impressed by in Maelzel’s exhibition,
but meanwhile he has inverted the very distinction that had earlier
enabled him to debunk the machine as a fake. If Poe, as Tresch (1997: 288)
says, “claims his own mode of poetic production is just as mechanical as
that by which Babbages’s calculator produced his table,” then here Poe
both redeploys the idea of determinate necessity and uses it to conceal the
chain of tentative experiments that have led to the essay of compositional
theory. And when he says that he “look[ed] about [him] (or rather within)”
for a place to begin, he further compounds observational sense perception
with the “within” of a rational starting point, again fusing a Babbage-like
rationalism with the act of “selecting” from the amassed devices of his
own earlier essayistic experiments. Even more strikingly, in reusing, with
only slight modification, an entire paragraph from “A Chapter of Suggestions”
for “The Philosophy of Composition,” and at just the moment when
he reintroduces the idea for a magazine piece that would detail the steps
by which a literary work is made, Poe replaces an all-too-human process
with the effect of a completely determined process. Indeed, Poe’s modifications
of the earlier version are precisely the figures of mechanism (“wheels
and pinions”) and theater (“tackles for scene shifting”) that he picked up
from Maelzel’s performing automaton (and which anticipate Searle’s man-
computer transmitting “meaningless symbols” that look like chess moves
to the spectators outside the sealed room). At the same time, the earlier
version’s admission of the “dissimilarity [which] always exists between the
germ and the fruit” of a compositional idea is replaced in “The Philosophy
of Composition” with a desire to show in detail how a work “attained its
ultimate point of completion” through rational control rather than through
the “fine frenzy” of “inspiration.”

In finding new use for earlier published material to be presented before
a larger audience, Poe’s showman-like instincts tend toward the concealment
of the “vacillating crudities” of earlier trials through the claim that
he has composed “The Raven” with the “precision and rigid consequence
of a mathematical problem.” Rather than dismissing this last claim as a
piece of strident hyperbole, we should read it against Poe’s (1984b [1836]:
1255) earlier assessment of Babbage’s calculating engine: “The question
to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final determination, by a
succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject to no modification.”
So if the lesson in logic Poe dramatized in the Maelzel essay was
that one ought to make inferences based on observation alone (rather than
beginning, like Mr. Blackwood and Babbage, with axiomatic premises),
then in “The Philosophy of Composition” that insight is reversed so that
Poe can turn his own process of composition into something like the working
out of a “mathematical problem.” All of this puts Poe “in a position
directly analogous to that of the exhibitor of the chess-playing automaton”
(Tresch 1997: 289), only here he’s reversed the logic earlier used to debunk
the machine as a hoax—that predetermined calculations could never be
enough to get a machine to win at chess—in order to create his desired
effect of having composed “The Raven” in accordance with rules postulated
in the first place.

Following the precedent of Maelzel to the end, Poe thus perpetrates a
hoax. Like Maelzel narrowly masking the sound of a hidden chess master’s
sneeze with a crank of ersatz clockwork, Poe (1984d [1846]: 17) divines his
starting point a posteriori:

I betook myself to ordinary induction, with the view of obtaining some artistic
piquancy which might serve me as a key-note in the construction of the
poem. . . . I did not fail to perceive immediately that no one [artistic effect]
had been so universally employed as that of the refrain. The universality of
its employment sufficed to assure me of its intrinsic value, and spared me the
necessity of submitting it to analysis.

“Ordinary induction” is here illusorily raised to the level of a “universal”
rule, but the fact that such a posteriori inferences are always open to
revision, and so cannot serve as immutable universals, in no way makes
Poe’s constraint of “commencing with the consideration of an effect”
inconsistent with his overall compositional practice. For the sleight of hand
by which an ordinary induction is elevated to the status of a timeless axiom
is precisely the effect Poe hopes to create for the audience of “The Philosophy
of Composition.” Just as Poe invokes a Babbage-like determinism to
conceal the chain of writing experiments that have led up to this essay, so
here he consolidates and makes explicit that effect in turning an “ordinary
induction” into a “universal” rule. And just as Maelzel opens the front of
the cabinet box and rotates it 360° on its iron castors to assure his audience
that no person is concealed within it, only to allow the chess master
crouched inside to shift in sync with mechanically contrived partitions, so
Poe will show us the “wheels and pinions” that churned out “The Raven”
while dramatically unveiling its “commencement” after the fact.

Poe’s description of the individual steps by which he composed “The
Raven” shows this reversal of constraint at work so as to foreground the
precedent of Maelzel’s machine (and of Poe’s prescient prefiguring of more
recent debates in artificial intelligence) in yet another way. If an algorithm
is “a mechanical procedure for solving a problem in a finite number of
steps” (Nelson 2008: 7), then Poe (1984d [1846]: 14) echoes this definition
in describing how he wrote his poem “step by step,” in accordance with
an algorithm that might look something like this:

1. Intend to compose a poem that should suit at once the critical and the
popular taste.
2. Conceive the proper length of the poem.
3. Design the poem in accordance with the universal rule that Beauty is
the sole legitimate province of the poem.
4. Select the tone of the poem in accordance with the rule that melancholy
is the most legitimate of poetic tones.
5. Use the device of the refrain in the poem.
6. Apply the refrain throughout the poem.
7. Select the phoneme ‘or’ as a sound for the refrain.
8. Select ‘Nevermore’ as a word embodying this sound.
9. Select a raven as a non-reasoning creature capable of uttering the
10. Select the death of a beautiful woman as the most melancholy topic
according to the universal understanding of mankind.
11. Combine the idea of a lover lamenting his deceased mistress and a
raven continuously repeating the word “Nevermore.”
12. Begin to compose “The Raven.” (Ibid.: 14–20)
There could be no more aggressive overturning of the romantic shibboleths
of organic expressivity than this recipe for cranking out poetic effects.
As a “healthy corrective to over-romantic portrayals of the poetic process”
(Levine 2009: 57), such a procedure is a matter of moving mechanically
through a series of steps. While we are told we are reading an essay about
the assembly of “The Raven,” in fact we are—if we pay close enough
attention to Poe’s literary illusionism—witnessing a literary performance in
which what appears to be a poetry-making algorithm in fact conceals the
tentative experiments of a working magazinist—the author of “Maelzel’s
Chess-Player,” “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” the review of Hawthorne’s
Twice-Told Tales, “The Raven,” “A Chapter of Suggestions,” and
“The Philosophy of Composition.” Far from an airtight sequence of determinate,
algorithmic steps, these steps amount, as Levine (ibid.) has put it, to
“a lot of bumbling efforts, false starts [and] failed experiments.”

If the success of “The Raven” led to a (relatively) large audience eager to
catch a glimpse of the workshop of a famous poet, it accordingly provoked
Poe into wanting to stage himself as an uncanny poetry-making machine.
And this, then, is just the “effect” he wanted to create in “The Philosophy of
Composition.” That the essay purports to attribute such “effects” to “The
Raven” and not explicitly to the essay explaining its composition (as I am
claiming it does) does not make it any less accordant with Poe’s proposed
constraint. Indeed, the essay becomes all the more striking, since Poe adds
to the effect of presenting himself as a poetry-making machine the further
effect of claiming to tell us how he made “The Raven,” when in fact he is
using the poem as a stage for a striking essay of literary theory in which he
presents himself as a kind of literary computer. Thus the whole move from
“The Raven” to “The Philosophy of Composition” creates a discontinuity
between the mournful lyricism of the poem and the machinelike detachment
of the essay, such that, as Richards (2004: 53) puts it, the “dramatic
difference between his critical and poetic voices enhances his authorial
mystique.” We might say that this difference heightens the “effect” of his
authorial mystique.

I agree, then, that this operation “reverses constraint” (Morisi 2008: 113).
But to say that because of this reversal Poe’s essay “does not seem to call
for a comparison with an Oulipian enterprise that meticulously defines its
literary constraints before applying them with rigor” (ibid.) is to deny that
illusions like these could count as “effects” in the sense Poe uses the word—
as a guiding rule for composition.


The specific question I have tried to raise here is whether Poe’s line—“I
prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect”—can be thought of
as an Oulipian constraint, and I think it can. To the argument that Poe does
not use constraints in the conventionally Oulipian way—since he declares
such constraints only after the work is finished—I have responded that part
of what Poe means by “effect” is the way the reader is led to believe that
“The Raven” had been so composed; that we suspect the explanation of
“The Philosophy of Composition” to be hoax only heightens the effect.
Poe’s essay “Maelzel’s Chess-Player” is the precedent for such “reverse”
constraints, I have argued, because he sees in the exhibition the way a surface
artifice of a priori axioms (artificial intelligence) conceals a series of a
posteriori inferences (a person crouched inside the machine making chess
moves that do not necessarily follow). For Poe, this means turning a decade
of toil in the columns of American magazines into the cool announcement
that his compositions are the result of a step-by-step algorithmic procedure.
Finally, if it has been throughout a logic of the hoax that has led Poe to
his reverse constraints, then he is the “anticipatory plagiarist” of a further
feature of Oulipian practice, as François Le Lionnais (1973: 18) described it
in the first Oulipo manifesto: “When they are the product of poets, amusement,
farce and hoax [supercheries] still belong to poetry. Potential literature
therefore remains the most serious thing in the world.”


Allen, Michael L.
1969 Poe and the British Magazine Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press).
Berkley, James

2004 “Post-Human Mimesis and the Debunked Machine: Reading Environmental Appropriation
in ‘Maelzel’s Chess Player’ and ‘The Man That Was Used Up’,” Comparative
Literature Studies 41 (3): 356–76.

Boden, Margaret
1990 “Escaping from the Chinese Room,” in The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, edited by
Margaret Boden, 89–104 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Breton, Philippe
1990 Une histoire de l’informatique (Paris: Seuil).
Burke, Kenneth
1966 Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Cervantes, Miguel
2003 Don Quixote, translated by Edith Grossman (New York: Ecco).
Copeland, Jack
1993 “The Curious Case of the Chinese Room,” in Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Introduction,
121–32 (London: Blackwell).
Dennett, Daniel
1998 Brainchildren (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Dreyfus, Hubert
1999 What Computers Still Can’t Do (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Haugeland, John
1986 Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Hoffman, Daniel
1972 Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (New York: Avon).
Le Lionnais, François
1973 “La Lipo (Le premier manifeste),” in Oulipo 1973: 15–18.

1 Poetics Today 31:1

Levine, Stuart

2009 “Notes on ‘The Philosophy of Composition,’” in Edgar Allan Poe, Critical Theory: The
Major Documents, edited by Stuart Levine and Susan F. Levine, 55–60, 71–76 (Urbana:
Illinois University Press).

Mathews, Harry, and Alastair Brotchie, eds.
2005 Oulipo Compendium (London: Atlas).
McKeon, Richard, ed.
1941 The Basic Works of Aristotle (New York: Random House).
Morisi, Eve Célia
2008 “The OuliPoe; or, Constraint and (Contre-)Performance: ‘The Philosophy of Composition’
and the Oulipian Manifestos,” Comparative Literature 60 (2): 107–24.
Morrison, Philip, and Emily Morrison, eds.
1961 Charles Babbage and His Calculating Engines (New York: Dover).
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1986 Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press).
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Perec, Georges
1969 La disparition (Paris: Gallimard).
Poe, Edgar Allan
1978a Tales and Sketches. Vol. 1, 1831–1842, edited by Thomas O. Mabbott (Urbana: Univer

sity of Illinois Press).
1978b [1838] “How to Write a Blackwood Article,” in Poe 1978a: 336–57.
1984a Essays and Reviews, edited by G. R. Thompson (New York: Library of America).
1984b [1836] “Maelzel’s Chess-Player,” in Poe 1984a: 1253–76.
1984c [1842] “Twice-Told Tales (review of Nathaniel Hawthorne),” in Poe 1984a: 568–88.
1984d [1846] “The Philosophy of Composition,” in Poe 1984a: 13–25.

Richards, Eliza
2004 Gender and the Poetics of Reception in Poe’s Circle (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Rosenheim, Shaun
1997 The Cryptographic Imagination (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).
Roubaud, Jacques
1986 “Mathematics in the Method of Raymond Queneau,” in Motte 1986: 79–96.
Searle, John
1990 “Minds, Brains, and Programs,” in The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, edited by
Margaret Boden, 67–88 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
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Silverman, Kenneth
1991 Edgar A. Poe: A Biography (New York: Harper Perennial).
Standage, Tom
2002 The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine (New
York: Walker).
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1999 “Performing the Intelligent Machine: Deception and Enchantment in the Life of the
Automaton Chess Player,” Drama Review 43 (3): 81–96.
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2000 The Cogwheel Brain: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer (London:
Little, Brown).

Grimstad • Antebellum AI 1

Tresch, John
1997 “‘The Potent Magic of Verisimilitude’: Edgar Allan Poe within the Mechanical Age,”
British Journal for the History of Science 30: 275–90.
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1992 Valéry and Poe: A Literary Legacy (New York: New York University Press).
Wimsatt, William K.
1939 “Poe and the Chess Automaton,” American Literature 11: 138–51.


(Courtesy of Paul Grimstad Yale University)








Rag Chandrakauns

Lilavati of Bhaskara










Johann Sebastian Bach – Suite no 1 for Cello – part 1






Played by Pablo Casals

in August 1954




The Art of The Arabic Lute










The Great Mosque of Samarra, Iraq





Music of The Renaissance

Renaissance Music_02












Rag Todi – तोड़ी

Rag Todi


॥ स्वक्ष ॥

Todī (तोड़ी)     c     des     es     fis     g     as     h     c

In the Karnatic system, ‘Todi’ ragam is commonly referred to as “HanumantaTodi” and is placed as the 8th in the melakarta system and being an ancient raga it was called Janatodi.

Todi is a sampoorna raga, i.e. a raga with all 7 notes and perfectly symmetrical tetra-chords as swaras. It has S-shudha, R1-Rishabham, G2-sadharana gandharam, M1-shudha madhyamam, P-Panchamam, D1-shudha dhaivatam, N2-kaishiki nishadham and S.

The poorvanga (S to P) and uttaranga (P to S) are very balanced. The jeeva swaras of Todi are GMDN. Their usage in prayogas during raga aalapana of Todi brings out the beauty of this raga. Nyasa swaras are GMPDN. One can weave different patterns of notes centred around these notes, but some prayogas without panchama (P) sound very beautiful.

Todi lends itself beautifully for slow medium-paced kritis, varnams, tillanas, viruttham etc. For example, tAyE yashOdA undan | Adi | UttukkADu venkatasubbaiyer, from the movie Morning Raga. The swara kalpana’s and the ragam-taanam-pallavi coupled as fusion music was simply fantastic and Era napai | Adi | Patnam Subramanya Iyer, is another varnam aptly suitable for ragam-taanam-pallavi, where all swaras should be handled softly and each note is suitable for Gamaka prayoga or oscillation.

This page has a composite list of all the Karnatic todi ragam songs. Looking at the “peculiar compositions” by Ramaswami Dikshitar (svarastAna pada varNam) and “Ma manini” Dr.MB.Krishna (which i remember partly, egad :-S), you will find them constructed without words. The whole song consisting of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam is composed with only the 7 swaras… WOW!!

Practically speaking, each of these songs in Todi, sounds different at first. The difference is not because of the lyrics, which albeit different, but look at the swara sthanas (hint: arohanam and avarohanam) which differ. Shruti-bhedam i.e. while singing alap, using tharasthayi R as S, makes Todi sound like Kalyani, but since it interferes with bhava (emotional flow of the raga) which should not be done extensively.

The composers have the liberty of starting off anywhere but are still bound within the raga metrics and that is their playground for creativity. Ofcourse each composition can have a different talas (beats) and no two songs of the same raga will sound alike, else your credibility as a composer is zilch. Duh, imagine the precarious position of the hindi film music composers(?), who are renowned for -copying- err.. being inspired .. *cough*…. by other peoples tunes frequently.

Now you must be wondering how a listener will know who is the composer of a particular song in say raga: Todi.

Simple…. Every composer had a signature embedded in the song he/she wrote, akin to the “comments” that programmers include in their programs. Some composers used a pseudonym/pen name and some their real names but they always inserted their names in the charanam (last stanza) of the song, never earlier. Humility matters

Legend has it that some not-so-famous students of famous composers in order to give credibility to their compositions used to pen them in their “famous composer teachers” names and bask in their shadowed glory. I am not sure how true this is and dont particularly care. Its more fun to enjoy the music!!

In Hindustani music there are quite a few ragas with the suffix Todi but sounds very different from the Karnatic HanumantaTodi. Example : The Hindustani Gurjari Todi, Mian ki Todi, Multani Todi etc., do not resemble the Carnatic Todi. This is true for many ragas which only share a common raga name.

There are many compositions in HanumantaTodi. Every southern Vaggeyakara has composed in Todi. SriThyagaraja has composed around 30 kritis and the speciality is that each one highlights a different nuance of the ragam.

1] The kriti ‘Dasarathe’ starts in mantra sthayee “D” and emphasizes the prayoga of gamaka-laden “D”.
2] The kriti ‘Dasukovalena’ centres round Madhya sthayee “D”.
3] The kriti ‘Koluvamaregada’ starts at Taara sthayee “S” and comes down the avarohana slowly. Shyama Sastri has done a slow vilambit kala kriti with Swarajati Raave, thereby bringing out the slow beauty of this raga.

TO-DO in Todi, including the derivative janya ragas are :

1] Venugana ramana | Mishra Chapu.
2] Dasuko | Misra Jhampa | Thyagaraja.
3] Koluvamaregada | Adi | Thyagaraja.
4] Rajuvedala (Srirangam Pancharatna) | Rupakam | Thyagaraja |
5] Sri Krishnam Bhaja (on Guruvayurapan) | Adi | Dikshitar |
6] Ninne Nammi | Misra Chapu | Shyama Sastri |
7] Raave (Swarajati) | Adi | Shyama Sastri |
8] Sarasija nabhada | Misra Chapu | Swati Tirunal |
9] Thamatham en | Adi | Papanasam Sivan |
10] Tanigai Valar-Khanda Chapu- Papanasam Sivan |
11] Kartikeya- Aadi- Papanasam Sivan |
12] Anjananandam | Adi |
13] Annaiyargal vanam nadi vandar | Adi |
14] Dasharathe dayanidhe | Adi
15] En inge vandu | Adi
16] Jatadhara shankara devedeva | Adi
17] Rasa loka vaibhoga | Adi
18] Tale sharanam amma | Adi
19] Tannam taniyaha senrale | Mishra Chapu
20] Urugada manam enna manamo | Adi
21] Vandavarai varum enrazhaittu mani polum | Adi

Janya (derivative) raga :

1] Bhuvana moha saundara sukumara | Dhanyasi | Adi
2] Nada nada nada krishna | Dhanyasi | Adi
3] Padmini vallabha dehi pradehi | Dhanyasi | Adi
4] Natajana kalpavalli | Punnagavarali | Adi
5] Nila vanam tanil oli vishum niraimadiyo | Punnagavarali | Adi
6] Na dhru dhim tadana tomtana (tillana) | Sindhubhairavi | Adi
7] Shen shiva jatadhara shambho | Sindhubhairavi | Adi

By SVAKSHA on 2008 May 3



Rag Todi_Time_Wheel


Todi (Hindi: तोडी) is a Hindustani classical raga which gave its name to the Todi thaat, one of the ten modes of Hindustani classical music. Ragas from the Todi raganga include Todi (a.k.a. Miya ki Todi) itself, Bilaskhani Todi, Bahaduri Todi, and Gujari Todi.

The equivalent raga in Carnatic music is Shubhapantuvarali. The Carnatic raga Todi is the equivalent of Bhairavi and does not have any similarity to the Hindustani Todi.


* 1 Aroha & Avaroha
* 2 Vadi and Samavadi
* 3 Pakad or Chalan
* 4 Organization and relationships
* 5 Samay (Time)
* 6 Rasa
* 7 References
* 8 External links
* 9 Literature

Aroha & Avaroha[edit]

S r g M+ d N S’ or
‘d ‘N S r g M+ d N S’ or
S r g M+ d P, M+ d N S’ or
S r g M+ P, M+ d N S’

S’ N D P M+ G R S or
S N d P M+ d M+ g r g r S
Vadi and Samavadi[edit]

komal Dha and komal Ga
in ascent re, ga and dha are intoned slightly low, and tivra ma is very sharp. In descent the intonaltion of all these notes is normal [2]
Pakad or Chalan[edit]

The distinctive phrase is r/g-\r\S, where r may be subtly oscillated.[3]
Pa is omitted in ascent, but present and often sustained.[4] Kaufmann mentions that some musicians would call Todi with Pa Miyan Ki Todi, but others would see no difference between Todi and Miyan Ki Todi.
Sometimes the ascent is performed without Sa, starting from Ni.
Organization and relationships[edit]

Miyan Ki Todi is similar to Gujari Todi and many movements are common, but in Gujari Todi Pa is omitted and there is more emphasis on Re and Dha.
Like Miyan Ki Malhar Miyan Ki Todi is said to be composed by Tansen, but this seems unlikely as the Todi scale in Tansen’s time was the scale of today’s Bhairavi and the name Miyan Ki Todi appears first in the 19th century literature.[5]
Samay (Time)[edit]

Todi should be performed in the late morning[6]


Todi is nearly always shown as a gentle, beautiful woman, holding a veena and standing in a lovely green forest, surrounded by deers. Kaufman cites the Sangita-Darpana “With a fair erect body like the white lotus, and delicate like the gleaming dew drop, Todi holds the vina and provides fun and frolic to the deer deep in the forest. Her body is anointed with saffron and camphor”

1. Jump up ^ Benward and Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.39. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
2. Jump up ^ Kaufmann 1968
3. Jump up ^ Bor 1997
4. Jump up ^ Bor 1997
5. Jump up ^ Bor 1997
6. Jump up ^ Kaufman 1968, pg. 551


The Significance of the Hut


From cellar to garret.
The significance of the hut



 At the door of the house who will come knocking?
An open door, we enter
A closed door, a den
The world pulse beats beyond my door.

Pierre Albert Birot
Les Amusements Maturels, p. 217




The house, quite obviously, is a privileged entity for a phenomenological study of the intimate values of inside space, provided, of course, that we take it in both its unity and its complexity, and endeavor to integrate all the special values in one fundamental value. For the house furnishes us dispersed images and a body of images at the same time. In both cases, I shall prove that imagination augments the values of reality. A sort of attraction for images concentrates them about the house. Transcending our memories of all the houses in which we have found shelter, above and beyond all the houses we have dreamed we lived in, can we isolate an intimate, concrete essence that would be a justification of the uncommon value of all of our images of protected intimacy? This, then, is the main problem.

In order to solve it, it is not enough to consider the house as an “object” on which we can make our judgments and daydreams react. For a phenomenologist, a psychoanalyst, or a psychologist (these three points of view being named in the order of decreasing efficacy), it is not a question of describing houses, or enumerating their picturesque features and analyzing for which reasons they are comfortable. On the contrary, we must go beyond the problems of description -whether this description be objective or subjective, that is, whether it give facts or impressions–in order to attain to the primary virtues, those that reveal an attachment that is native in some way to the primary function of inhabiting. A geographer or an ethnographer can give us descriptions of very varied types of dwellings. In each variety, the phenomenologist makes the effort needed to seize upon the germ of the essential, sure, immediate well-being it encloses. In every dwelling, even the richest, the first task of the phenomenologist is to find the original shell.

But the related problems are many if we want to determine the profound reality of all the subtle shadings of our attachment for a chosen spot. For a phenomenologist, these shadings must be taken as the first rough outlines of a psychological phenomenon. The shading is not an additional, superficial coloring. We should therefore have to say how we inhabit our vital space, in accord with all the dialectics of life, how we take root, day after day, in a “corner of the world.”

For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word. If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty. Authors of books on “the humble home” often mention this feature of the poetics of space. But this mention is much too succinct. Finding little to describe in the humble home, they spend little time there; so they describe it as it actually is, without really experiencing its primitiveness, a primitiveness which belongs to all, rich and poor alike, if they are willing to dream.

But our adult life is so dispossessed of the essential benefits, its anthropocosmic ties have become so slack, that we do not feel their first attachment in the universe of the house. There is no dearth of abstract, “world-conscious” philosophers who discover a universe by means of the dialectical game of the I and the non-I. In fact, they know the universe before they know the house, the far horizon before the resting-place; whereas the real beginnings of images, if we study them phenomenologically, will give concrete evidence of the values of inhabited space, of the non-I that protects the I.

Indeed, here we touch upon a converse whose images we shall have to explore: all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home. In the course of this work, we shall see that the imagination functions in this direction whenever the human being has found the slightest shelter: we shall see the imagination build “walls” of impalpable shadows, comfort itself with the illusion of protection-or, just the contrary, tremble behind thick walls, mistrust the staunchest ramparts. In short, in the most interminable of dialectics, the sheltered being gives perceptible limits to his shelter. He experiences the house in its reality and in its virtuality, by means of thought and dreams. It is no longer in its positive aspects that the house is really “lived,” nor is it only in the passing hour that we recognize its benefits. An entire past comes to dwell in a new house. The old saying: “We bring our lares with us” has many variations. And the daydream deepens to the point where an immemorial domain opens up for the dreamer of a home beyond man’s earliest memory. The house, like fire and water, will permit me, later in this work, to recall flashes of daydreams that illuminate the synthesis of immemorial and recollected. In this remote region, memory and imagination remain associated, each one working for their mutual deepening. In the order of values, they both constitute a community of memory and image. Thus the house is not experienced from day to day only, on the thread of a narrative, or in the telling of our own story. Through dreams, the various dwelling-places in our lives co-penetrate and retain the treasures of former days. And after we are in the new house, when memories of other places we have lived in come back to us, we travel to the land of Motionless Childhood, motionless the way all Immemorial things are. We live fixations, fixations of happiness.’ We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.

Thus, by approaching the house images with care not to break up the solidarity of memory and imagination, we may hope to make others feel all the psychological elasticity of an image that moves us at an unimaginable depth. Through poems, perhaps more than through recollections, we touch the ultimate poetic depth of the space of the house.

This being the case, if I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values that belong to daydreaming mark humanity in its depths. Daydreaming even has a privilege of autovalorization. It derives direct pleasure from its own being. Therefore, the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time.

Now my aim is clear: I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind. The binding principle in this integration is the daydream. Past, present and future give the house different dynamisms, which often interfere, at times opposing, at others, stimulating one another. In the life of a man, the house thrusts aside contingencies, its councils of continuity are unceasing. Without it, man would be a dispersed being. It maintains him through the storms of the heavens and through those of life. It is body and soul. It is the human being’s first world. Before he is “cast into the world,” as claimed by certain hasty metaphysics, man is laid in the cradle of the house. And always, in our daydreams, the house is a large cradle. A concrete metaphysics cannot neglect this fact, this simple fact, all the more, since this fact is a value, an important value, to which we return in our daydreaming. Being is already a value. Life begins well, it begins enclosed, protected, all warm in the bosom of the house.

From my viewpoint, from the phenomenologist’s viewpoint, the conscious metaphysics that starts from the moment when the being is “cast into the world” is a secondary metaphysics. It passes over the preliminaries, when being is being-well, when the human being is deposited in a being-well, in the well-being originally associated with being. To illustrate the metaphysics of consciousness we should have to wait for the experiences during which being is cast out, that is to say, thrown out, outside the being of the house, a circumstance in which the hostility o men and of the universe accumulates. But a complete metaphysics, englobing both the conscious and the unconscious, would leave the privilege of its values within. Within the being, in the being of within, an enveloping warmth welcomes being. Being reigns in a sort of earthly paradise of matter, dissolved in the comforts of an adequate matter. It is as though in this material paradise, the human being were bathed in nourishment, as though he were gratified with all the essential benefits.

When we dream of the house we were born in, in the utmost depths of revery, we participate in this original warmth, in this well-tempered matter of the material paradise. This is the environment in which the protective beings live. We shall come back to the maternal features of the house. For the moment, I should like to point out the original fullness of the house’s being. Our daydreams carry us back to it. And the poet well knows that the house holds childhood motionless “in its arms”:

House, patch of meadow, oh evening light
Suddenly you acquire an almost human face
You are very near us, embracing and embraced.


Of course, thanks to the house, a great many of our memories are housed, and if the house is a bit elaborate, if it has a cellar and a garret, nooks and corridors, our memories have refuges that are all the more clearly delineated. All our lives we come back to them in our daydreams. A psychoanalyst should, therefore, turn his attention to this simple localization of our memories. I should like to give the name of topoanalysis to this auxiliary of psychoanalysis. Topoanalysis, then, would be the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives. In the theater of the past that is constituted by memory, the stage setting maintains the characters in their dominant roles. At times we think we know ourselves in time, when all we know is a sequence of fixations in the spaces of the being’s stability–a being who does not want to melt away, and who, even in the past, when he sets out in search of things past, wants time to “suspend” its flight. In its countless alveoli space contains compressed time. That is what space is for.

And if we want to go beyond history, or even, while remaining in history, detach from our own history the always too contingent history of the persons who have encumbered it, we realize that the calendars of our lives can only be established in its imagery. In order to analyze our being in the hierarchy of an ontology, or to psychoanalyze our unconscious entrenched in primitive abodes, it would be necessary, on the margin of normal psychoanalysis, to desocialize our important memories, and attain to the plane of the daydreams that we used to have in the places identified with our solitude. For investigations of this kind, daydreams are more useful than dreams. They show moreover that daydreams can be very different from dreams.’

And so, faced with these periods of solitude, the topoanalyst starts to ask questions: Was the room a large one? Was the garret cluttered up? Was the nook warm? How was it lighted? How, too, in these fragments of space, did the human being achieve silence? How did he relish the very special silence of the various retreats of solitary daydreaming?

Here space is everything, for time ceases to quicken memory. Memory–what a strange thing it is!-does not record concrete duration, in the Bergsonian sense of the word. We are unable to relive duration that has been destroyed. We can only think of it, in the line of an abstract time that is deprived of all thickness. The finest specimens of fossilized duration concretized as a result of long sojourn, are to be found in and through space. The unconscious abides. Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are. To localize a memory in time is merely a matter for the biographer and only corresponds to a sort of external history, for external use, to be communicated to others. But hermeneutics, which is more profound than biography, must determine the centers of fate by ridding history of its conjunctive temporal tissue, which has no action on our fates. For a knowledge of intimacy, localization in the spaces of our intimacy is more urgent than determination of dates.

Psychoanalysis too often situates the passions “in the century.” In reality, however, the passions simmer and resimmer in solitude: the passionate being prepares his explosions and his exploits in this solitude.

And all the spaces of our past moments of solitude, the spaces in which we have suffered from solitude, enjoyed, desired and compromised solitude, remain indelible within us, and precisely because the human being wants them to remain so. He knows instinctively that this space identified with his solitude is creative; that even when it is forever expunged from the present, when, henceforth, it is alien to all the promises of the future, even when we no longer have a garret, when the attic room is lost and gone, there remains the fact that we once loved a garret, once lived in an attic. We return to them in our night dreams. These retreats have the value of a shell. And when we reach the very end of the labyrinths of sleep, when we attain to the regions of deep slumber, we may perhaps experience a type of repose that is pre-human; pre-human, in this case, approaching the immemorial. But in the daydream itself, the recollection of moments of confined, simple, shut-in space are experiences of heartwarming space, of a space that does not seek to become extended, but would like above all still to be possessed. In the past, the attic may have seemed too small, it may have seemed cold in winter and hot in summer. Now, however, in memory recaptured through daydreams, it is hard to say through what syncretism the attic is at once small and large, warm and cool, always comforting.


This being the case, we shall have to introduce a slight nuance at the very base of topoanalysis. I pointed out earlier that the unconscious is housed. It should be added that it is well and happily housed, in the space of its happiness. The normal unconscious knows how to make itself at home everywhere, and psychoanalysis comes to the assistance of the ousted unconscious, of the unconscious that has been roughly or insidiously dislodged. But psychoanalysis sets the human being in motion, rather than at rest. It calls on him to live outside the abodes of his unconscious, to enter into life’s adventures, to come out of himself. And naturally, its action is a salutary one. Because we must also give an exterior destiny to the interior being. To accompany psychoanalysis in this salutary action, we should have to undertake a topoanalysis of all the space that has invited us to come out of ourselves.

Carry me along, oh roads…

wrote Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, recalling her native Flanders (Un ruisseau de la Scarpe).

And what a dynamic, handsome object is a path! How precise the familiar hill paths remain for our muscular consciousness! A poet has expressed all this dynamism in one single line:

Oh, my roads and their cadence.
–Jean Caubere, Deserts

When I relive dynamically the road that “climbed” the hill, I am quite sure that the road itself had muscles, or rather, counter-muscles. In my room in Paris, it is a good exercise for me to think of the road in this way. As I write this page, I feel freed of my duty to take a walk: I am sure of having gone out of my house.

And indeed we should find countless intermediaries between reality and symbols if we gave things all the movements they suggest. George Sand, dreaming beside a path of yellow sand, saw life flowing by. “What is more beautiful than a road?” she wrote. “It is the symbol and the image of an active, varied life.” (Consuelo, vol. II, p. 116).

Each one of us, then, should speak of his roads, his crossroads, his roadside benches; each one of us should make a surveyor’s map of his lost fields and meadows. Thoreau said that he had the map of his fields engraved in his soul. And Jean Wahi once wrote:

The frothing of the hedges
I keep deep inside me.
(Poème, p. 46)

Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived. These drawings need not be exact. They need only to be tonalized on the mode of our inner space. But what a book would have to be written to decide all these problems! Space calls for action, and before action, the imagination is at work. It mows and ploughs. We should have to speak of the benefits of all these imaginary actions. Psychoanalysis has made numerous observations on the subject of projective behavior, on the willingness of extroverted persons to exteriorize their intimate impressions. An exteriorist topoanalysis would perhaps give added precision to this projective behavior by defining our daydreams of objects. However, in this present work, I shall not be able to undertake, as should be done, the two-fold imaginary geometrical and physical problem of extroversion and introversion. Moreover, I do not believe that these two branches of physics have the same psychic weight. My research is devoted to the domain of intimacy, to the domain in which psychic weight is dominant.

I shall therefore put my trust in the power of attraction of all the domains of intimacy. There does not exist a real intimacy that is repellent. All the spaces of intimacy are designated by an attraction. Their being is well-being. In these conditions, topoanalysis bears the stamp of a topophilia, and shelters and rooms will be studied in the sense of this valorization.


These virtues of shelter are so simple, so deeply rooted in our unconscious that they may be recaptured through mere mention, rather than through minute description. Here the nuance bespeaks the color. A poet’s word, because it strikes true, moves the very depths of our being.

Over-picturesqueness in a house can conceal its intimacy. This is also true in life. But it is truer still in daydreams. For the real houses of memory, the houses to which we return in dreams, the houses that are rich in unalterable oneirism, do not readily lend themselves to description. To describe them would be like showing them to visitors. We can perhaps tell everything about the present, but about the past! The first, the oneirically definitive house, must retain its shadows. For it belongs to the literature of depth, that is, to poetry, and not to the fluent type of literature that, in order to analyze intimacy, needs other people’s stories. All I ought to say about my childhood home is just barely enough to place me, myself, in an oneiric situation, to set me on the threshold of a day-dream in which I shall find repose in the past. Then I may hope that my page will possess a sonority that will ring true–a voice so remote within me, that it will be the voice we all hear when we listen as far back as memory reaches, on the very limits of memory, beyond memory perhaps, in the field of the immemorial. All we communicate to others is an orientation towards what is secret without ever being able to tell the secret objectively. What is secret never has total objectivity. In this respect, we orient oneirism but we do not accomplish it.

What would be the use, for instance, in giving the plan of the room that was really my room, in describing the little room at the end of the garret, in saying that from the window, across the indentations of the roofs, one could see the hill. I alone, in my memories of another century, can open the deep cupboard that still retains for me alone that unique odor, the odor of raisins drying on a wicker tray. The odor of raisins! It is an odor that is beyond description, one that it takes a lot of imagination to smell. But I’ve already said too much. If I said more, the reader, back in his own room, would not open that unique wardrobe, with its unique smell, which is the signature of intimacy. Paradoxically, in order to suggest the values of intimacy, we have to induce in the reader a state of suspended reading. For it is not until his eyes have left the page that recollections of my room can become a threshold of oneirism for him. And when it is a poet speaking, the reader’s soul reverberates; it experiences the kind of reverberation that, as Minkowski has shown, gives the energy of an origin to being.

It therefore makes sense from our standpoint of a philosophy of literature and poetry to say that we “write a room,” “read a room” or “read a house.” Thus, very quickly, at the very first word, at the first poetic overture, the reader who is “reading a room” leaves off reading and starts to think of some place in his own past. You would like to tell everything about your room. You would like to interest the reader in yourself, whereas you have unlocked a door to daydreaming. The values of intimacy are so absorbing that the reader has ceased to read your room: he sees his own again. He is already far off, listening to the recollections of a father or a grandmother, of a mother or a servant, of “the old faithful servant,” in short, of the human being who dominates the corner of his most cherished memories.

And the house of memories becomes psychologically complex. Associated with the nooks and corners of solitude are the bedroom and the living room in which the leading characters held sway. The house we were born in is an inhabited house. In it the values of intimacy are scattered, they are not easily stabilized, they are subjected to dialectics. In how many tales of childhood–if tales of childhood were sincere–we should be told of a child that, lacking a room, went and sulked in his corner!

But over and beyond our memories, the house we were born in is physically inscribed in us. It is a group of organic habits. After twenty years, in spite of all the other anonymous stairways; we would recapture the reflexes of the “first stairway,” we would not stumble on that rather high step. The house’s entire being would open up, faithful to our own being. We would push the door that creaks with the same gesture, we would find our way in the dark to the distant attic. The feel of the tiniest latch has remained in our hands.

The successive houses in which we have lived have no doubt made our gestures commonplace. But we are very surprised, when we return to the old house, after an odyssey of many years, to find that the most delicate gestures, the earliest gestures suddenly come alive, are still faultless. In short, the house we were born in has engraved within us the hierarchy of the various functions of inhabiting. We are the diagram of the functions of inhabiting that particular house, and all the other houses are but variations on a fundamental theme. The word habit is too worn a word to express this passionate liaison of our bodies, which do not forget, with an unforgettable house.

But this area of detailed recollections that are easily retained because of the names of things and people we knew in the first house, can be studied by means of general psychology. Memories of dreams, however, which only poetic meditation can help us to recapture, are more confused, less clearly drawn. The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams. The house we were born in is more than an embodiment of home, it is also an embodiment of dreams. Each one of its nooks and corners was a resting-place for daydreaming. And often the restingplace particularized the daydream. Our habits of a particular daydream were acquired there. The house, the bedroom, the garret in which we were alone, furnished the framework for an interminable dream, one that poetry alone, through the creation of a poetic work, could succeed in achieving completely. If we give their function of shelter for dreams to all of these places of retreat, we may say, as I pointed out in an earlier work,’ that there exists for each one of us an oneiric house, a house of dream–memory, that is lost in the shadow of a beyond of the real past. I called this oneiric house the crypt of the house that we were born in. Here we find ourselves at a pivotal point around which reciprocal interpretations of dreams through thought and thought through dreams, keep turning. But the word interpretation hardens this about-face unduly. In point of fact, we are in the unity of image and memory, in the functional composite of imagination and memory. The positivity of psychological history and geography cannot serve as a touchstone for determining the real being of our childhood, for childhood is certainly greater than reality. In order to sense, across the years, our attachment for the house we were born in, dream is more powerful than thought. It is our unconscious force that crystalizes our remotest memories. If a compact center of daydreams of repose had not existed in this first house, the very different circumstances that surround actual life would have clouded our memories. Except for a few medallions stamped with the likeness of our ancestors, our child-memory contains only worn coins. It is on the plane of the daydream and not on that of facts that childhood remains alive and poetically useful within us. Through this permanent childhood, we maintain the poetry of the past. To inhabit oneirically the house we were born in means more than to inhabit it in memory; it means living in this house that is gone, the way we used to dream in it.

What special depth there is in a child’s daydream! And how happy the child who really possesses his moments of solitude! It is a good thing, it is even salutary, for a child to have periods of boredom, for him to learn to know the dialectics of exaggerated play and causeless, pure boredom. Alexander Dumas tells in his Mémoires that, as a child, he was bored, bored to tears. When his mother found him like that, weeping from sheer boredom, she said: “And what is Dumas crying about?” “Dumas is crying because Dumas has tears,” replied the six-year-old child. This is the kind of anecdote people tell in their memoirs. But how well it exemplifies absolute boredom, the boredom that is not the equivalent of the absence of playmates. There are children who will leave a game to go and be bored in a corner of the garret. How often have I wished for the attic of my boredom when the complications of life made me lose the very germ of all freedom!

And so, beyond all the positive values of protection, the house we were born in becomes imbued with dream values which remain after the house is gone. Centers of boredom, centers of solitude, centers of daydream group together to constitute the oneiric house which is more lasting than the scattered memories of our birthplace. Long phenomenological research would be needed to determine all these dream values, to plumb the depth of this dream ground in which our memories are rooted.

And we should not forget that these dream values cornmunicae poetically from soul to soul. To read poetry is essentially to daydream.


A house constitutes a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability. We are constantly re-imagining its reality: to distinguish all these images would be to describe the soul of the house; it would mean developing a veritable psychology of the house.

To bring order into these images, I believe that we should consider two principal connecting themes: 1) A house is imagined as a vertical being. It rises upward. It differentiates itself in terms of its verticality. It is one of the appeals to our consciousness of verticality. 2) A house is imagined as a concentrated being. It appeals to our consciousness of centrality.

These themes are no doubt very abstractly stated. But with examples, it is not hard to recognize their psychologically concrete nature.

Verticality is ensured by the polarity of cellar and attic, the marks of which are so deep that, in a way, they open up two very different perspectives for a phenomenology of the imagination. Indeed, it is possible, almost without commentary, to oppose the rationality of the roof to the irrationality of the cellar. A roof tells its raison d’être right away: it gives mankind shelter from the rain and sun he fears. Geographers are constantly reminding us that, in every country, the slope of the roofs is one of the surest indications of the climate. We “understand” the slant of a roof. Even a dreamer dreams rationally; for him, a pointed roof averts rain clouds. Up near the roof all our thoughts are clear. In the attic it is a pleasure to see the bare rafters of the strong framework. Here we participate in the carpenter’s solid geometry.

As for the cellar, we shall no doubt find uses for it. It will be rationalized and its conveniences enumerated. But it is first and foremost the dark entity of the house, the one that partakes of subterranean forces. When we dream there, we are in harmony with the irrationality of the depths.

We become aware of this dual vertical polarity of a house if we are sufficiently aware of the function of inhabiting to consider it as an imaginary response to the function of constructing. The dreamer constructs and reconstructs the upper stories and the attic until they are well constructed. And, as I said before, when we dream of the heights we are in the rational zone of intellectualized projects. But for the cellar, the impassioned inhabitant digs and re-digs, making its very depth active. The fact is not enough, the dream is at work. When it comes to excavated ground, dreams have no limit. I shall give later some deepcellar reveries. But first let us remain in the space that is polarized by the cellar and the attic, to see how this polarized space can serve to illustrate very fine psychological nuances.

Here is how the psychoanalyst, C. G. Jung, has used the dual image of cellar and attic to analyze the fears that inhabit a house. In Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul we find a comparison which is used to make us understand the conscious being’s hope of “destroying the autonomy of complexes by debaptising them.” The image is the following: “Here the conscious acts like a man who, hearing a suspicious noise in the cellar, hurries to the attic and, finding no burglars there decides, consequently, that the noise was pure imagination. In reality, this prudent man did not dare venture into the cellar.”

To the extent that the explanatory image used by Jung convinces us, we readers relive phenomenologically both fears: fear in the attic and fear in the cellar. Instead of facing the cellar (the unconscious), Jung’s “prudent man” seeks alibis for his courage in the attic. In the attic rats and mice can make considerable noise. But let the master of the house arrive unexpectedly and they return to the silence of their holes. The creatures moving about in the cellar are slower, less scampering, more mysterious.

In the attic, fears are easily “rationalized.” Whereas in the cellar, even for a more courageous man than the one Jung mentions, “rationalization” is less rapid and less clear; also it is never definitive. In the attic, the day’s experiences can always efface the fears of night. In the cellar, darkness prevails both day and night, and even when we are carrying a lighted candle, we see shadows dancing on the dark walls.

If we follow the inspiration of Jung’s explanatory example to a complete grasp of psychological reality, we encounter a co-operation between psychoanalysis and phenomenology which must be stressed if we are to dominate the human phenomenon. As a matter of fact, the image has to be understood phenomenologically in order to give it psychoanalytical efficacy. The phenomenologist, in this case, will accept the psychoanalyst’s image in a spirit of shared trepidation. He will revive the primitivity and the specificity of the fears. In our civilization, which has the same light everywhere, and puts electricity in its cellars, we no longer go to the cellar carrying a candle. But the unconscious cannot be civilized. It takes a candle when it goes to the cellar. The psychoanalyst cannot cling to the superficiality of metaphors or comparisons, and the phenomenologist has to pursue every image to the very end. Here, so far from reducing and explaining, so far from comparing, the phenomenologist will exaggerate his exaggeration. Then, when they read Poe’s Tales together, both the phenomenologist and the psychoanalyst will understand the value of this achievement. For these tales are the realization of childhood fears. The reader who is a “devotee” of reading will hear the accursed cat, which is a symbol of unredeemed guilt, mewing behind the wall.’ The cellar dreamer knows that the walls of the cellar are buried walls, that they are walls with a single casing, walls that have the entire earth behind them. And so the situation grows more dramatic, and fear becomes exaggerated. But where is the fear that does not become exaggerated? In this spirit of shared trepidation, the phenomenologist listens intently, as the poet Thoby Marcelin puts it, “flush with madness.” The cellar then becomes buried madness, walled-in tragedy. Stories of criminal cellars leave indelible marks on our memory, marks that we prefer not to deepen; who would like to re-read Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”? In this instance, the dramatic element is too facile, but it exploits natural fears, which are inherent to the dual nature of both man and house.

Although I have no intention of starting a file on the subject of human drama, I shall study a few ultra-cellars which prove that the cellar dream irrefutably increases reality.

If the dreamer’s house is in a city it is not unusual that the dream is one of dominating in depth the surrounding cellars. His abode wants the undergrounds of legendary fortified castles, where mysterious passages that run under the enclosing walls, the ramparts and the moat put the heart of the castle into communication with the distant forest. The château planted on the hilltop had a cluster of cellars for roots. And what power it gave a simple house to be built on this underground clump!

In the novels of. Henri Bosco, who is a great dreamer of houses, we come across ultra-cellars of this kind. Under the house in L’Antiquaire (The Antique Dealer, p. 60), there is a “vaulted rotunda into which open four doors.” Four corridors lead from the four doors, dominating, as it were, the four cardinal points of an underground horizon. The door to the East opens and “we advance subterraneously far under the houses in this neighborhood . . .” There are traces of labyrinthine dreams in these pages. But associated with the labyrinths of the corridor, in which the air is “heavy,” are rotundas and chapels that are the sanctuaries of the secret. Thus, the cellar in L’Antiquaire is oneirically complex. The reader must explore it through dreams, certain of which refer to the suffering in the corridors, and others to the marvelous nature of underground palaces. He may become quite lost (actually as well as figuratively). At first he does not see very clearly the necessity for such a complicated geometry. Just here, a phenomenological analysis will prove to be effective. But what does the phenomenological attitude advise? It asks us to produce within ourselves a reading pride that will give us the illusion of participating in the work of the author of the book. Such an attitude could hardly be achieved on first reading, which remains too passive. For here the reader is still something of a child, a child who is entertained by reading. But every good book should be re-read as soon as it is finished. After the sketchiness of the first reading comes the creative work of reading. We must then know the problem that confronted the author. The second, then the third reading…give us, little by little, the solution of this problem. Imperceptibly, we give ourselves the illusion that both the problem and the solution are ours. The psychological nuance: “I should have written that,” establishes us as phenomenologists of reading. But so long as we have not acknowledged this nuance, we remain psychologists, or psychoanalysts.

What, then, was Henri Bosco’s literary problem in his description of the ultra-cellar? It was to present in one central concrete image a novel which, in its broad lines, is the novel of underground maneuvers. This worn-out metaphor is illustrated, in this instance, by countless cellars, a network of passages, and a group of individual cells with frequently padlocked doors. There, secrets are pondered, projects are prepared. And, underneath the earth, action gets under way. We are really in the intimate space of underground maneuvers. It is in a basement such as this that the antique dealers, who carry the novel forward, claim to link people’s fates. Henri Bosco’s cellar, with its four subdivisions, is a loom on which fates are woven. The hero relating his adventures has himself a ring of fate, a ring carved with signs that date from some remote time. However, the strictly underground, strictly diabolical, activities of the Antiquaires fail. For at the very moment when two great destinies of love are about to be joined, one of the loveliest sylphs dies in the vault of the accursed house–a creature of the garden and the tower, the one who was supposed to confer happiness. The reader who is alive to the accompaniment of cosmic poetry that is always active beneath the psychological story in Bosco’s novels, will find evidence, in many pages of this book, of the dramatic tension between the aerial and the terrestrial. But to live such drama as this, we must re-read the book, we must be able to displace the interest or carry out our reading in the dual interest of man and things, at the same time that we neglect nothing of the anthropo-cosmic tissue of a human life.

In another dwelling into which this novelist takes us, the ultra-cellar is no longer under the sign of the sinister projects of diabolical men, but is perfectly natural, inherent to the nature of an underground world. By following Henri Bosco, we shall experience a house with cosmic roots. This house with cosmic roots will appear to us as a stone plant growing out of the rock up to the blue sky of a tower. The hero of L’Antiquaire having been caught on a compromising visit, has been obliged to take to the cellar. Right away, however, interest in the actual story is transferred to the cosmic story. Realities serve here to reveal dreams. At first we are in the labyrinth of corridors carved in the rock. Then, suddenly, we come upon a body of murky water. At this point, description of events in the novel is left in abeyance and we only find compensation for our perseverance if we participate by means of our own night dreams. Indeed, a long dream that has an elemental sincerity is inserted in the story. Here is this poem of the cosmic cellar:’

“Just in front of me, water appeared from out of the darkness.

“Water! … An immense body of water! … And what water! . . . Black, stagnant, so perfectly smooth that not a ripple, not a bubble, marred its surface. No spring, no source. It had been there for thousands of years and remained there, caught unawares by the rock, spread out in a single, impassive sheet. In its stone matrix, it had itself become this black, still rock, a captive of the mineral world. It had been subjected to the crushing mass, the enormous upheavals, of this oppressive world. Under this heavy weight, its very nature appeared to have been changed as it seeped through the thicknesses of the lime slabs that held its secret fast. Thus it had become the densest fluid element of the underground mountain. Its opacity and unwonted consistency made an unknown substance of it, a substance charged with phosphorescences that only appeared on the surface in occasional flashes. These electric tints, which were signs of the dark powers lying on the bottom, manifested the latent life and formidable power of this still dormant element. They made me shiver.”

But this shiver, we sense, is no longer human fear; this is cosmic fear, an anthropo-cosmic fear that echoes the great legend of man cast back into primitive situations. From the cavern carved in the rock to the underground, from the underground to stagnant water, we have moved from a constructed to a dreamed world; we have left fiction for poetry. But reality and dream now form a whole. The house, the cellar, the deep earth, achieve totality through depth. The house has become a natural being whose fate is bound to that of mountains and of the waters that plough the land. The enormous stone plant it has become would not flourish if it did not have subterranean water at its base. And so our dreams attain boundless proportions.

The cosmic daydream in this passage of Bosco’s book gives the reader a sense of restfulness, in that it invites him to participate in the repose to be derived from all deep oneiric experience. Here the story remains in a suspended time that is favorable to more profound psychological treatment. Now the account of real events may be resumed; it has received its provision of “cosmicity” and daydream. And so, beyond the underground water, Bosco’s cellar recovers its stairways. After this poetic pause, description can begin again to unreel its itinerary. “A very narrow, steep stairway, which spiraled as it went higher, had been carved in the rock. I started up it” (p. 155). By means of this gimlet, the dreamer succeeds in getting out of the depths of the earth and begins his adventures in the heights. In fact, at the very end of countless tortuous, narrow passages, the reader emerges into a tower. This is the ideal tower that haunts all dreamers of old houses: it is “perfectly round” and there is “brief light” from “a narrow window.” It also has a vaulted ceiling, which is a great principle of the dream of intimacy. For it constantly reflects intimacy at its center. No one will be surprised to learn that the tower room is the abode of a gentle young girl and that she is haunted by memories of an ardent ancestress. The round, vaulted room stands high and alone, keeping watch over the past in the same way that it dominates space. On this young girl’s missal, handed down from her disstant ancestress, may be read the following motto:

The flower is always in the almond.

With this excellent motto, both the house and the bedchamber bear the mark of an unforgettable intimacy. For there exists no more compact image of intimacy, none that is more sure of its center, than a flower’s dream of the future while it is still enclosed, tightly folded, inside its seed. How we should love to see not happiness, but pre-happiness remain enclosed in the round chamber!

Finally, the house Bosco describes stretches from earth to sky. It possesses the verticality of the tower rising from the most earthly, watery depths, to the abode of a soul that believes in heaven. Such a house, constructed by a writer, illustrates the verticality of the human being. It is also oneirically complete, in that it dramatizes the two poles of house dreams. It makes a gift of a tower to those who have perhaps never even seen a dove-cote. A tower is the creation of another century. Without a past it is nothing. Indeed, a new tower would be ridiculous. But we still have books, and they give our day-dreams countless dwelling-places. Is there one among us who has not spent romantic moments in the tower of a book he has read? These moments come back to us. Daydreaming needs them. For on the keyboard of the vast literature devoted to the function of inhabiting, the tower sounds a note of immense dreams. How many times, since reading L’Antiquaire, have I gone to live in Henri Bosco’s tower!

This tower and its underground cellars extend the house we have just been studying in both directions. For us, this house represents an increase in the verticality of the more modest houses that, in order to satisfy our daydreams, have to be differentiated in height. If I were the architect of an oneiric house, I should hesitate between a three-story house and one with four. A three-story house, which is the simplest as regards essential height, has a cellar, a ground floor and an attic; while a four-story house puts a floor between the ground floor and the attic. One floor more, and our dreams become blurred. In the oneiric house, topoanalysis only knows how to count to three or four.

Then there are the stairways: one to three or four of them, all different. We always go down the one that leads to the cellar, and it is this going down that we remember, that characterizes its oneirism. But we go both up and down the stairway that leads to the bed-chamber. It is more commonly used; we are familiar with it. Twelve-year olds even go up it in ascending scales, in thirds and fourths, trying to do fifths, and liking, above all, to take it in strides of four steps at a time. What joy for the legs to go up four steps at a time!

Lastly, we always go up the attic stairs, which are steeper and more primitive. For they bear the mark of ascension to a more tranquil solitude. When I return to dream in the attics of yester-year, I never go down again.

Dreams of stairs have often been encountered in psychoanalysis. But since it requires an all-inclusive symbolism to determine its interpretations, psychoanalysis has paid little attention to the complexity of mixed revery and memory. That is why, on this point, as well as on others, psychoanalysis is better suited to the study of dreams than of daydreams. The phenomenology of the daydream can untangle the complex of memory and imagination; it becomes necessarily sensitive to the differentiations of the symbol. And the poetic daydream, which creates symbols, confers upon our intimate moments an activity that is polysymbolic. Our recollections grow sharper, the oneiric house becomes highly sensitized. At times, a few steps have engraved in our memories a slight difference of level that existed in our childhood home.’ A certain room was not only a door, but a door plus three steps. When we recall the old house in its longitudinal detail, everything that ascends and descends comes to life again dynamically. We can no longer remain, to quote Joe Bousquet, men with only one story. “He was a man with only one story: he had his cellar in his attic.”

By way of antithesis, I shall make a few remarks on dwellings that are oneirically incomplete.

In Paris there are no houses, and the inhabitants of the big city live in superimposed boxes. “One’s Paris room, inside its four walls,” wrote Paul Claudel, “is a sort of geometrical site, a conventional hole, which we furnish with pictures, objects and wardrobes within a wardrobe.” The number of the street and the floor give the location of our “conventional hole,” but our abode has neither space around it nor verticality inside it. “The houses are fastened to the ground with asphalt, in order not to sink into the earth.” They have no roots and, what is quite unthinkable for a dreamer of houses, sky-scrapers have no cellars. From the street to the roof, the rooms pile up one on top of the other, while the tent of a horizonless sky encloses the entire city. But the height of city buildings is a purely exterior one. Elevators do away with the heroism of stair climbing so that there is no longer any virtue in living up near the sky. Home has become mere horizontality. The different rooms that compose living quarters jammed into one floor all lack one of the fundamental principles for distinguishing and classifying the values of intimacy.

But in addition to the intimate value of verticality, a house in a big city lacks cosmicity. For here, where houses are no longer set in natural surroundings, the relationship between house and space becomes an artificial one. Everything about it is mechanical and, on every side, intimate living flees. “The streets are like pipes into which men are sucked up.” (Max Picard, loc. cit., p. 119).

Moreover, our houses are no longer aware of the storms of the outside universe. Occasionally the wind blows a tile from a roof and kills a passer-by in the street. But this roof crime is only aimed at the belated passer-by. Or lightning may for an instant set fire to the window-panes. The house does not tremble, however, when thunder rolls. It trembles neither with nor through us. In our houses set close one up against the other, we are less afraid. A hurricane in Paris has not the same personal offensiveness towards the dreamer that it has towards the hermit’s house. We shall understand this better, in fact, when we have studied, further on, the house’s situation in the world, which gives us quite concretely, a variation of the metaphysically summarized situation of man in the world.

Just here the philosopher who believes in the salutary nature of vast daydreams is faced with a problem: how can one help confer greater cosmicity upon the city space that is exterior to one’s room? As an example, here is one dreamer’s solution to the problem of noise in Paris:

When insomnia, which is the philosopher’s ailment, is increased through irritation caused by city noises; or when, late at night, the hum of automobiles and trucks rumbling through the Place Maubert causes me to curse my citydweller’s fate, I can recover my calm by living the metaphors of the ocean. We all know that the big city is a clamorous sea, and it has been said countless times that, in the heart of night in Paris, one hears the ceaseless murmur of flood and tide. So I make a sincere image out of these hackneyed ones, an image that is as much my own as though I myself had invented it, in line with my gentle mania for always believing that I am the subject of what I am thinking. If the hum of cars becomes more painful, I do my best to discover in it the roll of thunder, of a thunder that speaks to me and scolds me. And I feel sorry for myself. So there you are, unhappy philosopher, caught up again by the storm, by the storms of life! I dream an abstract-concrete daydream. My bed is a small boat lost at sea; that sudden whistling is the wind in the sails. On every side the air is filled with the sound of furious kiaxoning. I talk to myself to give myself cheer: there now, your skiff is holding its own, you are safe in your stone boat. Sleep, in spite of the storm. Sleep in the storm. Sleep in your own courage, happy to be a man who is assailed by wind and wave.

And I fall asleep, lulled by the noise of Paris.

In fact, everything corroborates my view that the image of the city’s ocean roar is in the very “nature of things,” and that it is a true image. It is also a salutary thing to naturalize sound in order to make it less hostile. Just inpassing, I have noted the following delicate nuance of the beneficent image in the work of a young contemporarypoet, Yvonne Caroutch,’ for whom dawn in the city is the”murmur of an empty sea shell.” Being myself an early riser, this image helps me to wake up gently and naturally. However, any image is a good one, provided we know howto use it.

We could find many other images on the theme of thecity-ocean. Here is one that occurred to a painter. The art-critic and historian, Pierre Courthion,2 tells that whenGustave Courbet was confined in the Sainte Pelagie prison,he wanted to paint a view of Paris, as seen from the topfloor of the prison. In a letter to a friend, Courbet wrotethat he was planning to paint it “the way I do my marines:with an immensely deep sky, and all its movement, all itshouses and domes, imitating the tumultuous waves of theocean.”

Pursuant to my method, I have retained the coalescence of images that refuse an absolute anatomy. I had to mention incidentally the house’s “cosmicity.” But we shall return later to this characteristic. Now, after having examined the verticality of the oneiric house, we are going to study the centers of condensation of intimacy, in which daydream accumulates.


We must first look for centers of simplicity in houses with many rooms. For as Baudelaire said, in a palace, “there is no place for intimacy.”

But simplicity, which at times is too rationally vaunted, is not a source of high-powered oneirism. We must therefore experience the primitiveness of refuge and, beyond situations that have been experienced, discover situations that have been dreamed; beyond positive recollections that are the material for a positive psychology, return to the field of the primitive images that had perhaps been centers of fixation for recollections left in our memories.

A demonstration of imaginary primitive elements may be based upon the entity that is most firmly fixed in our memories: the childhood home.

For instance, in the house itself, in the family sittingroom, a dreamer of refuges dreams of a hut, of a nest, or of nooks and corners in which he would like to hide away, like an animal in its hole. In this way, he lives in a region that is beyond human images. If a phenomenologist could succeed in living the primitiveness of such images, he would locate elsewhere, perhaps, the problems that touch upon the poetry of the house. We find a very clear example of this concentration of the joy of inhabiting in a fragment of Henri Bachelin’s life of his father.’

Henri Bachelin’s childhood home could not have been simpler. Although no different from the other houses in the oversized Morvan village where he was born, it was nevertheless a roomy home with ample outbuildings in which the family lived in security and comfort. The lamplit room where, in the evening, the father read the lives of the saints-he was Church sexton as well as day-laborer–was the scene of the little boy’s daydreaming of primitiveness, daydreaming that accentuated solitude to the point of imagining that he lived in a hut in the depth of the forest. For a phenomenologist who is looking for the roots of the function of inhabiting, this passage in Henri Bacheun’s book represents a document of great purity. The essential lines are the following (p. 97): “At these moments, I felt very strongly-and I swear to this-that we were cut off from the little town, from the rest of France, and from the entire world. I delighted in imagining (although I kept my feelings to myself) that we were living in the heart of the woods, in the well-heated hut of charcoal burners; I even hoped to hear wolves sharpening their claws on the heavy granite slab that formed our doorstep. But our house replaced the hut for me, it sheltered me from hunger and cold; and if I shivered, it was merely from well-being.” Addressing his father-his novel is constantly written in the second person-Bachelin adds: “Comfortably seated in my chair, I basked in the sensation of your strength.”

Thus, the author attracts us to the center of the house as though to a center of magnetic force, into a major zone of protection. He goes to the very bottom of the “hut dream,” which is well-known to everyone who cherishes the legendary images of primitive houses. But in most hut dreams we hope to live elsewhere, far from the over-crowded house, far from city cares. We flee in thought in search of a real refuge. Bachelin is more fortunate than dreamers of distant escape, in that he finds the root of the hut dream in the house itself. He has only to give a few touches to the spectacle of the family sitting-room, only to listen to the stove roaring in the evening stillness, while an icy wind blows against the house, to know that at the house’s center, in the circle of light shed by the lamp, he is living in the round house, the primitive hut, of prehistoric man. How many dwelling places there would be, fitted one into the other, if we were to realize in detail, and in their hierarchical order, all the images by means of which we live our daydreams of intimacy. How many scattered values we should succeed in concentrating, if we lived the images of our daydreams in all sincerity.

In this passage from Bachelin’s book, the hut appears to be the tap-root of the function of inhabiting. It is the simplest of human plants, the one that needs no ramifications in order to exist. Indeed, it is so simple that it no longer belongs to our memories-which at times are too full of imagery-but to legend; it is a center of legend. When we are lost in darkness and see a distant glimmer of light, who does not dream of a thatched cottage or, to go more deeply still into legend, of a hermit’s hut?

A hermit’s hut. What a subject for an enravi. Indeed real images are engravings, for it is the imagination that engraves them on our memories. They deepen the recollections we have experienced, which they replace, thus becoming imagined recollections. The hermit’s hut is a theme which needs no variations, for at the simplest mention of it, “phenomenological reverberation” obliterates all mediocre resonances. The hermit’s hut is an engraving that would suffer from any exaggeration of picturesqueness. Its truth must derive from the intensity of its essence, which is the essence of the verb “to inhabit.” The hut immediately becomes centralized solitude, for in the land of legend, there exists no adjoining hut. And although geographers may bring back photographs of hut villages from their travels in distant lands, our legendary past transcends everything that has been seen, even everything that we have experienced personally. The image leads us on towards extreme solitude. The hermit is alone before God. His hut, therefore, is just the opposite of the monastery. And there radiates about this centralized solitude a universe of meditation and prayer, a universe outside the universe. The hut can receive none of the riches “of this world.” It possesses the felicity of intense poverty; indeed, it is one of the glories of poverty; as destitution increases it gives us access to absolute refuge.

This valorization of a center of concentrated solitude is so strong, so primitive, and so unquestioned, that the image of the distant light serves as a reference for less clearly localized images. When Thoreau heard the sound of a horn in the depths of the woods, this image with its hardly determined center, this sound image that filled the entire nocturnal landscape, suggested repose and confidence to him. That sound, he said, is as friendly as the hermit’s distant candle. And for those of us who remember, from what intimate valley do the horns of other days still reach us? Why do we immediately accept the common friendship of this sound world awakened by the horn, or the hermit’s world lighted by its distant gleam? How is it that images as rare as these should possess such power over the imagination?

Great images have both a history and a prehistory; they are always a blend of memory and legend, with the result that we never experience an image directly. Indeed, every great image has an unfathomable oneiric depth to which the personal past adds special color. Consequently it is not until late in life that we really revere an image, when we discover that its roots plunge well beyond the history that is fixed in our memories. In the realm of absolute imagination, we remain young late in life. But we must lose our earthly Paradise in order actually to live in it, to experience it in the reality of its images, in the absolute sublimation that transcends all passion. A poet meditating upon the life of a great poet, that is, Victor-Emile Michelet meditating upon the life of Villiers de 1’Isle-Adam, wrote: “Alas! we have to grow old to conquer youth, to free it from its fetters and live according to its original impulse.”

Poetry gives not so much a nostalgia for youth, which would be vulgar, as a nostalgia for the expressions of youth. It offers us images as we should have imagined them during the “original impulse” of youth. Primal images, simple engravings are but so many invitations to start imagining again. They give us back areas of being, houses in which the human being’s certainty of being is concentrated, and we have the impression that, by living in such images as these, in images that are as stabilizing as these are, we could start a new life, a life that would be our own, that would belong to us in our very depths. When we look at images of this kind, when we read the images in Bachelin’s book, we start musing on primitiveness. And because of this very primitiveness, restored, desired and experienced through simple images, an album of pictures of huts would constitute a textbook of simple exercises for the phenomenology of the imagination.

In line with the distant light in the hermit’s hut, symbolic of the man who keeps vigil, a rather large dossier of literary documentation on the poetry of houses could be studied from the single angle of the lamp that glows in the window. This image would have to be placed under one of the greatest of all theorems of the imagination of the worm of light: Tout ce qui brille voit (All that glows sees). Rimbaud expressed in three syllables the following cosmic theorem: “Nacre voit” (Mother-of-pearl sees).’ The lamp keeps vigil, therefore it is vigilant. And the narrower the ray of light, the more penetrating its vigilance.

The lamp in the window is the house’s eye and, in the kingdom of the imagination, it is never lighted out-of-doors, but is enclosed light, which can only filter to the outside. A poem entitled Emmuré (Walled-in), begins as follows:

A lighted lamp in the window Watches in the secret heart of night.

while a few lines above the same poet speaks:

Of a gaze imprisoned Between its four stone walls.

In Henri Bosco’s novel, Hyacin the which, together with another story, Le jardin d’Hyacinthe (Hyacinth’s Garden), constitutes one of the most astounding psychological novels of our time, a lamp is waiting in the window, and through it, the house, too, is waiting. The lamp is the symbol of prolonged waiting.

By means of the light in that far-off house, the house sees, keeps vigil, vigilantly waits.

When I let myself drift into the intoxication of inverting daydreams and reality, that faraway house with its light becomes for me, before me, a house that is looking outits turn nowl-through the keyhole. Yes, there is someone in that house who is keeping watch, a man is working there while I dream away. He leads a dogged existence, whereas 1 am pursuing futile dreams. Through its light alone, the house becomes human. It sees like a man. It is an eye open to night.

But countless other images come to embellish the poetry of the house in the night. Sometimes it glows like a firefly in the grass, a creature with a solitary light:

I shall see your houses like fire-flies in the hollow of the hills.

Another poet calls houses that shine on earth “stars of grass”; and Christiane Barucoa speaks elsewhere of the lamp in the human house as an

Imprisoned star caught in the instant’s freezing.

In such images we have the impression that the stars in heaven come to live on earth, that the houses of men form earthly constellations. With ten villages and their lights, G. E. Clancier nails a Leviathan constellation to the earth:

A night, ten villages, a mountain,
A black, gold-studded Leviathan.

Erich Neumann has analyzed the dream of a patient who, while looking at the stars from the top of a tower, saw them rise and shine under the earth; they emerged from the bowels of the earth. In this obsession, the earth was not, however, a mere likeness of the starry sky, but the great life-giving mother of the world, the creator of night and the stars.’ In his patient’s dream, Neumann shows the force of the Mother-Earth (Mutter-Erde) archetype. Poetry comes naturally from a daydream, which is less insistent than a night-dream; it is only a matter of an “instant’s freezing.” But the poetic document is none the less indicative. A terrestrial sign is set upon a celestial being. The archeology of images is thus illumined by the poet’s swift, instantaneous image.

I have dwelt somewhat at length on this apparently commonplace image, in order to show that images are incapable of repose. Poetic revery, unlike somnolent revery, never falls asleep. Starting with the simplest of images, it must always set the waves of the imagination radiating. But however cosmic the isolated house lighted by the star of its lamp may become, it will always symbolize solitude. I should like to quote one last text which stresses this solitude.

In the Fragments from an intimate diary that precede a French collection of Rilke’s letters,2 we find the following scene: one very dark night, Rilke and two friends perceive “the lighted casement of a distant hut, the hut that stands quite alone on the horizon before one comes to fields and marshlands.” This image of solitude symbolized by a single light moves the poet’s heart in so personal a way that it isolates him from his companions. Speaking of this group of three friends, Rilke adds: “Despite the fact that we were very close to one another, we remained three isolated individuals, seeing night for the first time.” This expression can never be meditated upon enough, for here the most commonplace image, one that the poet had certainly seen hundreds of time, is suddenly marked with the sign of “the first time,” and it transmits this sign to the familiar night. One might even say that light emanating from a lone watcher, who is also a determined watcher, attains to the power of hypnosis. We are hypnotized by solitude, hypnotized by the gaze of the solitary house; and the tie that binds us to it is so strong that we begin to dream of nothing but a solitary house in the night.

0 light in the sleeping house!

With the example of the hut and the light that keeps vigil on the far horizon, we have shown the concentration of intimacy in the refuge, in its most simplified form. At the beginning of this chapter, on the contrary, I tried to differentiate the house according to its verticality. Now, still with the aid of pertinent literary documents, I shall attempt to give a better account of the house’s powers of protection against the forces that besiege it. Then, after having examined this dynamic dialectics of the house and the universe, we shall study a number of poems in which the house is a world in itself.



The River of Unapprehended Sentiments…



Drifting across the wind, down the river
towards a frail shack at the river’s bank,
amidst the gardens where the tulips rule;
with sun’s radiating carmine as my boatswain
I sail into the misty waters miles down to the meandering turn.

Desolate shack,
the air redolent with tulips’s scent
and empty glasses reeking with the fumes of beer,

Roseate faces standing at the doors,
adjuring me to dock the boat and join the house.

Moving away from the vital life:
to the elan-vital of the noble souls,
some known faces and some unknown ones:
gathered at the consummation of the herd’s incorporeal blend.

“Am I here to listen to eternity’s call?
or here to see you all?”

Seeking answers in those bewitching eyes
which enticed me from across the meandering river:
on a sojourn to these lands of the Immortal Life.

True that you’re my clan, and this is my land of love and peace
But, I am yet to pay my valediction to those waiting my return up the stream
I honor your love, but so to speak:
I can’t betray those promises I am to keep.

Let me afloat, Up again to the Lands I call home,
and years after,
command the Tramontana to rise above the Mountains in the north,
as it shall blow towards me to deliver your call,
I shall sail again, to this shack of tranquility and peace
down the river, drifting across the wind.

Courtesy of MALVIKA

see link below :


Columba aspexit




Columba aspexit per cancellos fenestrae
ubi ante faciem eius
sudando sudavit balsamum
de lucido Maximino.

Calor solis exarsitet in tenebras resplenduit
unde gemma surrexit
in edificatione templi
purissimi cor dis benivoli.

Iste turris excelsa,
de ligno Libani et cipresso facta,
iacincto et sardio ornata est,
urbs precellens artes
aliorum artificum.

Ipse velox cervus cucurrit
ad fontem purissime aque
fluentis de fortissimo lapide
qui dulcia aromata irrigavit.

O pigmentari
qui estis in suavissima viriditate
hortorum regis,
ascendentes in altum
quando sanctum sacrificium
in arietibus perfecistis.

Inter vos fulget hic artifex,
paries templi,
qui desideravit alas aquile
osculando nutricem Sapientiam
in gloriosa fecunditate Ecclesie.

O Maximine,
mons et vallis es,
et in utroque alta edificatio appares,
ubi capricornus cum elephante exivit,
et Sapientia in deliciis fuit.

Tu es fortis
et suavis in cerimoniis
et in choruscatiane altaris,
ascendens ut fumus aromatum
ad columpnam laudis.

Ubi intercedis pro populo
qui tendit ad speculum lucis,
cui laus est in altis






The dove peered in
through the lattices of the windows
where, before its face,
a balm exuded
from incandescent Maximilian.

The heat of the sun burned
dazzling into the gloom:
whence a jewel sprang forth
in the building of the temple
of the purest loving heart.

He, the high tower,
constructed of Lebanon wood and cypress,
has been adorned with jacinth and diamonds,
a city excelling the crafts
of other builders.

This swift hart sped
to the fountain of clearest water
flowing from the most powerful stone
which courses with delightful spices.

O Perfume-Makers,
you who are in the sweetest greenness
of the gardens of the King,
ascending on high
when you have completed the holy sacrifice
with the rams.

This builder shines among you,
the wall of the temple,
who longed for the wings of an eagle,
kissing his nurse Wisdom
in the glorious fecundity of the Church.

O Maximilian,
you are the mount and the valley
and in both you seem a high building,
where the goat went with the elephant
and Wisdom was in rapture.

You are strong
and beautiful in rites
and in the shining of the altar,
mounting like the smoke of perfumes
to the column of praise.

Where you intercede for the people
who stretch towards the mirror of light
to whom there is praise on high.






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A very Short Free Dictionary of Symbols and Terms in Iranian Music


A very Short Free Dictionary of Symbols and Terms in Iranian Music

by Mohammad Reza Azadehfar

محمدرضا آزاده فر

(click image above to read on…)


The Art of Persian Classical Music



The Art of Persian Classical Music

Chanté Karimkhani

The history of the culturally rich, diverse, and fascinating Persian Empire provides a glimpse of mystical beauty that has been sadly lost in the modern world …

From the beginning of the Achaemenid Empire in the sixth century B.C. to present day Iran under the strict rule of Shiite Islamic clerics, this beautiful and ancient culture has experienced periods of intense wealth and great loss. Despite the many invasions by Greeks, Turks, Mongols, and Arabics, the Persian people were able to retain their rich cultural heritage. Unavoidably, lasting impressions from these invading cultures have left their mark in Persian society. The modern Persian language is itself a product of the Islamic Arabic conquest of Persia in the seventh cen­tury. It has adopted many Arabic alphabetical letters, words and names. At its greatest pinnacle in the Sassanian empire (third to seventh centuries B.C.), Persia extended from Egypt eastward to the Indus River in present-day Pakistan and from Syria into Central Asia. Persia was surrounded by the Romans to the west, the Huns in the northeast, and violent tribes in the north. What remains of the mighty Persian Empire can be found only in the present-day country of Iran. The classical music of the Persian culture reflects the deep sadness of brutal invasions, the complex beauty of nature, and fusion with a higher power of existence. Persian classical music has evolved as a fluid expression of the social and cultural values proudly embodied by the Persian people, as demonstrated by the musical theory system, the role of music in Persian culture, and the creation process of musical performance.

The history of Persian classical music is believed to date back to the very beginnings of the Persian Empire in sixth century B.C.; however, very little documentation of this early art is available. Since Persian classical music is improvised and traditionally learned by ear or rote, there was no need for musical notation. Music was essentially passed down through the centuries by way of the relationship between student and ‘master’ or teacher. The first evidence of Persian music can be found in the writings of ancient Greek historians, which provide evidence for the musical interchange between Greek and Persian music during the Graeco-Persian wars. From the following Sassanian period (226-642 AD), the first evidence of musicians, musical activities, and instrumental descriptions are available. At this time, Persian music and musicians such as the famous virtuoso Barbod enjoyed an exalted status in the magnificent court palaces. Music at this time was mostly performed for royalty and was primarily performed as an accompaniment to Persian poetry.

With the foundational establishment of Islam as the national religion of Persia in the seventh century, a sig­nificant fusion of Arabic and Persian music took place, including instruments, musi­cal terminology, and theoretical principles. As opposed to Persia’s former national religion of Zoroastrianism, Islam regards the arts and most forms of musical performance as sinful. Music lost its social approval and became an illegal public act except in the cases of weddings and private gatherings. This sudden change in the outlook of the musical arts caused drastic changes in the development of Persian classical music.

“By reducing the public practice of
music, Islam transformed Persian music into a metaphysical and mystical art that raised it to the highest spiritual level.”

The musical scene was forced to go underground in seclusion. Although the social status of musicians decreased, musicians were still employed by wealthy, upper-class families to perform music in the secrecy of their homes for private gatherings or parties. By reducing the public practice of music, Islam transformed Persian music into a metaphysical and mysti­cal art that raised it to the highest spiritual level. During the ensuing cruel Turk-Mongol conquest (13th to 15th centu­ries), the great amount of murder and destruction committed against the Persian people provided the motivation for the great Sufi and Dervish mystic orders which viewed music as the most direct path to truth. The beautiful poetic verses written by famous Sufi poets such as Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi express the serious and intricate emotional character of the Persian people. From the beginning of the Persian Empire, Persian classical music and Persian poetry formed an organic relationship with one another, providing support­ing and purposeful expression to the complex topics of loss, beauty, nature, and love.

Persian classical music is organized into twelve ton­al systems called dastgah, meaning organizational system in Persian. In the past, the dastgah concept has been compared to the Western mode and each dastgah has been character­ized with a specific scale; however, the musical concept in Persian classical music is much more complex than a seven-note scale with specific intervals between adjacent tones. Each dastgah embodies its own special repertory of melodies called gusheh-ha (singular gusheh) which are all typically modally independent from one another. In order to tie the various gusheh-ha of a dastgah together, the forud is used. The forud is a melodic cadence that concludes each gusheh and unifies the dastgah as a whole. There is also almost always an introductory section of a dastgah, in addition to the gusheh-ha, called the daramad which “characterizes the dastgah to the listener and musician, contains one principal motif that occurs frequently in performance and at various times at the endings of other gushes, and emphasizes the tonal environment of the tonic.” In essence, the daramad is the most representative portion of a dastgah. The forud concluding each gusheh of a dastgah shows the overall “dependence on the original mode intro­duced in the daramad section of the dastgah.” The daramad and the gusheh-ha of a particular dastgah collectively form the backbone of that dastgah tonal system. The radif of Persian music is essentially Persian music in its entirety: the pieces that compose the repertoire of Persian classical music.

During the twentieth century, numerous theories have been proposed concerning the division of Persian inter­vals, specifically on the classification of the famous middle-eastern microtone. The sudden appeal for this explanation in the twentieth century came as a result of Westernization and the spread of European music around the world, including in Iran. After being exposed to Western classical music, many Persian musicians felt a need for mathematical classifica­tion of the microtone in order to ‘raise the credibility’ of Persian classical music. The significant debate over Persian intervals and a Persian scale demonstrates the social values of the Persian people. During the 20th century, when a great deal of westernization and modernization took place in Iran, there was an apparent social and cultural affinity to make traditional Persian life synchronized with the exciting developments of the Western countries. One of the theories on Persian intervals, proposed by Ali Naqi Vaziri, makes use of measured quarter tones in defining a 24-quarter tone scale which is essentially a further division of the western equidis­tant chromatic 12-note scale. Another theory, proposed by Mehdi Barkesli, attempts to give a highly scientific explana­tion of the Persian scale using mathematical measurements of Pythagorean intervals. Although neither of these theories accurately describes the Persian musical tradition, the impact of Western concepts on the classification of Persian music is apparent. A third major, more recent, and more accurate theory has been developed by Hormoz Farhat. Mr. Farhat’s theory, titled “The Theory of Flexible Intervals,” rests on the belief that any notion of scale or specific interval measure­ment is completely irrelevant to Persian classical music. Mr. Farhat only goes as far as defining 5 types of intervals found in Persian classical music: the semi-tone or minor 2nd, the small and large neutral tones (intervals larger than semi-tone but smaller than whole-tone), the whole-tone or major 2nd, and the plus-tone (larger than whole-tone but smaller than augmented-tone). Beyond these classifications, this theory respects the uniqueness of each interval according to each performer and performance. Of all three theories presented, the theory of flexible intervals best captures the core inten­tion of Persian classical music: allowing the innate creation process of the musician to encourage the inspiration of every individual performance.

True Persian classical music is not the melody col­lection of the dastgah tonal systems. The individual gusheh-ha and characteristic melodic pieces that are learned by all students of Persian music are never literally performed. Instead, they serve as a basic framework for the true creation process of the musician: improvisation. Although the impro­visatory technique rests on the spontaneous expression of a skilled musician, there are specific decisions and guidelines that a musician must choose before a performance. The first decision is deciding which dastgah to play from. The radif of Persian music is set to verses of poetry written by poets such as Rumi, Sa’adi, and Hafez. In fact, it is the meter of the poetry that gives rhythmic shape to most unmeasured Persian musical works. Therefore, poetic significance plays a crucial role in determining which dastgah to perform. The musician then must decide how many gusheh-ha of the chosen dastgah to perform and in what order they will be organized. Again, poetry may play an important role in this decision. Typically, the order of the gusheh-ha is based upon a curve shape in range, beginning with the daramad in the lowest part of the dastgah’s range, gradually rising to a high point, and then falling back down in range toward the forud ending of the piece. In addition to these preliminary decisions, the musician must also predetermine methods for the expansion and embellishment of the gusheh/dastgah backbone. The fine degree of intricate embellishment and ornamentation in Persian classical music is a characteristic found in all Persian arts including architecture, metal work, rug-making, and calligraphy.

Differing greatly from the Western classical music tradition, the Persian classical musician is simultaneously composer, performer, and creator. The fixed elements of a gusheh that are present in all performances of a specific gusheh include “the location and configuration of the tetra­chord, the melodic function of each scale degree, the melodic shape, and characteristic cadence formulae.” The elements of a gusheh that vary according to time and musician con­sist of “elaborations and extensions on the basic melodic framework of the gusheh…repetition and varied repetition, ornamentation, and centonization, or the joining together of familiar motives to produce longer melodies.” As recently as the late twentieth century, selection of a dastgah and even specific gusheh-ha for performance were based upon the time and hour of the day. This practice was highly tied to religious beliefs and Persian cultural values of peaceful co­existence with the natural world. However, in recent years, the musician has been free to choose any desired dastgah for performance, usually targeted for a specific radio or televi­sion audience. Once these choices have been made ahead of time, the actual performance and ultimate creation of the music takes place. The most powerful and desired aspect of performance is when a musician is able to attain a state of hal, the “intense state of the soul…the interior fire which must animate the artist…the creativity gushes forth…the very essence of the music manifests itself.” In the typical ensemble of Persian classical music consisting of an instru­mentalist, a vocalist, and possibly a drummer, the singer is the designated leader of the ensemble and the instrumental­ists surrender some of their musical freedom to the singer.

As previously stated, westernization has had a tremendous impact on Iranian society, Iranian people, and ancient cultural values. The result of musical westernization in Iran is best seen in the capital city of Tehran, the cultural center of the country. The Tehran Symphony’s full concert season of Western classi­cal music, a classical bal­let company, and Western opera performances are several examples of this drastic societal change.

“Differing greatly from the Western
classical music tradition, the Persian classical musician is simultaneously composer, performer, and creator.”

The establishment of Western musi­cal conservatories directed by French musical directors in the 20th century expanded the knowledge of Persian musi­cians in Western music theory, practice, and performance. Although music conservatories in Iran teach both Persian and Western classical music, Persian classical music has become a minority in the cultural scene. After being exposed to the harmonic organization, rhythmic control, and precise modal classifications within Western music, Persian musi­cians in the beginning of the 20th century began to desire the westernization of musical thought. A sudden preoccupation with the musical theory of Persian classical music caused the widespread use of Western notation in traditional Persian music. In order to accomplish notation of the microtone, the accidentals koron, signifying the flattening of a pitch by a microtone, and sori, signifying the raising of a pitch by a microtone, were devised by the first Persian to seek a musi­cal education in Europe, Ali Naqi Vaziri. Mr. Vaziri was also one of the first musicians to notate Persian musical pieces by applying Western harmonization to the Persian radif.

The impact of notation on Persian classical music is best demonstrated in teaching. The modern method of learning a musical art is based upon the relationship between student and a master teacher. The student of Persian music studies to master his teacher’s radif until they are able to improvise by interpreting its melodic sequences. In ancient times however, each Persian musician developed their own version of the radif. Notation makes fast learning of the ra­dif possible. Many musicians from the ancient mystic orders in Persia believed that the mastering of the radif should take years and that skill perfection for the highest level interpreta­tion of the radif should be an ongoing experience throughout the person’s lifetime.

Performance of Persian classical music has also been greatly affected by western­ization and modernization. Before the 20th century, Persian classical music was rarely performed for public entertainment due to Islamic disapprobation. Relaxed social conditions, increas­ing state support for the arts, and westernization in the 20th century have manifested in a growth of all musical activities in Iran. Persian classical music is now performed by both traditional instruments and western instruments such as the violin and the piano. The use of these Western instruments has caused changes in musical style and instrumental tuning, while placing increasing value on virtuosity of the performer. Western performance aspects, such as the printing of concert programs and standardization of a 90-minute time length for a concert have become widely used in the performance of Persian classical music. Technology has allowed Per­sian classical music to reach a more widespread audience; however, it has also created new performance traditions and permanent changes in musical program structure. Radio has had the effects of shortening performances, imposing a certain degree of standardization on Persian classical music performances, and creating a ‘star system’ which enables certain performers to attain widespread popularity over other performers not heard on the radio. Persian identity is deeply embedded in the ancient tradition of Persian classical music.

As Persian cultural values and beliefs have evolved over time, Persian classical music has simultaneously been transformed. Often associated with the deep, complex, and profound poetry of the great Persian poets, Persian music embodies the penultimate expression of the human soul. Due to the Islamic prohibition of music and arts in Iran, Persian classical music was raised to a mystical art, highly prized for its unification with a superior power of existence. The modernization and westernization of Iran have not only changed the structural components of Persian music in many ways, but have also exposed the art to the world. There is currently more Western interest in Persian classical music than ever before. Perhaps as people listen to this mysteri­ously beautiful Persian art, they attain some type of hal-state where the “world becomes transfigured, unveiling its marvel­ous images, and across an ineffable transparency…offers itself to the direct comprehension of every being capable of sensing.”


Hormoz Farhat, The Dastgāh Concept in Persian Music (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 7–18, 20–21.

Ella Zonis, Classical Persian Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 2–3, 21, 99, 104- 105, 110–113, 127–129,193,

Loyd Clifton Miller, Music and Song in Persia: The Art of  vāz (Salt Lake City, UT: The University of Utah Press, 1999), 6. Ibid, 13–17. 21-22.

Bruno Nettl, Radif of Persian Music (Champaign, IL: Elephant & Cat, 1992), 19. Farhat, op. cit., 25. Ibid, 21.

Bruno Nettl, “Persian Classical Music in Tehran: The Processes of Change,” in Eight Urban Musical Cultures (Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 157–167.





A Poet’s Creed




Harvard Lectures


Ragas for The Late Evening

Rag M3





Rag M4



شهاب الدين يحيى السهروردي


click image to read on….


شهاب الدين يحيى السهروردي


“There was among the ancient Persians a community of people guided by God who thus walked the true way, worthy Sage-Philosophers, with no resembelence to the Magi (Dualists). It is their precious philosophy of Light, the same as that to which the mystical experience of Plato and his predecessors bear witness, that we have revived in our book called Oriental Theosophy (Hikmat al-‘Ishraq), and I have had no precursor in the way of such project.”

هذه نسخة متحقق منها من هذه الصفحةعرض/إخفاء التفاصيل
هذه النسخة المستقرة، فحصت في 19 ديسمبر 2013. ثمة 3 تعديلات معلقة بانتظار المراجعة.

الدقة    منظورة
اذهب إلى: تصفح، ‏ ابحث

أبو الفتوح يحيى بن حبش بن أميرك السهروردي ويلقب بـ “شهاب الدين”، واشتهر بالشيخ المقتول تمييزاً له عن صوفيين آخرين هما: شهاب الدين أبو حفص عمر السهروردي (632هـ)، مؤلف كتاب «عوارف المعارف» في التصوف، وصاحب الطريقة السهروردية، أما الآخر فهو أبو النجيب السهروردي (ت:563هـ).

وأبو الفتوح فيلسوف إشراقي، شافعي المذهب، ولد في سهرورد الواقعة شمال غربي إيران، وقرأ كتب الدين والحكمة ونشأ في مراغة وسافر إلى حلب وبغداد , حيث كان مقتله بأمر صلاح الدين بعد أن نسب البعض إليه الفساد المعتقد ولتوهم صلاح الدين أن السهروردي يفتن ابنه بالكفر والخروج عن الدين وكان مقتله ب قلعة حلب سنة 586 هـ،[1][2] مع أنه كان من كبار المتصوفة في زمانه ومن أفقه علماء عصره بأمور الدين والفلسفة والمنطق والحكمة ويسمي مذهبه الذي عرف به “حكمة الإشراق” وله كتاب بهذا الاسم. ومن كتبه أيضا رسائل في اعتقادات الحكماء وهياكل النور.

يعد مؤسسا للفكر الفلسفي الإشراقي، الذي يدعو إلى الوصول للمعرفة عن طريق الذوق والكشف الروحاني، بخلاف التوجه الفلسفي العام والمستدل بالتقصي والتحليل البرهاني، جمع بين عدة توجهات فلسفية من اليونان ومصر وغيرها كنماذج فلسفية لتوضيح الفلسفة الإشراقية، أكبر من دعى إلى التأمل الروحاني من بين الفلاسفة المسلمين كما عرف عنه بعدم الاقتناع بالمصادر بل بأسلوب التفكير الذاتي والنفسي, ويحكي ابن أبي أصيبعة في كتابه )عيون الأنباء في طبقات الأطباء ٫ص ٦٤١ ( فيقول ما مختصره عن السهروردي:” كان أوحد في العلوم الحكمية، جامعاً للفنون الفلسفية، بارعاً في الأصول الفلكية، مفرط الذكاء، جيد الفطرة، فصيح العبارة، لم يناظر أحداً إلا بزّه، ولم يباحث محصلاً إلا أربى عليه، وكان علمه أكثر من عقله. فلما أتى إلى حلب وناظر بها الفقهاء كثر تشنيعهم عليه. وعملوا محاضر بكفره وسيروها إلى دمشق إلى الملك الناصر صلاح الدين. فبعث صلاح الدين إلى ولده الملك الظاهر بحلب كتابا في حقه بخط القاضي الفاضل يقول فيه إن هذا الشاب السهروردي لا بد من قتله، ولا سبيل أن يطلق ولا يبقى بوجه من الوجوه، ولما بلغ شهاب الدين السهروردي ذلك، وأيقن أنه يقتل، وليس جهة إلى الإفراج عنه اختار أنه يترك في مكان مفرد ويمنع من الطعام والشراب إلى أن يلقى الله ففعل به ذلك. وكان ذلك في أواخر سنة ست وثمانين وخمسمائة بقلعة حلب 586 هـ 1190م “.

لكن اختلف في موته الكتاب في تاريخ الفلاسفة فمنهم من ذكر أنه قتل عن طريق الجوع ومنعه من الطعام ومنهم من قال بالسيف كما قيل أنه أحرق لكن اجتمعوا على أنه حكم علية بالإعدام بتهمة الإلحاد والزندقة. ، وبعد ذلك بعدة سنوات كان ابن رشد في قرطبة يعاني من نفس المصير.

“Whoever knows Hikmat (Wisdom), and perserves in thanking and sanctifying the Light of the Lights, will be estowed with royal Kharreh and with luminous Farreh, and—as we have said elsewhere—divine light will further bestow upon him the cloak of royal power and value. Such a person shall then became the natural Ruler of the Universe. He shall be given aid from the High Heavens, and whatever he commands shall be obeyed; and his dreams and inspirations will reach their uppermost, perfect pinnacle.”

The Parliament of Fowls

And upon pilers grete of Iasper longe_Parliament_of_Fowles

The Parliament of Fowls


Geoffrey Chaucer


The life so short, the craft so long to learn,
The assay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
The fearful joy that slips away in turn,
All this mean I by Love, that my feeling
Astonishes with its wondrous working
So fiercely that when I on love do think
I know not well whether I float or sink.

For although I know not Love indeed
Nor know how he pays his folk their hire,
Yet full oft it happens in books I read
Of his miracles and his cruel ire.
There I read he will be lord and sire;
I dare only say, his strokes being sore,
‘God save such a lord!’ I’ll say no more.

By habit, both for pleasure and for lore,
In books I often read, as I have told.
But why do I speak thus? A time before,
Not long ago, I happened to behold
A certain book written in letters old;
And thereupon, a certain thing to learn,
The long day did its pages swiftly turn.

For out of old fields, as men say,
Comes all this new corn from year to year;
And out of old books, in good faith,
Comes all this new science that men hear.
But now to the purpose of this matter –
To read on did grant me such delight,
That the day seemed brief till it was night.

This book of which I make mention, lo,
Entitled was, as I shall quickly tell,
‘Cicero, on the dream of Scipio’;
Seven Chapters it had on heaven and hell
And earth and the souls that therein dwell:
As briefly as I can treat of its art,
I’ll tell you, of its meaning, the main part.

First it tells how when Scipio came
To Africa, he met Massinissa,
Who in his arms embraced the same.
Then it tells of their speeches, all the bliss there
That lay between them till the shadows gather,
And how at night his grandfather, so dear,
Scipio the Elder, did appear.

Then it tells how, from a starry place,
His grandfather had him Carthage shown,
And told him in advance of all his grace
And taught him how a man, learned or rude,
Who loves the common good and virtue too
Shall unto a blissful place yet wend,
There where joy is that lasts without an end.

Then he asked if folk that have died here
Have life and dwelling in another place;
And his grandfather said, ‘Have no fear,’
And that our present world’s brief space
Is but a kind of death, whose path we trace,
And virtuous folk after they die shall go
To heaven; and the galaxy did him show.

Then showed him how small our Earth appears
Compared to the heavens’ quantity;
And then he showed him the nine spheres,
And after that the melody heard he
That comes from those spheres thrice three,
The source of music and of melody
In this world here, and cause of harmony.

Then he told him, since Earth is so slight,
And full of torment and so little grace,
That he should never in this world delight.
And then he said, that in a certain space
Of time, return the stars would to their place
Where they had been at first, and out of mind
Pass all things in this world done by mankind.

Then Scipio prayed he would tell him all
The way to come into that heavenly bliss;
And he said: ‘Know yourself first immortal,
Be sure to work busily, wisely in this
World for the common good, you’ll not miss
The path that leads swift to that place dear,
That full of bliss is, and of souls clear.

But breakers of the law, he did explain,
And lecherous folk, after they are dead,
Shall whirl about the Earth ever in pain
Till many an age be past, and then indeed
Forgiven for their every wicked deed,
Then shall they come unto that blissful place,
To come to which may God send you his grace!’

The day began to fail, and the dark night
That relieves all creatures of their business
Bereft me of my book for lack of light,
And to my bed I began me to address
Filled full of thought and anxious heaviness,
For I yet had the thing that I wished not,
And the thing that I wished I had not got.

Yet finally my spirit at the last
Full weary of my labour all the day
Took its rest, sent me to sleep so fast
That in my sleep I dreamed there as I lay
How that Elder in selfsame array
Whom Scipio saw, who long ago had died,
Came and stood there right at my bedside.

The weary hunter sleeping in his bed
To the woods again his mind will go;
The judge he dreams how his pleas are sped;
The carter dreams of drawing carts below;
The rich, of gold; the knight fights with his foe;
The sick person dreams he drinks a tun;
The lover dreams he has his lady won.

I cannot say if it was reading fair
Of Scipio the Elder just before,
That made me dream that he stood there;
But thus said he: ‘Yourself so well you bore
In looking at that ancient book of lore,
Macrobius himself thought not so slight,
That I would something of your pain requite.’ –

Cytherea, you blissful lady sweet
Whose firebrand at your wish robs us of rest
And made me to dream this dream complete,
Be you my help in this, your aid works best;
As surely as I saw you north-northwest,
When I began my dream for to write,
So give me power to rhyme and indite.

Scipio the Elder grasped me anon,
And forth with him unto a gate brought
Encircled with a wall of green stone;
And over the gate, in large letters wrought,
There were verses written, as I thought,
On either side, between them difference,
Of which I shall reveal to you the sense.

‘Through me men go into that blissful place
Of heart’s healing, and deadly wounds’ cure;
Through me men go unto the well of Grace
Where green and lusty May shall ever endure;
This is the way to all fairest adventure;
Be glad, oh Reader, and your sorrow off-cast,
All open am I; pass in, and speed you fast!’

‘Through me men go,’ then spoke the other side,
‘Unto the mortal blow of the spear,
Which Disdain and Haughtiness do guide,
Where tree shall never fruit nor leaves bear.
This stream leads you to the grim trap where
The fish in its prison’s lifted out all dry;
Avoidance is the only remedy nigh!’

In gold and black these verses written were,
Which I in some confusion did behold,
For with the one ever increased my fear,
Yet with the other did my heart grow bold.
The one gave heat to me, the other cold;
Fearing error, no wit had I to choose
To enter or flee, to save myself or lose.

As between adamantine magnets two
Of even strength, a piece of iron set
That has no power to move to or fro –
For though one attracts the other will let
It move – so I, that knew not whether yet
To enter or leave, till that Scipio my guide
Grasped me and thrust me in at the gates wide,

And said, ‘It appears written in your face,
Your error, though you tell it not to me;
But fear you not to come into this place,
Since this writing is never meant for thee,
Nor any unless he Love’s servant be;
For you for love have lost your taste, I guess,
As a sick man has for sweet or bitterness.

But nonetheless, although you are but dull,
What you cannot do, you yet may see;
For many a man that can’t resist a pull
Still likes at the wrestling for to be
And deems whether he does best, or he,
And if you have the cunning to indite,
I’ll show you matter of which you may write.

With that my hand in his he grasped anon,
From which I took comfort, and entered fast;
And, Lord, I was so glad that I had done!
For everywhere that I my eyes did cast
Were trees clad with leaves that always last,
Each of its kind, of colour fresh and green
As emerald, that a joy ‘twas to be seen.

The builder’s oak, and then the sturdy ash;
The elm, for pillars and for coffins meant;
The piper’s box-tree; holly for whip’s lash;
Fir for masts; cypress, death to lament;
The ewe for bows; aspen for arrows sent;
Olive for peace, and too the drunken vine;
Victor’s palm; laurel for those who divine.

A garden saw I full of blossoming boughs
Beside a river, through a green mead led,
Where sweetness evermore bountiful is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow and red,
And with cold well-streams, nothing dead,
Which are full of fish, small and light,
With red fins and scales silver bright.

On every bough I heard the birds sing
Angelic voices in their harmony;
Some their fledglings forth did bring;
And little rabbits to their play went by.
And further all about I did espy
The fearful roe, the buck, the hart, the hind,
Squirrels, and small beasts of noble kind.

Instruments, their strings all in accord
I heard played with ravishing sweetness
That God, who maker is of all and lord,
Never heard better, or so I guess;
Therewith a breeze that could scarce be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft
In harmony with the fowls’ song aloft.

The air of that place so temperate was
There was no awkwardness of hot or cold;
There waxed every wholesome herb or grass,
Nor no man there is ever sick or old;
Yet was there joy more a thousand-fold
Than man might tell; nor was it ever night
But ever clear day to every man’s sight.

‘Neath a tree, by a well, saw I displayed
Cupid, our lord, his arrows’ forge and file;
And at his feet his bow all ready lay,
And Will, his daughter, tempered all this while
The arrow-heads in the well, and with hard file
She notched them afterwards so as to serve
Some for to slay; some to wound and swerve.

Then was I aware of Pleasure nigh,
And of Adornment, Lust and Courtesy,
And of Cunning, able and with the might
To force a person to perform a folly –
I will not lie, disfigured all was she –
And by himself under an oak I guess
I saw Delight, standing with Nobleness.

I saw Beauty, lacking all attire,
And Youth, full of games and jollity,
Foolhardiness, Flattery, and Desire,
Message-sending, Bribery, and three
Others – whose names shall not be told by me –
And upon pillars tall of jasper long
I saw a temple of brass, sound and strong.

About the temple dancing every way
Went women enough, of whom some were
Fair in themselves and some dressed full gay;
In gowns, hair dishevelled, danced they there –
That was their duty always, year on year –
And on the temple, of doves white and fair
Saw I sitting many a hundred pair.

Before the temple door full soberly
Dame Peace sat with a curtain in her hand:
And beside her wondrous discreetly,
Dame Patience sitting there I found
With pale face upon a hill of sand;
And next to her, within and without,
Promise and Artfulness, and their rout.

Within the temple, from sighs hot as fire
I heard a rushing sound that there did churn;
Which sighs were engendered by desire,
That made every altar fire to burn
With new flame; and there did I learn
That all the cause of sorrows that they see
Comes from the bitter goddess Jealousy.

The god Priapus saw I, as I went,
Within the shrine, pre-eminent did stand,
Placed as when the ass foiled his intent
By braying at night, his staff in his hand;
Full busily men tried as they had planned
To set upon his head, of sundry hew,
Garlands full of fresh flowers new.

And in a quiet corner did disport
Venus and her doorkeeper Richness,
She was full noble, haughty in her sport;
Dark was the place, but afterwards lightness
I saw, a light that could scarce be less,
And on a bed of gold she lay to rest
Till the hot sun sank into the west.

Her golden hair with a golden thread
Was lightly tied, loose-haired as she lay,
And naked from her breast to her head
Men could view her; and truly I must say
The rest was well covered in its way
Just with a subtle veil from Valence;
No thicker cloth served for her defence.

The place gave out a thousand savours sweet,
And Bacchus, god of wine, sat there beside,
And Ceres next who does our hunger sate;
And as I said, the Cyprian there did lie,
To whom, on their knees, two young folk cried,
For her help; but there I passed her by,
And further into the temple I did spy

That, all in spite of Diana the chaste,
Full many a broken bow hung on the wall
Of maidens such as their time did waste
In her service; and pictured over all
Full many a story, of which I shall recall
A few, as of Callisto and Atalanta
And many a maiden whose names I lack here;

Semiramis, Candace and Hercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe and Pyramus,
Tristram, Iseult, Paris and Achilles,
Helen, Cleopatra and Troilus,
Scylla, and then the mother of Romulus:
All these were painted on the other side,
And all their love, and in what way they died.

When I had come again unto the place
Of which I spoke, that was so sweet and green,
Forth I walked to bring myself solace.
Then was I aware, there sat a queen:
As in brightness the summer sun’s sheen
Outshines the star, right so beyond measure
Was she fairer too than any creature.

And in a clearing on a hill of flowers
Was set this noble goddess, Nature;
Of branches were her halls and her bowers
Wrought according to her art and measure;
Nor was there any fowl she does engender
That was not seen there in her presence,
To hear her judgement, and give audience.
For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make,
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake
Was so full, that there was scarcely space
For me to stand, so full was all the place.

And as Alain, in his Complaint of Nature,
Describes her array and paints her face,
In such array might men there find her.
So this noble Empress, full of grace,
Bade every fowl to take its proper place
As they were wont to do from year to year,
On Saint Valentine’s day, standing there.

That is to say, the birds of prey on high
Were perched, then small fowls without fail,
That eat, as Nature does them so incline,
Worms, or things of which I’ll tell no tale.
And waterfowl sat lowest in the dale;
But fowl that live on seeds sat on the green
So many there it was a wondrous scene.

There might men the royal eagle find
Who with his keen glance pierces the sun,
And other eagles of a lesser kind
On which scholars love to run.
There was the tyrant with his feathers dun
And grey – I mean the goshawk, who’ll distress
Others with his outrageous greediness.

The noble falcon, who with his feet will strain
At the king’s glove; sparrow-hawk sharp-beaked,
The quail’s foe; the merlin that will pain
Himself full oft the lark for to seek;
There was the dove with her eyes meek;
The jealous swan, that at his death does sing;
The owl too, that portent of death does bring;

The crane, the giant with his trumpet-sound;
The thief, the chough; the chattering magpie;
The mocking jay; the heron there is found;
The lapwing false, to foil the searching eye;
The starling that betrays secrets on high;
The tame robin; and the cowardly kite;
The rooster, clock to hamlets at first light;

The sparrow, Venus’ son; the nightingale,
That calls forth all the fresh leaves new;
The swallow, murderer of the bees hale
Who make honey from flowers fresh of hue;
The wedded turtledove with her heart true;
The peacock with angelic feathers bright;
The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night;

The wakeful goose; the cuckoo all unkind;
The parrot cram full of lechery;
The drake, destroyer of his own kind;
The stork, avenger of adultery;
The cormorant hot for gluttony;
The raven wise; the crow, the voice of care;
The thrush old; the wintry fieldfare.

What can I say? Fowl of every kind
That in this world have feathers and stature,
Men might in that place assembled find
Before the noble goddess Nature,
And each of them took care, every creature,
With a good will, its own choice to make,
And, in accord, its bride or mate to take.

But to the point: Nature had on her hand
A female eagle, of shape the very noblest
That ever she among her works had found,
The most gracious and the very kindest;
In her was every virtue there expressed
So perfectly Nature herself felt bliss
In gazing at her and her beak would kiss.

Nature, deputy of the almighty Lord,
Who hot, cold, heavy, light, moist and dry
Has knit in balanced measure in accord,
In gentle voice began to speak and sigh,
‘Fowl, heed my judgement now, pray I,
And for your ease, in furthering of your need,
As fast as I can speak, I will you speed.

You know that on Saint Valentine’s day,
By my statute and through my governance,
You come to choose – and then fly your way –
Your mates, as I your desires enhance.
But nonetheless my rightful ordinance
I may not alter, for all the world to win,
That he that is most worthy must begin.

The male eagle, as you all must feel,
The royal fowl, above you in degree,
The wise and worthy, secret, true as steel,
Whom I have formed, as you can see,
In every part as it best pleases me,
It needs not that his form I must portray,
He shall choose first, and speak in his own way.

And after him in order shall you choose
According to your kind, as you devise,
And, as your luck is, shall you win or lose;
But that one of you on whom love most lies,
God send him she that sorest for him sighs.’
And therewithal the eagle she did call,
And said: ‘My son, the choice on you does fall.

But nonetheless, bound by this condition
Must be the choice of everyone that’s here,
That she shall yet agree to his decision,
Whoever it is that shall her mate appear;
This is our custom ever, from year to year;
And he who at this time would find grace,
At blessed time has come unto this place.

With head inclined, humble, without fear,
This royal eagle spoke and tarried not:
‘My sovereign lady, with no equal here,
I choose, and choose with will and heart and thought,
The female on your hand so finely wrought,
Whose I am all, and ever will serve her I,
Do what she please: to have me live or die.

Beseeching her of mercy and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereign,
To let me die right now, here in this place.
For certain, I’ll not live long in such pain,
Since in my heart is bleeding every vein;
Having regard only for my truth,
My dear heart, for my sorrow show some ruth.

And if that I be found to her untrue,
I disobey, or am blindly negligent,
Boastful, or in time chase after new,
I pray to you, on me be this judgement,
That by these fowls I be all torn then,
The very day that she should ever find
I am false to her or wilfully unkind.

And since none loves her as well as me,
Though she never promised me her love,
Then she should be mine, in her mercy,
For I’ve no other claim on her to move.
For never, for any woe, shall I prove
Faithless to her, however far she wend;
Say what you wish, my tale is at an end.’

Just as the fresh, the red rose new
In the summer sunlight coloured is,
So from modesty all waxed the hue
Of the female when she heard all this;
She neither answered, nor said aught amiss,
So sore abashed was she, till Nature
Said: ‘Daughter, fear you not, I you assure.’

Another male eagle spoke anon,
Of lesser rank, and said: ‘This shall not be.
I love her more than you do, by Saint John,
Or at the least I love her as well as ye,
Serving her longer in my degree,
And if she should have love for long-loving,
To me alone they should the garland bring.

I dare state too, that if she finds me yet,
False, indiscreet, unkind, rebellious,
Or jealous, you may hang me by the neck!
And if I do not fulfil in service
As well as my wits can, this promise,
In all respects her honour for to save,
Take she my life, and all my goods I pray.’

A third male eagle answered so:
‘Now, sirs, you know we’ve little leisure here;
For every fowl cries out to fly, and go
Forth with her mate, or with his lady dear;
And Nature herself would rather not hear,
By tarrying here, half that I would sigh;
Yet unless I speak, I must for sorrow die.

Of long service I may offer nothing,
Yet it’s as possible for me to die today
For woe, as he that has been languishing
These twenty winters, and happen it may
That a man may serve better and more repay
In half a year, although it were no more,
Than some man does who has served a score.

I say this not for myself, since I can
Do no service that may my lady please;
But, I dare state, I am her truest man
And, in my opinion, best seek her ease;
Briefly to speak, till death does me seize
I will be hers, whether I wake or wink,
And true in all that heart may bethink.’

In all my life since the day I was born,
So noble a plea in love or anything
Never heard any man but me before,
As would be clear if any had the cunning
And leisure to echo their way of speaking;
And from the morning did their speech last
Till downward went the sun wondrous fast.

The cries of fowls, now, to be delivered
Rang out so loud: ‘Have done, and let us wend!’
That I thought all the woods to pieces shivered.
‘Come on!’ they cried, ‘Alas, you us offend!
When will your cursed pleading have an end?
How should a judge for either party move
A yea or nay, without a shred of proof?’

The goose, the duck, and the cuckoo also
‘Kek, kek!’ ‘Cuckoo!’ ‘Quack, quack!’ cried so high
That through both ears the noise did flow.
The goose said: ‘All this is not worth a fly!
But find a remedy thereof can I,
And I will give my verdict fair and swiftly
For water fowl, whoever’s pleased or angry.’

‘And I for worm-eaters,’ said fool cuckoo,
For I will on my own authority,
For the public good, take up the charge now,
Since to free us quickly is great charity.’
‘You must abide a while yet, indeed!’
Said the turtle-dove,’ If it’s your will
That one may speak, who’d better shut his bill.’

I’m a seed-eater, one of the un-worthiest,
As I well know, and little own to learning;
But better it is a creature’s tongue rest
Than that he meddle in those doings
Of which he can neither speak nor sing.
And he who does so, his cause destroys,
For a service not requested oft annoys.’

Nature, who had always kept an ear
On the foolish murmuring behind,
With eloquent voice said: ‘Hold your tongues there!
And I shall soon, I hope, a method find
To release you, and from this noise unbind;
I decree that every group on one shall call
To announce the verdict for you all.’

Agreeable to this same conclusion
Were all the fowls: and the birds of prey
Chose the first by open election,
The male falcon to speak out and say
All their judgements, and adjudicate;
And, to Nature, himself he did present,
And she accepted him with glad intent.

The eagle spoke then in this manner:
‘It were full difficult to prove by reason
Who loves best this noble female here;
Each so puts forward his justification
That none by argument may be beaten.
I cannot see that arguments avail;
Then by battle it seems one must prevail.’

‘We’re ready!’ the male eagles quoth anon.
‘Nay, sirs! quoth he, ‘If I may dare to say,
You do me wrong, my tale is not yet done!
For sirs, take no offence of me I pray,
It may not, though you wish, happen this way;
Ours is the voice whose decision is at hand,
And the judge’s judgement you must stand;

And therefore, peace! I say, so works my wit,
That to me it seems that the worthiest
In knighthood, who’s longest practiced it,
Highest in rank, and of blood the noblest,
Were most fitting for her, if she so wished;
And of these three she herself knows, also
Which that one is, since easy ‘tis to know.’

The waterfowl had all their heads laid
Together and, after short argument,
When each of them had his large mouthful said,
Agreed truly, by mutual assent,
That the goose, who was so eloquent,
‘Who so yearns to pronounce what we agreed,
Shall tell our tale,’ and prayed her God speed.

And, for these water fowl, then began
The goose to speak, and in her cackling
She said: ‘Peace! Now take heed every man
And hear the judgement I shall forth bring;
My wit is sharp, I hate all tarrying;
I advise him, though he were my brother,
Unless she loves him, let him love another!’

‘Lo, here’s a reason fitting for a goose!’
Quoth the sparrow-hawk, ‘Never prosper she!
Lo such it is to have a tongue that’s loose!
Now, by God, fool, it were better for thee
To have held your peace, than show stupidity!
It lies not in his wit, nor in his will,
But true it is, “a fool’s tongue’s never still.”’

Laughter arose from the noble fowls all,
And anon the seed-eaters chosen had
The turtle true, and to them her did call,
And prayed her to tell the plain truth
Of the matter, and say what she would do;
And she answered that plainly her intent
She would speak and truly what she meant.

‘Nay, God forbid that a lover should change,’
The dove said, and blushed for shame all red,
‘Though his lady evermore seem estranged,
Yet let him serve her ever till he be dead.
For truly, I praise not what the goose has said,
For though she died, no other mate I’d take,
I would be hers till death my end should make.’

‘A fine jest,’ quoth the duck, ‘by my hat!
That men should love forever causeless,
Who can find reason or wit in that?
Dances he merrily who is mirthless?
Who cares for him who couldn’t care less?’
‘Quack ye,’ quoth yet the duck, ‘full well and fair!
There are more stars above than just one pair!’

‘Shame on you, churl!’ quoth the noble eagle,
‘Out of the dunghill come the words you cite.
You cannot see whatever is done well.
You fare in love as owls do in the light;
The day blinds them though they see by night.
Your kind is of so low a wretchedness
That what love is, you cannot see or guess.’

Then the cuckoo did the moment seize
For the worm-eating fowls, and did cry:
‘So long as I may have my mate in peace,
I care not how long you all may strive.
Let both of them stay single all their lives!
This I advise, since there’s no agreeing;
This short lesson does not bear repeating.’

‘Yea, so the glutton gets to fill his paunch,
Then all is well!’ said the merlin for one;
‘You murderer of the sparrow on the branch,
Who brought you forth, you wretched glutton!
Live you single then, worms’ destruction!
Useless even the defects of your natures;
Go you ignorant while the world endures!’

‘Now peace,’ quoth Nature, ‘I command here!
Since I have heard all your opinions,
And in effect our end is yet no nearer;
Finally now this is my own conclusion:
That she herself shall make her own decision
Choose whom she wish, whoe’er be glad or angry,
Him that she chooses, he shall have her as quickly.

For since it may not here resolved be
Who loves her best, as said the eagle yet,
Then will I grant her this favour, that she
Shall have him straight on whom her heart is set,
And he’ll have her whom his heart can’t forget.
This I decide, Nature, for I may not lie;
To naught but love do I my thought apply.

But as for advice in what choice to make,
If I were Reason, then would I
Advise that you the royal eagle take,
As said the eagle there most skilfully,
As being the noblest and most worthy,
Whom I wrought so well for my pleasure;
And that to you should be the true measure.’

With fearful voice the female gave answer,
‘My rightful lady, goddess of Nature,
Truth it is, your authority I am under
As is each and every other creature,
And must be yours while my life endure,
And therefore grant me my first boon,
And my intent I will reveal right soon.’

‘I grant it you,’ quoth she, and right anon
The female eagle spoke in this degree,
‘Almighty queen, until this year be done
I ask a respite to think carefully,
And after that to make my choice all free.
This is the sum of what I’d speak and say;
You’ll get no more although you do me slay.

I will not serve fair Venus nor Cupid
In truth, as yet, in no manner of way.’
‘Now since there is no alternative,’
Quoth Nature, ‘there is no more to say;
Then wish I that these folks were away
Each with its mate, not tarrying longer here’ –
And spoke to them as you shall after hear.

‘To you I speak, you eagles,’ quoth Nature,
‘Be of good heart and serve you, all three;
A year is not too long to endure,
So each of you take pains in his degree
To do well; for, God knows, free is she
Of you this year; whatever may then befall,
This same delay is served upon you all.’

And when this task was all brought to an end,
Each fowl from Nature his mate did take
In full accord, and on their way they went.
And, Lord, the blissful scene they did make!
For each of them the other in wings did take,
And their necks round each other’s did wind,
Thanking the noble goddess, kind by kind.

But first were fowl chosen for to sing,
As was ever their custom year on year
To sing out a roundel at their parting
To do Nature honour and bring cheer.
The tune was made in France, as you may hear;
The words were such as here you’ll find
In the next verse, I have now in mind.

‘Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this winter’s weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take!

Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft –
Thus sing the small fowls for your sake –
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this winter’s weather does off-shake.

Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,
Since each a marriage with its mate does make;
Full joyous may they sing when they wake;
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this wintry weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take.’

And with the cries, when their song was done,
That the fowls made as they flew away,
I woke, and other books to read upon
I then took up, and still I read always;
I hope in truth to read something someday
Such that I dream what brings me better fare,
And thus my time from reading I’ll not spare.

End of the Parliament of Fowls
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2007

The Musical Empire of Baroda

H H Sayajirao Gaekwad

H. H.  Sayajirao Gaekwad


click image to read on….

Rag Bahar

Vasant Ragini, Rajasthan, 17th century






Phagwa brija dekhan ko chalo re, phag
Come let us go to Brija to watch the Phalgun (Holi)
ve me milenge kunwar Kanha jahan
there the youthful Kanha will (assuredly) be met
Bat chale bole kagawa, phaga
because as we are walking on the way we hear the crow crowing


Ayee Bahar sakal bana phule
The Spring has come, the entire forest is blooming
Rasile Lal ko le agava, phag
keeping the amorous Krishna in the lead.




Krishna and Vasanta

The seasons for us have a living presence embodying the mysterious essence of growth and decay and regrowth, tied to the movements of the cosmos and the rhythms of the earth, touching the deepest longings and aspirations, moods and feelings of humans, providing a scenario upon which we celebrate and understand life and love. Of all the human emotions, that of romantic love is closely tied to the changing seasons, each month bringing a special message to the beloved, every season a special reminder of the joys of love and longing, the changing seasons reflecting the varying moods of romantic love and the songs of the seasons echoing a melody that resonates through the heart of the lover and the beloved.

The shringara rasa of Krishna is best epitomised by the colours and sounds, the textures and the aromas, the mood and the ethos of Vasanta or spring. Vasanta is raja ritu, the king of seasons. It is in Vasanta that nature comes to life, mango blossoms appear, colours deepen, the birds and the bees are joyous, love awakens and erotic feelings quicken, the mind is energised and the heart throbs with excitement. Nature’s fecundity and luxuriance is matched only by the heart throbbing anticipation, amorous desires, tremulous coyness and expectant longing of the romantic nayika. In the various colours of the fecundity of Vasanta, there is nature’s romance, there is an agamana or a welcome, in its radiance there is an invitation, in its unspoken words there is a song of love, in its movements there is the dance of amour, and in its quivering there is the tremulous desire of love. Nature in Vasanta is like a bride adorned in red like the Kinshuka flower, raktanshuka navavadhuhu eva, in the words of Kalidasa (Ritusamhara 6.19). Kalidasa goes on to describe spring with these words:

Everything gains added beauty in spring, trees put forth flowers, lotuses emerge from the waters, ladies become passionate, the winds are fragrant, evenings are pleasant and days are delightful. 6.2 Karnikara and Ashoka blossoms adorn the ears of women and Navamallika their black and wavy hair. 6.5 The cuckoo intoxicated with the liquor of the juice of mango blossoms kisses his mate passionately while the humming bee dallies with its mate. 6.14 The vernal season has covered the entire landscape with Kinshuka groves which are bent with blossoms and flutter in the wind and resemble a blazing fire while the earth appears like a newly wedded wife with red garments. 6.19

To be adorned is to invite and to welcome, to be bejeweled is to signal that the moment is right for the pleasures of love and in the desire to be beautiful, there is the promise that nothing is more important to the nayika than the loving admiration and attention of her beloved. This is the rite of spring for mankind and nature alike. It is for this moment that she has waited and prepared with longing and anticipation. Yet there is a certain anxiety and apprehension, but in this very state of nervous animation, there is a dedication and a commitment to the celebration of her love. It is clear that the beautiful expressions of Vasanta, and equally the adornment of the nayika, is not mere beautification but it is a rite and a ritual, a promise; for adornment is the bond that ties the beautiful to the beloved, the nayika to the nayaka, the verdant Prakriti to the cosmic Purusha, man to God, asserting that the beautiful and beauty are an integral part not only of romantic love but of the sensually charged mind that luxuriates in Vasanta.

Jayadeva describes Vasanta with these words:

When the tender Malayan wind touches the lovely clove creeper
when the grove is filled with the sound of the cuckoo
intermingled with the sounds of swarms of honey-making bees
Hari plays in the amorous spring time. 1.28

If poets like Kalidasa and Jayadeva capture the essence of Vasanta and the mellifluous love of Krishna in words, it was left to artists of the Pahari kalam to depict Vasanta in paintings. It was in the later 18th century that the fully evolved Guler Kalam was taken to Kangra and there under the patronage of Raja Sansar Chand (1175-1823) that Pahari lyricism found its highest perfection. In the subdued colours and charmed landscape of Kangra paintings, as seen in the Lumbragaon Gita Govinda among others, the tender love of Krishna and Radha is almost palpable and one can hear the sweet whisper of their conversation.

The Kangra psyche was conditioned not only by the geography of the environment but also the history of the prevailing times. Kangra was blessed with an idyllic landscape, with blossoming trees and verdant groves, sylvan hills and distant mountains, picturesque meadows, fragrant flowers and chirping birds, flowing brooks and a clear sky that provided a canopy to the enchanted world below. There was here none of the harshness of the Rajasthan deserts or the sweltering summers of Gujarat, the courtly intrigue of Rajasthan courts or the enforced privacy and distance of the Mughal harems. Although there was political intrigue in Kangra, there were no major wars or military strife, the rulers were benevolent and patrons of the arts and leisure and culture flourished both with the raja and the praja. There was a certain joyousness and sensuality in the 18th and 19th century Kangra court as is seen in the accounts of Western travelers like Moorcroft. It is not surprising that the Kangra artist was to incorporate this ethos in their kalam and used it to portray the madhurya of Krishna and especially the heart throbbing romance of Vasanta.. It has been rightly said that Kangra painting is characterised by a lyricism, a patrician elegance tempered by a simplicity and warmth of feeling, a refined earnestness plus a suavity of form. These paintings are kavyamaya, suffused with the lyricism of poetry, layamaya, full of the delicacy and softness of dance and gitamaya, resonant with the sound of music. Emotion is almost palpable, tender feelings of Krishna and the gopis are visible and the music in the air is audible in these beautiful paintings, but only to those who have the sensitivity to go beyond the surface and partake of the nuances and suggestions of Krishna’s romantic moments with the gopis. In their time, these paintings must have been celebrated in elite and cultured company, in sophisticated and elegant surroundings, with the accompaniment of song and dance, with flowing madira and smouldering hookahs and not silently watched in the sterile ambience of a museum or in the mute pages of a book.

It has rightly been said that Kangra painting is the superb lyricism and the melody of the sweet love of Krishna made visual. The landscape in the paintings which is inspired by the bucolic and luxuriant Pahari terrain is assimilated to the mood of the personages through a symbolism that is very transparent in its poetic suggestion. While the Kangra kalam exudes a refined sensuousness and lyrical grace, drawing its inspiration not only from its idyllic landscape especially of Vasanta, but equally by the living presence of the Krishna of love in the courts, it is in the depiction of the graceful and elegantly sensuous shringara rasa nayika that it reaches its greatest heights of artistic finesse and mastery. The Modi Bhagavata and the Lambargaon Gita Govinda rank as the highest watermark of the magnificent Kangra kalam. The Kangra nayika of painting not only has an elegant and sensuous charm, a luminous elegance and unsurpassed beauty, but a refined romantic sensibility, whether she was experiencing the pain of pathos of the pleasures of love, and in the genre of romantic figures that Indian artists have produced, she represents the most beautiful and the most exalted. There is in her not only the charm of romantic sensuality but the serenity of a woman in love who is also aware that her sensuality is the doorway to spirituality.


Vasant Ragini, Kotah, 1675-1700


Vasantaotsava or the festival of spring was an important festival that was celebrated in ancient India and it venerated Kama. Kama was also called Manmatha or the one who churns the mind. Kama is the god of love, who rides a parrot holding aloft his fish banner, raising his sugar cane bow and drawing his bow string made of bees to shoot flower arrows at unsuspecting maidens. This festival of spring is ancient and finds mention in Sanskrit literature. Harsha’s 7th century play Ratnavali opens with a description of Vasantaotsava:

the streets resound with the sounds of charchari songs and the beating of drums…citizens dance in the street as they are struck by water from syringes from amorous and intoxicated women…the air is coloured yellow by powder scattered in the air…women wear glittering gold ornaments and wreaths of Ashoka flowers and golden clothes…courtyards are red on account of vermillion dropping from cheeks of women…the south wind blows causing mango trees to blossom…young women cause Bakula and Ashoka trees to bloom…the Makaranda garden hums with intoxicated bees and sweet notes of the cuckoo…Champaka trees smile…women sprinkle mouthfuls of wine at the root of the Bakula tree and it breaks into flowers.

Sagarika, the heroine of Ratnavali, also observes that while the God of Love is worshipped in an iconic form (pratyaksha) in her father’s home, he is worshipped in a painted version (chitragato’rchyate) at Kaushambi. It is fair to assume that creating patachitras of Vasantaotsav were prevalent in ancient India. Kalidasa’s Malvikagnimitram and Madana’s Parijata Manjari are plays that also extol spring festivals and were performed as part of the celebrations of spring.

The evolution of the celebration of the Vasantaotsava has evolved from a festival of Kama in times ancient to that of Krishna, and in this transformation there is an important shift in the way shringara was celebrated and understood. In the past, Vasantaotsava was dedicated to the worship of Kama. At this festival of Kama, young women would wear blossoms of the Ashoka in the ears as this is one of the flowers of Kama’s bow. The other four flowers were the mango, the blue lotus, the red lotus and the jasmine. This was one of many rites of spring, celebrating not only the end of winter and a time for growth, but equally a recognition of the importance of human love and nature’s fertility in the Indian tradition. It was a time mainly for women to celebrate and express their pent up passion but ancient texts also describe the king participating in the festival, and in the spirit of festivity, at this festival social and caste barriers were dissolved. Coloured powders and liquids, derived from flowers, kumkum, gulal, musk, and sandalwood were sprinkled and sprayed into the air and onto each other as men and women mingled in joyous abandon. The festival had both a romantic and erotic connotation. The drenching of a woman with blood red colours not only sanctified her fertility but equally was an invitation for amorous pleasures.

In its ultimate analysis, Vasantaotsava is celebration of kama as desire and also Kama as deity. In the Vishnu Purana, Pradyumana is mentioned as the presiding deity of the Vasantaotsava. However gradually Kama was replaced by Krishna as the main deity of Vasantaotsava and the spring festival was observed as Holi. In replacing Kama with Krishna, the message clearly was that shringara should move away from desire to devotion, from sensual kamana to spiritual bhakti. It is Krishna, who through his amorous involvement with the gopis in Vrindavana reminds us that while shringara activates the atmani vishnum, dormant streams of honey in one’s atman, that true realisation or atma darshan can only come when the sensuality of romantic love is transformed into the spirituality of love and when sakar prem is changed to nirakar prem. This is the meaning of Krishna’s madhurya and it acquires a very different texture and meaning from kamama and is the essence of the shift in the presiding deity from Kama to Krishna in the celebration of spring.

Krishna’s association with Vasanta is also celebrated in Ragamala paintings. In these paintings Krishna is shown dancing with the gopis. The iconography of Ragamala paintings varies from one school to another. However, one particular raga that follows a consistently uniform iconography in the various schools of painting is raga Vasanta, which always depicts Krishna as the main protagonist. It invariably shows female attendants accompanying him, playing musical instruments, particularly the tabor, daphli or drum, dhola. Some spray him with water syringes, others dance in joyous abandon. It has been suggested that the iconography of raga Vasanta draws upon the imagery of Vasantaotsova.


While conforming to the basic iconography of raga Vasanta, different schools create their unique version of this quintessential raga of Krishna. Each school while adhering to the basic iconography depicts Krishna, dancing and frolicking with the gopis in a luxuriant and verdant environment. Whether in the Kangra paintings of the Gita Govinda or the various Ragamala paintings of ragini Vasanta, the central figure is that of the dancing Krishna. Krishna’s movements resonate with that of the leaves and the branches, his rhythms match those of the birds and the blossoms, his gestures of sweet love touches the gopis who tremble with excitement in the celebration of Vasanta. This is Krishna’s dance of joyous awakening, and He radiates this to the world around him which becomes alive with the pulsating and trembling excitement of love. This is the essence of Vasanta for Krishna.

However, when it comes to the barahmasa songs and their paintings, Vasanta takes on a poignant meaning. Shadrituvarnan or the description of the six seasons, vasanta, grishma, varsha, hemanta, shravan and shisira is an important part of the kavya literature in Sanskrit. However Sanskrit literature did not have barahmasa poetry. It was apabhramsha literature, precursor of Hindi, that developed a rich description of the seasons and tied to romantic love. In this genre, there is chaumasa, poetry which had either four or six seasons or barahmasa which was a description of the seasons of the twelve months. The vernacular and oral barahmasa later becomes an important part of the literary poetic tradition, both secular as well as Hindu, Jain and Sufi religious poetry. While religious barahmasa remains didactic in nature and were used to impart religious instruction, the village chaumasa and barahmasa were romantic and were village women’s rain songs, especially in North India from Gujarat to Bengal, where they sang of their isolation from their husbands either in the rainy four months from ashada to ashvin or through the twelve months. These rain songs are based on the sociology of the absent husband, who is away from home either on business or duty, and the wife either longs for his return in the rainy season or urges him not to leave at all. Seasonal poetry of this genre also was a feature of folk theatre. There was some variation not only in the number of seasons but in their chronology as well, and one of the poetic conventions was that while Sanskrit shadritu poetry described the erotic joys of the lover and the beloved when they are together, the chaumasa and barahmasa dealt with the premika’s longing and fear of separation from her beloved.

Viraha barahmasa or the seasonal poetry of longing remains the most evocative in this genre of romantic poetry and in this group the barahmasa compositions of Keshavdas who wrote the Rasikapriya stand out among others. Barahmasa poetry is not only poignant love poetry on the one hand but shows the close resonance between the psyche of the heroine and the mood of the seasons, each season not only possessing a different colour but a distinct message for those in love. In expressing her lament and relating it to the colours and moods of the seasons, the heroine equates the throbbing of her heart with the pulsating sap of the trees, the trembling longing within her to the movement of the clouds and the agony of her forlorn state to the pain of lonely birds. Thus, she is not alone in her anguish, her piquant cry is heard by the birds and the blossoms that surround her and who understand and share her pain perhaps more than her beloved. In barahmasa poetry, we see the strong and sympathetic resonance between the romantic mind of the nayika and the natural world around her, it is a world that shares her romantic urges and longings, and she defines her love with the same life and energy that animates the trees and the birds and who stand in mute testimony to her love.

Keshavdas in his barahmasa converts the lunar calendar into romantic poetry that vividly celebrates the months as it evokes the pain of the nayika of the impending separation from her beloved. Starting with the month of chaitra, he portrays the heroine urging her beloved not to leave her in that month as every month has something special which would make separation painful and unbearable and as the poet goes through the twelve months, the heart throb of the nayika pulsates with the sap and songs of the world around her.

This is how Keshavdas describes the two months of Vasanta.


The charming creepers have blossomed and so have the young trees. The rivers and ponds are full. Ladies aglow with passion are worshipping their husbands. Birds, parrots, sarikas and nightingales chirp and make sweet sounds. Keshavdas says that in such a flowery season, no one should embrace thorns of separation leaving flowers of union. What to talk of going out, no one should allow his mind to waver in the month of chaitra.


The earth and the atmosphere are filled with fragrance. Sweet smelling breeze blows gently. All around there is fragrant beauty. The fragrance blinds the bee and is painful for the love who is away from home. The nayika says to her beloved, I pray to you. Having taught me the pleasure of love, do not talk of going away in the month of Vaisakha as the arrows of Kama are hard to bear in separation.

(Courtesy by Harsha V Dehejia He has a double doctorate, one in medicine and the other in Ancient Indian Culture, both from Mumbai University. He is a practicing Physician and an Adjunct Professor of the Division of Religion in the College of Humanities at Carleton University in Ottawa, ON., Canada. His special interest is in Indian Aesthetics. He has 12 books to his credit. He writes mostly on Krishna.)



Rag Malavkaushika





हिन्दुस्तानी शास्त्रीय संगीत

Raga Kafi


Of shining whiteness,
Kafi who inspires lust tenderly
sits on the lap of her playmate in the royal palace,
fond of parrots she is dressed in blue
and decked with jewels.
She is the image of sensuousness.
In the Lotus of my heart
I cherish her,
lovlier than Lakshmi
the goddess of Fortune.


हिन्दुस्तानी शास्त्रीय संगीत-

A brief treatise on the THAATS of The Classical Music of India

ہندوستانی کلاسیکی موسیقی‎

According to Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), one of the most influential musicologists in the field of North Indian classical music in the twentieth century, each one of the several traditional ragas is based on, or is a variation of, ten basic thaats, or musical scales or frameworks. The ten thaats are Bilawal, Kalyan, Khamaj, Bhairav, Poorvi, Marwa, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairavi and Todi; if one were to pick a raga at random, it should be possible to find that it is based on one or the other of these thaats. For instance, the ragas Shree and Puriya Dhanashri are based on the Poorvi thaat, Malkauns on the Bhairavi, and Darbari Kanada on the Asavari thaat. It is important to point out that Bhatkande’s thaat-raga theory is hardly infallible, but it is nevertheless an important classificatory device with which to order, and make sense of, a bewildering array of ragas; and it is also a useful tool in the dissemination of the music to students.

The Thaats


It is worth noting that almost all the thaats mentioned above are also ragas; and yet a thaat is a very different musical entity from a raga, and in this difference may lie, crucially, a definition of what a raga is or is not. A thaat is a musical scale, conceived of as a Western musical scale might be, with the seven notes presented in their order of ascent (arohan). For instance, Asavari is presented, and notated, as Sa Re Ga (flat or komal) Ma Pa Dha (flat) Ni (flat) in ascent, or arohan. This is, however, only the skeletal musical structure of the raga Asavari, an abstraction that is to be found nowhere but on the printed page or inside a textbook; the raga Asavari, in reality, and in exposition, is a very different thing. It goes straight from Re to Ma, and comes down to touch Ga, as it ascends; having touched Ni later, it returns to Pa, and, touching the upper Sa, returns to Dha and Pa again and again. Arohan and avarohan are, thus, inextricably and inseparably intermingled in the structure of this raga. The raga, then, is not a musical scale in the Western sense; it is a characteristic arrangement or progression of notes whose full potential and complexity can  be realised only in exposition, and not upon the printed page. A condensed version of this characteristic arrangement of notes, peculiar to each raga, may be called the pakad, by which a listener hears the phrase Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Ga, none of these notes being flat or sharp.  Repeated in a recital, they will know that they are listening to the raga Gaud Sarang.

Two ragas may have identical notes and yet be very different ragas; for example, two ragas mentioned earlier, Shree and Puriya Dhanashri, have exactly the same notes, but are unmistakably different in structure and temperament. The first can be identified by its continual exploration of the relationship of the note Re to the note Paa; while the repetition of the phrase Ma Re Ga Re Ma Ga, a phrase that would be inadmissible in the first raga, is an enduring feature of the latter. Certain arrangements of notes, then, are opposite to particular ragas and taboo to all others. A simple and abstract knowledge, thus of the notes of a raga or the thaat on which it is based, is hardly enough to ensure a true familiarity or engagement with the raga, although it may serve as a convenient starting point. Thaat familiarity can only come from a constant exposure to, and critical engagement, with raga’s exposition.

(Courtesy by Amit Chaudhuri)


The Kafi That

Raga Kafi belongs to Kafi Thaat. Usually it is rendered in the late evening and uses all the seven notes in the ascending and descending order. Gandhar and Nishad are komal (flat) and all other notes are shuddha (full). The derivative ragas out of this structure are grouped under the broad head of Kafi Thaat


Raga Kafi is representative of the Kafi Thaat. It is a versatile raga and can be played anytime. The raga has influenced folk music heavily and it is common to find folk songs and bhajans in this raga. Pure forms of Kafi are rarely performed.

Other Ragas in Thaat Kafi:
Moods: Bhakti, Shringar, Hori, Tappa

Aaroha:   S  R  g  m  P  D  n  S’
Avaroha:  S’  n  D  P  m  g  R  S
Jati: Sampurna – Sampurna
Pakad:    S  R  R  g  m  P
Thaat:     Kafi
Prahar: 6th Prahar (6 PM to 9 PM)
Prahar:    Evening

Notable characteristics of the raga: PmgR, RgmP, mgR, S


According to Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), one of the most influential musicologists in the field of North Indian classical music in the twentieth century, each one of the several traditional ragas is based on, or is a variation of, ten basic thaats, or musical scales or frameworks. The ten thaats are Bilawal, Kalyan, Khamaj, Bhairav, Poorvi, Marwa, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairavi and Todi; if one were to pick a raga at random, it should be possible to find that it is based on one or the other of these thaats. For instance, the ragas Shri and Puriya Dhanashri are based on the Poorvi thaat, Malkauns on the Bhairavi, and Darbari Kanada on the Asvari thaat. It is important to point out that Bhatkande’s thaat-raga theory is not very accurate, but it is nevertheless an important classificatory device with which to order, and make sense of, a bewildering array of ragas; and it is also a useful tool in the dissemination of the music to students.

There are certain rules for these Thaats.

1. A Thaat must have seven notes out of the twelve notes [Seven Shuddha, Four   komal (Re, Ga, Dha , Ni), one teevra (Ma) ], placed in an ascending order. Both the forms of the notes can be used.
2. Thaat has only an Aaroha.
3. Thaats are not sung but the raags produced from the Thaats are sung.
4. Thaats are named after the popular raag of that Thaat. For example Bhairavi is a popular raag and the thaat of the raag Bhairavi is named after the raag.

The 10 basic thaats acording to the Bhatkhande System are as follows

1. Bilawal :bilawal

Bilawal is the most basic of all the ten thaats. All the swars in the thaat are shuddha or all swars in the natural scale. Bilawal as a raag is not rendered these days however a small variation of the raag called Alahaiya Bilawal is very common. This is a mornig raag and its pictorial descriptions create a rich, sensuous ambience in consonance with its performance.

Raags in Bilawal Thaat : Deskar, Haunsdhwani, Variations of Bilawal.

2. Khamaj :khamaj

The next thaat is Khamaj which can be obtained by replacing the Shuddha Nishad of Bilawal by Komal Nishad. The raags of this thaat are full of Shringar Ras (romantic) hence this raag is mostly rendered in the form of light classical thumris, tappas, horis, kajris etc. Its pictorial descriptions in the existing texts are sensuous and even today, the raag Khamaj is considered to be a ‘flirtatious’ raag. There is another theory which assumes that in the past, Khamaj scale found its way in Ch’in music of the late medieval China.

Raags in Khamaj Thaat : Rageshree, Jhinjhoti, Des, Tilak Kamod, Jaijaiwanti, Khambavati etc.




Rag Kafi Zilaph


Rag Palas Kafi


3. Kafi :kafi

Kafi thaat makes use of the Komal Gandhar and Komal Nishad. So basically it adds Komal Gandhar to the Khamaj Thaat. raag Kafi is one of the oldest raags and its intervals are described as basic scale of the Natyashastra. Thus in ancient and medieval times, Kafi was considered as natural scale. Kafi is a late evening raag and said to convey the mood of spring time.

Raags in Kafi Thaat : Dhanashree, Dhani, Bhimpalasi, Pilu, Megh Malhar, Bageshree etc.

4. Asavari :asavari

Add Komal Dhaivat to Kafi thaat and you get Asavari Thaat. raag Asavari is full of tyag, the mood of renunciation and sacrifice as well as pathos. It is best suited for late morning. However important evening/night raags like Darbari and Adana also use notes of asavari thaat with different styles, stress points and ornamentations.

Raags in Asavari Thaat : Asavari, Desi, Darbari, Adana, Jaunpuri etc.

5. Bhairavi :bhairavi

Bhairavi makes use of all the komal swars, Rishabh, Gandhar, Dhaivat, Nishad. When singing compositions in Bhairavi raag, the singers however take liberty to use all the 12 swars. Bhairavi raag is names after the shakti or feminine aspect of the cosmic life force, which is personified as a consort to Lord Shiva. Bhairavi is a powerful raag filled with devotion and compassion. Bhairavi is actually performed early in the morning in a peaceful, serious and ocassionally sad mood. Traditionally it is rendered as the last item of a program, for its unique fullness of sentiments as well as its wide scope of the tonal combinations. Pictorially, Bhairavi is represented in female form, as the wife of Bhairav.

Raags in Bhairavi Thaat : Malkauns, Bilaskhani Todi, Bhupali Todi, Kaunsi Kanada etc.

6. Bhairav :bhairav

Bhairav thaat raags make use of Komal Rishabh and Komal Dhaivat. Bhairav is one of the names of Lord Shiva especially in his powerful form as a naked ascetic with matted locks and body smeared with ashes. The raag too has some of these masculine and scetic attributes in its form and compositions. The raag itself is extremely vast and allows a huge number of note combinations and a great range of emotional qualities from valor to peace. You can see a lot of variations on raag Bhairav including (but not restricted to) Ahir Bhairav, Alam Bhairav, Anand Bhairav, Bairagi Bhairav, Beehad Bhairav, Bhavmat Bhairav, Devata Bhairav, Gauri Bhairav, Nat Bhairav, Shivmat Bhairav. This raag is usually performed in a devotional mood in the early morning hours. The vibrations of the notes in Bhairav is said to clear one’s whole mind. The pictorial depictions of raag Bhairav in the ancient texts are austere as well as awe-inspiring.

Raags in Bhairav Thaat : Ramkali, Gunkari, Meghranjani, Jogiya, Bhairav and its variations etc.

7. Kalyan :kalyan

Kalyan thaat consists of a important group of evening raags. Characterized by the teevra Madhyam, this thaat literally means good luck. It is considered to be a blessing-seeking and soothing raag. As a result, it is performed in the evening at the beginning of a concert. This raag creates a feeling of the unfolding of an evening. This thaat is huge and consists of many variations on the basic kalyan thaat including raags (but not restricted to) like Shuddha Kalyan, Shyam Kalyan, Yaman Kalyan, Anandi Kalyan, Khem Kalyan (Haunsdhwani + Yaman), Savani Kalyan etc.

Raags in Kalyan Thaat : Yaman, Bhupali, Hindol, Kedar, Kamod, etc.

8. Marwa :marwa

Marwa thaat is obtained by adding a komal Rishabh to Kalyan thaat. The mood of the Marwa family raags is strongly and easily recognizable. The Shadja remains in the form of a shadow till the very end, where it almost comes as a surprise. komal Rishabh and shuddha Dhaivat are ver important. The overall mood of this raag is of sunset where the night approaches much faster than in northern latitudes. The onrushing darkness awakens in many observers, a feeling of anxiety and solemn expectation.

Raags in Marwa Thaat : Marwa, Puriya, Bhatiyaar, Bibhas, Sohoni etc.

9. Poorvi :poorvi

Poorvi thaat adds a komal Dhaivat to Marwa thaat. These thaat raags usually feature komal Rishabh, shuddha Gandhar and Shuddha Nishad along with teevra Madhyam, the note which distinguishes evening from the morning raags (dawn and sunset). The thaat raag Poorvi is deeply serious quite and mysterious in character and is performed at the time of sunset. Pictorial depictions in early texts, often mention the poise, grace and charm of Poorvi.

Raags in Poorvi Thaat : Puriya Dhanashree, Gauri, Shree, Paraj, Basant etc.

10. Todi :todi

Todi is the king of all thaats. Todi pictures nearly always show a petite, beautiful woman, holding veena, with a deer around her, standing in a lovely, lush green forest. Todi represents the mood of delighted adoration with a gentle, loving sentiment and its traditionally performed in the late morning.

Raags in Todi Thaat : Miyan Ki Todi, Gujari Todi, Madhuvanti, Multani etc.


Rama strikes down Khara with an arrow_Rag_Kafi


The Karnatik Origin of KAFI is rAgam Kharaharapriya

Raga Kharaharapriya

Raga : Kharaharapriya
Mela: 22
Other names: Kafi Thaat ( Hindustani)

Arohana:      S R2 G1 M1 P D2 N1 S     || S Ri Gi Ma Pa Dhi Ni S
Avarohana: S N1 D2 P M1 G1 R2 S || S Ni Dhi Pa Ma Gi Ri S

Time: All Times

Amsa Swaras: R, P
Jeeva Swaras: R, G, D, N
Nyasa Swaras: R, G, D, N

Murchanakaraka Ragas:         R -> Hanumatodi
G -> Kalyani
M -> Harikambhoji
P -> Natabhairavi
D -> Sankarabharanam

Special Considerations: Similar to Shadja Grama



1. mELam 22 – kharaharapriya

KHARAHARAPRIYA  is the fourth mELam (bhU) in the fourth  cakram, vEda  cakram.  Hence it is usually  referred to by the mnemonic name “vEda bhU”, since there are 4  vEdAs, and the kaTapayAdi numeral for the consonant “bha” is 4 (from the “pa varga”: pa, pha, ba, bha, ma!)  The  svarams taken by the mELam kharaharapriya are:

SaDjam (S, sa), catushruti .rSabham(R2, ri), sAdAraNa gAndhAram (G1, ga), shuddha madhyamam (M1, ma), pa~ncamam (P, pa), catushruti dhaivatam (D2, dhi), kaiSiki niSAdham (N2, ni).

Raga Kharaharapriya

Alathur Brothers-Chakkini Raja

Thus,  the mnemonic svara nomenclature  for kharaharapriya is  ri gi ma dhi ni, showing that besides the notes  sa, pa, the  notes taken are  ri (R2), ga (G1), ma (M1), dhi (D2), ni (N2).

The first two syllables “kha ‑ ra” in the name yields the mELam number 22  according to the  kaTapayAdi scheme (that is, kha =2 (from ka, kha g gh N^),and   ra =2 (from ya ra la va), so 2 2 reversed still  gives 22!!). Some believe that the original name of this mELam  was  harapriya, and the prefix “khara” was added to  obtain the numeral 22. But kharaharapriya itself has the meaning ‑‑ priya  (beloved of, liked by) hara (slayer of) khara (the demon named  khara).

·        kharaharapriya is a  mELam with symmetrical tetrachords; intervals are separated by a major tone. The mELam gets is pleasing quality from the even distribution of the notes.  The  ri ‑‑ ga, and the  dha ‑‑ ni are in consonance and the interval between  sa ‑‑ ri,  ma ‑‑ pa, and  dha ‑‑ ni  are all equal. This facilitates singing of saN^gatis  in sets which can independently interpret the melody, and allow the singer to build the  AlApana phrase by phrase.

·        a major rAgam, capable of very lengthy  AlApanAs.

·        chAyA and  nyAsa svarams :   ri, ga, dha, ni;

·        aMsha svarams:  ri and pa

·        kharaharapriya is approximately equal  to the  SaDja grAmam of ancient music, the primordial scale of the Hindus

·        kharaharapriya is a  sarva svara gamaka vArikA rakti rAgam.  The  pratyAhata gamakam (ri sa, sa ni, ni dha, dha pa, pa ma, ma ga, ga ri) lends color to this mELam. Yet, unlike an average rAgam, kharaharapriya comes out beautifully even  without employing much  gamakam.

·        kharaharapriya is a  tristhAyI rAgam. Compositions in kharaharapriya usually begin in  sa, ri, pa ,ni.

·        prayOgams        NI dha PA ma GA ri               NI da pa dha ni sa ni dha PA ma GA ri

·        kharaharapriya admits  prayogams ending in the note  ni.  Only the notes  sa, pa enjoy this privilege!

·        A  mUrccanakAraka mELam, that admits  graha bhedam (modal shift of tonic), yielding the  mELams  hanumatODi (8), mEcakalyANi (65), harikAmbhOji (28), naThabhairavi (20), dhIrashaN^karAbharaNam (29), respectively,  when the notes  ri, ga, ma, pa, and  ni are taken as the tonic  AdhAra shaDjam.

·        kharaharapriya corresponds to the Phrygian mode in Greek, the Dorian in Ecclesiastical, the “D” mode in European and the Irak mode in Arab music.

·        SArN^gadEva,  the author of saN^gIta ratnAkara mentions that kharaharapriya contains all svarams of  sAma vEda. Since Lord shiva is pleased with  sAma vEda chants, it is appropriate that this mELam assumes the name ” harapriya”.

·        a  rAgam suitable for singing at all times. It evokes  karuNa rasam

·        Among the musical trinity, Saint tyAgarAja is the sole composer who has given full life to kharaharapriya by composing a large number of  k.rtis. Neither muttusvAmi dIkSitar nor shyAma sAstri has composed in this mELa rAgam. TyAgarAja’s  “cakkani rAjamArgamu” is the most popular composition in  kharaharapriya.

·        It is a puzzle why muttusvAmi dIkSitar did not compose any  k.rti in  kharaharapriya.  The obvious answer is that he composed only in  rudrapriya       which is “almost”  kharaharapriya, except that the note ” dha”’ is absent in the avarOhaNam.

·        kharaharapriya has helped the  nAdasvaram to acquire recognition as a major musical instrument.   NAdasvaram  exponents like Karaikkuricci Arunachalam, have indulged in this  rAgam for long stretches, especially when rendering some weighty tyAgarAja compositions.

·        pallavi expositions in kharaharapriya are very common. Nowadays, we can hear  rAgamAlikA svarams sung at the concluding segment of a pallavi in kharaharapriya where the artist chooses a number of  priya‑suffixed  rAgams (such as  gAyakapriya, SaNmukhapriya, raghupriya, gOpriya, sunAdapriya, varuNapriya, and so forth!!).

·        Balamuralikrishna has composed a rAgamAlikA tillanA in five  priya‑suffixed rAgams that includes  kharaharapriya as the last one.

·        There are many folk tunes and kAvaDi cindu songs in  kharaharapriya. Also, many tiruppugazh hymns are rendered in  kharaharapriya. The cine world in south India has its fair share of songs in this mELam.

2. Some Compositions in kharaharapriya

kOri sEvimpa rArE                                    Adi                        tyAgarAja

cakkani rAjamArgamu luNDana              Adi                        tyAgarAja

cEtulAra sh.rN^gAramu cEsi                   Adi                        tyAgarAja

naDaci naDaci jUcE                                    Adi                        tyAgarAja

pakkala nilabaTi                                         mishra cApu        tyAgarAja

pAhi rAma rAmayanacu                            rUpakam            tyAgarAja

pEriDi ninnu                                               Adi                        tyAgarAja

mitra bhAgyamE bhAgyamu                   Adi                        tyAgarAja

rAma nIyeDA                                             Adi                        tyAgarAja

rAma nI samAnamevaru                          rUpakam            tyAgarAja

viDamu sEyavE nannu                              Adi                        tyAgarAja

appan avataritta                                        Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

AraNamum                                                jhampa                  pApanAsham shivan

dayavilklaiyA                                             Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

dharmAmbikE                                           Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

enna sheidAlum                                        Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

jAnakIpatE                                                Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

parAmukham EnayyA                             Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

vINA alaiyAdE                                         Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

kAdali rAdhayai                                       Adi                        pApanAsham shivan

okapari kokapari                                     Adi                        annamAcArya

allikkENikkarai                                        Adi                        UttukkADu veN^kaTakavi

bhaktiyOga aN^gItamArgamE            Adi                        UttukkADu veN^kaTakavi

enna parAmukham ammA                   Adi                        UttukkADu veN^kaTa kavi

inta parAkElarA                                    Adi                        pallavi shESayyar

gAnasudhArasa                                    Adi                        mysore vAsudEvAcAriar

saN^kalpameTTidO                            Adi                        paTNam subrahmaNya iyer

ninnunammina                                      rUpakam            karUr cinna dEvuDu

kaNNan maNivaNNan                        rUpakam            muttayyA bhAgavatar

mUvAshai koNDE                               Adi                        muttayyA bhAgavatar

tyAgarAjaguru                                     Adi                        vINa kuppayyar

inda varam taruvAi                             rUpakam            vEdanAyakam piLLai

inda manamoru                                   rUpakam            T. LakSmaNan piLLai

inta parAkElarA                                  Adi                        pallavi sheSayyar

inda janmam vENDum                       rUpakam             gOpAlak.rSNa bhArathi

rArAyani pilacitE                                 Adi                       myspre vAsudEvAcAriar

tyAgarAja                                            Adi                        tiruvoTTiyUr tyAgarAjan

ninnu kolici                                           rUpakam            rAmnAD shrInivAsa iyengAr

kaN pArayyA                                      Adi                        kOTIshvara iyer

aruLvAy shrImInalOcani                  Adi                        kOTIshvara iyer

aravaNai tuyinriDum                          Adi                       Calcutta K. S. Krishnamurthi

anbE ArumarandAlum                        Adi                       periyasAmi tUran

kAlanE bvIzhttiya                                Adi                       periyasAmi tUran

dharnmashAstA                                   Adi                        tuLasIvanam

raktakaNthEshvaram                          Adi                        tuLasIvanam

shabarIshvaram                                   Adi                        tuLasIvanam

rAmA nIvE (va.rNam)                        Adi                        tenmaDam narasimhAcAri

satatam tAvaka  padasEvanaM                                       svAti tirunAL

Remark: Professor Sambamurthi mentions that the  tyAgarAja  k.ri “rAmA nIyeDA” is not set in kharaharapriya, but in the  rAgam dilIpakam.

3. janyams of kharaharapriya

kharaharapriya lends itself to a huge number of  janya rAgams.  Many of these  janyams are important in their own right. Walter Kaufmann’s  “Ragas of South India”  lists 132 janyams of kharaharapriya.  They are:

shrI, AbhOgi, kAnaDa, darbAr, nAyaki, AbhEri, Ananda vAridhi, AndOLika, anilAvaLi, bAlacandrika, bAlaghOSi(Ni), bhadra sAraN^galIla, bhAgavatapriya, bhAgyara~njani, bhOgakannaDa, bhOgavati, bhramarikA ma~njari, bhUyOmaNi, b.rndAvanasAraN^ga, cakra pradIpta, candrakala, candramaNDana, carAvaLi, cAtam, chandOdhari, chAyA shObhitam, cittara~njani, dEshya kAnaDa, dEshya kApi, dEshya manOhari, dEvakriya, dEvamanOhari, dEvAm.rtavarSiNi, dEvamukhAri, dEvara~njani, dhAtumanOhari, dhIrakaLa, dilIpakam, gAnavasantam, gArava simhala, gauri vasantam, ghana kEshi, ghanaja ghana, grandhavikSEpam, hanOkaha,hariharamOhini, harinArAyaNi, hEmAvaLi, hindOLavasantam,  hindustAn kApi, husEni, Inakapriya,janAndOLika, jayAkSari, jayama~njari, jayamanOhari, jayanArAyaNi, jayantasEna, jhAlama~njari, jIvaka vasantam, kaishika, kaLAnidhi, kalAsvarUpi,kalhAru, kALikA, kALindi, kalyANa taraN^giNi, kalyANa vasantam*, kanaka varALi, kannaDa gauLa, kannaDa varALi, kApi, kApi jiN^gaLa, karaNi, ka.rNATaka dEvagAndhAri, ka.rNATaka kApi, kApi, kaThinya, ka.rNara~njani, khilAvaLi, kiraNa bhAskara, kumudapriya, kundamAlika, lalitagAndhAri, lalitamanOhari, mAdhi, madhyamAvati, makuTa dhAriNi, mALavashrI, mallAru, mandamari, maNiraN^gu, ma~njari, manOhari, mArgahindoLam, maruvadhanyAshi, mAyApratIpam, mukhAri, nadacintAmaNi, nAdamUrti, nAdataraN^giNi, nAdanapriya, navaratnavilAsam, nAgari, phalama~njari, pa~ncama, pUrNakalAnidhi, pUrNaSaDjam, pUrvamukhAri, puSpalatika, rItigauLa, rudrapriya, saindhavi, sAlaga bhairavi, samkrantanapriya, siddhasEna, shrImanOhari, shrIra~njani, shubhAN^gi, shuddhabaN^gaLa, shuddhabhairavi, shuddha dhanyAshi, shuddhamadhyamam, shuddhamanOhari, shuddhavElAvali, suguNabhUSaNi, sujaris, svarabhUSaNi, svarakalAnidhi, svarara~njani, udayaravicandrika, varamu

*Walter Kaufmann mentions two versions of kalyANa vasantam, one the traditional classification under kIravANi (mELam 21) and the other under kharaharapriya. However, the version of the popular kr.ti “nAdalOluDai” as sung by the Chittoor school with chatusruti dhaivatam, would have kalyANa vasantam classified under gauri manOhari (mElam 23).

4. scales of some important janyams

janyam                                              ArOhaNam                                    avarOhaNam

AbhEri                                           sa ga ma pa ni sa                        sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

AbhOgi                                        sa ri ga ma dha sa                        sa dha ma gai sa

AndOLika                                   sa ri ma pa ni sa                         sa ni dha ma ri sa

aThANa*                                      sa ri ma pa ni sa                         sa ni Dha pa ma pa Ga ma ri sa

b.rndAvanasAraN^ga                 sa ri ma pa ni sa                        sa ni pa ma ri ga sa

cittara~njanini                         sa ri ga ma pa dha ni                        ni dha pa ma ga ri sa ni

darbAr                                     sa ri ma pa dha ni sa          sa Ni dha pa ma ri Ga Ga ri sa

dEvamanOhari                        sa ri ma pa dha ni sa               sa ni dha ni pa ma ri sa

dEvAm.rtavarSiNi               sa ri ga ma ni dha ni sa              sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

dilIpakam                              sa ri ma pa dha ni dha pa ma ni dha ni sa           sa ni dha  pa ma ga risa

hindustAni kApi                  sa ri ma pa ni sa                          sa ni dha ni pa ma ga ri sa

husEni                                  sa pa ma pa ni dha ni sa              sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

jayamanOhari                     sa ri ga ma dha sa                        sa ni dha ma ga ri sa

jayanArAyaNi                     sa ri ga ma pa dha sa                   sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

jayantasEna                              sa ga ma pa dha sa                         sa ni dha pa ma ga sa

kalAnidhi                                  sa ri ga ma sa pa ma dha ni sa            sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

kAnaDa                                   sa ri Ga ma Dha ni sa                        sa ni pa ma Ga ma Ri sa

kannaDagauLa                         sa ri ga ma pa ni sa                        sa ni dha pa ma ga sa

karNara~njani                          sa ri ga ma ga pa dha sa            sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

kuntaLavarALi                         sa ma pa ni dha sa                        sa ni dha pa ma sa

madhyamAvati                                 sa ri ma pa ni sa                        sa ni pa ma ri sa

mALavashri                              sa ga ma pa ni dha ni pa dha ni sa           sa ni dha pa ma ga sa

maNiraN^gu                            sa ri ma pa ni sa                        sa ni pa ma Ga ri sa

ma~njari                                   sa ga ri ga ma pa ni dha ni sa             sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

manOhari                                 sa ri ga ma pa dha sa                        sa dha pa ma ga ri sa

mukhAri                                   sa ri ma pa ni dha sa                        sa nidha pa ma ga ri sa

nAyaki                                     sa ri ma pa dha pa sa                        sa Ni dha pa ma ri Ga ri sa

pashupatipriya                          sa ri ma pa ma dha sa                        sa dha pa ma ri ma sa

phalama~njari               sa ga ma pa ma dha sa             sa ni dha pa ma Ga ma ri sa

pUrNa SaDjam                         sa ri ga ma ni ni sa                        sa ni pa ma Ga ri sa

puSpalatika                              sa ri ga ma pa ni sa                        sa ni pa ma ga ri sa

rItigauLa*                     sa ga ri ga ma ni dha ma ni ni sa                    sa ni dha ma ga ma  pa  Ma ga ri sa

rudrapriya                                 sa ri ga ma pa dha ni sa             sa ni pa ma ga ri sa

sAlagabhairavi              sa ri ma pa dha sa                        sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa

siddhasena                                sa ga ri ga ma pa dha sa             sa ni dha ma pa ma ri ga ri sa

shrI                                          sa ri ma pa ni sa                        sa ni pa dha ni pa ma ri ga ri sa

shrIra~njani                              sa ri ga ma dha ni sa                         sa ni dha ma ga ri sa

shuddha baN^gaLa                        sa ri ma pa dha sa                        sa dha pa ma ri ga ri sa

shuddha dhanyAshi                        sa ga ma pa ni sa                         sa ni pa ma  ga sa

supoSiNi                                  sa ri sa ma pa ni dha sa            sa dha ni pa ma ri ma sa

svarabhUSaNi                          sa ga ma pa dha ni sa                         sa ni pa ma ga ma ri sa

(* aThANa is more of a phrase-oriented rAgam with a unique identity. Some texts classify this under dHIrasa~nkarAbharaNaM. Prof. S. R. Janakiraman’s recent book contends that aThANa should be placed under kharaharapriya.)

5.  kAfi ThATh ‑ hindustAni paddhati

The Hindusthani  ThATh kAfi corresponds to kharaharapriya of  ka.rNATik  music. The  svarams used are:  tIvra ri, komal ga, shuddh ma, tIvra dha, komal ni. vadi is  pa, and  samvadi is sa.  It is an evening rag. The usage of  joD (double  svaras) sa sa, ri ri ga ga, ma ma, pa pa is pleasing. In this rAgam, the notes  ga , ri in the  pUrvAN^g, and  ni, dha in the  uttarAN^g should be frequently employed. Ending of  AlAp with  pa ma ga ri is graceful. Beauty of  kAfi rests in  sa, ga, pa ni. Pure  kAfi is rarely rendered, and what is presented as  kAfi contains touches of  sindhUri. You can hear  tumri, bhajan, hOri, Tappa, ghazal , or sometimes dhrupad in  kAfi.

The following  rAgams are derivatives of  kAfi:‑‑

bhImpalAsi,  dhani, dhanashri, bhim, paTadIp, bArva, sindhUra,sindh, hansakiN^kiNi, bhAgEshri, bahAr, pIlU, palAsi,  the mallAri group ( megh malhAr, miyAn ki malhAr, gauD malhAr, shuddh malhAr, naTh malhAr, sUr malhAr, rAmdAsi malhAr, rUpma~njari malhAr, mIrAbAi ki malhAr,nAyaki malhAr, jayant malhAr, carajuki malhAr, dEsh malhAr, ca~ncalasasa malhAr, dhulia malhAr), candrakauns,shrIra~njani,patma~njari, mAlgu~nj, gauD, the  sAraN^g group ( bindrabani sAraN^g, madhumati sAraN^g,  bhadhauns sAraN^g, miyAn ki sAraN^g, laN^kAdahan sAraN^g, samant sAraN^g, nUr sAra.ng).

6. asampU.rNa mELam 22 ‑‑ shrI

According to DIkSitar school of asampUrNa mELa paddhati, rAgAN^ga rAgam 22 is shrI.

lakSaNaM (Definition) ( VeN^kaTamakhin):

shrI rAgaH sagrahaH pUrNaH cArOhE cAlpadhaivataH

avarohe ga vakraH syAt sAyam gEyaH shubhAvaha.h

ArohaNaM:   sa ri ma pa  ni Sa

avarohaNaM:  Sa ni pa dha ni pa ma ri Ga ri sa

The notes taken are:   SaDjaM. catushruti  ri, shuddha ma, pa~ncamam,  catushruti dha, sAdhAraNa ga, kAkaLi ni,. In the  ArohaNam, dha and  ni are absent. Only the ArohaNam permits  vakra sa~ncAra. In fact there are two  vakra sa~ncArams. The  rAgam gets a beauty by the elongation and  gamaka on the note ga.

·        An  audava‑vakra rAgam dervived from 22nd mELam  kharaharapriya.

·        The  chAyA svarams are  ri and  ni.

·        the  nyAsa svaram is  ri.

·        sa, ri, ma, pa, ni are the  graha svarams.

·        SubbarAma DIkSitar states that  ri in the ArohaNan is both the  jIva and  nyAsa

·        svaram. The phrases  ri ga ri sa, pa dha ni pa in avarohaNam give beauty.

·        A raga suitable for  singing ( tAnam on the  vINa; auspicious, and suitable for singing in the evening.

·        shrI is an evening  rAgam, a  ghana rAgam, and auspicious  rAgam (maN^gaLa karam), and is preferred by  vaiNikas for rendering  tAnam.

·        The  sa~ncArams given in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini are unique in the sense that there is no  dhaivata prayOga. Being a  maN^gaLa rAgam, it is  most often heard in concerts, almost invariable, at least very briefly played  after the  maN^gaLam.

·        The last  of Saint tyAgAraja’s five gems ( pa~ncaratnaM): ” endarO mahAnubhavulu “ is in shrI.

·        SaN^gIta SaMpradAya Pradarshini, the it magnum opus work  of SubbarAma DIkSitar, lists under shrI, a  lakSya gItam in  maTya tALam (without  using the note  dha), a  tAnam by Venkatamakhin, in  maTyam, a  kIrtanam by Kumara Ettappa Maharaja ( SaDAdhAra tatva vinAyaka in  Adi), a  sa~ncAri by Subbarama Dikshitar, and four  k.rtis of Muttuswami Dikshitar (shrImUlAdhAracakra vinAyaka, tyAgarAja mahadhvajArOha, =’srIvaralakd mi, and shrIkamalAmbikE ).

·        In Hindusthani music,  shri rAga is entirely different; it is derived from  pUrvi ThAT (equivalent of  kAmavardhani), and is audava‑sampUrNa in nature.  pUriyA dhanashri and

·        gauri are two allied  rAgams that resemble Hindusthani shri. One type of  badahamsa sAraN^g of Hindusthani resembles  karnaTik shri very closely.

·        SaN^gIta SaMpradAya Pradarshini discusses the following  janyams of the  rAgAN^ga rAgam shrI:

upAN^gam: ‑‑‑ maNiraN^gu, sAlagabhairavi, shuddha dhanyAshi, kannaDa gauLa, shuddhadEshi, mALavashrI,

bhASAN^gam:‑‑‑ shrIra~njani, kApi, hushAni, b.rndAvani, saindhavi, mAdhavamanOhari, madhyamAvati, dEvamanOhari, rudrapriya, sahAna, nAyaki

7. Some Compositions in shri


sami ninne kori (Adi) (Karur Devidu Iyer)

endukina modi (Adi) (Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer)


yemmamma ye vintalu (Adi)(kSetra~jna)

manasu ninnedabhayadu (Adi)


shrI mUlAdhAracakra (Adi) (MuttusvAmi DIkSitar)

shrI kamalAmbike (Adi) (MuttusvAmi DIkSitar)

shrI varalakSmi (Adi) (MuttusvAmi DIkSitar)

tyAgarAja mahadhvaja (Adi) (MuttusvAmi DIkSitar)

kAmEshvarE da (Adi) (MuttusvAmi DIkSitar)

shrI abhayAmba (rUpakam) (MuttusvAmi DIkSitar)

endaro mahanubhavulu (Adi) (Tyagaraja)

nAmakusuma  (rUpakaM) (Tyagaraja)

yuktamu gadu (mishracApu) (Tyagaraja)

bhAyAmi nandakumAram (Adi) (SvAti TirunAL)

riNa mada dritha  (Adi) (SvAti TirunAL)

karuNa ceyvAn (Adi) (Iriyamman Thampi)

maN^gaLam aruL (rUpakam)   Papanasam Sivan

rAman edukku (triputa ) (Arunachala Kavi)

pAlaya mAm shrI (Bhadracala Ramadasa)

Vadavari (Adi) (Annamacharya)

vanajAsana vinuta (rUpakam) (Subbaraya Sastri)

sabha darishanam (Adi) (Gopalakrishna Bharathi)

Edukku en mItu (Adi) (Gopalakrishna Bharathi)

maravAmal (Adi) (Gopalakrishna Bharathi)

shrI bhArgavam (Adi) (Muthiah Bhagavathar)

shrI kArtikEya (Adi) (Muthiah Bhagavathar)

shrIpatE kripa seyyar (mishracApu) (Pallavi Sesha Iyer)

kanaka vela karuNAlavAla (Adi) (Kotiswara Iyer)

adhikAramundaruL (Adi) (T.Lakshmanan Pillai)

vEdanAyaka (aTa) (Vedanayakam Pillai)

kAnavEnDAmo (rUpakam) (subrahmanya Bharathi)

ambigApatim (rUpakam) (Periyasami Thuran)

bhAgyalaskmi baramma (Adi) (Purandaradasa)

dharmigu dorayendu rUpakaM) (Purandaradasa)

ninne gati (Adi) (Purandaradasa)

Of these, the song, ” endaro mahAnubhAvulu” has a greater frequency in concert halls. There ares some excellent  pallavi expositions  in shrI . Also, shrI   often appears in the  rAgamAlika svaram segments in a  pallavi rendition, or more often, in the tAnam portion, when all the five  ghana rAgaMs are rendered (either in  tAnam, or in the  rAgamAlika svara segment).  But, being an auspicious rag, shrI is employed in the final piece maN^gaLam singing.  Some prefer to sing the  shri composition, “bhAgya lakSmi bAramma” and conclude the concert. I am not aware of any  tillAna/javali  in shrI. The  rAgams  madhyamAvati, maNiraN^gu, puSpalatika, and  sAlagabhairavi are four  rAgams closely related to  shri.  madhyamAvati is an  audava‑audava rAgam with notes:  sa ri ma pa ni sa;  sa ni pa ma ri sa. While it almost resembles  shri, the omission of the notes  dha and  ga in  madhyamAvati makes a clear distinction. Hence while rendering  madhyamAvati, care should be taken not to touch these notes even slightly.  While  shri has greater majesty and depth,  madhyamAvati has greater number of compositions. maNiraN^gu is another  janyam of kharaharapriya with scale  sa ri ma pa ni sa;  sa ni pa ma ga ri sa. It has the same  arohaNam as  madhyamAvati, but takes the note ga in  avaraohaNam, which is not allowed in madhyamAvati. It omits the  dha, which is present in shrI(Shree).

(Courtesy of  P. P. Narayanaswami)

Rag Madhukali

Raga Kafi


The Rudra Veena of Ustad Asad Ali Khan -Beenkar of Alwar- असद अली खान




असद अली खान


The Rudra Veena is probably one of the oldest sacred musical instruments of the global heritage of sacred music.
The Rudra veena is very well known and till nowadays frightened for her
mystic and mighty spiritual auratic power and the end of any
type of musical questions and theories.Here one can find the operating mind expressed as pure Sound !

The mighty  Godess Sarasvati is Master of Rudra Veena.
Her portrait is even mounted on ancient bas reliefs dating back
to 1000  B.C.

Basically the rudra veena is not bound to style, because her style is worshipping god and initialisation of deeper type of inner meditation  for religious communication.
It is well known that in In ancient sacred music of India many Gharanas
(Music Traditions) exist but one should not forget that In the science
of music one has to make a difference between science (the discourse about matters) and religion (the discourse to god) therefore  it,s at least obsolete for asking about style in a serious manner.

The inner discourse, which is perfectly demonstrated by Beenkars of Rudra Veena is not bound by any rule,with one exception :execution of truth by the order of perfection.
(Ram51 Ed.)


The Rudra Veena maestro Asad Ali Khan spoke to Deepak Raja on January 11, 2000.

I belong to the Jaipur Beenkar gharana, founded by the 18th century beenkar, Shahaji Saheb. Rajasthan has been our home for several centuries even before Shahaji Saheb; but my ancestors had a long sojourn in Golconda-Bijapur in South India, after which we returned to Rajasthan. My father, Sadiq Ali Khan, was a musician at the Alwar and Rampur courts. He had studied with my grandfather, Musharraf Khan, who was trained by my great-grandfather, the legendary Rajab Ali Khan.

At Alwar, my father’s colleagues were people like Allah Bande Khan (the grandfather of Nasir Aminuddin and Nasir Moinuddin Dagar), and Sageer Khan (the son of Wazir Khan of Rampur). After retirement from the service of the Court, my father settled down at Rampur, where I was born in 1934. In 1962, my father agreed to join the faculty of the Bhatkhande College of Music at Lucknow. He died there in 1964. Until my father’s end, I lived and studied with him, traveling whenever necessary for concerts.

A sense of futility
In 1965, after my father’s demise, I took up an assignment at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, whose founder, Sumitra Charat Ram, was keen on preserving the Been art. Despite her efforts and mine, we could find only two students for the Been – neither of them has pursued the art — while the Sarod, Sitar and Khayal music got an encouraging response. I spent a futile three years there, and quit.

In 1971, the Delhi University invited me to join its music faculty with similar hopes, and similar results. I served there for 14 years, teaching music theory and the Been style of the sitar, which nobody plays any longer. But, I could not get a single student to learn the Been. By the early 1980’s I was traveling frequently for concerts, and unable to manage my teaching responsibilities. So, without waiting to reach the age of mandatory retirement, I quit in 1985 to devote myself to performing.

The futility of our efforts to enlarge the Been’s following, in the 1970’s does not surprise me. But, we had to try. The university classroom is, in any case, not the ideal place for shaping performing careers. Those who seek a degree in music, do so to qualify for jobs as music teachers or as producers with radio or TV. Many ladies study music at university while they wait for Mr. Right to turn up. The Dhrupad revival was, at that time, nowhere on the horizon; the international market for the Been was just about opening up. For propagating the Been art, that was not a promising context. Even if the limitations of the university framework did not exist, it would have been near impossible to find students who would submit themselves to the grooming of a beenkar, as my gharana views it.

The making of a beenkar
In our gharana, we take the students through a three-stage training. The Been is an instrument of the Dhrupad genre and the gayaki ang (the vocalized idiom). Therefore, a musician is first trained as a vocalist, starting with the science of breath control and intonation, going on to the knowledge of a sufficient number of ragas, and several Dhrupad compositions in each raga. At the second stage, he is trained to apply his knowledge of Dhrupad vocalism to the sitar, which is an easier instrument to handle than the Been. At this stage, he also acquires knowledge of the rhythmic intricacies and improvisatory movements of the Dhrupad genre.

Once he acquires sufficient command over the sitar, he is allowed to graduate to the Been. We make sure that by this time, the student can sit for hours in the posture of Vajrasana. He has to start with Vajrasana from the first day, long before he holds the sitar. The transition from the sitar to the Been is a major one, as the most important aspects of playing – the mizrab angle, the placement of strings — are different. Gradually, the transition is achieved and the craft is transferred to the Been. Beyond this, the instrument teaches the musician its own art. An exceptionally talented and dedicated student can take upto ten years to go through these three stages of grooming. Most will take fifteen years to become respectable performers, if they have it in them.

The tenacity required to go through this process is rare in present times. The days of hereditary musicianship are over; so are the days of princely patronage, which supported it. Given the many options today, who would want to make a choice that may, or may not, pay off after ten or fifteen years? Music is no more a way of life. It is a profession. Musicians want recognition and money fast, and they will learn what gives them a quick take-off. Moreover, today people want to learn music – whether Been or something else – with different objectives. It may have nothing to do with wanting to perform.

Today, the Dhrupad revival is a reality. The Been has a good international audience. There exists sufficient motivation for promising talent. But, the journey is long and arduous. By the grace of God, I have five disciples today – four foreign, and one Indian. I would be very happy if even one of them emerges as a competent performer.

Performance format
In my gharana, we present the raga in complete Dhrupad format – alap, jod, jhala, Dhrupad, followed by tar-paran. Beenkars who perform a partial or abbreviated protocol betray their poor training – it doesn’t matter how they justify it. Our training has equipped us in all the departments of the art. We don’t compromise with this format for any audience, Indian or foreign. Also, we make very sparing use of the tihai, which has become so popular today. A tihai has to be a spontaneous and effortless improvisation. The pre-composed tihai belongs to the territory of dance and solo percussion. In our gharana, we consider the tihai a childish gimmick.

In the choice of Dhrupad compositions, we have been taught that the compositions with four stanzas are meant for vocal rendition, while the twin-stanza compositions are suitable for the Been. After rendering the two stanzas – the sthayi and the antara – we begin the tar-paran improvisations. The tar-paran belongs to the jod-ang (the jod facet) of the improvisations with percussion accompaniment. A competent Beenkar knows hundreds of parans composed for the Pakhawaj, while his percussionist knows hundreds of stroke-patterns on the Been. They anticipate each other’s improvisations, and co-operate to create the most effective rhythmic impact. And, the advanced stage of the tar-parans, played with chikari punctuation, is the jhala ang (jhala facet/ movement).

Almost 50% of the success of our concert depends on the quality of the Pakhawaj accompaniment. The required rapport with the Pakhawaj player is best achieved through a stable partnership with one percussionist. For years, I have played with Gopaldasji, who once also accompanied my father. He is getting on in years now. I am developing a younger Pakhawaj player from Mathura. There are many soloists in India, but very few good accompanists. An accompanist has to be virtually groomed for that role by senior vocalists or beenkars.

I have done what I could for the Been. Its future is in the hands of God and the future generations.

(© Deepak S. Raja 2000)





Like so many music lovers in India and abroad I was saddened at the news of the demise of Ustad Asad Ali Khansaheb, the great Beenkar. I want to share these memories and thoughts about him.

My first recollection of Ustad Asad Ali Khan is from around 1972/73 when I saw him play in a small theatre in Calcutta. Khansaheb was at that time about 35 years of age but he was not well known in Calcutta and Beenkars, scarce for many years, had become a rarity in the musical world. He belonged to an hereditary musical family and, his father, Sadiq Ali Khansaheb had been one of the deeply respected musicians in the decades straddling independance, but was a remnant of the ‘ancien regime’ of Alwar and Rampur, that courtly musical culture that had receded into a semi mythic domain (…..).

Beenkars, though given a reflexive acknowledgment, were not the darlings of the box-office and with the erosion of the older patronage times were tough. He was very slim and straight and had a look of slightly defensive pride and was firmly buttoned into a black sherwani, shiny with age and meticulous care. It was still the polite mode for musicians to wear white kurta-pyjama, maintain a modest demeanor and, in the cold of winter add a black sherwani or kashmir shawl and I have the impression that Khansaheb kept to this dress throughout his life. As I got to know him better in the following years I realized his slightly haughty distance was a customary, if awkward, formality that served to sheild an otherwise shy, simple and kindly man. His compact face and firm expression would suddenly give way to a luminous smile and his vices were confined to consuming small quantities of rich mughlai food and smoking 555s. I found his Been playing fascinating to watch. The technique was powerful and demanding but he achieved a wonderful balance with long strong fingers, but perhaps the most remarkable thing was how he tuned his Been to his body, using his breath to expand against the tumbahs and regulating and inflecting his Sa the subsequent swaras Before his performance, as he circulated a little among the gunis and rasikas and patiently listened to several of the junior artistes, he appeared singular and a little lonely.

I don’t remember what Raga he played that first time but once I had understood that the Been, when amplified through pretty crude PA systems, such as may still be found in many concert venues in India, presents acoustic problems that demand an extra element of participation from its listeners, I was impressed with the sense that I had just encountered some sort of revelation of what lay at the heart of the instrumental music of North India. It was partly a compelling fulness in the articulation of the swaras despite what might otherwise be characterised as a twangy sound; strong in the base and thin in the higher registers. With this instrument he played the Ragas with a pure simplicity, quite free of arbitrary flourishes, that allowed the subtlest inflections of swaras to be filled with the moving energy. Later when I heard his Been un-amplified and was even able to put my ear to its gourds the incomparable richness of the sound became evident. It inspired me to make a Been and, although I had no expertise, it actually turned out to be OK and became part of a barter in which I got a Vicki 50cc moped, Manfred Junius took my Been and Peter Row acquired Manfred’s Kanai Lal Been. It was also an element in my early friendship with Khamsaheb. After that first concert I had gone to meet him to ask about the instrument and how to make it, taking measurements and peering at the jovari. Despite his profound intitial scepticism he was chuffed that I had tried and we agreed that I should try to make a good instrument for him one day. Unfortunately this never happened, largely because I was never convinced that I had any way of improving on the traditional instrument and I procrastinated in the expectation that one day I would have a brain-wave or two on the subject.

In 1975 Asad Ali Khansaheb stayed with me in my apartment at Lake Market for about ten days during which time I was able to observe his playing and the instrument in some depth. During that time Fahimuddin Dagarsaheb often dropped by as they were old friends and had much in common musically. One memorable evening they played and sang a very extended and vilambit Khamaj, full of beautiful vistars that showed fresh pathways into the Raga. In this context I recall Dr SK Saxena recounting an impromptu meeting in his Friends Colony apartment in Delhi in the late ’50s early 60’s, when Rahimuddin Dagar was requested by Sadiq Ali Khansaheb to listen to his son, the young Asad Ali, and comment on his playing. He began playing Bhimpalashi and after some time Dagarsaheb’s mood came and he began to sing, becoming deeply immersed in the raga. Dr Saxena claims that the music was so powerful and profoundly beautiful that it became overwhelming and after some time he had to beg Dagarsaheb to stop. Sadiq Ali Khansaheb was in tears and exclaimed ‘Arre! This is Been ang Beta . . this is how one should try to play!’. Although it was not spelt out as a formal arrangement I was led to believe that Asad Ali Khansaheb had benefitted from repeated musical contacts with Dagarsaheb and had absorbed fundamental ideas from him which changed his baaj, giving the Seniyah base of his family parampara a Dagar vocal quality in its presentation.

In 1978 our friend Brad Warren, who was learning sarode with him, took Asad Ali Khansaheb on an extensive tour of Austrtalia for six weeks. He played lots of concerts and was in fantastic form. The performance in the Sydney University chapel was particularly memorable for me as I had dragged along uncles and aunts who, while avid classical music fans, were mildly indifferent to Indian music. After two hours of one raga (again Bhimpalashi and wonderfully played) they surfaced at the interval a little glassy-eyed but convinced that he was one of the greatest musicians they had ever heard. Nevertheless, they pleaded, two hours was enough for the time being.

Khansaheb was not one to happily compromise on form or content but he was a regular artist at AIR in Delhi where time constraints had to apply. The Office and studios at AIR, which had assumed many of the functions of the Gunijankhanas of the princely courts, were blessed zones in those days, before Mrs Gandhi’s assassination and the brutish security regime that followed. The director for classical music through the time I used to visit was Sunil Bose, a thumri singer, whose office overflowed with musicians coming and going from work or just dropping by to share gossip and songs and consuming vast quantities of tea and cigarettes and if you were a music lover you were welcome. I was invited into the spaciously minimalist and relaxed studios to listen to someone or others recording session several times but the most memorable was in 1981. I met Khansaheb at AIR he called me into the studio and proceeded to play a brilliant Darbari Kanhra for 25 minutes followed, I think, by Desh.

I rarely saw him after that and never again had a chance to confer with him about Beens and music but he has remained prominent in my mind for all his qualities and because his vani stands clear as a realisation of the Veena-ang paradigm that has informed music in India for millenia. The fine point, the bindu, where breath and vani meet, humming like a bumble-bee, moving freely along the dandi from tumbah to tumbah, revealing in ahata naada the subtle and majestic dynamic of prana moving as musical thoughts and emotions.

[Courtesy of Jonathan Barlow ,a disciple of Pandit Radhika Mohan Moitra]


Asad Ali Khan

(Hindi: असद अली खान) (1937 – 14 June 2011) was an Indian musician who played the plucked string instrument rudra veena. Khan performed in the style dhrupad  and was described as the best living rudra veena player in India by The Hindu. He was awarded the Indian civilian honor Padma Bhushan in 2008.

Khan was born 1937 in Alwar in the seventh generation of rudra veena players in his family.[1][2]  His ancestors were royal musicians in the courts of Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, and Jaipur, Rajasthan  in the 18th century.[3][4]  His great-grandfather Rajab Ali Khan was head of the court musicians in Jaipur and owned a village land holding.[4][5]  His grandfather Musharraf Khan (died 1909) was court musician in Alwar, and performed in London in 1886.[4][6]  Khan’s father Sadiq Ali Khan worked as a musician for the Alwar court and for the Nawab  of Rampur for 35 years.[6][7]  Khan grew up in a musical surrounding and was taught the Beenkar gharana  (stylistic school of rudra veena playing) of Jaipur and vocals for fifteen years.[2][4][6]

Khan was one of a few active musicians who played the rudra veena and the last surviving master of one of the four schools of dhrupad, the Khandar school.[3][4][8] He performed in many countries, including Australia, the United States, Afghanistan, and Italy and several other European countries, and conducted music courses in the United States.[8][9] Khan worked at All India Radio, taught the sitar in the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at the University of Delhi for 17 years, and continued to train students privately after his retirement.[7][8][10] Students of Khan who perform include his son Zaki Haidar and Bikramjeet Das of Kolkata.[11][12] Khan criticized the lack of willingness among Indians to study the rudra veena and has more foreign than Indian students.[9] He was involved in preserving the playing of the instrument, which he believed to be created by the deity Shiva, and performed for SPIC MACAY, promoting Indian classical music to young Indians.[2][4][8] Khan was a Shi’a Muslim.[13]

Khan received several national awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1977 and the civilian honor Padma Bhushan in 2008, which was awarded by Indian President Pratibha Patil.[3][14][15] He was described as the best living rudra veena player in India by The Hindu and lived in Delhi.[6][16]



1. AUVIDIS-UNESCO CD D8021: NORTH INDIA/ Instrumental Music. 1989. Raga Gunakali, 15’41; the rest of the disc is devoted to other instruments and artists.
2. AUVIDIS-UNESCO CD D8025: NORTH INDIA/ Instrumental Music of Mediaeval India. 1991. Raga Darbari Kanada; Raga Gunakali (different version than on D8021).
3. NIMBUS NI 5601: Asad Ali Khan: Raga Jaijaivanti. Recorded 1997; released 1999.
4. NIMBUS NI 5633: Asad Ali Khan: Ragas Purvi and Jogiya. Recorded 1997.
5. MUSIC TODAY CD-A91012: Asad Ali Khan: Maestro’s Choice. 1991. Ragas Asaveri and Malkauns.
6. MUSIC TODAY CD-A97014: Asad Ali Khan: Rarely Heard Ragas. 1997. Ragas Badhans Sarang and Bhinna Sadja.
7. INDIA ARCHIVE MUSIC IAM CD 1080: Ustad Asad Ali Khan/ Rudra Bin. 2005. Raga Miyan Ki Todi.
#  Kinnear, Michael S. (1985). A discography of Hindustani and Karnatic music. Greenwood Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-313-24479-0.
# Jump up to: a b c Tandon, Aditi (2005-04-26). “Preserving the fading tradition of rudra veena”. The Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up to: a b c Massey, Reginald (1996). The Music of India. Abhinav Publications. p. 144. ISBN 81-7017-332-9.
# Jump up to: a b c d e f “Artiste profiles” (PDF). Nagaland University. June 2008. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up Miner, Allyn (2004). Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 132. ISBN 81-208-1493-2.
# Jump up to: a b c d Bor, Joep; Bruguiere, Philippe (1992). Masters of Raga. Berlin: Haus der Kulturen der Welt. p. 28. ISBN 3-8030-0501-9.
# Jump up to: a b “While my veena gently weeps”. The Financial Express. 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up to: a b c d “Profound notes”. The Hindu. 2006-02-18. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up to: a b Sharma, S.D. (2006-10-29). “Sole exponent of Rudra Veena”. The Tribune. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up Mohan, Lalit (2005-05-17). “Protect art of making Rudra veena: Ustad”. The Tribune. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up to: a b “Rudra veena exponent Ustad Asad Ali Khan passes away”. Daily News and Analysis. Press Trust of India. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
# Jump up Bhatia, Ravi (2008-04-20). “Artist’s passion for female faces”. The Tribune. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up Naqvi, Jawed (16 June 2011). “Battling the cultural Taliban”. Dawn. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
# Jump up “Padma Awards”. Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (India). Retrieved 18 June 2011.
# Jump up Sengupta, Debatosh. “Image Number: D-2488”. National Informatics Centre. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
# Jump up Pratap, Jitendra (2006-01-20). “Where are the songs of strings?”. The Hindu. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
http://www.rudraveena.org/Saraswati_Tantuvadya_Kendra.html(RudraVeena Builders)

The Rudra Veena

Traditional sources call the Rudra Veena the mother of all stringed instruments. This beautiful instrument is said to have been made by Rudra – or Shiva – who in some versions of the tale used his intestines to make the st…rings. Which is why the Rudra Veena is said to resonate to the primordial sounds of the Cosmos.

Other stories say that in making this instrument Shiva took inspiration from the form of Parvati. Thus the dandi is the hand of Parvati, the frets are her bangles and the strings Shiva’s hair.The pegs symbolize the Sapta Rishis, and the bridge is Sarasvati. The two gourds are Brahma and Vishnu.

It is also said that while Ravana was playing the Rudra Veena for Shiva, one of the strings broke and Ravana replaced it with a nerve from his body as he did not want to bring the recital to an end.

Historically the Rudra Veena seems to have come into being in the 13th or the 14 century AD. Initially,we are told, it was called Been and was used by certain types of ascetics in their meditation.

Ustad Bande Ali Khan 1830-1895 is said to be one of the greatest Rudra Veena exponents of all time. He was a court musician of Indore. Ustad Bande Khan played in both the Drupad and Khayal styles. Many Beenkars – players of stringed instruments – in Pune light incense at his grave on Guru Poornima day and offer flowers in homage and seek the blessings of one in whose hands the Rudra Veena is said to have taken the form as seen today.

Of his disciples, Ustad Murad Khan and Ustad Rajab Ali Khan were famous as singers as well as Rudra Veena players.

(Courtesy Vasudev Murthy)

असद अली खान




Rag Chandraneel





Rag Lalit




Rag Kedar Bhankar





The Man Who Never Lived

Evariste GaloisEvariste Galois  – Mathematician

Evariste Galois, the famous French mathematician whose life is tragic and inspiring at the same time was born 200 years ago. Gonit Sora is celebrating his life by bringing forth a series of articles on the life and works of Galois. (…)

A famous and oft repeated quote is “Whom Gods love, die young!” Although, there seems to be no scientific evidence nor any coherent study confirming or discarding this statement, it has been noticed now and again that great men indeed die young. Not everyone, of course; but there have been some glaring examples in many fields; take for instance the great poet John Keats who died very young. But the field in which such examples are galore is mathematics. Throughout the history of mathematics, there has been many examples of extraordinarily brilliant minds living for a very short span of time. Take for example, the great Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan who died at the young age of 32; the famous Norwegian mathematician Neils Henrick Abel died at the age of 27. Some other notable people who lived for a short span of time are Riemann and Pascal; both geniuses of the first order and both could have achieved a lot had fate been kinder to them. However, no example is as tragic and as hearttouching as that of Evariste Galois, the now famous French mathematician who died at the age of 20!

Evariste Galois (pronounced ‘Gelwa’) was born in Bourg la-Riene in the then French Empire on 25th of October, 1811. Galois, like many mathematicians before and after him showed a tenacity and zeal for higher mathematics at a very small age that could only be described as hauting. Galois started his formal education at the age of 10 being self tutored at home and later joined the Lycee’s school in his hometown. As was expected, Galois showed a tremoundous amount of scholarship in his studies and soon rose to the top of his class. But, such is the tale of genius that at the age of 14, he became bored with the regular school curriculum and started taking an uncanny liking towards mathematics. This was eventful not only for him, but for the whole of mathematics as he did some pioneering work in the fields he touched upon, that even now we are yet to reap the benefits of the seeds that he sowed.

During this period of his life, Galois began studying the masters of mathematics. It is said that he finished the famous mathematician Legendre’s book on Geometry in almost 5 days cover to cover and all the while he read it like a novel. It must be mentioned that even now professional mathematicians find this book too difficult to master. At the age of 15, Galois started to follow the original research papers of another great mathematician, Lagrange. This not only fueled his deep passion for mathematics but also encouraged him to unravel the mathematical mysteries on his own. In April, 1829 Galois published his first research paper on continued fractions at the age of only 17. Thus, began the journey of a legend. Galois deep and varied contributions in many different fields of mathematics has earned him the respect and adulation of one and all today. He was the first person to use the word ‘group’ to define a certain class of mathematicial objects that are today omnipresent not only in almost all branches of mathematics but in fields as varied as physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and even economics.

Galois after completing his school with excellent marks in mathematics decided to try and enter the distinguished Ecole Polytechnique, and so sat in its entrance exam. However, Galois failed to secure a seat in this institute of unique importance and had to enroll in the far inferior Ecole Normale Superior. Here Galois studied for some time, and then again decided to try and enter for the Ecole Polytechnique. Meanwhile, on the personal frontier Galois lost his father who committed suicide by hanging himself in public. This was a major blow to the teenaged Galois and which further fuled his Republican tendencies. The French nation was at that time going through enormous imbalance in its monarchy and system of governance. Galois too decided to join the revolution at the cost of his mathematics. History is testament to tha fact that Galois was even jailed a few times for his revolutionary activities and this got him into trouble even in his institution. All these incidents happened when he was preparing for his entrance exam at the Polytechnique. It was again a surprise when Galois failed a second time to clear it. The genius of Galois was not reccognised at that hallowed institution of learning. Eric Temple Bell, the famous historian of mathematics in his book “Men of Mathematics” quotes

“People not fit to sharpen his (Galois’) pencils sat on judgement of him.”

Such failure prompted Galois to almost leave doing mathematics and light the fire of revolution once again, which was later the cause of his death too.

Galois’ major contribution to mathematics lies in his theory of equations, where he gave a very novel approach to solve one of the major outstanding problems of his time. He along with Abel showed the impossibility of solving the quintic equation via regular methods. This is regarded as a giant leap in the then 19th century mathematical scene. Galois made fundamental contribution to a new field of mathematics which is now termed as ‘Galois Theory’. Galois wrote one paper on Number Theory where he discussed the concept of a ‘finite field’ for the first time. Galois’ entire mathematical research output was a mere 66 pages. This was all that he gave to world mathematics, and this is what made him immortal. It took major advances in group theory to fully understand the implications of the works of Evariste Galois.

The story of this great man came to a very cruel end on 31st May, 1832 at Paris when he had just entered his 20th year. Galois was killed in a duel. There have been numerous speculations as to what may have been the cause of his death, and it seems that the most likely explanation could be that he fell in love with his physician’s daughter and it was at her instigation that he challenged someone for a duel and was as a result killed. The sadder part of this story is that Galois didn’t recive any medical attention for many hours after he was shot, maybe this giant of mathematics could have been saved had helped arrived on time. Galois died a very slow and painful death at the tender age of 20, and the world lost a brilliant mind who was just showing his capabilites. His last words to his brother were

“Don’t cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.”

Galois never recived the admiration from his peers that he should have recived in his lifetime. Even his grave is unmarked and he died almost an anonymous person. It was only years after his death when the letters and manuscripts that Galois wrote just before he died were published that the world started revering Galois and his unparralled genius. The night before he died Galois sensing his end was near wrote down many letters, both mathematical and political to his numerous friends and brother. These letters contain some very though provoking mathematical ideas that has forever sealed Galois name in the annals of mathematical wizardry. The famous mathematician Hermann Weyl while describing these letters said

“This letter judged by the novelty and profundity of ideas it contain, is perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in the whole literature of mankind.”

Galois may have died, but his legacy still lingers on. His life shows us what legends are made of, and is a true testament to the fact that whether a man is a legend or not, is determined by history, not fortune tellers. Galois seems to be a perfect man on whom the words of Albert Einstein used to describe Mahatma Gandhi fit perfectly

“Generations to come and generations to go will scarcely belive that such a one as he ever walked upon this earth in flesh and blood.”

Courtesy of Manjil P. Saikia

The Art of The Shakuhachi

aaaAn Introduction to The Art of Shakuhachi playing

(Click image to read on)

The Spirit of Shakuhachi

The training and discipline common to the Way of shakuhachi consists of three levels of mastery: physical, psychological and spiritual. On the physical level mastery of form is the crux of practice. The teacher provides a model form, the student observes carefully and repeats it countless times until he has completely internalized the form. Words are not spoken and explanations are not given; the burden of learning is on the student. In the ultimate mastery of form the student is released from adherence to form.

This release occurs because of internal psychological changes taking place from the very beginning. The learning routine tests the student’s commitment and will power, but it also reduces stubborness, curbs wilfulness, and eliminates bad habits of body and mind. In the process, his or her real strength, character and potential begin to emerge. The spiritual mastery is inseparable from the psychological but begins only after an intensive and lengthy period of practice.

The heart of spiritual mastery is this: the ego self becoming the egoless self. Free expression of self is blocked by one’s own ego. In the Way of shakuhachi the student’s mastery of fom must be so total that there is no opening for distraction to enter. One becomes vulnerable when one stops to think about winning, losing, impressing, disregarding or taking advantage of a spirit or audience. When the mind stops, even for a single instant, the body freezes, and free, fluid movement is lost.

(Courtesy of Myoan Shakuhachi)

Pannalal Ghosh -The Seventh Hole of Madhyama



Pt. Pannalal Ghosh –
Wizard of the Bansuri

The Flute is called the magic voice of Krishna.
Pt. Pannalal Ghosh Flute has a magical touch of
other-worldness which is hardly to compare with
something else in the universe of sound.
Yes it,s true : the ocean of sound Nada Brahma cannot
be travelled by to a finite shore…

If there is a musical voice which covers the full depth of
the metaphysical corpse then it must be the charms of
the disemboddied flute of Pt Pannala Gosh…
vibrating an infinite desire for spiritual  freedom…


Born in Barisal, East Bengal (now Bangladesh) on July 31, 1911, Amulya Jyoti (nicknamed Pannalal) Ghosh was a child prodigy. He inherited his love of music and the bamboo flute (bansuri) from his grandfather, Hari Kumar Ghosh who played sitar,tabla,and pakhawaj and learned sitar from his father, Akshay Kumar Ghosh. He also learned music from his maternal uncle, Bhavaranjan Mazumdar who was a vocalist. The family first lived in the village of Amarnathganj and later moved to the town of Fatehpur.

Two apocryphal incidents happened to young Pannalal which had an influential bearing on his later life. First, at age 9 while looking for a stick, Pannalal found a flute floating in the river. He retrieved the instrument and so began his lifelong relationship with the bansuri. Two years later, when Pannalal had gone to the cremation ground to attend the last rites of one of his schoolteachers he met a sadhu who held both a conch and a flute. The sadhu asked Pannalal if he could play the flute, and young Pannalal obliged. The sadhu gave him the flute and told the boy that music would be his salvation. This removed the doubt from the mind of little Pannalal and he selected Flute as his main

There was a political unrest in 1928, and every youth was possessed with the freedom movement. Pannalal also joined this freedom movement. He enrolled in a gymnasium where he learned martial arts, boxing, and stick fighting and practiced physical culture. Pannalal was very fond of physical culture. He became the best student and champion of this gymnasium. He became more involved in the freedom movement and the British Government started keeping a watch on his movements. So at the age of seventeen Pannalal left Barisal and went to Calcutta in search of livelihood. In the teeming metropolis he found himself without any credentials except that he was a boxing champion and had won the All Bengal competition in boxing. With his skill as a boxer and martial art expert he landed a job as a coach in an athletic club. One year later, at the age of 18, Pannnalal lost his father.


At this time Pannalal, who was already playing sitar, began to focus his attention on bansuri. Economic necessity drove him into performing music for the silent films in Calcutta. At an All India music competition he met music director and composer Anil Biswas and began to play in his musical productions. It was during one such production when Anil Biswas was directing music for a dramatization of a work by the renowned poet Kazi Nazrul Islam that Pannalal decided that he needed a bigger flute who’s pitch and sonority would be more appropriate for both classical and light music. He met an old Muslim toy vendor who was also proficient in making flutes. With his help Pannalal experimented with various materials including metal and other types of wood, but decided bamboo was still the most suitable medium for a larger instrument. He finally settled on a bansuri which was thirty two inches long, with a sa (tonic) at kali doe (the second black key on the old harmonium scale). As a flute of this size was hitherto unknown, a rumor arose that Pannalal had had surgery to cut the webbing between his fingers to facilitate the large span required to cover the finger holes of the instrument. Of course, he had no such surgery, but through dedicated riyaz (practice), Pannalal invented and perfected the technique to play the large instrument. At this time he would get his bamboo to make flutes from discarded packing materials found at Diamond Harbor, the large port of Calcutta. Deforestation had not yet consumed the forest around Calcutta, and the bamboo was believed to have grown close to the city itself. He practiced hard and perfected the technique of vocal music on flute. At this time he realized the need for meend from madhyama swar to nishad or dhaivat shrutis in ragas like Bihag, Yaman, Bageshree and many others. He experimented and invented the seventh hole of madhyama.


He became famous for his flute playing and started getting performances at the major music conferences. At this time he came in close contact with great maestros like Ustad Inayat Khan (sitar), Ustad Dabir Khan (Been), Ustad Amir Khan (sarod), Ustad Badal khan (sarangi), and vocalists such as Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Majid Khan, Pt. Tarapoda Chkraborty, Pt. Bhismadev Chattopadhyay and many others. His quest for knowledge and purity of tradition made him acquire intricacies of music from these erudite musicians.

In 1936 Pannalal began working with Raichandra Boral, music director of the well known ‘New Theater’ and one year later he met his first guru, Kushi Mohammed Khan – the ‘Harmonium Wizard’. In 1938 as music director of the dance troupe of the princely kingdom of Seraikella State, Panna Babu (as he was affectionately known) was one of the first classical musicians to visit and perform in Europe, which he found rather agitating and unsettling. Soon after his return to India his guru expired. Thereafter he underwent training from Girija Shankar Chakravarti. In 1940, Pannalal moved to Bombay on the advice of his first disciple Haripada Choudhary (who had himself recently moved to Bombay). There he joined the Bombay Talkies film studio and gave music to quite a few films including ‘Basant.’ Panna Babu’s wife, Parul Biswas, (sister of Anil Biswas), was a graceful singer of kirtans who became one of the first well known playback singers for the new ‘talking’ films.

Pannalal first met the legendary Ustad Allaudin Khansahib, (reverentialy known as ‘Baba’) in 1946, when Baba came to Bombay with his disciple, Pandit Ravi Shankar. Initially, when Pannalal asked Baba to teach him Khansaheb replied, “You are already well-known, you don’t need to study more.” Pannalal implored Baba to please teach him so that he could learn “authentic music and sur.” In 1947, Pannalal’s lifelong yearning to learn music from a true guru was fulfilled when Allaudin Khansaheb , convinced of Pannalal’s sincerity to learn, accepted Pannalal as his disciple. Pannalal then accompanied Baba to his home in Maihar, where he received intensive taalim (training) from Khansaheb for the next six months. Under Baba’s firm yet understanding tutelage, he blossomed into the wizard of the bamboo reed.


Panna Babu earned fame through his regular broadcasts on AIR (All India Radio) and his many live performances at music festivals throughout India. The eminent vocalists Ustad Fayaz Khan and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur appreciated his music very much and requested Pannalal to accompany their vocal recitals on bansuri. He was praised for his adaptation and rendering on the bansuri of the khayal-ang- gayaki (the classical vocal style), particularly influenced by the great master of the Kirana gharana, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Pannalal also incorporated alap, dhrupad-ang-gayaki, tantrakari, jhala, thumri, dadra and folk music into his performance style on bansuri. Well versed in tabla and rhythm, he would perform in such difficult tals as jhoomra and tilwara. His music was steeped in devotion and had an intangible ethereal element, immense emotional depth and was infused with spiritual profundity. In addition to introducing the larger instrument, Pannalal Ghosh is credited with inventing the bass bansuri and introducing the six-stringed tanpura, high-pitched tanpuri and the surpeti or sruti box into Hindustani music. He created and popularized several new ragas including Deepawali, Pushpachandrika, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Nupurdwani, as well as multitudinous vilambit and drut compositions in many well known and rare ragas.


Panna Babu practiced daily meditation and observed maun by not speaking on Thursdays. He took the vows of Ramakrishna and put his faith in music. He took Mantra Diksha from Swami Birjanandji Maharaj who was a direct disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Because of his intense spiritual practice he started loosing interest in day to day life and decided to take Sanyasa. When he expressed his desire to Swamiji, his Guru, he was told that he would attain Moksha through music only. He should practice music as religiously as his spiritual practice. His music showed total spirituality, simplicity and purity.

(Courtesy  Pt. V.G. Karnad – Pt. Nityanand Haldipur -David Philipson)

Bhatiali Dhun

Rag Hindol Bahar

Rag Bhairavi Thumri


Rag Khamaj Thumri


The Pioneer of Modern Bansuri

Pt. Pannalal Ghosh -[24 July, 1911 – 20 April, 1960]

A Brief Life Sketch

The great maestro and pioneer of Hindustani classical flute music, late Pt. Pannalal Ghosh was born on 24th July, 1911 at Barisal, now in Bangladesh. His real name was Amal Jyoti Ghosh. He was brought up in a family of musicians.

Young Pannalal was highly receptive and absorbed good music from various sources. It appears that during his young days at Barisal, Pannalal was active in the freedom struggle. He came to Kolkata during late 1920’s, thereafter shifting to Mumbai (1940) in search of better prospects for his musical career. It was in no time that the nation recognized the maestro in him. His fame and popularity transgressed linguistic and cultural boundaries. Pannalal Ghosh resided in Mumbai till 1956, before making Delhi his final destination, where he passed away on 20th April, 1960.

At Kolkata during the early 1930s, Pannababuji received musical training for two years from his first Guru, the noted harmonium player and a renowned master in classical music, Ustad Khushi Mohammed Khan, under the traditional Ganda Bandhan form of tutelage. After the sad demise of Khushi Mohammed Khan, Pannababuji studied under Pt. Girija Shankar Chakraborty, an eminent musician and musicologist. Pannababuji was influenced by the style of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb initially. The strongest influence on Pannababuji’s music came from the systematic lessons under the legendary Ustad Allaudin Khan Sahib, from the 1947.

Pannalal Ghosh was a great innovator indeed! He was the first to transform a tiny folk instrument to a novel bamboo flute (32 inches long with 7 holes) suitable for playing traditional Indian classical music, and also to uplift its stature, bringing it at par with other classical music instruments. He is also accredited with the creation of a special bass flute, and introduction of the 6-stringed Tanpura, high-pitched Tanpuri and Surpeti into Hindustani music. Pannababuji’s innovations are of great significance because there have been rare examples in the world’s modern history of music when a musical instrument was created, as well as popularly accepted along with traditionally established instruments.

Besides, he also mastered the technique of presenting heavy melodies, balancing both beauty and grammar. These Raaga are now the specialty of the flautists of his gharana (tradition). Pannababuji regularly and gracefully played the Siddha Raaga such as Abhogi, Adana, Bageshree, Bahar, Basant, Bhairavi, Bhimpalasi, Bhairav, Bhoop, Bhopal Todi, Bihag, Chandramouli, Darbari, Des, Desee, Deskaar, Gaud-Sarang, Jaunpuri, Kafi, Kedar, Khamaj, Lalit, Malkauns, Marwa, Piloo, Miyan-Malhar, Pahadi, Puriya, Puriya-Dhanashree, Puriya-Kalyan, Sarang, Shankara, Shree, Shudh-Basant, Shudha-Bhairavi, Sindhura, Tilang, Todi, Yaman and many more. He was also open to accepting new ideas. This culminated in creating and/or popularizing several Carnatic / new / uncommon / mixed Raaga such as Andolika, Chandramouli, Deepawali, Jayant, Kumari, Noopur-Dhwani, Panchavati (a Raaga-Mala), Ratna-Pushpika, Shuklapalaasi, Pushpachandrika (created by Shri. Himanshu Dutta, Kolkata), Basant-Mukhari, Shankara- Bhariyar, Miyan-Ki-Sarang, Hansa-Narayani, Hansa-Dhwani, Malay-Marutham, Shivendra- Madhyam, etc.

His playing style was a uniform and balanced blend of both, the Gayaki (vocal style) and Tantkari (stringed instrument style). This is evident from his available recordings, and also from the fact that he was very much liked not only by the eminent vocalists such as Ustad Fayyaz Khan, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur and Surashri Kesarbai Kerkar, but his understanding of the Taal (rhythm) was also appreciated by all the renowned Tabla players (percussionists) including Ustad Amir Hussain Khan, Ustad Allarakha, and Pt. Nikhil Ghosh. To quote Pt. Lalji Gokhale (disciple of Ustad Ahmad Jan Thirakwa Saheb), who accompanied Pannababuji on a large number of occasions said “it was impossible that Pannababuji would ever make a mistake in “Taal

Pannalal Ghosh, as the music director of the dance troupe of the princely kingdom of Seraikela state, visited and performed in Europe in the year late 1930’s, and was one of the first classical musicians to have crossed the boundaries of India. After joining All India Radio, Delhi, as the Conductor of the National Orchestra in 1956, he composed several path-breaking orchestral pieces including Kalinga Vijay, Rituraj, Hariyali and Jyotirmoy Amitabha. His contribution in semi-classical as well as film music also was equally important, and his name is permanently linked to many famous movies such as Anjan, Basant, Duhai, Police, Andolan, Nandkishore, Basant Bahar, Mughal-e-Azam and many more.

(Source: article contributed by Dr. Vishvas M. Kulkarni)


For further reading recommendations on the below abstract paper :


Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960) is credited with the introduction of the b ansuri (North Indian bamboo flute) into Hindustani classical music in the twentieth century. While the transverse flute played a significant role in the music of India at least since the early centuries CE, it had lost its status as a prominent instrument in Indian art music several hundred years before Ghosh brought it to the forefront of Hindustani classical music. Ghosh’s achievement is considered in the context of his time in terms of the social, political, economic, technological, and musical circumstances in India, and particularly Bengal. While twentieth-century developments contributed to his success, it was ultimately through his own efforts that the b ansuri was accepted as a featured Hindustani classical instrument. By redesigning the instrument, working out a technique to emulate the subtleties of the voice, listening to diverse genres and styles of music, engaging in intensive study, and conceptualizing his own eclectic style of playing, he succeeded in convincing twentieth-century audiences that the bansuri deserved a place as a valued instrument for the performance of Hindustani classical music. His achievement also paved the way for other instruments such as shahn ai, sarangi, and sant ur to achieve similar recognition in the classical music of North India. I have drawn from elements of musical biography; Indian history; organology; music theory, transcription, and analysis; and anthropology to show how Ghosh’s career is illustrative of a broader narrative of tradition and innovation in twentieth-century Hindustani classical music. My own studies of Hindustani classical music in the lineage of Pannalal Ghosh began in 1988, and provided a foundation for much of the work in this dissertation. Interviews with former students and associaties of Pannalal Ghosh, along with several articles about his life and work, enabled me to piece together his biography. Research into the history and culture of his time provided a clearer picture of the environment that shaped his life and musical development. Transcription and analysis of performances by Ghosh and other vocalists and instrumentalists helped me to situate his music within the context of North Indian classical music in the twentieth century.


For a Thesis on : Tradition and Innovation in the Bansuri Performance Style of Pannalal Ghosh

please click image below…



Date: August 31, 1969

Pannalal Ghosh, the unrivalled maestro of the flute, was only 48 when he suddenly died of a heart attack in Delhi in 1960. He was a virtually self-taught musician. Strange but true, he had not found his real guru, Acharya Allauddin Khan, till he was 36. But he had made his mark as a gifted flutist when New Theatres, the renowned film studio in Calcutta, spotted his talent, and employed him on its orchestral staff for background music in 1934.This proved fruitful in two ways. For it was here that Pannababu met Raichand Boral, the famed composer and music director, and Khushi Mohammad Khan, the noted harmonist. While the former initiated him into the mysteries of film music and orchestration, the latter gave him systematic instruction in flute playing, Another great composer from whom he benefited was Himanshu Dutt.

Looking back, it would appear that music beckoned to Pannababu when he was only seven — an age when most boys are occupied with games and other diversions of childhood. And while he played simple, breezy tunes to the delight of the local village folk of Barisal (now in Bangladesh), his inventive genius toyed with the idea of extending the tonal capabilities of his flute as a medium. of classical music. [Thus followed a systematic study of its structure and technique. This led him to try a variety of material from aluminum and brass to plastic and bamboo, one-after another, in equally varied shapes and sizes, before he decided on the last, and added a seventh playing hole to evolve the flute he had long visualized. He then developed and perfected a style of’ playing that marked a radical departure from the centuries-old style of music.

Private collection of Mohan D. Nadkarni/
Pannalal Ghosh
In performance at the first Mumbai Tajya sageet-Mritya Mahotsava in Mumbai in 1956. Accompanying him is V.G. Karnad (on his right) and Nikhil Ghosh, his eminent younger brother on the tabla (to his extreme left)

This was in the mid-thirties, at a time when no one even had foreseen the possibility of harnessing the bansuri as an effective instrument for the unfolding of elaborate classical melodies. The listeners were struck as much by the tonal quality of his flute as by the range and variety of his improvisation. So perfect was its adaptation to classical articulation that it could afford the illimitable nuances of the human voice with a naturalness all its own. In point of depth, range and volume, it could vie with plucked instruments like the veena, the sitar and the sarod. Before long did his originality and virtuosity in enlarging the scope of his medium to wider panoramas of musical form and design bring him distinction as a pioneer in the introduction of gayaki to the woodwind.

As said earlier, it was Acharya Allauddin Khan who exerted the strongest influence on the development of Pannababu’s idiom. That explains why his style presented so unique a blend of technique and temperament, of authenticity and appeal — which constitute the hallmark of the Acharya’s Senia parampara.

Pannababu was a deeply religious man. He had his spiritual initiation from Swami Birajananda, a direct disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The profound influence of the teachings of  – Paramahamsa Sri Ramakrishna had shaped his character and personality. Added to this was also the mystical element he inherited from Acharya Allauddin Khan. Not surprisingly, his music generated a mood of spiritual awareness in the listener. Passage after passage that he played came to us as the utterance of a deeply moved soul.

Pannababu’s contribution to the enrichment of the raga repertory of north India showed a rare synthesis of tradition and experiment again the result of the Acharya’s influence on him. His new creations like Deepavali, Jayant, Chandra-Mauli and Nupur-dhvani, to name a few were marked by structural authenticity and enduring appeal. So were his thematic compositions which he offered us as conductor of National Orchestra of AIR at Delhi. It is important to remember that he had proved his mettle as composer and music director much earlier during his association with Bombay Talkies before he met Acharya Allauddin Khan.

(Courtesy Pannalal Ghosh Mohan D. Nadkarni 1969)

The Bansuri: A History

Krishna is a Hindu deity, worshipped as an incarnation of Vishnu. Krishna is know as the divine charmer who played flute and through his music, caused many to fall in love with him. Many believe that the North Indian bamboo flute is sacred, and only those who are very blessed
and very spiritually inspired can “pick up the most pristine and natural instrument in their mortal hands and go on to make divine music with it” (Roy, 72). Lord Krishna is also called Murlidhar
or “the flute-holder” is told of in stories about his flute playing and seduction of women to his divinity. Many in the Hindu faith believe that Krishna’s flute playing represents the human soul yearning for union with the divine lover.

The transverse (held across or side blown) flute is found in almost every culture. The bamboo transverse flute is found in Asia and the West Indies. The bansuri is not the only North India bamboo flute, but is commonly the concert-flute or the classical flute of North Indian music. First millennium BC history cites flute, harp, and drum in Vedic rituals. Vedic text is the
oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scripture of Hinduism. “The flute is, perhaps, one of the oldest instruments in the world, making an appearance iconographically in Egypt around 4000 BC” (Potter, 30). Buddhist sculptures showed flutes being played by humans, men and
women, celestial beings, instrumental ensembles and accompanying vocal music, chamber music and in the court and temples. “The Sufis (members of mystical sects of Islam, the earliest dating
from 8th century Persia) believe that the flute and the man of God are one and the same” (Potter, 37). The Santal tribes of North India (the largest tribal community of India) believe that the flute
connects the mortal humans with supernatural forces. The flute is a very important instrument in Indian culture; many poets such as Sarojini Naidu wrote about the flute.

After the Muslim invasions of India that began in the 12th century, the bansuri disappeared as a court instrument
but remained common in the folk tradition the states of Bengal, Orissa, and Assam.

The Bansuri’s Structure

The Bansuri flute is a North Indian classical instrument that may be performed in many different venues, in many different genres, and in many different ensembles. The bansuri is a
cylindrical tube with a uniform bore made from a single piece of straight, smooth bamboo that is free of notches. The concert bansuri is usually between 60 and 90 centimeters and 25 millimeters
in diameter, but the bansuri flute can be of many different lengths (especially in folk music traditions). The top end is closed (either naturally or with a cork stopper) and the lower end is
open. The placement of the finger holes are dependent upon the tuning of the instrument, but there is a mouth hole at the top and usually six finger holes. There is also often a small hole at
the end of the flute for tuning. The bansuri can be made in any pitch. Flutes used for folk and popular music are often higher pitched than classical bansuri flutes, which are often pitched at

Instrument Making

The bansuri is made from special bambo that has large cross-sections (large spaces between notches). It is believed that Assam, a state in north-eastern India, produces the highest
quality bamboo. The bamboo is cut after the rainy season and left to dry for months. One end is corked after the bamboo in cleaned and holes are pierced by a red hot iron rod. After the mouth
hole is created, the finger holes are created in relation to the pitch created from the moth hole. Sometimes oils, such as mustard and coconut, are used on the inside of the bamboo to keep the
instrument from drying out and cracking. According to Catherine Potter, instruments are commonly made by flutists themselves who are self taught. However, there is an American flute maker at the Ali Akbar Khan School of Indian Classical Music in St. Raphael, California who
makes some of the best bansuri that are often ordered from professional flutists in India.

Modern Bansuri

The bansuri is used for classical, folk, and popular performances of North India. Often, the bansuri is a solo instrument accompanied by table and tanpura, and sometimes a second
bansuri becomes an echo of the solo bansuri. The bansuri only became a stage performing instrument in the twentieth century. There are no established stylistic schools of bansuri like with
vocalists and stringed instrumentalists. Many of today’s great flutists such as Pannalal Ghosh, Vijay Ragha Roa, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Nityanand Hadipur did not study with flutists but
other instrumentalists.

Performing on the Bansuri

The following teachings are based on books by Lyon Leifer who studied with Pandit Pannalal Ghosh and Catherine Potter who studied with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Notation of
North Indian classical music is rare because of the depth of their aural tradition. However, the notation that is used is Bhatkande notation using swara syllables. Swara syllables are similar to
the western tradition of solfege and include the syllable sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, and sa. The bansuri can have six or seven holes. The advantage of seven holes according to the Ghosh/
Murdeshwar school is as follows: Additional half-step of low range; immensely greater flexibility in treating the register break; and register breaks can make gliding difficult, so the
seventh hole is advantageous for ease of register breaks. Lyon Leifer details the advantage of six holes as being only one: Prevents the performer from having to stretch the right hand for the seventh hole. When playing in an ensemble, the other instruments that will play with the bansuri will tune according to the pitch of the given bansuri. The bansuri is played while sitting cross legged, horizontally, either to the left or to the right. The first hand facing in towards the musician and the second hand (furthest away) is palm out. The first three fingers of each hand are used to cover the holes and sometimes the middle part of the finger is used to cover. Microtonal ornamentation and sliding is often used. Bansuri flutes can play at least two and a half octaves, the upper octaves are achieved by overblowing to the harmonics. Bansuri flutes do not have perfect intonation, so tuning is often done with compensation from the embouchure and the turning of the flute in or out to push the airstream further in the hole or further across the hole. Below, is a bansuri fingering chart from Catherine Potter’s Hariprasad Chaurasia: The Individual and the North Indian Classical Music Tradition. Staging can often be the ensemble sitting center stage, the tabla player stage left, and two tanpuras behind the bansuri player.

While playing the bansuri, the fingers may cover the holes with second phalanx of the fingers, which facilitates covering the holes that are large distances apart. The holes can be
partially uncovered to produce different intonation, slides, microtonal effects. However, there are bansuri players who use the pads of their fingertips to cover the holes of the bansuri, and this
may be more comfortable at first for the western flutist when making the shift from the Boehm flute to the bansuri. Below is an image of finger placement on a bansuri using the second phalanx from Catherine Potter’s Hariprasad Chaurasia: The Individual and the North Indian Classical Music Tradition.

As stated by Catherine Potter, Chaurasia’s idea of a “good bansuri sound” is strong vibrato, full tone, use of dynamics, and the use of sustained tones. According to Potter, tone quality is actually more encouraged in film music rather than classical music, but Chaurasia encourages his classical students to produce full, strong tone quality.

Holding the Bansuri

The bansuri, unlike the Boehm flute, can be held to either the right or left side of the performer. If held to the right, the left hand is placed on the instrument first (first as in closest to
the face), palm in, thumb supporting the bansuri away from the palm, index finger straight and angled toward the tone hole. The first three fingers of left hand are placed on the first three holes.
Then, the right hand is placed second (furthest away from the face), palm out, fingers flat, some use the tip of the fingers to cover the holes, others use the second phalanx. The little finger of the
right hand must angle out from the hand in order to reach the seventh tone hole. The seventh tone hole is reached by keeping the forearm and hand in-line (wrist not flexed) and rotate them

Bansuri Ornamentation

There are many different types of ornamentations used in Hindustani music, and many of the instrumental ornamentations are based on vocal genres. However, after listening to many bansuri recordings and watching many videos, I have collected a few ideas: Pitches can
ornamented by physically moving the bansuri up and down and with side to side motions to effect the embouchure placement. Mind (or meend) is produced by slowly rolling the finger in a
circular motion to gradually open and close the hole. Kana is produced by sliding the fingers over or off the hole after blowing. Gamaka is produced by approaching each pitch from above by
using the kana technique in combination with embouchure movement and air movement. Gamak is an oscillation between two notes (usually a diatonic step apart) like a tremolo. Taan is
improvised variations including rapid variation in accordance with the raga.

Double note paltas are patterns with a repeated note that is separated by a lower Register shifts are another important ornamentation but considered more of a theme and variations and includes performing one idea and performing it again but in a different register. Andolan is an ornamentation where given scale degrees oscillate between a particular microtonal position of the scale and another, slightly lower position. Andolan is performed by Rocking the finger which produces the relevant scale degree very slightly back and forth in its normal direction of closure and opening. Articulation is another important aspect of not only ornamenting but of the overall performance of a raga. Articulations that are commonly used include: Legato phrasing, pitches connected with mind (meend), single, double, triple tonguing, and slightly detached to staccato.

( Excerption Courtesy by Kelly Mullins )




We, the Indians inculcate all the three pillars of performing arts, that is, vocal
music, instrumental music and dance into the definition of music. Perhaps,
this notion can also be traced back in the very famous ancient and historic manuscript entitled“Sangeet Ratnakar”, where it has been said: “Geetamvadayam tatha nrityam trayam sangeetam uchatay” (Brahaspati, 2002) means music is defined as the art of singing,playing an instrument and dancing.

Under the Hindustani Classical Music, the tradition of “Gharana” system holds
specialimportance. Perhaps, this feature is so unique that no where around
the world can onefind this sought of a tradition. The Gharana system is followed by boththe North-Indian as well as the South-Indian forms of Indian classical music.In south India, the term Gharana is acknowledged by the word “Sampraya”. In ancient times,there existed several Samprayas  such as the “Shivmat”, the “Bhramamat” and the “Bharatmat” (Pranjpay, 1992). It is believed that in ancient times,there existed a single form of the style of Indian Classical Music. However, the advent of the Muslims had a great impact on the Indian  Classical Music and this created a division into this form of music. This lead to the regeneration of two forms of
Indian Classical Music: the Carnatic Music (The South Indian and otherwise
the original version of Indian Classical Music.)  and the Hindustani Music
(The North Indian and the improvised version of the Indian Classical Music).

One of the most unique and exclusive feature which is incorporated in the
teaching of Indian Classical Music is the “Guru- Shishya” tradition. Perhaps
,in recent times, theeducation of Indian Classical Music is also imparted inseveral institutions,
schools, colleges and universities. However, history and statistics reveal that even nowthe finest artists of the Indian Classical Music are produced through the “Guru-Shishya” tradition.n India, the Gharana system has contributed to all thethree forms of music, that is vocal, instrumental and dance.

The Gharana comes into existence through the confluence of the “Guru”
and the “Shishya(Chaubey, 1977). A talented “Guru” through his intelligence, aptitude and shear practicecreates a sense of uniqueness and exclusivity and therebyinculcates a special eminence into his form of music. These attributes and traits are amicably transferred into the talented “Shishya” and the particular form of theperforming arts thus becomes a tradition. These exceptional qualities are in fact so
strong and prominent that the audiences can immediately recognize the Gharana of the artist.

It is believed that when so ever the form or style created by the founder “Guru” is carried forth till three generations; it turns in to the form of “Gharana”. The nameof the Gharana can be same as the nameof the founder “Guru”, or came be named after the place where the founder “Guru” resided. For example, in the field of Hindustani Vocal Music, there exists several Gharanas (Deshpandey 1973) such as the Gwalior Gharana, the Dilli Gharana, the Kirana Gharana, the AgraGharana etc. Similarly, under the Instrumental Music the Senia Gharana, the Senia Maihar
Gharana, the Etawah Gharanaand the Imdadkhani Gharana hold special place (Mankaran, 2000). Likewise, the Jaipur Gharana and the Lucknow Gharana are famous for dance (Shrivastav, 1985).

The Imdadakhani Gharana (BUDHADITYA, 2012), school of music traces its stems from the very ancient Gwalior Gharana. The founder of the tradition of the Imdadkhani Gharana was Ustad Sahabdad Hussain. He was intimately related to Ustad Haddu Khan of the Gwalior Gharana. In fact, he was brought up in his house and received training in Khayal singing
from him. Ustad Shahabdad Hussain also used to play sitar.

The Imdadkhani Gharana is named after Ustad Imdad Khan, the son of Ustad Shahabdad Hussain.

Ustad Imdad Khan(1848-1920)

Ustad Imdad Khan was born in Agra. He was the court musician of Indore. Ustad Imdad Khan was initially instigated into vocal music and later into sitar by his father. Subsequently, he listened and learnt from a number of stalwarts and connoisseurs in this particular field and consequently cultivated a completely new style of Sitar and Surbahar playing. This eventually led to the
establishment of a new Gharana called the Imdadkhani Gharana, also called
the Etawah Gharana, after a village outside Agra where Ustad Imdad Khan lived.
The Imdadkhani Gharana proliferated over from Etawah to Kolkata, Indore, Hyderabad,
Mumbai and subsequently through the whole country.Invariably as Ustad Imdad Khan, his son Ustad Enayat Khan was one of the most renowned Sitarists of the early 20th

Credit remunerates to Ustad Enayat Khan for making the art of Sitar playing more affable and popular for a largeraudience in the cultural capital of India, which is Kolkata. Earlier to this, the Sitar was heard primarily in a lesser circle by music fanatics. Apart from popularization of this art, Ustad Enayat Khan also developed and improvised the architecture/design of the Sitar. Ustad Enayat Khan died at a very early age of only 43 and left four children. His son, the
illustrious sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan (VILAYAT, 2012, MEDIEVAL, 2012, WAJAHATKHAN, 2012) was the greatest exponents of the Imdadkhani Gharana and one the most magnificent sitar player of all times. Pandit Bimalendu Mukherjee,
the well-known sitarist and doyen of the Imdadkhani Gharana was also a disciple of Ustad Enayat Khan. His son and disciple, one of the greatest sitar players of all times, the world renowned sitarist, Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee is the greatest stalwart of the Imdadkani Gharana.
Section 2 of this manuscript provides a detailed description of the major features of the Imdadkhani Gharana. The detailed intricacies of the technique of playing the instrument have been analyzed. Tuning system and the structural modulations of the sitar under the Imdadkhani Gharana are described in section 3. A detailed study reveals the exclusive
implications of the modulations, along with a brief comparison amongst the instrument design corresponding to the other Gharanas. This is followed by the raga repertoire in section 4. An informative and sequential study is made in this particular section. Finally, the conclusions are drawn in section 5.






The Imdadkhani Gharana inculcates a distinctive characteristic for the sitar playing called the gayaki ang. This refers to the technique where the Sitar player is intended to come as close as possible to the articulate potency and variety of human voice. Thus, this refers to the
intonation of the human voice on the instrument. Under the Imdadakhani Gharana, the Raag
Alaap was initiated in the conduct in which it is practiced in the khayal singing. The entire vocal embellishment of the khayal style was absorbed and integrated into the art of sitar playing. According to the capacity of the instrument, the string deflections were enlarged to at least five notes. The raga development inculcated the ‘Khatka-jhatka’ type of ‘alankars’ and
the maximum exploitation of the ‘aans’, which is the continuity of the sound after the string plucking. Also, the plucking work was constrained to the right index finger. Furthermore, the ‘Jhala’ and the ‘Thok-jhala’ were instituted as discrete sections.The rhythmic pattern was
enriched tremendously by incorporating all the khayal taans, tabla-pakhwaj bols and the
introduction of several rhythmic variations and subdivision of tempo. An explicit sequence and progression was inculcated into the playing of ‘gat-toda’ and the composition of splendid ‘todas’, with the subsequent matching ‘tehais’. Major structural
transformations to both the Sitar and Surbahar & Foundation and development of the instrumental style known as the ‘gayaki ang’ are amongst the major achievements of the Imdadkhani Gharana.


Tuning of an instrument depends prominently on the instrumentalist’s Gharana or style, convention and each artist’s respective inclination. The tonic in the Hindustani Classical system is insinuated as “Sadaj”. It refers to ‘sa’ or ‘kharaj’.
Traditionally, the principal playing string is virtually tuned a perfect fourth above the tonic. Generally, the second string is tuned to the tonic. Subsequently, the sympathetic strings are tuned to the notes of the raga being played. Perhaps, there exists a minor aesthetic modification to the order of these and how they are tuned. Every Raga demands the re-tuning of the
instrument. The strings are tuned by tuning hooks. Furthermore, the key playing strings can be fine-tuned by sliding a bead threaded on each string just below the bridge and also by very small and efficient steel pegs which are nowadays gaining popularity.

A comparative analysis between the common tuning “Kharaj-Pancham” sitar (exercised by Pt. Ravi Shankar) and “Gandhar Pancham” (exercised under the Imdadkhani Gharana) is as follows:
In the “Kharaj-Pancham” sitar, the Chikari strings are tuned as: Sa (high), Sa (middle) and Pa, whereas in the Imdadkhani school, the Kharaj string is detached and substituted by a fourth String, which is tuned to Ga. Inculcating these combinations, the sitarist produces a harmony
Sa, Sa, Pa, Ga, or Sa, Sa, Ma, Ga or Sa, Sa, Dha, Ga, contingent to the Raga which is being
played. However, the Jod and the Baaj strings are tuned in the similar fashion in both the Gharanas. The Jod string is tuned to Sa and the Baaj string is tuned to Ma.

Under the Imdadkhani Gharana, a large number of improvisations were made to the instrument for executing the Gayaki ang into the instrument. Ustad Vilayat Khan increased the thickness of the Tabli and the Tar-gahan. Also, a joint wasintroduced between the tumba and the stem, so that the instrument could withhold larger stress and strain. Furthermore, with
the passage of time, the tumba was enlarged and stem became slightly broader. In order to cut down the metallic sound of the frets, Ustad Vilayat Khan supplanted the brass frets with an
alloy of superior quality. Furthermore, the material and thickness of the strings were also critically modulated. The Baaj, Gandhar and the Pancham strings were steel strings of
gauge number 3. The Jod string was made from brass with gauge number 27.
All the Tarabs and the two Chikari strings were made of steel with gauge number 0.

Another major structural modification of the instrument was the removal of the upper tumba. During early times, when electronic amplification, were not plausible, this upper tumba was beneficiary in boosting the volume of the instrument with a
better delivery of the harmonics. However, with the advancement of technology, the Imdadkhani Gharana sitar got devoid of this part and the stem efficiently served as a resonator. The jawari-bridge was considerably modified in a manner to provide a
better acoustic experience. Moreover, the traditional ivory jawaris were replaced by ebony and polymer jawaris. The conventional sitar incorporated seven strings streaming over the main bridge. However, under the Imdadkhani Gharana the number of strings reduced to six. This lead to the removal of the lowest octave, but were replaced with strings tuned to the
middle, which acted as fillers over and above the Chikari strings. These structural and tuning vicissitudes directly inculcated the Gayaki ang into the instrument.


The Imdadkhani Gharana is receptive to all the ancient, rare and well-established Ragas, but it has a convention ofspecializing in a certain Ragas for concert performances. However, this situation varies from artist to artist, as every individual has a different musical temperament, even if he or she belongs to the same Gharana. As per the historians ,

Ustad EnayetKhan and Ustad Imdad Khan concentrated on very few Ragas for concert performances. On the other hand, Ustad Vilayat
Khan rendered the rarest Ragas to his audiences. Statistics suggest that the following Ragas have been extensively explored and performed by the stalwarts of the Imdadkhani Gharana: Ahir Bhairav, Lalit , Miyan ki Todi, Bhimpalasi, Shuddha Sarang, Marwa, Puriya, Puriya Kalyan, Bihag, Kedar, Kamod, Hameer, Shuddha Kalyan,Yaman, Jog, Vachaspati, Darbari Kanada

Yet another distinct feature of the Imdadkhani Gharana is that most of the renditions are performed in the Teen taal, though explorations are also made in the Ek taal as well as Jhap taal. The various stalwarts of this Gharana have ardently played and explored the traditional and the mature ragas ofthe Hindustani Classical Music. They have shown little zeal and
enthusiasm towards the creation of the new ragas. Every phrase of the raga is tried out in diverse ways and explored deeply to render the coveted harmonic melodious acoustics
anticipated by the artist.

It is quite evident that the Imdadkhani Gharana has emerged as one of the most prominent and enduring pillar of the Hindustani Classical Music.

The simplicity and exclusive magnificence of the Gharana has brewed it into a much coveted school of music. The “gayaki ang” is the biggest asset of this Gharana and leads to breaking of barriers between the vocal and instrumental music.

The main attribute to the success and widespread popularity of the Gharana goes to its founder “gurus” and stalwarts, who brought about revolutions in the field of Indian Classical Music. This manuscript ascribes a detailed description of the basic traits inherent to this
Gharana. Furthermore, a brief comparative analysis is also performed between this Gharana and the other prevalent Gharanas, based basically upon the tuning systems and the structural modification details of the instrument.


1. Brahaspati A. Sangeet Ratnakar, Sangeet Karyalay, Hathras, 2002
2. Pranjpay S. S. Sangeet Bodh, Madya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy, Bhopal, 1992
3. Chaubey S. K. Sangeet ke Gharano ki Charcha, Uttar Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy, Lucknow, 1977
4. Deshpandey V. H. Gharanedar Gayaki, Oriental Longman Limited, New Delhi, 1973
5. Mankaran V. Sangeet Saar, Raj Publishers, Jalandhar 2000
6. Shrivastav H. Raga Parichay, Sangeet Sadan Prakashan, Allahabad, 1985
7. BUDHADITYA (2012) http://www.budhaditya.com/ Accessed on 10 th November, 2012
9. MEDIEVAL (2012) http://www.medieval.org/music/world/vk.html Accessed on 12th December 2012
10. WAJAHATKHAN(2012) http://www.wajahatkhan.com/family.html Accessed on 12th December 2012

(Courtesy of  Gagandeep Hothi*
1. Research Scholar, Dept. of Performing Arts, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla-5, India1. Research Scholar, Dept. of Performing Arts, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla-5, India)




                                                       The Etawah Gharana

(Courtes by Shahid Parvez)

This style comes from of the most ancient school of music, the Gwalior gharana. It is also known as the Imdadkhani gharana after Ustad Imdad Khan, the son of Ustad Sahebdad Khan. Ustad Sahebdad Khan was trained and influenced by Ustad Haddu and Ustad Hassu Khan of the Gwalior gharana, and thus dhrupad and khayal vocal genres can be glimpsed in the playing style and in the choice of ragas. To the techniques of Been and Rebab many new techniques have been added.Ustad Imdad Khan and his sons Ustad Inayat Khan and Ustad Wahid Khan made this gharana famous. Ustad Vilayat Khan, son of Ustad Inayat Khan, furthur developed his father and uncle’s handling of midh and murki. He also modified the structure of Sitar.

Based on the classical structure of the raga, this gharana includes alap, jor and jhala (slow then accelerating improvisation) without percussion as it is played in dhrupad, followed by the khayal composition called Gat, with the tabla, developed in numerous improvisations on rhythm and note like tans and layakaris (modified version, source: musicalnirvana.com
Ustad Imdad Khan

Instrumental in developing the unique style that characterizes the Etawah Gharana, Ustad Imdad Khan was one of the most influential instrumentalists of Indian Classical Music. He helped to establish the Etawah Gharana, which is also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana.Ustad Imdad Khan was born into a musical family. His father was Ustad Sahabdab Khan, the founder of the Etawah Gharana.

Ustad Sahabdab Khan was a close relative of Ustad Haddu Khan of Gwalior Gharana. Initially Sahabdab Khan was taught khayal vocals by Ustad Haddu Khan, but later took up Sitar. He later moved to Etawah, from which the gharana’s name is derived.

Although Ustad Sahabdab Khan was the founder of the gharana, It was Ustad Imdad Khan who developed the instruments, and created an innovative instrumental style that became characteristic of the gharana. Imdad Khan heard and studied the contemporary styles of various stalwarts of music of his time. He then developed an original style, one that was radically different from the then prevalent Senia style for playing the surbahar and sitar, thus ushering in a new era.

Ustad Imdad Khan introduced elements of khayal gayaki into the alap for the first time. All gayaki ornamentations were implemented and systematically developed into the techniques for this newly developed style for playing sitar. All khayal taans, tabla and pakhawaj bols, and the numerous rhythmic variations and subdivisions of the tempo were interspersed, strengthening the interaction of the swara and the laya. Jhala and thok jhala were introduced as separate sections. A definite sequence was brought into playing the gat toda, and the composition of exciting todas with matching tihais added new grandeur to a sitar recital. This new style that was to gain in popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and that continues to flourish with proponents like Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, has come to be known as Imdadkhani.

Commissioned by Mysore kings in whose courts he served, Ustad Imdad Khan became the first Sitar player to come out with a recording. RPG / EMI has brought out those timeless recordings in a two CD album. Chairman’s Choice – Great Gharana – Imdadkhani (CMC 882507-08).Ustad Imdad Khan had two sons, Ustad Enayet Khan and Ustad Waheed Khan who took up Sitar and Surbahar

Ustad Wahid Khan

Instrumental in developing the unique style that characterizes the Etawah Gharana, Ustad Imdad Khan was one of the most influential instrumentalists of Indian Classical Music.

He helped to establish the Etawah Gharana, which is also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana. Ustad Imdad Khan was born into a musical family. His father was Ustad Sahabdab Khan, the founder of the Etawah Gharana.

Ustad Enayet Khan was a master of Sitar and Surbahar. He developed the ‘Gayaki Ang’ in sitar, which his father had developed for the surbahar and his sons would further develop this, which would come to be known as a trademark of their gharana.

He gave a new dimension to the crafting and manufacture of the sitar and his structural modifications of the instrument are still used in the instruments of today whilst his musical contributions are standardized practice for today’s musicians. The flair with which he played made him one of the greatest musicians of his generation and his legendary recordings illustrate and record the contributions he has made to music. Ustad Enayet Khan was a great ambassador for Indian classical music in India. He popularized the sitar and made it accessible for the general population. This was a time when many of the famous Indian music festivals were started. His music was the soul of India in those times of change and he had a great and unrivalled following throughout the country. This contribution to popular arts and culture can be illustrated by his friendship with Rabindranath Tagore, the legendary writer, artist and poet. Together these two giants of culture put poetry to music to bring it alive in some of the most famous Indian folk songs and anthems. Each inspired the other to take the arts of India to dizzying new heights.

Ustad Enayet Khan dedicated his life to music; He played, taught and lived with an equal passion to strengthen the name of his gharana and the profile of classical music in his country.
Ustad Waheed Khan

One of the greatest musicians in the canon of Indian Classical Music, Ustad Waheed Khan is an important figure in the Etawah gharana’s history. An acclaimed musician on both the sitar and surbahar, Waheed Khan’s life’s purpose was to be a herald for Indian Classical Music; he devoted his life to spreading his music everywhere. Living his life modestly, he made his home in different parts of India for brief periods of time, spreading the innovative style of his gharana with unwavering devotion and elegance. One such initiative included appearance in legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s “Jalsaghar” (The Music Room,1958) where Ustad Waheed Khan performs on the surbahar in one of the scenes.A true emissary, he lived well into his 70s and his immense contribution to Indian Classical Music was recognized when he became the first musician to receive the illustrious “Sangeet Natak Academy Award” the highest national recognition given to performing artists in India.

He was the father of Ustad Aziz Khan and Ustad Hafeez Khan. Ustad Hafeez Khan was a celebrated playback singer, known in the film industry as ‘H. Khan Mastana’. His brother, Ustad Aziz Khan would also carry on the family’s musical traditions and go on to make significant contributions to Indian Classical Music
Ustad Hafeez Khan

A select few are born with an extraordinary gift of talent yet, more often, these people end up being oblivious to their own talent, and people are left wondering what would have happened had this person lived up to his full potential. Ustad Hafeez Khan was on of them. He was the eldest son of the legendary musician Ustad Waheed Khan Saab. He not only received extensive training on the sitar and surbahar but also in vocal music. After the independence of India, the patrons of Indian Classical Music that is the Maharajas and Nawabs became commoners and classical musicians suffered as a result. Classical music, at that time, was still a form of chanber-music, and with the demise of the great Ustads like Allahdiya Khan Saab, Abdul Kareem Khan Saab, Enayat Khan Saab, Faiyyaz Khan Saab, the future of a performing classical musician was looking very bleak. It was at this time that Ustad Hafeez Khan decided to enter the Bombay Film Industry as a playback singer to earn his daily bread. He went on to become a celebrated playback singer known in the film industry as H.R Khan Mastana. Incidentally, one of the most famous playback singers of all time, Mohammed Rafi started his playback career as a chorus singer in one of his songs. He also composed music for several films. Ustad Shahid Parvez being his nephew received extensive taleem in vocal music and surbahar from Ustad Hafeez Khan Saab.

Be it as a vocalist or instrumentalist Ustad Hafeez Khan could have easily gone on to become one of the foremost musicians of his generation, yet he never gave it a real try. A rare recording of Ustad Hafeez Khan, present in the family archives, reveals the virtuosity of this talented musician both as a vocalist and instrumentalist. People are left wondering what would have happened had this person perused a career as a performing Indian Classical Musician.
Ustad Aziz Khan

Ustad Aziz Khan is the youngest son of sitar and surbahar maestro Ustad Waheed Khansaab. The young Gunna Bhai, as Aziz Khansaab was lovingly addressed by his family members, was introduced to music at a very young age and as years passed by he received extensive “taleem” (lessons) in the music of the gharana from his lengendary Guru and father Ustad Waheed Khansaab, in vocal music, sitar and surbahar.

He also received some taleem from his equally legendary uncle Ustad Enayat Khansaab.Although his repertoire of traditional taleem was highly enviable, he did not take up sitar or surbahar as a source of lively hood. Instead, he took up music – composition as his profession. However, he never left his “sadana” that is music and performed in occasional concerts from time to time. He became a professional music composer in the Bollywood film industry composing under the pseudonym Aziz-Hindi. Even here his musical talents came to the fore. He enjoyed considerable success while composing for films like “Intezar ke bad,” “parvartan -1949,” “Putli – 1950,” “Actor 1952,” “Thoop Chaon – 1954,” “Danka -1954,” “Chalta Poorza – 1958.” Ustad Aziz Khan also composed music for several other films in partnership with another lyricist and composer, Khaiyyam. In these films, they use to call themselves “Sharma ji – Varma ji.” The very first film that they composed for was a huge hit called “Heer- Ranjha”. A few other films for which the “Sharma ji – Varma ji” duo composed music were “Parda,” “Biwi,” “Pyar ki batein,” etc, which were all musical hits. However, no matter how good he was as a composer or how famous he became as a composer, Aziz Khansaab’s taking up music as a profession did not go down well with his father. Ustad Waheed Khansaab was of the idea that a “gharanadar” and “khandani” musician, who has received so much taleem, must earn his bread through “mujlishs” (concerts) only and not through any other means. Ustad Waheed Khansaad made his displeasure known to his sons and told that he could only be pleased if and only if, he was assured that his grandchild would be trained in the music of the gharana and his grandchild would pick up sitar or surbahar as his profession, so that his grandchild could one day go on to become the torchbearer of the Etawah Gharana.

In fact, after this incident, Ustad Aziz Khan’s life long quest was to train his son. He was demanding and very strict as a Guru. He would often say to his son, the young Shahid Parvez, – “I want you to play like this and I will make you play like this, no matter what it takes.” Often the Ustad’s wife would bring in food and he would forget about the food and go on teaching his son oblivious of the fact that his son would also be hungry. Ustad Aziz Khan Saab was a very hounest man. He didn’t believe in taking students for the sake of it or just to increase the numbers. However, he had quite a few students other than his foremost disciple and son Shahid Parvez Khan; and whoever was fortunate enough to receive his blessings as a student, has become established as a musician in his life. He was very strict but even more honest as a Guru.

However, those that have listened to his sitar or surbahar or to the songs that he has composed will know that Ustad Aziz Khansaab was a true artist; and music was the love of his life.
Ustad Vilayat Khan

Ustad Vilayat Khan stands out as one of the greatest sitar players of all time. He was born in year 1928 in the village of Gauripur (present day Bangladesh). During his lifetime, he became one of the most influential musicians of Indian Classical Music. Several people influenced Khan sahib’s music. Ustad Enayet Khan, his father, Ustad Waheed Khan, his uncle, Ustad Zinda Hussain Khan, his maternal uncle, Ustad Faiyaz Khan and Ustad Abdul Karim Khan deserve special mention in this regard. He developed the “Gayaki Ang” which became his trademark. Khan sahib made several changes to the structure of the sitar and these include the concept of “Gol Jawari”.Ustad Vilayat Khan’s professional career was extensive. He made several international tours, he has numerous recordings, and has scored music for several films, including Satyajit Ray’s “Jalsaghar”.

He was a longtime critic of the political machinations that were behind the awarding of many of India’s honours. He refused the Padmabhushan (one of India’s top civilian honours), and was a longtime critic of the manner in which All India Radio was run. The only title that he ever embraced was the title Aftab-e-Sitar (Sun of Sitar). Ustad Vilayat Khan died of lung cancer at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai on March 13th, 2004. He was 76 years of age.


                                                          Imdad Khani Gharana
also known as:
Etawah Gharana
Imdadkhani Gharana
Imdad Khani Sitar and Surbahar Gharana

Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan, Sahabdad Khan

There was a Rajput in the middle of the 19th century in Gwalior. At that time there were two leaders of the Gwalior musical darbar, two brothers, Haddu and Hassu Khan. Haddu Khan was a dhrupad, and Hassu Khan was a khyal singer. They have their own unique style, and they practice only at night. Sahib Singh – who was probably a relative of Haddu Khan – was refused as a disciple, so paid for a servant to lock him in the huge bird cage of the room where the brothers practice. He had listend to them to practice every night for 7 years. Once the two brothers were roaming the streets of Gwalior where they heard their style form a house. They wanted to see which disciple of them was practicing, but they found Sahib Singh only. Haddu wanted to kill him, but Hassu made calm him down, because he realized the love for the music in the boy. Sahib Singhet was accepted as a disciple. Later he converted to Muslim so he got the new name: Sahabdad Khan. He also learned from the Senia musician Nirmal Shah, and played the surbahar, invented by himself, and jaltarang as well. He lived in Etawah (so sometimes they call the gharana: Etawah Gharana ) where he was a musician of the Naugaon darbar. He had two sons, the older was Imdad Khan and the younger was Karimdad Khan, both had been thought for twelve years by their father.

Imdad Khan (1858-1920)

Imdad Khan: Raga Darbari Kanada (1904)

Ustad Imdad Khan was born in Agra, as the second generation of what was to become the Etawah Gharana (school) or Imdadkhani , named after the village outside Agra where the family soon moved. He was taught by his father, Sahabdad Khan, a trained vocalist and self-taught sitar player, but Imdad Khan came to greatly develop and define the family style and techniques. Imdad Khan was also trined by the legendary beenkar Ustad Bande Ali Khan (disciple and son-in-law of Ustad Haddu Khan. In the 19th Century, the instrumental classical music of North India was dominated by the Senia style, passed down through the musical dynasty of Miyan Tansen’s descendants, who played in the dhrupad ang. Imdad instead evolved a style based on the newer, more popular khyal singing. It is said that in his youth at Etawah, Imdad practiced on the sitar in a state of chilla (isolation) for some twelve years.

Imdad attained great fame in his lifetime: he played for Queen Victoria in Delhi; he served as a court musician in Mysore (even though he was a northerner and South India has its own classical music, different from that of the north); and he was the first sitar player ever to be recorded. Some of these recordings have been released on CD, on the Great Gharanas: Imdadkhani compilation in RPG/EMI’s Chairman’s Choice series.

He taught the sitar and surbahar to his two sons, Enayat and Waheed Khan. He used to say that his two sons were his two hands, and although both of them played the sitar and the surbahar equally well, Enayat Khan’s specialization was the sitar and Waheed khan’s specialization was the surbahar. Ustad Imdad Khan actually shifted base from Etawah to Kolkata with his two sons and the house in which they lived was named “riyaz”.

Enayat Khan (1894-1938)

Enayat Khan: Raga Bhairavi (1920)

Enayat Khan was born in Uttar Pradesh into a family of musicians. His father was sitar great Imdad Khan, who taught him the sitar and surbahar in the family style, known as the Imdadkhani Gharana or Etawah Gharana, after a village outside Agra where Imdad once lived. He married Basiran Bibi, daughter of khyal singer Bande Hussain, and settled with his family in Calcutta, where, though he only lived to 43, he did much pioneering work on the sitar. For example, he standardised its physical dimensions and added the upper resonator gourd, which is very popular with today’s players (though his own descendants have not kept using it). In a place rapidly developing into an important North Indian centre of the arts, at a time where interest in national culture was strong fuelled by the struggle for independence, he brought sitar music out from its narrow connoisseur circles to new mass audiences. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was a musical collaborator and personal friend. Some of Enayat Khan’s recordings have been released on CD, on the Great Gharanas: Imdadkhani compilation in RPG/EMI’s Chairman’s Choice series.

Enayat died young, with four children. His two sons, Vilayat and Imrat, were trained in the Imdadkhani style by other members of his extended family. Vilayat learned the sitar and Imrat the surbahar; both were to become very famous classical musicians.

Vilayat Khan (1927-2004)

Vilayat Khan, Shankar Ghosh (tabla): Raga Darbari Kanada gat (exception)

Vilayat Khan, Kashinath Mishra (tabla): Raga Vilayat Khani Kanada gat (exception)

Vilayat Khan, Sabir Khan (tabla): Raga Sanjh Saravali

Vilayat Khan was born into a family of musicians tracing its pedigree generations back to the court musicians of the Mughal rulers. His father was Enayat Khan (1895–1938), recognised as a leading sitar and surbahar (bass sitar) player of his time, as had been the grandfather, Imdad Khan (1848–1920), before him. Vilayat was taught in the family style, known as the Imdadkhani Gharana, or Etawah Gharana, after a village outside Agra where Imdad lived.

However, Enayat Khan died when Vilayat was only nine, so much of his education came from the rest of his family: his uncle, sitar and surbahar maestro Wahid Khan, his maternal grandfather, singer Bande Hassan Khan, and his mother, Bashiran Begum, who had studied the practice procedure of Imdad, Enayat and Wahid. Vilayat’s uncle Zinde Hassan looked after his riyaz (practice). As a boy, Vilayat wanted to be a singer; but his mother, herself from a family of vocalists, felt he had a strong responsibility to bear the family torch as a sitar maestro.

The Imdadkhani Gharana never added the bass string to their sitar, which is a smaller, lighter instrument, easier to handle, than for example Ravi Shankar’s. In the 1950s, both Vilayat and Ravi worked closely with instrument makers to further develop their respective instruments, but it was in different directions. As a result, their sounds and playing styles were also wildly different. Whereas Ravi Shankar’s sitar was large and vina-like, intended for play across multiple registers using multiple melody strings, Vilayat’s was small, with a clean and metallic sound, completely without buzz; it did not reach to the lowest register; and it perfectly facilitated his enormous playing speed. Also, Vilayat liked to perform without a tanpura drone, filling out the silence with strokes to his chikari strings. There was much more going on in his playing than the melody itself.

When he died from lung cancer in 2004, Vilayat Khan had been recording for over 65 years, broadcasting on All-India Radio since almost as far back and been seen as a master (Ustad) for 60. He had been touring outside India off and on for more than 50 years, and was probably the first Indian musician to play in England after independence (1951). In the 1990s, his recording career reached a climax of sorts with a series of ambitious CDs for India Archive Music in New York, some traditional, some controversial, some eccentric. Towards the end of his life, he also performed and recorded sporadically on the surbahar.

Vilayat Khan spent much of his life living in Calcutta. He was married twice, his first marriage ending in divorce; he had two daughters, Zila and Yaman (named after ragas), and two sons, Shujaat (b. 1960) and Hidayat (b. 1975), who both play the sitar. He was survived also by his younger brother, Imrat Khan, the post-war star of the surbahar field. The brothers played celebrated duets in their youth. Vilayat took few disciples other than his sons; among the best-known are Kasinath Mukherjee, Arvind Parikh and Kalyani Roy.

Away from the sitar he enjoyed horse-riding, pool playing, swimming and ballroom dancing. His successes made him rich, and though he grew more pious late in life, he used to drive sports cars and dress in haute couture, and also collected such various items as firearms, smoking pipes, antique European crockery, cut glass and chandeliers.

Fans and media alike liked to play up Vilayat Khan’s rivalry with and animosity towards Ravi Shankar. However, in calmer moments Vilayat would admit there was not much to it. His animosity for the politics and institutions of India’s cultural life was another matter. In 1964 and 1968, respectively, he was awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards – India’s fourth and third highest civilian honours for service to the nation – but refused to accept them, declaring the committee musically incompetent to judge him.

In January 2000, when he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award, he again refused, going so far as to call it “an insult”. This time, his criticism had a slightly different twist: he would not accept any award that other sitar players, his juniors and in his opinion less deserving, had been given before him. “If there is any award for sitar in India, I must get it first”, he said, adding that “there has always been a story of wrong time, wrong person and wrong award in this country”.

Among other honours he turned down was the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. For a while, he also boycotted All-India Radio. The only titles he accepted were the special decorations of “Bharat Sitar Samrat” by the Artistes Association of India and “Aftab-e-Sitar” (Sun of the Sitar) from President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.

Bimalendu Mukherjee (1925-2010)

Acharya Bimalendu Mukherjee was born in an art-loving Bengali family at Chinsurah West Bengal, on 2nd January 1925. Bimalendu Mukherjee is a learned musician – although he was an Imdadkhani sitar student of Enayat Khan, a full list of his teachers also includes sitarist Balaram Pathak, khyal singers Badri Prasad and Jaichand Bhatt of the Patiala and Kirana Gharanas, Rampur Gharana beenkar Jotish Chandra Chowdhury, sarangi and esraj maestros Halkeram Bhat (Maihar Gharana) and Chandrikaprasad Dube (Gaya Gharana) and pakhawaj drummer Madhavrao Alkutkar. He also studied with Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury, the zamindar of Gouripur in present-day Bangladesh, who taught him the moribund sursringar (bass sarod).

Bimalendu Mukherjee is primarily a Sitarist, though he is proficient in almost all traditional Indian instruments like Rudra-Vina, Saraswati Vina, Surbahar, Sursingar, Mandrabahar, Dilruba, Esraj, Tar Shehnai, Sarod and Pakhavaj. He is equally adept in vocal music.

His contributions to the family of stringed musical instruments are the unique “Aditya Veena” – named after his son Budhaditya – and the “Bijoy Veena” – named after his grandson Bijoyaditya. He has also revived the ‘Ektantri’ single-stringed Veena – an instrument referred to by Sharangdev – and the Sur Kanan. Besides, he has experimented, modified and improved the structure and tonal quality of many stringed instruments like the Sitar , Sarod, Surbahar, Rudraveena, Esraj, Guitar, Dilruba and the Veena.

Pandit Mukherjee has been constantly experimenting with the Western and Eastern philosophy of medical treatment. He has created Raga Anandamayee in That Kafi. His son has recorded the Raga in a novel way on the Sitar . This recording, released with the title “Anandamayee” (full of bliss and happiness), has been successfully experimented on patients of hypertension.

Pandit Mukherjee was a member of various organizations such as The International Society of Music Education, AL-MAESTRO and Hindustani Classical Music. He was formerly Additional Director, CRMM SAIL; General Manager M and Q, Bhilai Steel Plant; Vice Chancellor, Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.) (1983-85 and 1988- 91). He also figures in Five Hundred Leaders Of Influence 1997 American Biographical Institute (U.S.A.); Reference Asia 5; Biography International 1991; Learned Asia 1; India Who’s Who 1993-94; International Who’s Who of Intellectuals 1997 and International Biographical Center Cambridge (U.K.) .

(Courtesy of Tóth Szabi)



The Gharanas of India



Music and Society

Introduction to Indian Musical Dynasties

This page aim to provide a general introduction on the traditional Indian musical institution called gharana. Indian Classical music can be described a religion whereby the music, knowledge and musical research was traditionally passed down from guru to disciple by word of mouth.  In many old musical families the guru or teacher, is the father and the disciple or student, the son.   A gharana, or musical dynasty is formed when this process of teaching is passed down for five or six generations. There  are two types of gharana in India, direct gharanas in which music has  remained within a family and indirect gharanas, where in the absence of  sons or musically talented sons, the teacher chooses to pass on his  knowledge to a talented student.  In India there are very few direct or true gharanas left.  Students will find here few articles written by renowned specialists in the field of Indian classical music.


David Courtney, Ph.D.

The concept of gharana was peculiar to North Indian music.  The word “Gharana” literally means “house” and it implies the house of the teacher.  It was linked to the very ancient concept of the Guru-Shishya-Parampara (linage of teacher /disciple) but it had some interesting twists. The names of the gharanas were almost always derived from a geographical location.  This was usually the city, district or state that the founder lived in.  Two examples are the Gwalior Gharana (vocal) or the Farukhabad Gharana (tabla). The gharana system as we think of it today was not really very old.  Most of the gharanas began not more than 100-300 years old.  The modern gharanas were generally traceable to the period when the Mogul empire collapsed. Gharanas were found throughout the North in every field of dance, vocal and instrumental music.  They tend to be distinct among themselves.  That is to say that you generally do not find tabla players saying that they are from a vocal gharana or a vocalist claiming to come from a kathak gharana.  This is reasonable.  One would not expect an accountant to use his golf skills as and endorsement of his abilities as an accountant. In the professional sense a gharana had some of the characteristics of a guild.  It was always understood that tracing ones linage to a major gharana was a prerequisite for obtaining a position in the royal courts.  The gharanas were entrusted with the duty of maintaining a certain standard of musicianship. In the artistic sense the gharana was somewhat comparable to a “style” or “school”.  Over the years poor transportation and communication caused the various gharanas to adopt their own particular approach to presentation, technique and repertoire. In the 20th century the gharana system had a negative impact on the standard of musicianship.  Improvements in communications made it a professional imperative for musicians to have as broad of a background as possible.  The secretive nature of the gharana system coupled with the fact that gharanas tended to specialize in only one technique or approach was inconsistent with modern pedagogic and professional requirements.  In the end of the 20th century, musicians who proclaim loudest that they were “such-and-such” gharana often had the least rounded background.  It is for this reason that many of the aspects of this system were abandoned by modern music colleges in India. Today the gharana exists in its vestigial form.  Although musicians routinely declare that they are such and such gharana, it usually has no practical meaning.  The loss of royal patronage coupled with the loss of artistic identity have virtually destroyed the system. Gharana is used in Hindi and Urdu to refer to the core component in the organizational structure of North Indian (or Hindustani) music and dance, in other words a family of hereditary occupational specialists. Traditionally the gharana is headed by an authoritative musician-teacher called the Khalifa, and comprises members related by blood and/or musical knowledge (talim). David Courtney, Ph.D. has been performing on the tabla since 1972.  He first studied pakhawaj (an ancient barrel shaped drum) under the famous Zakir Hussain at the Ali Akbar College of Music.  He then moved to India and spent a number of years learning tabla under the late Ustad Shaik Dawood Khan of Hyderabad.  He has performed extensively on stage, TV, disk, and radio, in India, Europe and the United States.  Along with his wife, he composed the theme music for Houston’s Indian TV program called “ASIANA” and recorded the theme music for the radio program “INDIA FILE” which aired in the Austin area.  He has accompanied many great musicians including Ashish Khan, Lakshmi Shankar, and Pandit Jasraj He is well versed in the academic side of music.  During the 80s he received great acclaim in academic circles for his pioneering work in the application of computers to Indian music.  This work is found in his doctoral dissertation “A Low Cost System for the Computerization of North Indian Classical Music”.  He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subject of Indian music including, Introduction to Tabla, Elementary North Indian Vocal, Learning the Tabla, Fundamentals of Tabla, Advanced Theory of Tabla, Manufacture and Repair of Tabla and Focus on the Kaidas of Tabla.  His articles have appeared in “Modern Drummer” and “Percussive Notes”.  He is presently on the Board of Directors of the Texas Institute for Indian Studies.  Recently along with his wife Chandra, he was given an award of recognition for outstanding contributions to the arts by the American Telugu Association. He is very active today in musical activities.  He is an artist with Young Audiences.  He is also the percussionist in the fusion group Vani, and has several CDs to his credit.  Recently he composed and performed some music for the film “Dancing in Twilight”, a film staring Erick Avari, Louise Fletcher, Mimi Rogers, Kal Penn, Sheetal Shet. *

Genealogical musings A brief discussion of the Delhi tabla gharana

James Kippen Delhi has been a locus for tabla playing since the early to mid-eighteenth century. Many people argue it was “invented” there, and that its inventor’s lineage is the oldest continuous tabla tradition. This is a brief outline of the Delhi lineage, including genealogical information and a little historical analysis/commentary. The information comes largely from the gharana’s khalifa, or head, the late Ustad Inam Ali Khan and his uncle, Ustad Munnu Khan. It was collected during the early 1980s, and recorded interviews with these gharana members took place in Delhi in April 1984. I hope to add further information about the repertoire as time goes on. Caveat: I do not wish to get into a debate with my friend Daniel Neuman (The Life of Music in North India. New Delhi: Manohar, 1980) about the validity of the term “gharana” for tabla lineages. He and others know my views, and I am using the term here as those Delhi informants used it when speaking directly with me in the Urdu language. I am aware that the term came into existence only around the end of the nineteenth century, that it was used primarily by “soloists” (using Neuman’s term), and that “accompanists” like tabla players probably began using the term to validate their knowledge, raise their music to the status of an art, and to elevate their own social status.  As with all genealogies, the one I give here is incomplete and probably somewhat selective. In anthropology we call this kind of selectivity “structural amnesia”. I take the view that history is a reconstruction of the past that justifies the present. Notwithstanding, my primary source was the genealogy I saw written in Urdu. I read and speak Urdu, and I have therefore been able to verify what Delhi gharana members believe to be true. Whether the document reflects this knowledge, or the knowledge has been crystallized because this version of the family tree exists on paper, is worthy of a future debate. Origins No documentary evidence yet exists for the “invention” of tabla. Many scholars have tried to show either that (1) tabla existed over 2,000 years ago (temple carvings seem to indicate horizontally played drums, but alas with no organological similarity), or that (2) tabla resulted from the chopping in half of a pakhavaj. The pakhavaj theory has some credibility because of the similarity of the smaller head of that drum to the right head of the tabla pair (dahina, dayan, or simply tabla). As the excellent study of tabla by Rebecca Stewart has suggested (The Tabla in Perspective. Unpublished thesis, UCLA, 1974), tabla was most likely a hybrid drum set resulting from experiments with and adaptations of existing drums such as pakhavaj, dholak, and naqqara. The origins of tabla repertoire and technique may be found in all three, and in physical structure and playing technique there are also elements of all three: for example, the smaller pakhavaj head for the dahina, the naqqara kettledrum for the bayan, and the flexible use of the bass of the dholak. Tabla first appears in writings and in miniatures from the 1740s on. We therefore assume tabla to have first appeared sometime in the early eighteenth century. The first tabla players were undoubtedly also experts on other drums. Socially these early tabla musicians were mainly from the Dhari community (Mirasi “caste”). Some were Sunni Muslims, but a large and significant group belonged to (or at some stage had opted to convert from Hinduism to) the Shia Muslim sect. One of these Shias was Sudhar Khan Dhari. Sudhar Khan is the earliest tabla player we know of through genealogical record, and many believe he was responsible for creating this instrument. Sudhar Khan is the forefather to whom members of the Delhi tabla lineage trace their ancestry. It seems natural, therefore, that Sudhar Khan would be attributed with the tabla’s invention by default. Genealogy It is not easy to visualize a family tree from a linear description such as the one I provide below. There is a graphic representation on page 68 my book, The Tabla of Lucknow, Cambridge University Press, 1988. However, it can be quite useful and instructive if readers map out the relationships for themselves on a sheet of paper. Sudhar Khan Dhari had two sons: Chote Khan and Husain Khan. Let us deal with the younger son first, Husain Khan. On the Delhi genealogical chart I saw noted that Husain Khan had four sons, only one of whom was named: Chajju Khan. Both Delhi and Lucknow lore tell of two brothers from Delhi leaving to seek patronage in Lucknow. One of these brothers might well have been the founder of the Lucknow tabla gharana, Miyan Bakhshu Khan Dhari. There is a professed clan linkage between Delhi and Lucknow, and they are both Shia. However, somewhat confusingly, Lucknow lore tells of Bakhshu Khan arriving in Lucknow from Qasur in the Panjab (now in Pakistan, just south of Lahore).  Chote Khan had three sons: Bugara Khan, Chand Khan, and Lalle Masit Khan. Bugara Khan had two sons: Shitab Ali Khan and Gulab Ali Khan. Chand Khan had no sons. Lalle Masit Khan had one son, Nanne Khan, who in turn had no sons. Shitab Ali Khan had two sons: Muhammad Khan and Nazar Ali Khan. Gulab Ali Khan had no sons. Muhammad Khan had one son: Chote Khan. Nazar Ali Khan had no sons. Chote Khan had two sons: Gamay Khan (1883-1958) and Munnu Khan (?1900-90?), who was one of my informants. Gamay Khan had one son: Inam Ali Khan (1924-90), who was my other informant. Inam Ali has several sons, but the only one who plays tabla is Ghulam Haider Khan (though reports suggest he is not particularly accomplished). There is another twist in the genealogy. Remember Bugara Khan had two sons? He also had a daughter (her name not recorded) who was married to one Makkhu Khan. Makkhu Khan had a son, Bare Kale Khan. Bare Kale Khan had a son, Wali Bakhsh Khan (? some uncertainty about the name). Wali Bakhsh Khan had a son, Natthu Khan. Natthu Khan (1875-1940) was one of the great players of his age. Wali Bakhsh Khan also had a daughter who married Gamay Khan. Now perhaps you see what I mean about structural amnesia. Everything in this lineage explains the evolution of Ustad Inam Ali Khan and his links to the two Delhi greats of recent times: Gamay Khan and Natthu Khan. Whether all these other ancestors actually had no sons is debatable. Also, women do not figure in the genealogical tree unless they justify the existence of certain male figures. Many of these female links could indeed be important, specially since there is in Indian Muslim society a pattern of endogamous (i.e. within the clan) marriage. Nevertheless, there is likely to be a high degree of accuracy in the names and relationships that are mentioned, even if it is selective. And as for dates, no one is very clear about this but it seems reasonable to suggest that Sudhar Khan Dhari was born in the early 1700s. By adding 30 years (as an average) for each generation thereafter one obtains a reasonable diachronic mapping of generations to the present day. There has been no mention so far of Latif Ahmed Khan (1941-90), arguably one of the greatest tabla players of the 20th century, though in later years he suffered greatly from alcohol abuse and died an untimely death. A Sunni Muslim, he was a disciple of both Gamay Khan and Inam Ali, though relationships with Inam Ali soured in later years. My assessment is that this tabla tradition died with Inam Ali and Latif Ahmed. They in turn left a number of disciples in India and Europe, but none that I know of has the range of knowledge or the technique to project that knowledge as a living performance tradition into the future. James Kippen teaches a range of ethnomusicology courses at the University of Toronto. He studied Social Anthropology and Ethnomusicology under John Blacking and John Baily at Queen’s University, Belfast. His doctoral research in Lucknow, India, dealt with tabla drumming in its socio-cultural context, particularly as interpreted by his teacher, the hereditary master Afaq Hussain Khan; the study was later published as The Tabla of Lucknow: A Cultural Analysis of a Musical Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1988). He held two post-doctoral fellowships for computer-assisted musical analysis, and taught Anthropology and Ethnomusicology courses at Queen’s before joining the University of Toronto in January 1990. Since then he has been awarded two major research grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada to pursue an investigation of cultural concepts of time in Indian music and society, and the changing theory and practice of rhythm and metre in Hindustani music. He continues to study and practise both tabla and pakhavaj drums. James Kippen has published in a variety of scholarly journals such as Anthropological Quarterly, Music Perception, Computers and the Humanities, Minds and Machines, World of Music, Journal of the Indian Musicological Society, Asian Music etc., and has contributed a key article on North Indian metric theory and drumming to the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. His most recent book, Gurudev’s Drumming Legacy: Music, Theory and Nationalism in the Mrdang aur Tabla Vadanpaddhati of Gurudev Patwardhan, translates, transcribes and analyses an early reformist text on Indian drumming, and places the work in rich historical and socio-cultural contexts. It is soon to be published late in 2005 by Ashgate as part of its School of Oriental and African Studies Musicology Series. *

The Gwalior Gharana

In the history of Hindustani classical music Gwalior stands out as prominently as, if not more than Delhi, Luck now, Rampur, Jaipur and Deccan-Hyderabad. The traditions of this music are inextricably associated with Gwalior. Our sources of information about the modes of Indian music prior to the Muslim period are scanty and so our notions on them are rather hazy. The “Bharatha Natya Sastra” of Bharat Muni, the “Brihaddesi” by Matanga and “Sangeetaratnakara” are the earliest treatises we have. It was during the Muslim period that the music that we now call Hindustani music blossomed, thanks to unforgettable names like Amir Khusro, who not only invented and introduced new ragas, tolas and instruments, but effectively blended Persian touches into Indian music. “Art being a living organism, it is bound to expand” and music being pre-eminently an Art, it is of an extremely changing nature. Musical fashions, like all other fashions, have always undergone change after change and have been molded and remolded to suit changed tastes and trends through every era. In this process, Hindustani music, as it is to-day stands inseparably associated with, and deeply indebted to Gwalior. Dhrupad: The inception of music all over the world has been from Religion. In today’s classical music, the ‘Dhrupad” occupies the most exalted place, and this originated from the old “Temple-music”. It has, therefore, had a long and checkered history. Its themes are sometimes devotional, sometimes didactic, sometimes descriptive (of the beauties of creation), sometimes heroic (recital of heroic actions); they may also pertain to Puranic stories or Divine Romances. But these Dhrupads having originated from the ancient Prabandhas (in Sanskrit and other provincial languages), and being sung in temples, we do not know how far these old Dhrupads afforded scope for the display of musical skill. To Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior goes the credit for making them part of classical music and thus popularising them. Rajah Man is remembered to this day as one of the greatest patrons, scholars, and lovers of music we have ever had. Memorials to his patronage of music are still visible in Gwalior. Once, he summoned a great conference of artists and musicians) and the essence of the valuable discussions held there has been compiled by him into a book, “Wanakutuhal.” It throws valuable light on the condition of music in the early Muhammadan period, and is still available for reference in certain State libraries. The Dhrupad-style of singing was a great contribution of the Gwalior school to Hindustani ‘ragdari’ (Classical) music. This brings us to the eve of the brightest period in the history of Hindustani music – the era of Tansen and his illustrious descendants. Tansen In the history of Indian Music, who has not heard the immortal name of Tansen? He was justly idolised in his time, and today we worship him almost as a saint. He was the greatest of all Dhrupadiyas (a Kalawant) and was a product or the Gwalior school of music. Originally he was a Gaud Brahmin and his name was Tanna Misra (son of Makarand Pande). He became the disciple of Swami Haridas Dagur of Brindaban. Still later, he came under the influence of a great Muslim Saint or Pir, Mohammad Ghaus of Gwalior under whose guidance, Tansen achieved unprecedented fame. His fame spread so far and wide. that Emperor Akbar personally fetched him to his Court and kept him in the highest esteem. Tansen and his descendants were strict Dhrupadiyas and have been the leaders of, and authorities on, Hindustani classical music. Adarang and Sadarang Nyamathkhan and Naubatkhati who later on adorned the court of Mohmad Shah of Delhi, were Tansen’s descendants and naturally Dhrupadiyas. But Dhrupad-singing, as it existed then, was bound down by strict and scientific rules which left very little scope for the singer to show his flights of fancy. Moreover, the particular type of voice necessary for Dhrupad singing is very difficult to cultivate. Hence the Khayals. The slow Khayals were patterned very much like the Dhrupads but in such a way as to afford plenty of scope for alap-singing, tanas, and other niceties along with the composition. Khayals, as such, existed long before Adarang and Sadarang. The fast Khayals were based on the Qawwal style and were thus the contribution of the Qawwal Bani. But the credit for composing hundreds of Khayals and popularising thumri forever goes to Sadarang and Adarang. Nyamat and Naubat assumed the pseudonyms Adarang and Sadarang while composing their Khayals, and it is by these pseudonyms, rather than by their real names, that they are known today. In many khayals, they have mentioned the name of their patron Mohammed Shah. They composed hundreds of khayals and taught them to their disciples. These khayals have come down to us, and to-day, not a day goes without our hearing- their immortal names in some khayal or other. 01′ the three kinds of khayals, the slow (vilambit) khayals were modeled after the Dhrupads, whereas the medium (Madhyalaya) and fast (drut) ones were couched in the Qawwal Vani The originator of Qawwalis was Amir Khusru, the versatile poet-cum-musician-cum-statesman. As Islam forbade music strictly, these Qawwalis or Muslim Bhajans were composed for purely devotional recitations are the model of the Hindu Bhajans that existed already. Gradually, however, there arose a class of professionals who earned their livelihood by Qawwali-singing. These singers known as “Qawwals”-began to make free use of “tans” and “paltas” in the course of Qawwal-singing. Out of these “Qawwals”, Adarang, Sadarang and Manarang composed their beautiful rnadhyalaya and drut khayals. What Amir Khusro and his followers contributed to Indian music arc probably the modes of expression, the style, the broad open-mouthed voice-production, tanas, liquid pronunciation of words and so forth which have certainly made the music quite effective. Bye and bye, however, these. khayals became so popular as to oust the Dhrupads! To-day one notes with immense regret that Dhrupad-singing is almost becoming extinct. The day the Dhrupads regain their old popularity will be an auspicious day for our Music. For, training in Dhrupad-singing alone can make the voice at once steady, strong, full-throated and sweet. Lately, however, quite a few seem to have been attracted by the sublime words and meanings of Dhrupads. This is a healthy and hopeful augury. The names of Bade Muhammad Khan; Haddu, Hassu, Nathu and Wazirkhans, Tanaraskhan, Mahmud Ali, Ali Bux, Miyajan, etc., are unforgettable. Of these, Haddu, Hassu and Bade Muhammad Khan were court-musicians of Gwalior. This last was the son of Shakkar Khan and considered peerless in the matter of tan-singing-. He was employed as court-musician (on a four-digit salary) by Daulat Rao Scindia ! He sang khayals in the Qawwali style, i.e., with various delicacies and dexterity. In the same durbar were Kadir Bux’s 3 sons, Haddu, Hassu and Nathu who won precocious mastery in music at very early ages. They were Khayalists of the elaborate Kalavant style. Later on, they evolved a beautiful and exquisite combination of the Kalavant and Qawwali styles of Khayal-singing. It is- interesting to note that this unique combination too should have been evolved in Tansen’s birth place ! Is it then, any wonder that Khayal singers have looked upon Gwalior as a sort of sacred-spot? It was the birth-place of the Dhrupad and the Khayal as well as of all the eminent Dhrupadiyas and Khayalists. Nearly all the reputed musicians of Akbar’s court were from Gwalior. It gave us Tansen. *

Maharashtrian Musicians at Gwalior

The popularization of classical music in Maharashtra began through Gwalior. The Maharashtrian-Brahmin singers of Gwalior were greatly benefited by the current Gwalior school of music. Many of the pupils of Hassu and Haddu were Maharashtrian Brahmins among whom were eminent singers like Babasabib Dixit, Vasudeva Rou Joshi, and Balasoheb Curuji. Their disciples have preserved classical traditions to a great extent. We also owe a lot to the Maharashtrian disciples of Nissar Hussain (of Hassu-Haddu family). The late reputed musician Shanker.Rao Pandit was a favourite pupil of his. Music-lovers still recall Shanker Pandit’s name with great love and respect. His son Krishna Rao Shanker Pandit is today a court musician of Gwalior, and is running a Music school in his father’s name-“Shanker Gandbarv Vidyalaya”. Raja Bhaiyya Poonchwale:-the Principal of the “Madho Sangeet Mahavidyalaya” is another reputed disciple of Shanker Pandit. He had the privilege of learning a large number of Dhrupads from the great Dhrupadiya, Wamanbuva Deshpande ; and later on, Khayals from Shanker Pandit. What was more, since the opening of the Pandit music school, he was fox- a long time able to avail himself of Bhatkhand ji’s valuable association and Guidance -thanks to which today raja Bhaiya is regarded as a skilled singer and a learned scholar in the art of music. Chaturpandit Bhatkhandeji:-The Madho Sangeet Mahavidyalaya is the triumphant fruit of Guruvarya Bhatkhandeji’s selfless endeavours and a proof of Madhav Rao Mahara ‘s lofty musical tastes and patronage of music. This and similar schools of music have contributed in no small measure to the revival of interest in classical music which had cooled down to a deplorable level. Among the long array of Maharashtrian musicians who went to Gwalior and achieved -commendable mastery over the Gwalior-style of ragdari sangeet, comes the name of Balkrishnabuva-a pupil of Vasudevrau Joshi (Hassu’s [pupil)- After under going a prolonged training, he returned to his native town and devoted the rest of his life rekindling musical tastes among his people. The most eminent of his pupils of course was Vishnu Diagambar Paluskar whose name is familiar to all. We all know how ceaselessly lie strove to popularise music by establishing music schools at various places. But his training and efforts were not comprehensive. The limitation may have been due to the queer circumstances of those days when musicians selfishly concealed their art. Anyway Digambar did revive interest in one aspect of our music-namely, the devotional aspect of it (Bhajans) and for this we shall be always grateful to him. Balakrishnabuva’s son Annabuva was a good musician but he died prematurely. The former’s disciples Anantbuva Joshi of Oundh and Mirasibuva of Poona are two of our contemporaries. They have tried to Preserve the musical traditions of their schools. Another pupil is Gunduhiiva whose son is still the court musician of Ichalkaran” Classical music penetrated into Maharashtra from Gwalior, but since its penetration there, it has undergone numerous changes, under various influences. For instance, good musicians of Aera, Delhi, Jaipur etc., migrated into the big cities of India (Bombay, Calcutta and Madras ) when they ceased to get royal patronage ; and in these big cities they were forced to earn their livelihood by giving music performances. The names of Tanaraskhan, Haider Khan, Nath ti Khan, Mahmud Khan, Miyajan, etc., are familiar in this connection. They have influenced music in Maharashtra to a great extent. Though the original G Gwalior-style is rarely to be heard in its pristine purity today, the traditions have been preserved to some extent luckily. Characteristics of the Gwalior style:-Some of the requisites of good Khayal-singing are:-a clear-cut presentation of “Asthai” and “Antara” (the 2 portions of the songs) with proper pauses, a skillfully slow pace, and proper combinations of Swaras (notes) and Sahitya (words). Those who have luckily had training in the Gwalior-style of Khayal singing are very particular about the niffat presentation of the “asthayi” and “antara” at the very outset. Inability to do this, is rightly considered disgraceful by them, and so they pay special attention to the neat presentation of the song with correct pronunciation of the words. “Alap” at the outset is usually done in “akar” (without words) but consistent with the tempo of the song. After finishing slow alaps, the speed is slowly increased, and what is known as Bol-alaps (words of the song deftly presented in various combinations of notes) are started. Cleverly the Bol-tans (words woven into quick combinations of notes) and plain tans are introduced. When the tempo and pace have been somewhat quickened, the skilled musician harmoniously passes on to a quicker song (drut) or a fast “tarana” in the same raga. In the fast Khayal also, the parts of the song are legibly presented at first, after which the singer begins his extempore elaborations, rapid tans and various other beautiful intricacies and delicate embellishments which afford plenty of scope for the display of personal skill, or industry. The tans of the Gwalior school are justly famous and admired. ‘The tans are straight, clear, full-throated and varied. Effective little “running passages of notes” are interwoven into the Khayals. On the whole, there is something extremely dignified and impressive about the Gwalior-style of classical music. “Musical Gwalior” that was! – There had been a time when Gwalior used to be so intensely music-mad that “the very leaves would not tremble but to the sounds of music,”. Music-festivals used to be part of the daily routine in the durbars. The Princes and the people were alike absorbed in the ecstatic enjoyment and appreciation of music day and night. Even half-clad street-urchins would try to hum tans “Will that idyllic state of affairs ever come back to be” one wonders…….. Bye and bye the zeal for khayal-singing and for classical music began to flag and ebb to a very low level, because good musicians (like Nisar Hussain Khan, Rahmat Khan, and other Brahmin singers) began to become thorough stay-at-homes, teaching only those who went to them in their seclusion. Under such circumstances, one cannot guess what would have become of the Gwalior -style of classical music, had not Pandit Bhatkhandeji dedicated his life to the revival of classical music and succeeded in opening the Classical Music colleges at Gwalior and Lucknow whose branches have sprouted up in numerous other cities now, like Bombay, Calcutta and so on. *

The Sarod Gharanas of India

S. P. Bhattacharyya

In this article we discuss, informally, the evolution of the Sarode and the art of Sarode playing as developed by some outstanding musicians and Gharanas (musical families) of the North Indian classical music tradition, over the last four hundred years. GHARANAS OR STYLES Khayal music is represented by a number of more or less stylistically different schools called Gharanas. These  schools have their basis in the traditional mode of musical training and education. Every  Gharana has a few discernible features, which allow us to distinguish between schools and  also enable us to identify different approaches to interpretation of the ragas. The main  areas where differences arise, relate to the raga repertoire adopted by the Gharana, the  manner in which the notes are sung, particularly the relative emphasis given in the  Gharana philosophy to swara and laya, the role and importance of the Bandish in  the aesthetic viewpoint of the Gharana, the manner in which the raga is presented, and the  type of Tans employed. Gwalior: This is the oldest among all the Khayal Gayaki (vocal) styles.  The distinctive feature of this style of singing has been noted as its lucidity and  simplicity. This gayaki is also characterized by serious mien and slow singing pace. This  Gharana involves presenting familiar and well known ragas such as Alakya Bilawal, Yaman, Bhairav, Sarang, Multani, Sri, Bhoop, Kamod, Hamir, Basant, etc. It also pays great  attention to singing Khayals using traditional Bandishes. This Gharana is also noted for  its straight and simple Tans, while stressing on the use of Meendh and Gamak in its  Dhrupad-style khayals. The best known artistes of this Gharana were Balkrishna BaIchal  Karanjikar (1849 – 1927) and his student Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872 – 1931), Pandit  Omkarnath Thakur (1897 – 1967) and in recent times, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Malini  Rajurkar. Kirana: This Gharana derives its name from the birthplace of Abdul Kharim  Khan (1872 – 1937), Kirana near Kurukshetra. This style of singing was influenced by the distinctive style of playing music on the Bin (Vina), with emphasis on the resonance of  notes and maintaining note continuity through Meendh and Gamak. Importance was also given  to Alap and Vilambit laya in the course of performance. This style also stresses on the  role of individual notes and their study (swar-sadhana). In the Kirana style of  singing, the swara is used to create an emotional mood by means of elongation and use of Kana-s.  This effect is further heightened by tuning the Tanpura (a drone instrument) for certain  ragas to the seventh note, the Nishad, rather than Pancham. In this Gharana, the practice  of rendering the Alap as Bol-Alap using the bols  of the Bandish and not in Akar is  to enable the Alap to be developed gradually. The Gharana repertoire consists mainly of  ragas like Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari, Malkauns, Bhimplasi, Todi etc. Many Carnatic ragas  feature in this Gharana. Another aspect of the Kirana Gharana is that it is one of the few  Gharanas of Khayal Gayaki that includes Thumri singing as a part of its performances. The  important singers in this Gharana are Abdul Karim Khan, Hirabhai Barodekar, Begum Akhtar,  and in recent times, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Prabha Atre. Atrauli – Jaipur: Another of the important ones, this Gharana is  associated with Alladiya Khan (1855 – 1943), the great singer of the late 19th and early  20th century. This style has great complexities because of its use of melodic phrases  having Vakra (twisted/crooked) turns. The most distinctive feature of the Jaipur  Gharana can be best described as its complex and lilting melodic form which arises out of  the involuted and undulating phrases that constitute the piece. The Badhat is  very clear and is done in short sequences, each lasting for an Avartan and the Tans are  very intricate. As a consequence the term ‘filigree-like workmanship’ is often  used in the context of the Jaipur Gharana singing. This impression is created by the  linking of successive notes through a particular manner of delivery without blurring their  individual characteristics or shapes, while continuously varying the swara-patterns to  avoid repetition. This is done through a slow tempo, which continues uncharged from the  beginning to the end with the duration of its cycle being kept constant. The Gharana, in  its repertoire, has a dominance of rare and compound ragas such as Sampoorna-Malkauns,  Basant Kedar, Basant-Bahar, Kaunsi-Kanada and Nat-Kamod. This Gharana tends to use the  traditional Bandishes and shuns the creation of new compositions. The Badhat is sung using  the bols of the Bandish instead of the Akar. The Tans are also full of spiral shaped fast  passages or Vakra passages. The important vocalists of this tradition are Alladiya Khan,  Mallikarjun Mansur, Kesarbhai Kerkar and in recent times, Kishori Amonkar, Shruti  Sadolikar, Padma Talwalkar and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande. *

Faiyaz khan

Agra: This style of Khayal gayaki is usually associated with Faiyaz khan  (1886 – 1950). The founders of the Agra gharana were originally singers of Dhrupad. Dhamar  and Khayal singing came to be adopted in the Gharana. It was Ustad Faiyaz Khan who  transformed the traditional and austere Agra style and left his colourful imprint on the Gharana. The Agra Gharana places great importance on developing forcefulness and deepness  in the voice so that the notes are powerful and resonant. This Gharana pays special  attention to ragas like Megh and Darbarikanada. In the Alap, the shape of the raga is  broadly outlined through key phrases and structures, rather than in a note by note manner.  The Bandish plays a very important role. The purity of the Bandish is stressed and the  entire Bandish forms the central point of the performance. The use of the Meendh in order  to make the presentation effective is stressed. The Agra Gharana maintains this aspect of  Dhrupad by the frequent use of Meendh and Gamaks for Alapchari and shuns the use of  ornaments such as Murkis. One of the most notable features of the Agra Gayaki is its  Layakari and the manifestation of rhythm in all the aspects of the khayal presentation.  The important singers of this Gharana are C R Vyas, S N Ratanjankar and of late, Jitendra  Abhisheki, Vijay Kitchlu and Sumati Mutatkar. Patiala: This Gharana is regarded as an offshoot of the Delhi Gharana and  the famous duo ‘Allu-Fattu’, [Ali Baksh (1850 – 1920) and Fateh Ali Khan (1850 –  1909)], are usually acclaimed as the originators of this style. It was Ustad Bade Ghulam  Ali Khan (1901 – 1969), who popularized this style of singing and brought this Gharana to  the public notice. This style was influenced, to a large extent, by the qualities of Bade  Ghulam Ali’s voice and its wide span of three octaves. While the Patiala Gharana  gives pride of place to speed in execution of Tans, the Patiala Gharana repertoire also  includes slow Tans, which are akin to the Gamak. Thus, the Patiala Gharana is characterized by the use of greater rhythm play and by Layakari with the abundant use of  Bols, particularly Bol-tans. As part of its aesthetic approach, this style focusses more  on emotion and sensuality. This style was criticised for neglecting musical form and  organization and also lacking in aesthetic balance. The ragas preferred by this Gharana  are Malkauns, Bhoopali, Gunakali, Megh Malhar, etc. Ek-tal and Teen-tal are usually chosen  by this Gharana. This is another Gharana, which considers Thumri singing as its forte. The  major singers in this style Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ajoy Chakravarti, Parveen Sultana and  others. Rampur-Sahaswan: The Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana can be said to have been  established by Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan (1849 – 1919). There is a stress on the clarity  of swara in this style and the development and elaboration of the raga is done through a  stepwise progression. The characteristic features of the Rampur-Sahaswan Gayaki are that  the development of the Alap adheres closely to the structure of the Bandish that is being  sung and is not sung as a free exposition before the Bandish. It is presented in the form  of a Bol-alap. The stress in the Alap is on developing the Bhava (mood) and the rasa  (emotion) of the raga. Singing in Akar is given great importance in training and also the  use of natural voice. The preferred tempo is Madhya laya (medium tempo) and the use of a  very slow tempo is discouraged. This Gharana lays stress on the literary content of the  Bandish. The speciality of the Rampur school lies in its Tans, which cover a much larger  range and are marked by their speed of execution. These Tans, which are noticeable for  their boldness and clarity, are employed to bring out the Layakari. This style is also  marked by a wide variety of Tans and its repertoire consists of ragas like Bhupali-Todi,  Bahaduri-Todi, Gaudsarang, Yaman, Kedar, Chhaya Nat, Bihag, etc. The main representatives  of this Gharana are Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan and in recent times,  Ustad Rashid Khan. Mewati: The founder of Mewati Gharana was Ghagge Nazir Khan. This Gharana  adopts the Sapat Tan and Merkhand in its ornamentation. This style gives  importance to developing the mood of the raga through the notes forming it and its style  is Bhava Pradhan. It also gives equal importance to the meaning of the text. The  Gayaki regards words as important and does not believe in stretching words to make the  text and rhythm synchronize. It resorts to Tans and Sargams in case the words fall short.  This Gayaki also adopts Meendh as a prominent ornament. This Gharana presents  semi-classical music in the form of Bhajans and there is a strong Vaishnavite influence in their style. The current exponents of this style are Sanjeev Abhyankar and Rattan Sharma,  both students of Pandit Jasraj. Bhundi Bazar Gharana: This  Gharana is less known in comparison to others. The most distinctive feature of this  Gharana is that their presentations of Khayals are open voice, using Akar. There is a  stress on breath-control and singing of long passages in one breath is highly regarded in  this Gharana. Another feature is the intricate method of Sargam singing in which  permutations and combinations of a given set of notes are made to give rise to complex  note and Tan patterns This Gayaki makes use of this method for the raga Badhat in order to  have an extended Alap. This method also permits play with rhythms. In addition, this  Gharana stresses clear note intonation and word articulation. Ornaments such as Sapat-tans,  Gamak-tans are given precedence along with the use of Meendh. The important singers  are Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Anjanibai Malpekar. *

1. The Evolution of Sarod

The Sarod is one of the most exotic musical instruments in the world today. Its tonal quality, emotional range and dynamics are unmatched by any other instrument. The present form of the Sarode was developed about 200-250 years ago in India. Since then the art of Sarode playing has undergone continuous improvement in the hands of some exceptional and dedicated geniuses and it has now reached a level that seems difficult to improve upon. It is believed that the predecessor of the modern Sarode is the Rabab, an instrument that originated in the Middle East. The Rabab has a wooden fingerboard and strings of catgut and was used mainly as an instrument to accompany military marching bands. The Rabab was already in use in India in the 16th century during the reign of Akbar, and the Akbar-Nama of the 16th century traveler Abul Fazl mentions several Rabab players in Akbar’s court. The Sarod, however is believed to have been developed initially by the Rababiyas of Afghanistan after their migration to India. Ghulam Bandegi Khan of Bangash, Afghanistan, who was a Rabab player, soldier and horse trader, migrated to India about 300 years ago. He was commissioned as a soldier in the army of Raja Vishwanath Singh of Rewa. Bandegi Khan trained his son Haider Khan and grandson Ghulam Ali Khan in the art of Rabab playing. Ghulam Ali also received musical training from Pyar Khan and Jaffar Khan, who were distinguished Rabab players and direct descendents of Tansen. Raja Vishwanath Singh also gave him instruction in Dhrupad singing, the slow, ornate and dignified style of vocal music, that was prevalent then. Ghulam Ali later became a court musician in Gwalior, the most important musical center for North Indian music at that time. His exposure to the Gayaki (vocal music) style of Gwalior as well as the Dhrupad style of the Seni Gharana (Tansen’s musical family) must have influenced him to improve the relatively unsonorous and staccato sounding Rabab into one capable of executing the Meends (glides) and curves necessary in the Gayaki style. He is generally credited with the idea of modifying the Rabab by adding a metal fingerboard and metallic strings and also with the addition of the Chikari (Jhala) and Tarab (sympathetic) strings. Thus the Sarode was born. Further embellishments to the Sarode were made by Ustad Allauddin Khan in this century, and the modern Sarode has 15 Tarab strings, 6 Chikari strings and 4 main strings. The name Sarode is linked to the Arabic “Sahrood” or Persian “Sarood” meaning music, as well as the Sanskrit “Sho-rode” (“good noise”). It is important to mention that Ustad Ali Akbar Khan has stated in recent times that the Sarode was known in ancient India as it has been found depicted in the 2000 year old Champa temple in Madhya Pradesh. *

2. The Rababiya Gharanas

The early Sarode players were the descendents of the Afghan Rababiyas. There were three such families but the most important such Gharana was the one founded by Ghulam Ali Khan (see the accompanying chart). Ghulam Ali Khan had three sons, Hossain Ali (eldest), Murad Ali and Nanhe Khan (youngest) who were all Sarode players. Nanhe Khan’s son was the Late Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan (1988-1972) one of the outstanding Sarode players of the last generation. Hafiz Ali Khan’s musical education was completed by his training under the Late UstadWazir Khan of Rampur who was the leading representative of the Seni Beenkar Gharana in the last century. Hafiz Ali’s son Amjad Ali Khan is one of the most accomplished Sarode players of the present day. Murad Ali Khan was childless, and on a certain occasion, when taunted  about this, decided to leave home, vowing to adopt a son and give him such a Taleem (musical training) that he would “rob the brothers of their sleep”. He moved to Shahjahanpur and adopted an orphan boy, Abdullah Khan, who under his training became an outstanding Sarode player. Murad Ali Khan passed away in 1932, but his musical line continued with Abdullah Khan, whose disciple Mohammed Amir Khan was the Guru of the Late Radhika Mohan Moitra (1917-1981) a brilliant Sarodiya of the last generation. Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta is the foremost disciples of Radhika Mohan Moitra and is one of three most outstanding Sarode players of India today. His playing reflects the beauty of his Guru’s melodic style which is a perfect blend of the Rababiya and Beenkar traditions. *

3. The Seni Beenkar Gharana

To complete our story we need to establish a most important link, namely the connection between the great Sarode players of the last generation and the Seni Beenkar Gharana. For this let us go back to Emperor Akbar’s court in the 16th century.  The brightest sun in Akbar’s court was Tansen (1520-1589), a musical genius from Gwalior whom the Emperor had brought and installed as one of the Nine Jewels of his court. Tansen composed many new Ragas, such as Miya-ki-Malhar, Darbari Kanhra and Miya-ki-Todi, and laid down the foundations of North Indian classical music through 300 Dhrupad compositions. Although Akbar had a policy to convert talented people to Islam his reverence for Tansen was such that he never forced him to convert, but tactfully gave him the title Miya Tansen. Tansen had a Hindu wife as well as a Muslim wife, called Mehrunissa. From the latter he got a son Bilas Khan (composer of the Raga Bilaskhani Todi) and from the Hindu wife he had three children; Tan-Taranga, Suratsen and Saraswati Devi. Suratsen later founded the Jaipur Sitar Gharana. Saraswati was a famous Dhrupad singer who married Raja Misar Singh, a noted Beenkar (Veena player) of Rajasthan. Misar Singh eventually became a state musician in Akbar’s court and was converted to Islam and renamed Naubat Khan. The descendants of Saraswati and Misar Singh were Beenkars as well Dhrupadiyas and they continued and developed the traditions of Sitar, Sursringar and Rabab playing as well as vocal music. They established what is now known as the Seni Beenkar Gharana, the most important musical family in North Indian music. Although they officially had Muslim names, they also had dual Hindu names; thusWazir Khan, for example was also called Chhatrapal Singh. These descendents include Niyamat Khan (vocalist, also known as Sadarang in many Khayal compositions), Amritsen (Jaipur Sitar Gharana, 1814-1894) , Omrao Khan (Vina, Surbahar, Sarode), Gholam Mohammed Khan (Lucknow Sitar Gharana), Bahadur Hussain Khan (inventor of Tarana) and Ustad Wazir Khan. Ustad Wazir Khan was a brilliant teacher, performer and composer and the leader of the Seni Gharana in the last century. His family line could be traced back directly to Tansen and his musical knowledge included many of Tansen’s original Dhrupad compositions. Perhaps the most important occurence in the history of Sarode playing is the fact that two of the foremost Sarodiyas of the last generation Allauddin Khan and Hafiz Ali Khan came to be Wazir Khan’s disciples. Thus the full power and accumulated musical knowledge of the Seni Gharana was incorporated into the Sarode art of these two outstanding musicians. The result was that a style of Sarode playing developed in which the vocal traditions of Dhrupad and Khyal and the instrumental traditions of Veena (slides and glides) and Rabab (rhythmic, staccato and plucked) came to be blended beautifully and aesthetically into this one majestic instrument. This is why today’s Sarode playing has such a wide dynamic range from the most tender Meends to thunderous Jhalas and lightning speed Taans (musical sentences). Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan (1862-1972) as we know is a legendary figure in Indian music. He was born in Tripura, East Bengal and from a very young age developed a thirst for music and musical knowledge that eventually led to one of the most incredible musical journeys of this century. He mastered many instruments including Tabla, violin, Sursringar and Surbahar but finally turned to the Sarode and became a student of the Sarode wizard Ahmed Ali Khan. After six years of living with Ahmed Ali, Baba had learnt everything that Ahmed Ali had to offer and the teacher recommended that Baba should seek training from his Guru the great Wazir Khan of Rampur. Baba had to confront many difficulties in becoming Wazir Khan’s disciple, but eventually Wazir Khan opened up his treasure house of musical compositions and taught Baba for 12 years after his eldest son, who was being trained to succeed him, died suddenly. Baba Allauddin lived only to serve the cause of music. He was a lifelong devotee of the Goddess Kali and later as a court musician in Maihar worshipped Sharda Devi, also known as Maihar Devi, and a form of Goddess Kali. He avoided fame and wealth, pursued music as a path to spiritual salvation and offered his creations at the feet of Sharda Devi. In later years Baba’s salary was paid from the earnings of the Sharda temple. He was regarded throughout India as a musical saint and many students journeyed to Maihar to learn from him. He himself remained a student of music till the age of 70 completely mastering the Dhrupad and instrumental compositions of the Seni Gharana and adding innumerable new compositions and many new Ragas, such as Hemant, Shobhavati and Durgeshwari. His eventual contributions are so outstanding that today this Gharana is known as the Seni Allauddin Gharana. Baba openly and generously transferred the vast wealth of his musical knowledge to a large number of disciples. Of these the most famous are his son the supreme Sarodist Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and the Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. The dazzling virtuosity, musical depth and brilliance of these two musicians and their extensive touring over the last 40 years have exposed audiences all over the world to the treasures of the Seni Gharana, the art and magic of Sitar and Sarode, and the exquisite beauty, creativity and sophistication of North Indian classical music. With such a fantastic heritage the future of instrumental music and the Sarode in particular is bright indeed! (Portions of this article are based on conversations with Pandit Buddhadev DasGupta.) S.P. Bhattacharyya is Professor of Electrical Engineering and a faculty adviser to SPICMACAY at Texas A&M University.  He is also a disciple of Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and a performing concert artist *

The Kirana Gharana

The origin of the Kirana gharana is shrouded in an air of mystery and, to some extent, controversy. It is generally believed that Gopal Nayak, a contemporary of Amir Khusru, is the fountainhead of the gharana. He lived on the banks of the Jumna in a town called Dutai. Later, when Dutai was ravaged by floods he moved inland 10 Kirana, a small town in the Muzaffarnagar district. He is believed to have embraced Islam. Four different offshoots of the Kirana dynasty are claimed to have descended from him. One of the branches boasts of great names like Ustad Azim Baksh, Maula Baksh and Abdul Ghani Khan. The second branch is studded with names like Ustad Bande Ali Khan, Nanne Khan, Kale Khan and the legendary Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Yet another offshoot includes in its Kirana lineage the names of Gafoor Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Shakoor Khan, Mashkoor Ali and Mubarak Ali. Finally, the distinguished family tradition of Mehboob Baksh, Rehman Khan, Abdul Majid Khan, Abdul Hamid Khan, Abdul Bashir Khan, followed by his sons Niaz Ahmed and Fayyaz Ahmed Khan, express their allegiance to the Kirana tradition. The precise roots of the gharana are lost in antiquity and shrouded with controversy. There are some who believe that Ustad Abdul Karim Khan is the true fountainhead of Gandharva, Roshanara Begum, Balkhshnabuva Kapileshwari, Behrebuva, Sureshbabu Mane and Hirabai Barodekar. From this mainstream of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, in turn, came Pandit Sawai Gandharva whose centenary was recently celebrated with great 6clat in Bombay, and the ranks of the gharana have swelled, majestically. The leading lights include Gangubai Hangal, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Feroze Dastoor, Dr Prabha Atre and Pandit Sangame-shwar Gaurav. Among their disciples, Krishna Hangal Shrikant Deshpande, Madhav Gudi, Narayanrao Deshpande, Ramkrishna Patwardhan, Milind Chittal and Alka Joglekar have already made their mark and ensured the continued popularity of the gharana. This phenomenal popularity has been achieved through the characteristic expansive alapchari which unfolds the raga note by note with tantalising languor. The induction of sargams was another alankar which Abdul Karim Khan inducted into Hindustani music with a Carnatic flair Admittedly, the gharana has undergone a vigorous transformation with the vibrant personality of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who has brought into play his own stylistic nuances. It is obvious that the Kirana gharana is riding the wave of popularity. the gharana and the lineage that emanates from him is the main stream of the gharana, while the rest are tributaries. Be that as it may, it is an incontrovertible fact that the Kirana gharana remains the most popular and prolific in the sheer number of its practitioners on the contemporary scene.Ustad Abdul Karim Khan ushered in a new era of romanticism in the rendition of Hindustani classical music which was captivating because it was at once sweet, soothing, serene and sensuous. Although the ustad’s own singing seemed to lack fullbodied masculine sonorousness, his romanticism won for the Kirana gharana a strong following which included names that have become legends like Sawai *

The Agra Gharana

The Agra gharana derived from the dhrupad tradition of the Nauhar Bani and was founded by Saras Khuda during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. Thereafter, his grandson Ghagge Khudabaksh received rigorous training from Natthan Khan of the Gwalior gharana in khayal gayaki and thus developed a happy synthesis of the majestic dhrupad tradition and the melodious khayal gayaki. Apart from this, a series of alliances between the houses(gharanas)of the original Agra gharana and the Atrauli gharana have further brought together these two great tradition and it would be more correct to describe the gharana as the Agra-Atrauli gharana. It is significant that the gharana now has within its fold no less than three. Banis: the Gobarhar Bani or the Gwalior gharana as derived from Mehboob Khan alias Daas Piya the Dagur Bani of the original Atrauli Dhrupad gharana which underwent a transformation when Ustad Alladiya Khan took to khayal gayaki from Mubarak Ali of Jaipur (since then called Jaipur-Atrauli gharana) and finally the inflow of the Nauhar Bani of the third Atrauli offshoot as derived through Puttan Khan, maternal uncle of Ustad Mushtaq Husain of the Rampur Sahaswan gharana. Probably this is what accounts for the manysplendoured appeal of this ‘Rangeeli’ gayaki as it came to be known, particularly since the advent of Aftab-e-mousiqi Ustad Faiyaz Khan whom many regard as the fountainhead of Agra-Atrauli gharana. *

Great artists of India

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan 1902-1968

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan can be described as an artiste who has had the maximum impact on the 20th Century Hindustani Classical Music scenario. Born in 1902 into a great musical lineage from Kasur in the Western Punjab, this great savant amalgamated the best of four traditions; his own Patiala – Kasur style, sculpturesque Behram Khani elements of Dhrupad, the intricate gyrations of Jaipur and finally the robust behlavas (embellishments) of Gwaiior. But what actually characterised Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was an effervescent melodic quality which was concertised in a masterly flow of ideas which were delivered with a unique sense of alacrity, aided by one of the most pliable and dextrous voices ever heard in living memory in this land. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had a relatively short career span. He blazed the trails of Calcutta in 1938 and in the 1944 All India Music Conference in Bombay, was virtually anointed Lord of all he surveyed in the field of Indian Music. But 24 years later, he was dead, prematurely at 66, having given the World less of himself than it would have wished to have. The maestro’s approach to khyal was essentially traditional – as seen in the medium pace of his vilambit Khayal presentation and his style of straightforward sthaibharana avoiding permutations. The character of his Gayaki was derived from an inclination towards looking beyond the traditional method of intoning a Swara to discover unchartered facets of beauteous melody, often achieved by very subtle inflexions of notes. This approach was bom of a mind which always strove to find that beauty in Indian Music which went beyond the Raga itself. For Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, ‘Taleem’ was but a means to a greater end where sheer melody and freedom of movement became unified His music was the joyous expression of an unfettered musical psyche. In ‘Thumri’, Bade Gliulam Ali Khan looked beyond the tradition of bol-banav where verbal and musical expressions are unified. He saw in Thumri an avenue for playing with notes with even greater abandon than was possible in the raga-restrained Khayal. From this perspective was born the now well-established Punjab-ang of Thumri. *

Pt. Pannalal Ghosh 31 July, 1911 – 20 April, 1960

Born in Barisal, East Bengal (now Bangladesh) on July 31, 1911, Amulya Jyoti (nicknamed Pannalal) Ghosh was a child prodigy. He inherited his love of music and the bamboo flute (bansuri) from his grandfather, Hari Kumar Ghosh who played sitar,tabla,and pakhawaj and learned sitar from his father, Akshay Kumar Ghosh. He also learned music from his maternal uncle, Bhavaranjan Mazumdar who was a vocalist. The family first lived in the village of Amarnathganj and later moved to the town of Fatehpur. Two apocryphal incidents happened to young Pannalal which had an influential bearing on his later life. First, at age 9 while looking for a stick, Pannalal found a flute floating in the river. He retrieved the instrument and so began his lifelong relationship with the bansuri. Two years later at age 11 Pannalal met a sadhu who held both a conch and a flute. The sadhu asked Pannalal if he could play the flute, and young Pannalal obliged. The sadhu gave him the flute and told the boy that music would be his salvation.There was a political unrest in 1928, and every youth was possessed with the freedom movement. Pannalal also joined this freedom movement. He enrolled in a gymnasium where he learned martial arts, boxing, and stick fighting and practiced physical culture. Pannalal was very fond of physical culture. He became the best student and champion of this gymnasium. He became more involved in the freedom movement and the British Government started keeping a watch on his movements. So at the age of seventeen Pannalal left Barisal and went to Calcutta in search of livelihood. In the teeming metropolis he found himself without any credentials except that he was a boxing champion and had won the All Bengal competition in boxing. With his skill as a boxer and martial art expert he landed a job as a coach in an athletic club. One year later, at the age of 18, Pannnalal lost his father. At this time Pannalal, who was already playing sitar, began to focus his attention on bansuri. Economic necessity drove him into performing music for the silent films in Calcutta. At an All India music competition he met music director and composer Anil Biswas and began to play in his musical productions. It was during one such production when Anil Biswas was directing music for a dramatization of a work by the renowned poet Kazi Nazrul Islam that Pannalal decided that he needed a bigger flute who’s pitch and sonority would be more appropriate for both classical and light music. He met an old Muslim toy vendor who was also proficient in making flutes. With his help Pannalal experimented with various materials including metal and other types of wood, but decided bamboo was still the most suitable medium for a larger instrument. He finally settled on a bansuri which was thirty two inches long, with a sa (tonic) at kali doe (the second black key on the old harmonium scale). As a flute of this size was hitherto unknown, a rumor arose that Pannalal had had surgery to cut the webbing between his fingers to facilitate the large span required to cover the finger holes of the instrument. Of course, he had no such surgery, but through dedicated riyaz (practice), Pannalal invented and perfected the technique to play the large instrument. At this time he would get his bamboo to make flutes from discarded packing materials found at Diamond Harbor, the large port of Calcutta. Deforestation had not yet consumed the forest around Calcutta, and the bamboo was believed to have grown close to the city itself. He practiced hard and perfected the technique of vocal music on flute. At this time he realized the need for meend from madhyama swar to nishad or dhaivat shrutis in ragas like Bihag, Yaman, Bageshree and many others. He experimented and invented the seventh hole of madhyama. He became famous for his flute playing and started getting performances at the major music conferences. At this time he came in close contact with great maestros like Ustad Inayat Khan (sitar), Ustad Dabir Khan (Been), Ustad Amir Khan (sarod), Ustad Badal khan (sarangi), and vocalists such as Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Majid Khan, Pt. Tarapoda Chkraborty, Pt. Bhismadev Chattopadhyay and many others. His quest for knowledge and purity of tradition made him acquire intricacies of music from these erudite musicians. In 1936 Pannalal began working with Raichandra Boral, music director of the well known ‘New Theater’ and one year later he met his first guru, Kushi Mohammed Khan – the ‘Harmonium Wizard’. In 1938 as music director of the dance troupe of the princely kingdom of Seraikella State, Panna Babu (as he was affectionately known) was one of the first classical musicians to visit and perform in Europe, which he found rather agitating and unsettling. Soon after his return to India his guru expired. Thereafter he underwent training from Girija Shankar Chakravarti. In 1940, Pannalal moved to Bombay on the advice of his first disciple Haripada Choudhary (who had himself recently moved to Bombay). There he joined the Bombay Talkies film studio and gave music to quite a few films including ‘Basant.’ Panna Babu’s wife, Parul Biswas, (sister of Anil Biswas), was a graceful singer of kirtans who became one of the first well known playback singers for the new ‘talking’ films. Pannalal first met the legendary Ustad Allaudin Khansahib, (reverentialy known as ‘Baba’) in 1946, when Baba came to Bombay with his disciple, Pandit Ravi Shankar. Initially, when Pannalal asked Baba to teach him Khansaheb replied, “You are already great, you don’t need to study more.” Pannalal implored Baba to please teach him so that he could learn “authentic music and sur.” In 1947, Pannalal’s lifelong yearning to learn music from a true guru was fulfilled when Allaudin Khansaheb , convinced of Pannalal’s sincerity to learn, accepted Pannalal as his disciple. Pannalal then accompanied Baba to his home in Maihar, where he received intensive taalim (training) from Khansaheb for the next six months. Under Baba’s firm yet understanding tutelage, he blossomed into the wizard of the bamboo reed. Panna Babu earned fame through his regular broadcasts on AIR (All India Radio) and his many live performances at music festivals throughout India. The eminent vocalists Ustad Fayaz Khan and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur appreciated his music very much and requested Pannalal to accompany their vocal recitals on bansuri. He was praised for his adaptation and rendering on the bansuri of the khayal-ang- gayaki (the classical vocal style), particularly influenced by the great master of the Kirana gharana, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Pannalal also incorporated alap, dhrupad-ang-gayaki, tantrakari, jhala, thumri, dadra and folk music into his performance style on bansuri. Well versed in tabla and rhythm, he would perform in such difficult tals as jhoomra and tilwara. His music was steeped in devotion and had an intangible ethereal element, immense emotional depth and was infused with spiritual profundity. In addition to introducing the larger instrument, Pannalal Ghosh is credited with inventing the bass bansuri and introducing the six-stringed tanpura, high-pitched tanpuri and the surpeti or sruti box into Hindustani music. He created and popularized several new ragas including Deepawali, Pushpachandrika, Hansanarayani, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Nupurdwani, as well as multitudinous vilambit and drut compositions in many well known ragas. Panna Babu practiced daily meditation and observed maun by not speaking on Thursdays. He took the vows of Ramakrishna and put his faith in music. He took Mantra Diksha from Swami Birjanandji Maharaj who was a direct disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Because of his intense spiritual practice he started loosing interest in day to day life and decided to take Sanyasa. When he expressed his desire to Swamiji, his Guru, he was told that he would attain Moksha through music only. He should practice music as religiously as his spiritual practice. His music showed total spirituality, simplicity and purity. Pannalal continued composing and recording music for films, but began to find film work distasteful. Panna Babu’s impressive rendition of Raga Darbari Kannada in his 1956 National Programme broadcast from AIR Delhi fetched him further acclaim and at this time B.B Keskar, director of AIR, awarded him the meritorious post of composer-conductor of the Indian National Orchestra and producer for AIR Delhi. He held the post and maintained his devotion to the interpretation of classical music on the bamboo flute until his untimely and sudden death due to heart attack at the age of 49 on April 20, 1960 in New Delhi. He left his musical legacy in the capable hands of his principal disciples: the late Haripada Choudary, Devendra Murdeshwar, V.G. Karnad and Nityanand Haldipur . References Raga Shree: vilambit (slow) Tilwara Tal (16 beats) and fast Teen Tal (16 beats) This is the entire original HMV Recording – 19 minutes. It was the first LP recording of bansuri, with Rag Yaman on the A side. *

                                          Gharanas of Hindustani Music

There is a rich tradition of Gharanas in classical Hindustani music. The music Gharanas are also called styles. These schools or Gharanas have their basis in the traditional mode of musical training and education. Every Gharana has its own distinct features. The main area of difference between Gharanas is the manner in which the notes are sung. The concept of a Guru- Shishya leads to the development of Gharanas. The Gharanas emerge from the creative style of a genius, who gives existing structures a totally new approach, form and interpretation. The new approach, form and interpretation apply to include the tone of the voice, the pitch, the inflexions and the intonations, and the specific application of the various nuances. Let’s have a quick look at popular Gharanas of Hindustani classical music. Gwalior Gharana – This is the oldest among all the Khayal Gayaki (vocal) styles. The distinctive feature of this style of singing has been noted as its lucidity and simplicity. Founders – Ustad Hassu Khan, Ustad Haddu Khan, Ustad Nathu Khan Exponents – Bal Krishna BaIchal Karanjikar, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Malini Rajurkar Agra Gharana-The Agra Gharana places great importance on developing forcefulness and deepness in the voice so that the notes are powerful and resonant. Founders- Haji Sujan Khan, Ustad Ghagghe Khuda Baksh Exponents-The important singers of this Gharana are Faiyyaz Khan, Latafat Hussein Khan and Dinkar Kakini. Kirana Gharana – It derives its name from the birthplace of Abdul Kharim Khan of Kirana near Kurukshetra. In the Kirana style of singing, the swara is used to create an emotional mood by means of elongation and use of Kana-s. Founders – Abdul Karim Khan and Abdul Wahid Khan Exponents – Hirabhai Barodekar, Begum Akhtar, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Prabha Atre. Jaipur – Atrauli Gharana- The most distinctive feature of the Jaipur Gharana can be best described as its complex and melodic form which arises out of the involutedly and undulating phrases that comprise the piece. Founders – Ustad Alladiya Khan Exponents – Alladiya Khan, Mallikarjun Mansur, Kesarbhai Kerkar, Kishori Amonkar, Shruti Sadolikar, Padma Talwalkar and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande. Rampur Sahaswan Gharana- The Rampur Sahaswan Gharana there is a stress on the clarity of swara in this style and the development and elaboration of the raga is done through a stepwise progression. Founders – Ustad Inayat Khan Exponents – Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan, Sulochana and Brihaspati. Patiala Gharana – Patiala Gharana is regarded as an offshoot of the Delhi Gharana. The Patiala Gharana is characterized by the use of greater rhythm play and by Layakari with the abundant use of Bols, particularly Bol-tans. Founders – Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Ali Baksh Exponents – The major singers of the Patiala Gharana are Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ajoy Chakravarti, Raza Ali Khan, Beghum Akhtar, Nirmala Deni, Naina Devi, Parveen Sultana and others. Delhi Gharana – The Delhi Ghaana was represented by Tanras Khan and Shabbu Khan. The highlights of Delhi Gharana are pleasing vistaar and exquisite compositions. Founders – Ustad Mamman Khan Exponents – Some of the notable exponents of Delhi Gharana are Chand Khan, Nasir Ahmed Khan, Usman Khan, Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Krishna Bisht. Bhendi Bazaar Gharana – The most distinctive feature of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana is the presentation of Khayal, which is open voice, using Akar. There is a stress on breath-control and singing of long passages in one breath is highly regarded in this Gharana Founders – Ustad Chajju Khan Exponents – The important singers of this Gharana are Ustad Aman Ali Khan, Shashikala Koratkar and Anjanibai Malpekar. Benaras Gharana – The Benaras Gharana evolved as a result of great lilting style of khayal singing known by Thumri singers of Benaras and Gaya. Founders – Pt Gopal Mishra Exponents – The chief exponents of the Benaras Gharana are Rajan Mishra, Sajan Mishra, Girija Devi and others. Mewati Gharana – The Mewati Gharana gives importance to developing the mood of the raga through the notes forming it and its style is Bhava Pradhan. It also gives equal importance to the meaning of the text. Founders – The founder of Mewati Gharana was Ghagge Nazir Khan. Exponents – The exponents of the Mewati Gharana are Pandit Jasraj, Moti Ram, Mani Ram, Sanjeev Abhyankar and others. *** The gharanas of khayal gayaki (singing) are : Gwalior gharana Kirana gharana Jaipur-Atrauli gharana Agra gharana Patiala gharana … Rampur-Sahaswan gharana Mewati gharana Bhendi Bazar gharana Gwalior gharana The oldest of the gharanas and one to which most others can and do trace the origins of their style is the Gwalior gharana. Some sources believe that Nathan Khan and Peer Baksh settled in Gwalior and evolved the style features that led to this gharana. Others claim that individuals named Nathan Peer Baksh and Nathe Khan founded the gharana. The accepted version is that Nathan Peer Baksh left Lucknow (in Uttar Pradesh) to escape the professional rivalry with Shakkar Khan that had taken an ugly turn. He arrived in Gwalior with his grandsons Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan. Another great khayal singer, also originally from Lucknow, was Bade Mohammed Khan who brought the t n into khayal singing. Haddu and Hassu Khan further enhanced the style into the Gwalior gharana as we recognize it today. Haddu Khan’s son, Rehmet Khan (1852-1922) was a widely acclaimed singer who liberated the Gwalior style from the methodical form it followed to the emotional style that he preferred. Apart from the emphasis on notes (swara), another distinguishing feature of the gharana is its simplicity because through simplicity alone can the singer and the listener arrive at the full beauty and impact of the raga. One means to this is of course the selection of well-known ragas so that the listener is saved the effort of trying to identify the raga. Attention can be focussed on the raga and the presentation of it. While the khayal singer does include raga vistar (melody expansion) and raga alankara (melody ornamentation to enhance the beauty and meaning of the raga, there is no attempt to include the tirobhava feature i.e. using melodic phrases to obscure the identity of the raga in the interest of adding interest or mystery to the listener’s experience. The singing itself places bandish (the composition) at the heart of the presentation because of the gharana’s belief that the full melody of the raga and guidance on its singing is provided by the bandish. The sthayi section is sung twice before the antara, to be followed by the slow tempo of the swara vistar (note expansion). This slow rendition of the notes is known as the behlava, and is sung from Ma in the lower register to Pa in the higher register, following the pattern of the aroha (ascent) and avaroha (descent) of the raga. The behlava is divided into the sthayi (from Ma to Sa) and antara (from Ma, Pa, or Dha to Pa of the higher register). The dugun-ka-alap follows in which groups of two or four note combinations are sung in quicker succession but the basic tempo remains the same. Thus the drumming pattern of the table (i.e. tabla theka) is left unaltered. The bol-alap is next in which the different words of the text are sung in different ways, to be followed by murkis in which notes are sung with ornamentation to a faster pace. Bol-t ns entail the formation of melodic sequences with the words of the song. The other t ns, including the gamak, follow. The sapat t n is important to the Gwalior style and refers to the singing of notes in a straight sequence and at a slow pace. Both dhrupad and khayal singing evolved in Gwalior and there are many overlaps. In the khayal style there is one form, mundi dhrupad, that incorporates all the features of dhrupad singing but without the mukhda. The Gwalior gharana usually prefers to begin ragas in the medium tempo (madhya laya) rather then the slow tempo (vilambit laya) as is the norm with other gharanas. The chosen ragas include Alahya-Bilawal, Yaman, Bhairav, Sarang, Shri, Hamir, Gaud-Malhar, Miya-ki-Malhar. Renowned singers of this gharana are Balkrishnabua Ichalkaranjikar, Vishnu Digamber Paluskar, Nissar Hussain Khan, Shankarrao Pandit, Krishnarao Pandit, Eknath Pandit, Pandit Vinayakrao Parwardhan, Narayanrao Vyas, Dattaraya Vishnu Paluskar, Sharat Chandra Arolkar, and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur who authored the Sangitanjali (a text on the nature of ragas). Contemporary singers include Pandit V.R. Athavale, Pandit Vinaychandra Maudgalaya, Pandit Jal B8alporia. Others while not performing in the pure Gwalior style nevertheless retain the distinctive features of the gharana. Malini Rajurkar is an example of this. Her singing reveals influences of the Kirana style as well as that of the independent singer Kumar Gandharva but the clear rendition of each word in the manner of a short t n stamps her singing with the Gwalior tradition. Kirana gharana The emphasis on elongating the notes and the importance to their resonance is a distinctive feature of this gharana. The founder, Khan Sahab Abdul Karim Khan (1872-1937), believed in the serene rendition of the notes as when playing the bin (a plucked instrument with resonators at both ends). Rehmet Khan of the Gwalior gharana is believed to have influenced Ustad Karim Khan’s adoption of the direct style of presentation. Some have also indicated the influence of the sarangi (a string instrument) on the voice features of this gharana. Kirana is the birth place of the Ustad, and situated near Kurukshetra. Ustad Karim Khan served as a musician at the Baroda and the Mysore courts and had a tremendous influence on the music of western India. His own somewhat nasal voice led him to adopt the Carnatic style for singing the saptak (the seven notes). He preferred to sing in the slower tempo and stress the bol-alap through consonants because his own voice was not wholly suited to the lower register of notes. The aesthetic appeal was thus never marred and the continuity he desired was achieved. Other singers of the gharana, including his disciple Sawai Gandharva, used the upper register far more often than the lower. Some later singers, including Roshanara Begum and Bhimsen Joshi, sing almost equally in both octaves. This factor has influenced the choice of ragas to those appropriate for the emphasis on the alap rather than the bandish. Karuna rasa (pathetic or sympathetic mood) is the foremost of the sentiments expressed through renditions that extend the notes gradually and use kanas (grace notes ) to fully express the raga. However, the lack of emphasis on voice projection and words led to a blurring of the lines as far as different ragas were concerned. The emphasis on swara has led to a rather subtle tempo and rhythmic pattern, both factors allowing for the sentiment and mood to be highlighted. Due to this, the words of the bandish are not clearly enunciated and there are only a few in the Kirana gharana repertoire. Kirana includes thumri singing in its repertoire, but with the emphasis on swara rather than on emotion and an absence of the characteristic lilt of thumri singing. Contemporary singers like Bhimsen Joshi cannot be said to sing in the pure Kirana style because of the diverse influences apparent in his singing. The swara orientation is not as strong and the tempo is no longer latent as is characteristic of the gharana. However, the emotional appeal of the pure Kirana style remains and so do the Kirana compositions. Ragas traditionally performed by the gharana: Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari, Malkauns, Bhimpalasi, Todi, to name a few. Some ragas of Carnatic music – for example, Jogiya – are included in the repertoire. Renowned singers include: Bhimsen Joshi, Abdul Wahid Khan (he taught Begum Akhtar), Surash Babu Mane, Prabha Atre Malati, Hirabai Barodekar, Gangubhai Hangal, her daughter Krishna Hangal, and Pandit Feroze Dastur. Jaipur-Atrauli gharana Born in Atrauli and singing at the Jaipur court, Alladiya Khan (1855-1943) made both cities famous through the gharana he founded. His training in both dhrupad and khayal genres enabled him to bring the complexities of both into his style that can be best described as filigree. The variation of note patterns serves to enhance the rendition of notes that are linked in a characteristic manner. This in no way impinges on the individual quality of the notes. The tempo is consistently slow (but not as slow as in the Kirana style), with the varying note patterns providing the rhythm. Many feel that the gharana follows an intellectual approach, and this does not lend itself to layakari (the development and play of tempo). However, the intellectual nature of presentation in no way precludes laya. It is very much in existence through the changing pitch and volume and the note patterns themselves: these factors comprise what Deshpande terms ‘functional rhythm’. The time factor permeates every performance. The attention to every beat and half-beat is a vital feature of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana and requires both singer and musician to co-ordinate on the sam. The sam is the most emphatic beat of the tabla (a drum) and is usually played at the beginning of the rhythm cycle and at other specific moments. The singer maintains this rhythm by coinciding the singing with the sam. In khayal singing, the sam may occur at the end of the mukhada (first melodic phrase) and the singer and musician do not consistently coincide their emphases. The Jaipur-Atraul gharana has elevated this to an art form by arriving at the emphatic beat in a specific but unexpected manner. By remaining aware of every beat and fraction of a beat even at the slow tempo, the singer can impart a great aesthetic value to the experience. Alladiya Khan was a master at this technique. The bandishes are always the traditional ones, and no new compositions are present in the repertoire. The text itself comes second to the melodic movements and tempo of the bandish, the gharana preferring to emphasize the meaning and emotion through note combinations. Thus the musical element dominates. The akar (singing a part of the raga through the vowels ‘aa’) is not traditionally used (the singer Kishori Amonkar is an exception). The bols (words) are sung, and ornamented with t ns and murkis, the ornamentation being in drut laya (fast tempo). The bada khayal is sung spanning all three registers and the antara section is omitted. While vakra t ns (spiralling notes to embellish the raga) are to be found in the presentation, there is a rarity of other t ns like kanas (grace notes) and sargam t ns (sargam – a term comprised of the solfege names of the first four notes, and denoting all seven notes). The choice of ragas reflects the school’s selectivity of manner and presentation: acchob (rare) ragas and jod (compound) ragas like Sampurna-Malkauns, Basant-Kedar, Basant-Bahar, Kaunsi-Kanada and Nat-Kamod. Renowned singers include Kesarbai Kerkar who trained under Ustad Alladiya Khan, Mallikarjun Mansur, Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, Padma Tralwalkar, Padmavati Shaligram Gokhale. Agra gharana The founders of the Agra gharana, Shamrang and Sasrang, were originally dhrupad and dhamar singers, and khayal singing was a later addition by Ghagge Khuda Baksh. The latter was trained by Nathan Peer Baksh of the Gwalior gharana. The emphasis on layakari in the Agra gharana is a result of these beginnings. Ustad Faiyaz Khan (1886-1950), widely regarded as the founder of this gharana, trained under both his maternal grandfather Ghulam Abbas and Natthan Khan of the Agra school. His paternal great-grandfather was Ustad Ramzan Khan ‘Rangile’ and Faiyaz Khan’s singing is often considered the ‘Rangile’ style rather than the Agra style. The Ustad himself had a powerful voice and sang in a low register. Through voice modulation as well as stress on alap and the rhythmic patterns in the bandish, he was able to evolve a distinctive style. The nom-tom alap remains popular with this gharana as does the use of ekar rather than akar. He employed a clear style in the enunciation of words which were sung (many believe they were spoken) according to the mood of the section. To add drama, he would often allow for a break in the rendition – a stylistic device is known as phut. It was Faiyaz Khan’s belief that a raga should commence with the note shadja and that the note be accorded a focal position. While classical texts accepted the shadja as the first note, in practice the opening note (graha swara) was not necessarily the shadja. The current practice of commencing the alap with Sa began with Ustad Faiyaz Khan. This gharana begins a raga with an extended alap replete with ornamentation, and the mukhda and other phrases are sung with equal emphasis. The bandish in medium tempo follows. The words of the text are accompanied by close attention to rhythm and in vilambit laya. The words of the sthayi may be repeated, if the section is deemed too short. Bol tans are next, sung at double or even treble the past tempo, followed by other tans in madhya laya. The ladant (duel with the tabla) is occasionally included, and at the close, a khayal sung in drut laya. Like the Jaipur gharana, the Agra school emphasizes the melodic aspect of the raga, while the importance of the bandish is a legacy of the Gwalior style. Again, the sam (the most emphatic beat of the tabla) and the arrival at it by musician and singer is an interesting and much anticipated feature. Renowned singers of this school include Sharafat Hussain Khan (believed to have a style very close to Faiyaz Khan’s), Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan ‘Agrawale’, Latafat Hussain Khan, Yunus Hussain, Vijay Kitchlu, Jyotsna Bhole, Deepali Nag, Sumuti Mutatkar. A famous independent singer taught by Faiyaz Khan was Kanhaiya Lal Sehgal. Besides, the Agra gharana had a profound influence on luminaries such as Pandit Bhatkhande. Patiala gharana The well-known Allu-Fattu are often credited with establishing this gharana even though Kale Khan is the person responsible for this achievement. He provided preliminary training to both his son Ali Baksh (Allu) and Ali’s friend Fateh Ali Khan (Fattu), and Kale Khan’s illustrious teachers continued the instruction. The Patiala gharana is considered an off-shoot of the Delhi gharana. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (1901-69) brought glory to this singing tradition, and brought much of his own style into the gharana’s stamp. His voice had an astounding range and clarity, and the effortless execution of even the most complex ragas is a strength that others owing allegiance to this gharana lean toward. Close attention is paid to swara, layakari, and bols (perfect enunciation being a hallmark of the gharana). Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s ability to span all three octaves while singing the satta-t ns (short spiralling patterns) and the shortened tonal aspect brought glimpses of the tappa (fast-paced, short, light-classical songs of Punjab) into this classical forte. However, this was appropriately restricted to the chhota khayal. But he did grant a special place to both tappa and thumri (a light classical style) singing, and went on to sing thumris in the tappa style! The clear enunciation of notes notwithstanding, there was and is an abundance of ornamentation that has been criticized as being entirely superfluous. Sargams often replace the text, and note-combinations are used in unconventional placements. The gharana regards these as being integral to the mood and emotion of the raga which became in many ways a means of expressing the singer’s response to the raga. The shringara rasa of the tappas and thumris is a fitting mood for the singing style of this gharana, and the raga selection in its repertoire reflects this. Malkauns, Bhupali, Gunakali were the ragas of Bade Ghulam Ali’s choice, and even today, these and similar ragas such as Megh Malhar predominate. Renowned singers of the Patiala gharana include Munnawar Ali Khan (Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s son), Pandit Ajoy Charavorty, Raza Ali Khan, Parveen Sultana. Rampur-Sahaswan gharana The founder of this gharana is Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan (1849-1919), son-in-law of Haddu Khan of the Gwalior gharana, and disciple of, among others, Ustad Bahadur Hussain Khan (Tansen’s descendant). Inayat Hussain Khan was born in Sahaswan and lived his professional life in Rampur. The city was an important centre of dhrupad singing, and together with the fact of Haddu Khan’s teaching, there are definite influences of dhrupad, and the Gwalior gharana. For example, the prevalence of ornaments in the Rampur-Shahaswan singing style. Hence, the gharana is regarded as an off-shoot of the Gwalior gharana. The alap of this gharana is structured and uses techniques like the behlava to express the mood of the raga. The bandish section stretches through the sthayi and antara sections, both of which are sung fully. The text is sung clear and strong so as to wholly reveal its literary nature. This is followed by sargams, akars and bols sung in all three tempos – slow, medium, and fast. Madhya laya is the preferred tempo for raga performance. These features are very similar to those of the Gwalior gharana. The t ns of this gharana are executed in the characteristic style, and end on the shadja. The number of t ns popular in the Rampur-Sahaswan style is far more than in the other gharanas, and includes sapat-t ns, halaq-t ns, chut-t ns, bol-t ns, and tappa t ns. Apart from the classical ragas in its repertoire, the gharana favours tarana singing. This is clearly seen in the choice of ragas like Bhupali-Todi, Bahadur-Todi, Yaman, Kedar, Bihag, Gaud-Sarang, Chhaya Nat. The renowned singers of this gharana include Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan (trained by Inayat Hussain Khan himself), Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan (Inayat Hussain Khan’s son-in-law), Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Rashid Khan, Ghulam Sadiq Khan, Shanno Khurana, Sulochana Brihaspati. Mewati gharana The semi-classical music of this gharana founded by Ghagge Nazir Khan avoids the accepted norm of elongating words for the sake of rhythm. Sargams and t ns (such as sapat-t ns) are employed to provide the versatile link that is needed. The literary context and the emotional appeal of the raga are stressed, and expressed through the use of techniques such as the murchhana technique (enhancing the raga by changing the tonic). This last is important because of the emphasis on the mood (rasa, bhava) of the raga. This school can be said to be bhava-pradhan (pradhan: of great importance, superior), and as such the ornamentations and the structure of the performance are geared to ensuring a continuity. This, the akar is conspicuous by its absence (as in the Kirana gharana). The bandish section is characterised by the notes and the raga itself that span all three octaves; the mukhda of both sthayi and antara sections is developed through bol alap. This part closes with the mukhda of the sthayi section, to be followed by layakari and ornamental devices particularly the gamak and sapat t ns. The bhajan quality of the performances is a feature unique to this gharana, and reveals a religious influence. The gharana is represented by Pandit Jasraj and his two disciples Sanjeev Abhyankar and Rattan Sharma. This is reminiscent of Ghagge Nazir Khan and his two disciples, Nathulal and Chamanlal. Nathulal’s nephew Pandit Motiram continued the tradition through his sons Pandit Maniram and Pandit Jasraj. Bhendi Bazar gharana A lesser-known but influential gharana, the Bhendi Bazar school was founded by Ustad Chhajju Khan, Ustad Nazir Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan in the late nineteenth century. They trained under their father Dilawar Hussain Khan, and Inayat Hussain Khan of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana. The akar sung in an open voice, the prevalence of merkhand (intricate singing of the sargam), and a clear articulation and intonation are the characteristic features of this gharana. Stringent practice of breath control permits the singer to sing a long stretch of the raga without pausing. Renowned singers of this gharana include Ustad Aman Ali (who specialized in complex sargams without sidelining swara and laya, and taught Lata Mangeshwar, known also as ‘India’s nightingale’), Anjanibai Malpekar (who taught Kishori Amonkar). (Courtesy of India Heritage) Gharanas


Selected Audio Probes :


The Gwalior Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=1

* The Agra Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=2 * The Kirana Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=3 * The Jaipur Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=4 * The Rampur Sahaswan Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=5 * The Patiala Gharana    http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=6 * The Delhi Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=7 * The Bhendi Bazar Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=8 * The Banaras Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=9 * The Mewati Gharana http://www.itcsra.org/sra_story/sra_story_guru/sra_story_guru_links/sra_story_guru_gharana/gharana.asp?gharanaid=10 *

The   Etawa   Gharana

by Imrat Khan Saheb

A Gharana

Indian Classical music can be described a religion whereby the music, knowledge and musical research was traditionally passed down from guru to disciple by word of mouth. In many old musical families the guru or teacher, is the father and the disciple or student, the son. A Gharana, or Musical Dynasty is formed when this process of teaching is passed down for five or six generations. There are two types of gharana in India, direct gharanas in which music has remained within a family and indirect gharanas, where in the absence of sons or musically talented sons, the teacher chooses to pass on his knowledge to a talented student. In India there are very few direct or true gharanas left. Ustad Imrat Khan’s Etawa Gharana is one of them.

The Etawa Gharana

The Etawa Gharana, also fondly know as the ImdadKhani Gharana after Ustad Imrat Khan’s grandfather Ustad Imdad Khan, is one of the oldest, most illustrious gharanas of Indian classical music. It traces its origins back through an unbroken line of celebrated musicians to the 16th Century where music has been passed down from father to son for almost 400 years. With its roots in Agra, the Gharana was later moved to Etawa on the outskirts of Agra before finally moving to Calcutta with Ustad Inayat Khan, the father of Ustad Imrat Khan. The true value of the Gharana can be understood by looking at its accomplishments. The ancestors of Imrat Khan were fascinated with musicology and searching for the most perfect and purest sounds. Through their research modern Indian Classical music has been redefined. The Gharanas major achievements are the development of the surbahar, major structural changes to both the sitar and surbahar and the creation and development of the instrumental style known as the gayaki ang. Not only has the true art and knowledge of music been preserved by this Gharana despite external pressures of a changing country but it has also produced the most legendary names in Indian classical music through each generation. ***                              The Vishnupur Gharana Gharana, as the word suggests, is a school of thought or a particular system or a style in music. Presentation of the same raga with stylistic variations led to the origin of these gharanas or schools of music. These gharanas formed the nucleus of demonstrative art. The glorious heritage of Hindustani music, as we find it to this day, has been preserved by great musicians of the past who have handed down their rich resources in the classic tradition of guru-shishya parampara, maintaining in each case the individual trends of their gharanas. The Vishnupur Gharana of Bengal has a prestigious past, the history of which has little been revealed. Vishnupur, the town of Lord Vishnu, is at present a subdivision town of Bankura district in West Bengal. The historic name of the Rarh region of West Bengal is Mallabhum. Though not vast in area, the region holds a significant position in matters such as political vigour, civilization and culture. Historians suggest that Mallabhum had once been the cultural centre of Eastern India. Among its cultural achievements, music had the highest honour. Here I am to discuss some features of the Vishnupur Gharana, along with a few major historical references, that have left indelible impressions upon the music of Bengal. In the later part of the eighteenth century and towards the early and mid-nineteenth century, when music of different gharanas were gradually having their assimilation in the city-centre of Calcutta, the dhrupad style flourished among the musicians of Vishnupur. To recapitulate history, the Maharaja of Vishnupur was a contemporary of Emperor Aurangzeb. The Senia Gharana was then in full bloom and its reputation spread throughout India. Its influence on the music of Vishnupur was enormous. It was around this time that the famous dhrupad singer Bahadur Khan of the Senia Gharana, descendant of Tansen, came at Vishnupur and made his gharana popular. The next Maharaja of Vishnupur, Raghunath Singh Deo II, steered his attention towards popularizing Bahadur Khan. At this time, the Ustad expressed his desire to settle down in Vishnupur and the Maharaja made all arrangements to honour him as his court singer. The Maharaja also announced that anyone having a sweet voice and interested in music could learn from Bahadur Khan without any fees. He also bore the financial liability for the poor students. In time, a good number of students became the disciples of Bahadur Khan. Among the disciples of Bahadur Khan, the name of Gadadhar Chakravorty is noteworthy. Bahadur Khan was not only a vocalist but could also efficiently play on such instruments as the veena, the rabab and the sursringar. Gadadhar Chakravorty learned from his master both vocal and instrumental music. Among his worthy disciples were such talents as Ram Shankar Bhattacharya and Jadu Bhatta, whose name spread throughout India. Most of the exponents of Vishnupur learned dhrupad song and instrumental music simultaneously. Vishnupur was at that time the cultural capital of India. Shri Anantalal Banerjee of Vishnupur was an illustrious musician who had his training from Shri Ramshankar Bhattacharya in both vocal and instrumental music. Anantalal’s sons, Shri Ramprasanna Banerjee, Shri Gopeswar Banerjee and Shri Surendranath Banerjee, were prodigies of this gharana. Shri Radhika Prosad Goswami, disciple of Anantalal Banerjee, earned great fame as a dhrupad singer. Among the students of Shri Radhika Prosad were Shri Girijashankar Chakravorty, Jogendra Nath Banerjee and Dhirendra Nath Bhattacharya who won their acclamation in the early conferences of Calcutta. Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakravorty, Jamini Ganguli, Sailen Banerjee and many others learned from Girijashankar Chakravorty. Our great poet, Rabindranath Tagore had his trainings in the dhrupad style from Radhika Prosad Goswami and Jadu Bhakti of Vishnupur. The dhrupad style of Vishnupur had a good deal of influence on many of the songs composed by Tagore. Shri Ramprasanna Banerjee, the guru of my father the late Gokul Nag, also received his training from Sajjad Muhammed, son of Gulam Muhammed. Sajjad Muhammed was then staying at Jorasanko Rajbati of Raja Sourendra Mohan Tagore of Calcutta. During that time Shri Nilmadhab Chakravorty, the grandson of Gadadhar Chakravorty was teaching Raja Jotindra Mohan Tagore. Ustad Allauddin Khan of Maihar took his lessons in surbahar from Shri Nilmadhab Chakravorty. Shri Ganendra Prosad Goswami, the nephew of Radhika Prosad Goswami was a very famous musician. He recorded many songs for the Gramophone Company of India. I have mentioned before the name of Shri Gopeswar Banerjee, a great pioneer of the music of Vishnupur. He was the court musician of the Maharaja of Burdwan, Narajol and Mayurbhanj. He wrote a number of books on musicology as Sangeet Chandrika, Geet-Darpan, Geet-Praveshika, Sangeet Lahari and others. Shri K. C. Dey, the uncle of Manna Dey, the popular light music singer of Bengal, also learned dhrupad from Shri Gopeswar Banerjee. Kshetramohan Goswami, another maestro in this area, was a disciple of Ramshankar Bhattacharya. It was he who invented the Dandamatrik system of notation in Bengal. Until a few years ago the name of the late Satyakinkar Banerjee was well-known among the music lovers of Calcutta. Besides vocal music, he was adept in surbahar and sitar: the late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and myself, have listened to his playing in his house at Calcutta. His sons, Shri Amiya Ranjan Banerjee, ex-professor of Rabindra Bharati University, Shri Nihar Ranjan Banerjee, Professor of Rabindra Bharati University and Shri Monoranjan Banerjee, are now representing the Vishnupur Gharana, almost in its twilight days, bearing just a few glimpses from its age-old tradition. I would like to draw the conclusion of my discussion with this opinion that, although every gharana has its own distinctive style of presentation, no creative art can develop within any rigorous binding. Music is the highest among fine arts. Every individual has his own build-up of the mind, his own environmental influences that will leave remarkable traces upon his music. Through his creation the artist, in a sense, manifests his soul – the Atma. While presenting his art, he is in a state of emotional exaltation. Hence, two artistes, belonging to the same gharana, need not necessarily have the same way of presentation. Variations must be accepted, otherwise creative music would have become identical with composed music. The artiste’s quest should not be after what genre he belongs to but after what he is. — (A paper presented by Pandit Manilal Nag at the Seminar on Sitar organized by the Sangeet Research Academy, 23 September 1990, Bombay.) (For a demonstration Please note also :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-oW2w4zYd8  ) ***                             The Bishnupur Gharana INTRODUCTION The Bishnupur Gharana (alternatively spelt Vishnupur Gharana) is a form of  the Drupad tradition of Hindustani music. It originated in Bishnupur, which derived its name as “city of Vishnu” in Bengali. In the ancient past, this area, known as Mallabhum was the abode of Malla Kings, once the cultural centre of Eastern India. Bishnupur Gharana was established in 1370 A.D. by the court musicians Bahadur Khan of Malla Kings.Bahadur Khan was not only a vocalist but could also dexterous instrumentalist. Historical evidence points to Pt. Ramachandra Bhattacharya, a disciple of Ud. Bahadur Khan as the founder of the gharana. Bishnupur Gharana therefore has a strong link to Betia Gharana through this unbroken relationship. In the later part of the eighteenth century and towards the early and mid-nineteenth century, when music of different Gharanas were gradually assimilating around the Khayal style, the Dhrupad style continued flourishing among the musicians of Bishnupur. In this style, the artist excels in unfolding the beauty of the Raga through the alap. It is simple, devoid of heavy, cumbersome ornamentation. It is free from intricate play with the rhythm. Layakari is however allowed in Dhamar, another form of vocalization. The Khayal of the Bishnupur School is noted for its sweet, lilting melody. It is adorned with the usual ornaments, which add variety to the melodic presentation of the Raaga. The dhrupad of the Bishnupur gharana uses shuddha dhaivata in raga vasanta, a touch of komal nisada in the descending notes of Raga bhairava. It has abandoned kadi madhyam (proper center) in raga ramakeli, and uses suddha dhaivata in raga puravi and komal nisad in raga vehaga. It has also developed its own character with regard to rhythm. Its origins and the development have led to a great openness in the teaching and evolution within this gharana. Gadadhar Chakraborty, his main disciple helped him to create Bishnupur Gharana. Later Krishna Mohan Goswami, Ram Sankar Bhattacharya and his son Ram Keshab Bhattacharya continued the tradition. During this period appeared Jadu Bhatta (Jadunath Bhattacharya), who took this music to a higher region and made a well known through out India. Other important contributors are Dinabandhu Goswami, Ananta Lal Bandyopadhyay. Rama Prasanna Bandyopadhyay, Radhika Prasad Goswami, Gopeshwar Bandyopadhyay, Surendranath Bandyopadhyay are the next generation musicians, who were the great exponents of Bishnupur Gharana. The disciples of Rama Prasanna Bandyopadhyay, Sri Gokul Nag (Sitar) and Asesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay (son, Esraj) carried the reputation of Bishnupur Gharana to higher standard. Poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindra Nath Tagore had his training in the Dhrupad style from Radhika Prosad Goswami. The Dhrupad style of Bishnupur had a good deal of influence on many of the songs composed by Tagore. One of the great exponents of this Gharana was the famous Jadubhatta. Bishnupur Gharana has not only enriched the Hindusthani classical music but also brought a subtle variation in style. Its Dhrupad is unmatched. Ranadhir Roy (1943 – 1989) was a noted connoisseur of Esraj. Further Surendranath Bandyopadhyay son of Anantalal Bandyopadhyay and Bindubasini Devi, daughter of Surendranath are the names to be mentioned. Sri Manilal Nag son of Gokul Nag is an acclaimed Sitar player today, who hails from Bishnupur Gharana. Dr. Debabrata Singha Thakur, a disciple of Gopeswar Bandopadhaya and a direct descendent of Kuchiakol lineage of Malla dynasty is another exponent of Bishnupur Gharana. At present, Ram Saran Music College is dedicatedly popularizing the Bishnupur Gharana before the world community. The Ramsaran Music College was established in the year of 1897 by Sangeet Guru Ramsankar Bhattacharyay, after the name of Late Ramsaran Mukhopadhyay, who contributed Rs.40,000.00 at that time. It is considered to be the oldest Music college in India. Initially it was constituted as a music school. Desikottam Dr. Gopeswar Bandopadhyay was the founder principal of this college. in the year of 1943, he converted this institution as College. After his death, his brother Padmasree Sangeet Ratnakar Surendranath Bandopadhyay succeeded as the Principal of this college. OBJECTIVES The primary objective of this college is to preserve, popularize and improvise the rich cultural tradition of Bishnupur Gharana and present before the world community. It devotes in integrating Bishnupur Gharana with other Indian Gharanas. It devotes on training of Bishnupur Gharana by observing strict discipline of Guru-Sishya Parampara. It renders financial assistance to the meritorious scholars for continuation of studies in music. *** The Bishnupur Gharana: an interview with Pandit Sujit Gangopadhyay Arijit Mahalanabis (1) Of all of the Dhrupad traditions in India, perhaps the most obscure is the Dhrupad tradition of Bishnupur. The Bishnupur Gharana has significantly influenced the popular, urban and folk music of Bengal. However, its contributions to the world of classical music have not necessarily been well understood, or indeed, even appreciated. One of the difficult realities of Indian classical music today is that one’s geographic location, to a great extent, limits one’s ability to be heard or appreciated. This is certainly the case with the musicians who practice in Bishnupur. Removed from the urban musical stronghold of Kolkata many of these musicians toil in obscurity without the benefit of popular acclaim. It is difficult to say that Pandit Sujit Gangopadhyay is one such musician. As a prolific and accomplished performer, active teacher and able administrator, Sujit Babu is a well established figure of the Gharana. However, as a musician living and performing in Bishnupur, his views on the issues related to the gharana’s present, past and future are rather enlightening, and perhaps more thought-provoking than those of his contemporaries who perform Bishnupuri music in Kolkata and elsewhere. In this interview conducted on 5th September, 2009, I asked Pandit Gangopadhyay about a variety of different aspects of his gharana. Arijit Mahalanabis [AM]: Namaskar Panditji. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about the Bishnupur Gharana. Can you begin by saying a few words about the gharana’s present state and its past achievements? Sujit Gangopadhyay [SG]: The Bishnupur Gharana passed through a golden age a long time ago. Many great musicians from the gharana practiced music contemporaneously, and the gharana was famous throughout India. This may not be the case today, but the gharana is seeing something of a revival. More students are studying this music, and demand amongst audiences too is growing. Of course, musical giants are not born every day. However those who are involved with the gharana at present are doing their work, practicing music, and teaching and learning the tradition. Our age-old tradition manages to continue. AM: Can you tell me something about your gurus? What contributions did they make to the gharana especially with regard to Dhrupad and Dhamar? SG: My father, Amarnath Gangopadhyay, practiced both Khayal and Dhrupad. He was my first guru. He studied with Atulkrishna Bandhopadhyay, one of the great musicians of our gharana. Atulkrishna in turn, was a student of Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay[2], and Ustad Tusiruddhujin Khan. He studied Dhrupad and Dhamar from Gopeshwar Babu, and Khayal from the Ustad.[3] As for me, I went on to study with Amiya Ranjan Bandhopadhyay, a major figure in our gharana at present. Amiya Babu is considered to be the senior-most artist in the state of West Bengal today. He belongs to a much respected family in our gharana. His father was Satyakinkar Bandhopadhyay, a great exponent of both Khayal and Dhrupad. I should point out that a very significant aspect of Satyakinkar Babu and Amiya Babu’s music is that they have both put equal emphasis on the practice of Dhrupad and Khayal, and have maintained both styles side-by-side.[4] This was true of Gopeshwar Babu’s music also. It is a common notion that Bishnupur Gharana is a Dhrupad gharana. But really, it is a gharana that puts equal emphasis on both Dhrupad and Khayal. Certainly Dhrupad occupies a hallowed ground in the gharana. But the great musician Ramprasanna Bandhopadhyay, who was Gopeshwar Babu’s elder brother and guru, and the son of Anantalal Bandhopadhyay, was an accomplished instrumentalist. His student was sitarist Gokul Nag, the father of Manilal Nag, and one of Ravi Shankar’s gurus. Sitar, as you know, is a Khayal ang instrument. Ashesh Badhopadhyay, the son of Ramprasanna Babu, was a great Esraj player. In fact, Rabindranath was very fond of him, and he spent his life at Vishwa Bharati. So although Dhrupad is very important in the Bishnupur Gharana, it is not the only music found in the gharana. Bishnupur as a gharana encompasses Dhrupad, Khayal and Instrumental music in a very complete and exhaustive way. As a member of this gharana, I personally practice both Dhrupad and Khayal.[5] AM: Can you describe the process of receiving talim from your gurus? SG: As I said I received my training from my father. As you know, our guru-shishya parampara requires us to sit with the guru, learn the chalan, roop and overall emotion of the raga, and then repeat the guru’s musical phrases over and over again. I too learned in this traditional way. For example, my father might say to me, look at the komal re and ga in Todi. Both these are somewhat flatter than the usual komal re and komal ga. One might say they are atikomal. Many ragas use these notes, but Todi is special. These things are best learned by listening to and repeatedly singing with one’s guru. It is very difficult to write such things down on a sheet of paper. See how the komal re in Bhairav is different than Todi! It is a bit higher than the usual komal re. Also as you know Bhairav has andolit Re and Dha. They are andolit in Ramkali also. But the Re-Dha andolan in Bhairav is somewhat wider, with a more Tivra bent. For this reason, when Dha is taken andolit in Bhairav, a small touch of Komal Ni also appears, from the extensive upswing of the note. It now shows as a vivadi swar regularly in performances of the raga. The same is true of Re. Its upswing in the andolan places it at a shruti that is quite a bit Tivra from the usual Komal Re. While we wouldn’t say these vivadis are part of the raga, in performance they do happen. Ramkali on the other hand has these andolans, but they are not nearly as Tivra, and as a result these vivadi chhayas of the Re and Dha do not arise. The only way to learn such subtleties is through the medium of the guru. One cannot learn these from a page. This is the kind of training I received in the Guru-Shishya Parampara. AM: Did your gurus describe such subtleties in words, the way you have just done, or were these principles that you gleaned by singing with them? SG: First they would speak about it, and then demonstrate musically.[6] AM: As you know, some gharanas like the Agra Gharana are known for Bolbant and Layakari. Others like the Dagar Bani are known for their work with the shrutis. What would you say are the stylistic characteristics of the Bishnupur Gharana? SG: Vaishnav thought is central to the Bishnupur Gharana. Our kings were adherents and philosophers of Vaishnavism. Hence the entire culture revolved around the idea of Bhakti. When you come to Bishnupur, you will see there are uncountable numbers of temples devoted to Krishna and Radha. For this reason, the music of our gharana, instead of focusing on virtuosity and ustadi, is centered more on Bhakti ras, and giving rise to feelings of devotion in both the musician and the listener. This is why Rabindranath found this musical style more to his liking. Because many Dhrupad gharanas do not focus on the Bhakti aspect of the composition, some musicians belonging to such gharanas do not even sing the four parts of the composition clearly! Many musicians start by singing the sthayi and then begin doing bolbant and layakari on the sthayi. Then they sing the antara and launch into bolbant and layakari on the antara. And often the sanchari and abhog are dropped altogether! Here, we sing all four parts clearly first. After that, we do some Bolbant. Because of this approach, the gravity of the composition stands out.[7] By the way, the word Dhrupad refers to a composition. Alap is not part of a Dhrupad. It is a separate genre altogether. We sing it before a Dhrupad because when Dhrupad is sung on its own, the presentation is too short. The ras that is within the raga that can attract the human mind becomes obscured. Therefore, by singing the Alap, the beauty of the raga becomes apparent, and the direct appeal of the raga to the heart becomes clear. But Alap is a totally different form of music from Dhrupad. It is anibaddha first of all. Dhrupad by its very name and nature cannot be anibaddha.[8] But coming back to your question, singing the four parts clearly and without distortion is very important in our Gharana, so that the depth of meaning and feeling, the resonance of bhakti that is in the text, in full measure finds a home in the listener’s mind. In my limited experience, most other gharanas do not treat the four parts clearly. And as I said, musicians start doing Bolbant in the middle without first showing the full composition. But another issue is that sometimes the Bolbant becomes too much and overwhelms the composition and its intent. There is a lack of a sense of proportionality in this respect. So, to sum up, in the Bishnupur Gharana, the full form of the composition is more important than a display of virtuosity in Bolbant. AM: But it is not the case that you don’t do any Bolbant at all, is it? SG: No, no. It is definitely a part of the performance. But it is secondary in importance. You see, the Bolbant is the alankar or the ornamentation of Dhrupad. In Dhrupad one cannot do ornamentation that is often associated with other musical genres, because these reduce the overall gravity of the composition. So the Bolbant is the only way to ornament the composition. But it is a secondary feature of the performance, and we don’t let it overwhelm the Dhrupad.[9] AM: Is there a particular manner in which the Bolbant of Bishnupur is meant to unfold in a performance? SG: When you first start learning Bolbant, you learn to move in dugun, tigun, chaugun, chhegun, and so on, in a very methodical manner. But when we perform, we don’t progress in such a systematic manner from dugun to tigun, to chaugun, etc. I, for one, mostly improvise in dugun and tigun. I try to be as creative as possible in my own way in these layas, keeping in mind the positioning of the taal. Bolbant in Dhrupad is like Taankari in Khayal. In Khayal, you set a tempo and move as per your thinking. Just like that, a Dhrupadiya unfolds his creativity in the present tempo using Bolbant as a device. On the odd occasion I might sing one pre-determined movement. But it is largely extemporaneous in nature. AM: But in teaching students, you systematically teach them dugun, tigun, chaugun and so on? SG: Yes, when basic training is being done, we teach fixed movements in each type of laya. Often the focus is on retaining the melody of the composition while changing the laya.[10] But as I said, in performance, it is done extemporaneously. AM: Can you tell me more about the compositions that make up the Bandish repertoire of the Bishnupur Gharana? What is their origin? Were they mostly written by Bishnupur musicians? SG: No, no, not at all. The Bishnupur Gharana is really an offshoot of the Seni Gharana. It is differentiated stylistically because after Tansen’s descendent Bahadur Khan, the founder of our gharana, came to Bishnupur, he imparted his knowledge to Gadadhar Chakrabarty, and he in turn taught Ramshankar Bhattacharya, and in the process the Seni style changed into something distinctive and quite able to stand on its own. But the majority of the compositions are attributable to Tansen, Baiju Bavara, Bahadur Khan’s son, etc.[11] AM: But a little while ago, you mentioned that the Bishnupur Gharana is characterized by Bhakti ras. Then, where did these texts come from? It seems unlikely that Bahadur Khansaheb would write these compositions. SG: No, some of these came from Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay, Surendranath Bandhopadhyay, Ramprasanna Bandhopadhyay and others. But there are many compositions of Tansen’s and Baiju Bavara’s as well.[12] AM: If I remember correctly, the Bishnupur Gharana had another line of musicians that included the vocalist Gyanendra Prasad Goswami. SG: Well, the truth is that Gyanendra Prasad Goswami was not that involved with classical music. He did not sing Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khayal as much, and therefore is somewhat removed from the gharana. His uncle, Radhika Prasad Goswami was a classical musician of Bishnupur Gharana. But Gyanendra Prasad Goswami, although he had studied everything, was better known for Ragashray Bangla Gaan.[13] He had an incredibly beautiful voice that together with his command of Ragashray Bangla Gaan created a somewhat different stream of music from the classical Bishnupur Gharana. Further Gyanendra Prasad had taken talim from Ustad Faiyaz Khan, and as a result had veered somewhat towards the Agra Gharana.[14] AM: Is the Ragashray Gaan tradition continuing in your gharana? SG: Well, actually, the gharana tilts more towards the classical side. There is more emphasis put on Dhrupad and Khayal.[15] AM: In many gharanas, there is no real differentiation between Dhrupad and Dhamar. The Dhamar is sung like a Dhrupad, just in a cycle of 14 beats. What is the position of the Bishnupur Gharana on the differentiation between Dhrupad and Dhamar? SG: Dhrupad and Dhamar are completely separate genres. Khayal and Thumri are not the same, are they? Similarly Dhrupad and Dhamar are not the same. Dhamar is sung after Dhrupad, to appeal to the heart of the common listener, just like Thumri is sung as a light piece after Khayal. Dhamar is called “Hori Gaan”, a song sung to represent the color play of Radha and Krishna. On the other hand, we think of classical Dhrupad as being sung in praise of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. There are certainly Dhrupad compositions that are dedicated to Radha and Krishna, or to some historical figure, a king or an important person. But those aren’t considered classical Dhrupad compositions. The truly classical ones are in praise of one of the Hindu trinity.[16] AM: Do you do Bolbant in Dhamar? SG: We not only do bolbant in Dhamar, it is often found to a greater degree in Dhamar than in Dhrupad. We also often do not sing all four parts in Dhamar. It is limited to two, to appeal more to the common listener. In my opinion, one can say that Dhamar is a Dhrupad ‘ang’ song, but not a Dhrupad. Dhamar is the ‘laghu’ of Dhrupad. Dhamar has a lower status than Dhrupad, and is meant to follow up after the heavy dhrupad to lighten the mind and mood. At least this is what I feel.[17] AM: I am a little confused about the history of your gharana. In a number of sources the beginning of the gharana is attributed to Ustad Bahadur Khan. But in a number of other sources, the beginning of the gharana is dated to the 12th or 13th century.[18] SG: No, such an early date would be inaccurate. Before Bahadur Khan came to Bishnupur, there was indeed music here. But it was in the form of kirtan, musical storytelling, and folk music. Classical music was not present. The enthusiasm that King Raghunath Singha II showed for classical music must have had an origin somewhere in the music of the region. But it was only after he brought Bahadur Khan to Bishnupur that classical music took hold. Further, it is only after the transmission of musical knowledge to Gadadhar Chakrabarty and Ramshankar Bhattacharya that a coherent and distinctive style of musical presentation formed and became known as the Bishnupur Gharana. Therefore, the Bishnupur Gharana can only be spoken of after the time of Ustad Bahadur Khan. You see, at that time, there was no communication with classical musicians. There was no way for them to visit and perform their music in Bishnupur on a regular basis. As a result, no classical music culture formed. It was for this reason that King Raghunath Singha II brought Bahadur Khan to Bishnupur and had him settle here and teach here. As a result a culture of classical music began to develop that finally found full expression in the music of Ramshankar Bhattacharya. For this reason, in the Bishnupur Gharana, Ramshankar Bhattacharya is referred to as Sangeet Guru. And in turn, he trained a generation of great musicians: Anantalal Bandhopadhyay, Kshetramohan Goswami, Jaddu Bhatta, and others.[19] AM: In many gharanas you see a slight differentiation in style between artists. For example in the Atrauli-Jaipur Gharana, the approach taken by Mallikarjun Mansur is distinct from the approach taken by Kishori Amonkar. Do you see differentiation of this sort in Bishnupur Gharana as well? SG: Let me address a broader question. Take Mallikarjun Mansur as an example. He had a very distinctive style. But after him very few if any have followed his way of singing. There has been a total change in Hindustani music across India after Amir Khansaheb. Khayal music, in the time of Faiyaz Khansaheb was sung in a Dhrupad ang, and didn’t sound at all like the Khayal that is heard across India today. The Agra Gharana today has come to an end. You’ll find no one singing that old style of music. After Amir Khansaheb, the very nature of Ragadari has changed. The way we hear ragas—and why just us, all of India for that matter—take the case of Bhimsen Joshi who is a great admirer of Amir Khansaheb’s music and once even approached Khansaheb about learning from him—it is all different today.[20] See, progress and development are ever present. Each human being interprets change based on his/her musical thinking, timbre of the voice, emotional expression, and musical training. As a result no two musicians will sound the same. It is impossible to hold things in a static state. Because of the changes that are happening to our environment, even the way human beings look is changing. So why won’t the music change? Changes in attitudes and societal expectations, what is considered aesthetic, how audiences receive music inevitably impact the music of musicians. So what we can say is that there is an emerging new style of music. And there are deviations from this style by each musician to some extent that take into account his/her experience. Now coming to the Bishnupur Gharana, if you listen to Satyakinkar Bandhopadhyay, you will find a distinct style. If you listen to Ramesh Bandhopadhyay, you will find a different style. Ramesh Babu’s is more moderate in nature, just as his nature was moderate. I have not heard many of the old time musicians of the gharana, although I have heard Gopeshwar Babu. I must say that the approach taken by his descendants was rather more moderate than Gopeshwar Babu’s. And there is good reason. As time passes, progress happens and thinking changes. These younger musicians had access to Gopeshwar Babu’s innovations at a young age, and could build on his thinking. But despite the differences, we are all trying to understand and follow the main aesthetic of the gharana in the best way we each can. If I were to describe my own approach, you see, I sing both Khayal and Dhrupad. So when I do Alap, my approach is informed by both. There are so many musicians today who sing Alap that might be technically very difficult, but fails to bring the raga alive. I don’t think of Alap as just a tool for showing the raga swaroop. It is a form of song, just like the other genres. The only thing is that it is anibaddha. Therefore, it should not be a dry exercise. It should enliven the mind and make the listener happy and satisfied. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the only form of song that allows us to express our inner feelings in the medium of the raga fully is Alap. It is that important! AM: You have made clear that the Bishnupur Gharana has a very clear relationship with the Seni Gharana. Are there other gharanas of Dhrupad to which the Bishnupur Gharana is related? SG: It seems like there is some sort of a relationship with Bettiah Gharana. There are some shared characteristics between the two gharanas musically, so it would seem to me that there must have been some sort of a relationship. But I really don’t know for sure. I don’t think there is much of a relationship with other Dhrupad gharanas. AM: What relationship did Rabindranath have to the Bishnupur Gharana? I had heard that he had studied with Jaddu Bhatta. SG: Yes, in a manner of speaking he did. But very importantly we should examine Rabindranath’s connection to Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay. Although Gopeshwar Babu was much younger, Rabindranath respected him very much. Gopeshwar Babu provided the musical notation for many of Rabindranath’s songs, and through him Rabindranath modeled many of his songs on Dhrupads from the gharana. Rabindranath himself said that he didn’t learn from Jaddu Bhatta in the traditional manner. He never had that opportunity. But he would stand by the window and listen to Jaddu Bhatta as he sang in their house. The Tagore household always had musicians and music in the house. And when Jaddu Bhatta visited, Rabindranath was always at the ready to listen and be influenced by the music. AM: Do you consider Rabindranath to be an artist of the Bishnupur Gharana? SG: Rabindranath wasn’t a musician or artist of the gharana. But he took songs and music from the gharana. Certainly the text of some of his Bengali compositions would hew closely to some traditional compositions of the gharana. But we cannot say he is from the Bishnupur Gharana. One can say that he was deeply influenced by the gharana certainly. Rabindranath said that he didn’t like the Ustadi of the other gharanas. He very much appreciated the Bhakti ras that was part of the Bishnupur approach to music. And further, since he was a poet and writer and his main concern was literature, he needed a musical framework that respected the depth of the literary content. From this perspective Bishnupur Gharana was ideal. AM: As you have said many times, the Dhrupad and Dhamar genres of Bishnupur are full of Bhakti ras. So, was this music performed in the temples or in the darbars? SG: They were most definitely performed in the temples! If you come to Bishnupur you will see that the kings and rulers of the land were extremely powerful. But even then, they did not build a royal palace.[21] Instead they put their wealth into the building of temples. Here you will find uncountable numbers of stone temples, each decorated with terracotta sculptures depicting music and musical activity. One of the major landmarks of the city is Ras Mancha, a temple of 108 doors, where music and the playing of ras holi were an integral part of the temple life. AM: And what about music at the royal court? SG: Since there was no royal palace, the king held his court in front of the temple of Ma Mrinmayee.[22] There is a very old Banyan tree in front of this temple, which has a stone courtyard around its base. The king would sit in this courtyard and hold his court. That’s how strong their belief in Vaishnavism was! For them there were two main responsibilities. One was to maintain their Vaishnav faith. And the other was to maintain the culture of classical music in the kingdom. They seldom indulged themselves in the manner of other royal families. AM: Today, where is Dhrupad performed in Bishnupur? SG: There are a number of yearly concerts that are held purely for Dhrupad. There is an annual Dhrupad conference during the time of the Dol Festival. Musicians from Kolkata and elsewhere come to Bishnupur for this conference. We have a very good auditorium in town named after Jaddu Bhatta where this conference is held. In the last few years, we have had performances by Ritwik Sanyal, Falguni Mitra, Fahimuddin Dagarsaheb, Bahauddin Dagar, to name a few. I too participate in this conference. The whole conference is sponsored by the Central Government. Dr. Sanyal did an excellent workshop on Dhrupad. He expressed the opinion that Alap is an ang of Dhrupad. But I prefer to think of Dhrupad and Alap as separate types of music. This difference came up in the question-answer session after the workshop. But it was on the whole a very well-done workshop. These types of programs are often held in Bishnupur.[23] AM: Is there still music in the temples? SG: No, the governmental department that looks after the temples has forbidden music in the temples. We are not allowed to sing within 100 meters of any temple. This is to protect the structural integrity of the temples. At Ras Mancha, there used to be a lot of music making and playing of colors during the festival of Dol. But not so anymore! Now we do our music next to Ras Mancha, outside of the required perimeter. [Continued in Part III] Notes: 11. There is a basic disconnect here between the idea that the gharana is deeply rooted in Vaishnav philosophy, and the idea that the majority of its compositions come from non-Vaishnav sources. This is the contradiction I was trying to get at with the subsequent question. 12. My sense of the situation is that while a number of Vaishnav texts were contributed by gharana musicians, much of the legitimacy of the gharana derives from its possession of compositions by Tansen, Baiju Bavara and their contemporaries. It would be interesting to see how many compositions of these individuals have been syncretized into a Vaishnav mold to suit the philosophy of the gharana. 13. Ragashray Gaan are Bengali songs set in ragas. 14. The distancing from Gyanendra Prasad Goswami is quite interesting. Clearly Gyanendra Prasad was not classical enough to warrant inclusion (at least to the same degree) as someone like Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay, in the gharana. Further, the fact that he took talim from Faiyaz Khan is seen as a polluting influence on his Bishnupur credentials. 15. This is interesting because SG has described the Bishnupur Gharana as a collection of various song types: Alap, Dhrupad, Khayal and Instrumental music. However, Bengali songs, even based in classical music are considered to be non-classical. Hence the need for a complete, comprehensive gharana appears to be limited to song types that are considered very strictly classical. 16. SG establishes increasingly higher standards of classicism in describing the repertoire. Dhrupads in praise of the trinity alone are considered truly classical. The remainder falls into another class of somewhat less classical songs. And in SG’s opinion, therefore, Dhamars are less classical than Dhrupads. 17. It is interesting to note that certain sections of the Dagar Gharana actually treat Dhamar in a very deliberate and classical manner, quite to the contrary of what SG is describing. It is fairly clear that this is an artistic choice that arises from the different philosophical directions of these two gharanas. 18. For example, see the Wikipedia entry on Bishnupur Gharana. 19. Here SG acknowledges that musical styles that cannot be considered classical existed in Bishnupur prior to the arrival of Bahadur Khan. Again, these he treats as distinct from the classical tradition, which he considers to be the proper Bishnupur Gharana. Because of the direct lineage from the Seni Gharana, in a sense the claim being made is that the Bishnupur Gharana preserves the repertoire of the Seni tradition which, as far as vocal music, has largely died out elsewhere in India. 20. My sense was that while SG would never state it this way, there was a certain musical oppression in operation. The aesthetic that Amir Khan espoused appears to be so ingrained in the connoisseur population that stylistic alternatives are not even under consideration in this part of India. The apparent uniformity of stylistic approach that one sees amongst the newer set of musicians (including those from the Bishnupur Gharana) appears to be an attempt to cater to the “mean” aesthetic established by Amir Khan. This is purely my analysis of the situation based on what SG had to say. He did not espouse this position himself. 21. This does not seem to fit with the impression I’ve gotten from sources on the ground. There does appear to be some sort of a “Rajbari” structure, suggesting the existence of a royal palace. I didn’t question SG on this issue as I felt he was trying to make a larger point. Even if there is a Rajbari, there is one structure, as opposed to hundreds of temples. The intent of Bishnupuri kings was clear. 22. Curiously, for all of the belief in Vaishnavism, court was held in front of the oldest temple in Bishnupur, a shrine to the goddess Mrinmayee. 23. This divergence in perception of Alap as an independent art form (Bishnupur) as opposed to an integrated portion of the Dhrupad (Dagar) appears to be a result of the distinct view these two schools hold on the place of the composition. The depth, form and meaning of the composition seem to be central to Bishnupur, while this is the case with only some Dagar Bani musicians. The deconstruction of a raga down to its microtones is something that preoccupies the musical intellect of the Dagar musicians to a much greater extent. Notes: 1. Director, Seattle Indian Music Academy. The author would like to thank Tanmoy Ganguly for his invaluable assistance. 2. Gopeshwar Bandhopadhyay (1880-1963) is one of the most notable names of the gharana, and achieved all-India fame as a Dhrupadiya and composer of much merit. 3. SG credits Atukrishna Bandhopadhyay’s Dhrupad training to Gopeshwar Babu and his Khayal training to the Muslim Ustad. This is interesting. Although Ustad Bahadur Khan is credited with starting the Gharana and thus importing the majority of Dhrupads into Bishnupur, I felt there might be a slight distinction here between the Hindu keeper of the tradition, who provided the Dhrupad repertoire and the Muslim keeper of the tradition, who provided the Khayal repertoire. This may not have been a distinction SG wanted to make, but it was something that struck my mind while I talked to him. 4. Here SG begins to lay out the characteristics of the gharana. This is the first characteristic. The gharana takes pride in its equal contributions to Dhrupad and Khayal. 5. In SG’s view therefore, the gharana itself is distinguished by the fact that it never limited itself to one or the other discipline. Dhrupad, Khayal and Instrumental music all found homes in Bishnupur. His views on other musical styles fostered in Bishnupur appear later in the interview. 6. This seems like a significant bit of insight in to pedagogy in Bishnupur. A number of traditional musicians in my experience frown on speaking about the music explicitly. Repeated demonstration through music is used as the only tools of instructing the student. Here SG indicates that verbal discourse was an integral part of the training. 7. There are two very interesting things about these statements. First, a key differentiator between Bishnupur and other gharanas according to SG is that the Bishnupur Gharana is centered on the idea of Bhakti as the main driving force for presentation. Thematic differentiation of this sort across gharanas, as far as I know is never seen. But what legitimizes this claim is his subsequent description of this ideology’s impact on musical style. There is a certain coherence of intent that is not found in what musicians of other gharanas have to say on this topic. 8. Setting Alap aside as a separate ‘song type’ is an unusual view. But this also bolsters the idea of Khayal being an integration of Nibaddha (Dhrupad) and Anibadhha (Alap) into a single form. Here SG seems to be arguing that Dhrupad is a deconstructed form, in which the ‘bhaav’ of the composition in the form of a Dhrupad, is maintained quite distinctly from the ‘ras’ of the raga in the form of the Alap. 9. SG here is drawing a parallel between Bolbant in Dhrupad and Taankari in Khayal, something he will elaborate on later in the interview. 10. That is, the fixed melody and the words of the Dhrupad are sung in dugun, tigun, etc. The composition is essentially sped up while retaining the tempo of the taal. * (For demonstration Please note also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9_5cEvX-B4) * ***





                                               The Kotali Gharana

The Chakraborty family of Kotalipara, Faridpur, of the then East Bengal (now in Bangladesh), is believed to have been originated from Kanauj (U.P.). They were Mishra Brahmins and later migrated to Kotalipara and settled there for about thousand years. Somehow they inherited with them a musical trend specially oriented by Prabandha geeti, Saam gaan and some folk tradition. One of the ancestors of the family, Acharya Biswambhar Chakraborty was drawn towards the mainstream of Indian Classical Music long time ago. He was initiated to Seni Gharana and brought the trend. Tarapada Chakraborty’s father Late Pandit Kulachandra Chakraborty and his uncle Late Pandit Ramchandra Chakraborty had their training from Ustad Jahur Khan of Khurja gharana. Ramchandra had the honour of being the Dwarpandit (court scholar) and the distinguished musician at the court of Maharaja of Natore. Thus, both the brothers had a wide contact with many leading musicians of their time and had a phenomenal collection of musical wealth. Having moved to Calcutta with this rich inheritance, Tarapada Chakraborty first took lessons from Late Pandit Satkari Malakar of Gwalior and Betia gharana especially in Khayal and Tappa. Later, under the guidance of the Great Maestro Late Sangeetacharya Girija Sankar Chakraborty he acquired the distinguished features of various Ragas, styles and traditional Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khayal Bandishes of different gharanas, mainly Seni, Vishnupur, Betia, Delhi, Gwalior, Rampur, Agra, Rangila, Jaipur and Kirana. Girijashankar being a pioneer of Thumri style of singing at that time gave Tarapada Chakraborty an intensive training on the Thumri style of mainly Banaras and Kirana as well. In fact, it is quite discernibly evident that Khayal received a rare authenticity and completeness in the heralding Gayaki of Tarapada Chakraborty in his own way. Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty, the pioneer of this Kotali Gayaki is the legend adored all over India for his contribution towards Hindustani Classical Music. His worthy son Pt. Manas Chakraborty, the devout pursuer of various sources and streams of Indian Classical Music is enriched by his keen interest in Indian Philosophical traditions of all the existing Gharanas and Gayakies. Exposure to the corresponding confluences of his family’s assertively partisan art of music has focused his attention on the necessity of discarding in order to select and the necessity of differentiating in order to unite. The musical phenomenon of Pt. Manas Chakraborty has attained a new altitude which is his very own and individual and has initiated a new dynamics of allegiance to the human efforts towards life and its values. He sets his Khayal Gayaki in accordance with the character of Raga. His recitals have earned an enviable distinction as an’ “Artist of Artists ”, in various concerts in both at home and abroad. ‘Talim’, ‘tabiat’ and ‘taiari’ with inborn artistry, profound knowledge, intellectuality and cerebral ability has given a new dimension to his unique style of rendition which is now being followed by many artists along with his own disciples. Thus presenting the obscure reality of music in a tangibly graceful elocutionary form with his kalawant gayaki, nayaki and majestic mizaaj has made him an institution by himself in the international realm of Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet. His contribution towards the Hindustani Classical Music for the last fifty years is undoubtedly worth-mentioning and as a ‘Guru’ he is great. The schooling of Indian Classical Music through the mentors of his family and the torchbearers, established around the globe has already entered the seventh- generation and now the new trend of ‘Kotali Gayaki’ is his single handed orchestration, which with the synthesis of diversities has finally created and defined the ultimate shape of ‘ Kotali Gayaki’. His highly technical and eclectic approach though different from his father’s individuality, is finally convergent to the philosophical end of the essence of ‘Kotali Gharana’ ***


The Great Heritage…

Origin of the Kotali Gharana

The Chakrabarti family of Kotalipara, Faridpur, East Bengal, is believed to be the pursuers of art, culture and education from the ancient times. The musical tradition starts glooming when one of the ancestors of the family was introduced to Vishnupur Gharana (school), and achieved prominence. Biswabrata’s great grandfather Late Kulachandra Chakraborty and his brother Late Pandit Ramchandra Chakraborty had their training from Ustad Jahur Khan of Khurja Gharana (school).

Ramchandra had the honour of being the court musician and scholar at the court of Maharaja of Natore. Thus both the brothers had a wide contact with many leading musicians of their time, and had a phenomenal collection of musical wealth.

Having moved to Kolkata (Calcutta) with his rich musical wealth, Biswabrata’s grandfather, son of Kulachandra, the great legend Late Sangitacharya Tarapada Chakraborty started taking his lessons from the Maestro Late Pandit Satkari Malakar, especially in Kheyal and Tappa and later under the guidance of the Maestro Late Pandit Girijasankar Chakraborty.

Adaption of the other Gharanas

Tarapada Chakraborty acquired and explored the distinguished features of different Ragas and styles, traditional Dhrupad, Dhamar and Kheyal bandish of different Gharanas (schools) like Vishnupur, Betia, Gwalior, Seni, Rampur, Delhi, Agra, Rangila, Jaipur and Kirana.

Pandit Girijasankar being a pioneer of Thumri style at that time gave Tarapada Chakraborty an intensive training on the Thumri style of Benaras and Kirana Gharana (school) as well.
But apart from the training he received, it is quite discerningly evident that Kheyal and Thumri received a rare authentic character and completeness in the heralding Gayaki (style) of Tarapada Chakraborty in its own way. His brother late Pandit Haripada Chakraborty had a golden voice and took training from his ancestors as well as Tarapada Chakraborty.

The next generation of great musicians of the family, Pandit Bimalendu Chakrabarty, Pandit Manas Chakraborty and Srimati Sreela Bandopadhyaya got their training from Sangitacharya Tarapada Chakraborty. They are carrying onward the legacy of this great tradition with their own distinguishable marks and adding new treasures everyday to enrich it.

Biswabrata Chakrabarti…

The musical journey

Biswabrata is the present generation of this great tradition. He was introduced to classical music by his grandfather, the legend Tarapada Chakraborty, in his early childhood. He started vocal training under his guidance; later on he was guided by his father, Pandit Bimalendu Chakraborty, uncle, Pandit Manas Chakraborty and aunt, Srimati Sreela Bandopadhyaya. He also studied tabla under the guidance of Pandit Basudev Mukherjee a disciple of Ustad Keramatulla Khan.

In the age of twelve years he was introduced to Sitar by his mother, Late Srimati Meena Chakraborty who was a fine Sitarist and was the student of Sitarist Pandit Santosh Bandopadhyaya, the disciple of Ustad Dabir Khan of Seni Gharana (school).

He took his early lessons from his mother and Santosh Bandopadhyaya. Later on he started taking lessons from the Sitarist Pandit Ajoy Sinha Roy, the disciple of legendary Ustad Allauddin Khan and his son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

In this period Biswabrata explored the styles and applications of these two great Gharanas (schools). But his father Pandit Bimalendu Chakrabarty consistently trained him and played a great role in the formation of this unique style what he is playing now. He was also deeply inspired by the experimental approach of his uncle Pandit Manas Chakraborty, who’s constant training & guidance is invaluable in his making.

Making a musician to an artist

Apart from inheriting the huge wide range of colours of his own ancestors, Biswabrata adopted and assembled the styles of other instrumental Gharanas (schools) to create a unique style of his own and started a new instrumental tradition within his own family tradition.

It could be said that he is a sitarist with a soul of a vocalist and he lifts the instrument to the nearest of the vocal essence of Indian classical music. Apart from the philosophy and depth he is also gifted with phenomenal skill, which is easily traced in his Taans, Gamak, Meer etc. played in difficult vocal approach.

In this long journey since childhood, in the making of a musician to an artist, he has undergone a number of changes in terms of technicality, philosophy and spiritualism, which is an indication of his experimental & perfectionist nature. The aesthetic sense he is gifted with, helps to present his music with the vision of a poet. The depth and the philosophy within helps to represent a new sound and at the same time the deepest spiritualism with rare antique emotions.

Courtesy of Chakraborty family

Kotali Gharana…

The musical heritage of Kotali gharana (the schooling) emerges from a unique historical background, that spans beyond a millennium. At that time King Chandra Burma used to rule over a wide area of southwest Bengal during the reign of emperor Samudragupta. Kotalipara in the Faridpur Zilla of East Bengal (presently Bangladesh) owes its origin to “Chandraburmankot”, erected circa 315 AD, the remains of which are still extant. “Kot” stands for fort, “Ali” signifies “wall and area surrounding the fort”, and “para” means a settlement or “a neighbourhood”. Kotalipara was known as the second ‘Naimisharanya’ of India. It was inhabited predominantly by the Brahmins and was like a hermitage fostering advancement of the Sanskritic culture and philosophy in its various aspects. In the beginning there was a dearth of Sagnik Brahmins in this region. In 1019 AD Shyamal Burma (or Samal Burma), the king of this region invited Yashodhar Mishra, the son of Maheedhar Mishra of Kanyakubja and gave him 14 villages to settle down. In the following period on Shyamal Burma’s request Yashodhar Mishra brought thirteen more Sgnik Brahmins from Kanauj. According to the “Vaidik Kuladeepika” Yashodhar Mishra retained Kotalipara, Samantasar and Chandradweep in his own account and settled there with some Brahmins of other Gotras. He distributed the other villages among the rest of the Brahmins to settle down. He gave him fourteen villages for settling down. As far as history is concerned he retained Kotalipara for himself and settled down there. Gradually Kotalipara became a nucleus of musical and other cultural practices. Harihar Mishra, the 18th generation of Maheedhar Mishra received the title “Chakraborty” on performing the “Goshthipati Yag”.

Various forms of music have been practised in this gharana from ancient times. Vaidik samgan, Marga/Natyageeti [Magadhi, Ardhamagadhee, Sambhaavita, Prithula and Dhruva] Prabandhageeti and many other kinds of ‘geet’ were in vogue. Later Biswambhar Chakraborty, a descendant of Harihar Chakraborty came in touch with the famous Veenkar and Rabaab player of his time, Saadik Ali Khan, son of the renowned Zafar Khan, a direct descendant of Tansen. Biswambhar learnt some dhrupad ‘Bandishes’ and ‘alaap’ as well as some Khayal bandishes through his association with Saadik, his nephew, Kasim Ali Khan and his disciple, Ganesh Vajpeyee [Source: Kalidas Chakraborty, son of Nyayaratna Ramchandra Chakraborty]. Since Biswambhar Chakraborty was directly involved with the mainstream Hindustani classical music he was naturally drawn to Dhrupad and Khayal. A near contemporary of Bishwambhar Chakraborty and a descendant from another stream of this large family Taraprasanna Chakraborty became a disciple of Jadubhatta of the Bishnupur gharana. The two streams of Seni and Bishnupur gharana from these two sources were carried forward through Biswambhar’s son Sheetalchandra Chakraborty, and his sons Ramachandra (Nyayaratna) and Kulachandra. Ramachandra (Nyayaratna) during his official sojourn in Berili received Taalim from Jahur Khan of Khurja gharana. Jahur Khan in turn took lessons in Sanskrit from Ramchandra. Kulachandra too joined these musical sessions for a short time. Nyayaratna Ramachandra Chakraborty was the Dwar Pandit (court scholar) and a court singer at the state of Natore. Kulachandra had three sons the younger two being Tarapada Chakraborty and Haripada Chakraborty. Their elder brother died at a very early age.

Tarapada’s preliminary training was under his father and uncle. Later he came to Calcutta and received ‘taalim’ from Satkari Malakar, a pre-eminent exponent of the Gwaliar gharana. Finally he received taalim from Girija Shankar Chakraborty who was trained in various gharanas like Betia, Rampur, Jaipur, Seni, Banaras, Kirana, Agra, Delhi, and so on. In his sheer individual endeavour Tarapada earned many musical treasures which adding to his ancestor’s collection created a huge musical treasure trove. There were dhrupad, dhamar, khayal, tappa, thumri and other semi classical musical forms in this collection. Alongside he practiced various folk music and Keertan, which can be considered as a form of classical tradition unique to Bengal. His individual and ethereal style has etched a unique place for him in the realm of Hindustani Classical music. Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty became a legend in his lifetime. In truth he is the prime architect of the Kotali Gharana.

Pandit Manas Chakraborty, the son and disciple of Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty is a living legend in the realm of Hindustani Classical Music. With his multifaceted talent, creativity, intellectuality and philosophical views and research on other classical Gayaki of musical traditions, semi classical and folk-forms of India, in alliance with his own tradition opened a new vista in the Kotali gayaki. The Kotali gharana was named after the name of the place of its origin in the phase following 2000 by him in accordance with his father’s wish.

Gaan Saraswati Shreela Bandyopdhyay, an able disciple and the eldest daughter of Sangeetacharaya Tarapada Chakraborty received training under her elder brother Manas Chakraborty too. She established herself as an outstanding vocalist of the Kotali Gharana. Haripada Chazkraborty and his elder son Bimalendu Chakraborty also received Taalim under Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty. Evidently Manas and Shreela were the prime ambassadors of this gharana who with their recitals kindled the light, essence and the multidimensional gayaki of this gharana in other parts of the world. Currently the vocal and instrumental artistes of this gharana are widely appreciated and established at home and abroad.

Ruchira Panda , an outstanding vocalist and one of the senior disciples of Pandit Manas Chakraborty groomed in the Kotali gharana has earned an enviable distinction amongst the younger musicians in the realm of Hindustani Classical Music. Her gayaki speaks out for her keen interest in aesthetics, spiritual awareness and serenity which is seldom found in modern days. She carefully keeps up with the purity and nuances of the Kotali Gharana aligning with the multifarious gayaki of her Guru and his predecessors.

Courtesy of Ruchira, an outstanding vocalist groomed in the Kotali gharana


Kotali Gharana : The Heritage & Philosophy

Kotali Gharana’s musical heritage was deep rooted in history. It goes nearly a thousand years back. Or maybe even more.

At the times of Samrat Samudragupta, Raja Chandrabarma used to rule over a vast territory in south-western Bengal. He built a fort and named it Chandrabarmakot. It is believed that the year was 315 AD. It was a settlement of Sagnik Brahmins and became famous as a centre of cultural learning especially music. However due to natural calamities, the community didn’t survive or migrated and the fort became derelict and it was reduced to ruins.

Several hundred years later and about 1019 AD, the ruler of the land Raja Shyamal Barma directed Jasodhar Misra, the son of Mahidhar Misra to establish a community which was set up around the ruins of the fort and this was christened as Kotalipara (kot = fort, ali = the wall and the land encircling the fort, para = neighbourhood). Later on Jasodhar Misra invited 13 Sagnik Brahmin families to settle in Kotalipara. Soon it was re-established as a centre of musical learning.

Eighteen generations after Mahidhar Misra, Harihar Misra earned the title ‘Chakraborty’. Tarapada was the twentyninth generation of this Chakraborty family.

His father Kulachandra and uncle Ramchandra were students of Zahur Khan of Khurja gharana. Naturally, young Tarapada learned his ropes from these two skilful exponents of Hindustani music. Later in life, he came to Calcutta and received talim from Satkari Malakar of Gwalior and Benaras gharana. His last Guru was Girijasankar Chakraborty who himself was a treasure house and melting pot of many well known gharanas like Kirana, Agra and Jaipur. But the mark of the true artist is originality. Tarapada’s music education was not limited to what he learned from his gurus; he ranged far and wide, dived deep and flew high wherever music would lead him to. Thumri, dhrupad, dhamar, tappa were just a few of his seemingly endless repertoire of musical skills. His originality was an indication of the variety and richness of Hindustani classical music. As years went by, Tarapada’s creativity came out of its shell. The distinct nuances that are not so easy to shed and those that bear the mark of a guru and the gharana were gone and were replaced by a style so rich and original that very soon he was able to establish himself as a supreme artist recognized for his unique presentation.

Baba Alauddin Khan was deeply impressed by Tarapada’s music as indicated in one of his letters. Ustad Fayaj Khan said in an interview aired from Lucknow Radio Station that Tarapada was in his list of top three khayalists.

Tarapada also enjoyed the popularity of the people. He made his mark at an early age of 20, in the year 1929 at the Albert Hall in Calcutta. In the early thirties, he started his career as radio artist but curiously as a tabla player with the recommendation of Raichand Baral. Talent needs a break and Tarapada got his break one evening when the vocalist Jnan Goswami was absent and Raichand Baral asked him to take his place. After that Tarapada did not have to look back. His popularity spread like wildfire throughout India. He started performing for national radio programs and prestigious music conferences with renowned artists like Abdul Karim Khan, Fayaz Khan, Mazaffar Khan, Baba Alauddin Khan, Hafiz Ali Khan, Onkarnath, Ananth Manohar Joshi, Kesarbai, Hirabai, Roshanara Begum, Bade Gulam Ali Khan and many others.

Tarapada was the originator of Bengali khayal, which was just yet another instance of his creativity. There was something different in the way he used sing classical based Bengali songs. It was as different was it was remarkable. It was original.

Tarapada, a maverick, named the style he evolved as the Kotali gharana and thus permanently established a musical heritage that goes back more than 15 centuries to the days of Emperor Samudragupta. His son, Manas Chakraborty kept this heritage alive.

Manas Chakraborty, the devout pursuer of various sources and streams of Indian Classical Music is enriched by his keen interest in Indian Philosophical traditions of all the existing Gharanas and Gayakies. The musical phenomenon of Manas has attained a new altitude which is his very own and individual and has initiated a new dynamics of allegiance to the human efforts towards life and its values. He sets his Khayal Gayaki in accordance with the character of Raga. Gifted with deep sonorous and vibrant voice when he enters the actual territory of the Raga with bandish-gayan and vistaar he uses the method of modal variation of inflection of several notes for the particular ‘Ras’ demands. With ‘Kakuswara’ prayog and also various other suggestively rich ‘meend’(glides), ‘Kan’,‘Khatka’ and by some rare applications of meer-khand process he builds up an aesthetic edifice with his majestic mizaaj and serenity. His innovative and intricate Bahalwa and sargam structures create bridge of transition between the mid-phases of Gayaki of his vistaar and taan. Finally he makes deep into the complex area of taan with thundering gamaks and halaks, culminating in kut, jamjama, sapat and other patterns with such an amazing ease in gradual speeds in extempore that at the very juncture of penetration while rendering in tremendous speed he practically captivates the audience in a state of climatic anxiety. The Maestro boldly makes the manifold moves of his style to achieve an integrated oneness of the eternal Indian ethos, to enrich the dimensions of a particular raga.

His Thumris have created a landmark in the evolution of Hindustani-Music. The abstract soul of the Artist comes out with musical expressions by bol-banana and unfolds his fecund mind with delicacy in his delineation. Although, he was initiated in lachao and Banarasi Thumris by his father he is not at all orthodox and has accepted improvisations and fusions with the Punjabi style and some folk elements in his thumri gayan. In his thumri gayaki one can notice the evolution of styles that has come through the ages and reached an ensemblic height in his style with lyrical values and poetic sensibilities of his own.

Manas is a versatile genius who has unsurpassed mastery of all languages of Khayal, Thumri and various other semi-classical styles of music such as Tappa, Bhajan, Ragpradhan etc. Most of his own created bandishes can be noted by his pseudonym ‘Sadasant’ and he is distinctively adored among the music-lovers while rendering these for his emotional expression essentially romantic, with a great control over his voice with which he can pass-over whatever message he likes to attribute.

Manas’s musical journey started at the tender age of seven along with his illustrious father participating in several conferences. He distinctly remembers the metamorphic initiation as he recalls his performance at the All India Music Conference, at Roxy Cinema Hall, Calcutta around the age of twelve. His astonishing maturity at that age attracted spontaneous praises even from the great exponents of classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Sreemati Kesharbai Kerkar, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur and of course Narayan Rao Vyas who used to affectionately call him the ‘Little Tiger’. Since then he had never looked back, his recitals have earned an enviable distinction as an’ “Artist of Artists ”, in various concerts in both at home and abroad. ‘Talim’, ‘tabiat’ and ‘taiari’ with inborn artistry, profound knowledge, intellectuality and cerebral ability has given a new dimension to his unique style of rendition which is now being followed by many artists along with his own disciples. Thus presenting the obscure reality of music in a tangibly graceful elocutionary form with his kalabant gayaki, nayaki and majestic mizaaj has made him an institution by himself in the international realm of Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet. His contribution towards the Hindustani Classical Music for the last fifty years is undoubtedly worth-mentioning and as a ‘Guru’ he is great. The schooling of Indian Classical Music through the mentors of his family and the torchbearers, established around the globe has already entered the seventh- generation and now the new trend of ‘Kotali Gayaki’ is his single handed orchestration, which with the synthesis of diversities has finally created and defined the ultimate shape of ‘ Kotali Gayaki’. His highly technical and eclectic approach though different from his father’s individuality, is finally convergent to the philosophical end of the essence of ‘Kotali Gharana’.

Courtesy of Pandit Manas Chakraborty

Nawab Sayyid Hamid Ali Khan Bahadur


During the past two decades, when music conferences became very popular, every musical artist proclaimed that he came front a particular famous Gharana, that is, a particular line of hereditary musical tradition and particular school of musical styles created or followed by great music teachers and their disciples.

Actually, there were two main Gharanas of Hindusthani music worthy to be considered, during and after the reign of Allauddin Khilji, the Pathan Emperor of Delhi. These were : — (1) The kalawanta Gharana, founded by Baiju Bawra and propagated by Nayak Gopal which included the singers of the Dhrubapada style of music and the instrumentalists who played on Saraswat veena in accompaniment to the vocal Raga Alap and Dhrubapada songs. (2) The kawal Gharana, founded and propagated by Amir Khusru and later on by Sultan Hussain Sarki of Jaunpur. These Gharanas included the singers of Kawali songs and the instrumentalists who played on Sitar in accompaniment to the Kawali songs and Taranas. Later on, a third Gharana was formed by the instrumentalists who used to play on Shanai and Tabla. With the increase of the number of female singers and dancing girls in the Court, there arose a fourth Gharana of instrumentalist accompanying them. The Ostads of the third and fourth Gharana were called Mirasis and Dhadis. SWAMI HARIDASJI OF BRINDABAN During the reign of Md. Adil Shali at Delhi, there were more than one hundred musicians in the Court, who were mostly the Kawals, Mirasis and Dhadis. After the fall of the Pathan Empire, Haridas Swami, the great saint of Brindaban was the main personality in the golden age of Hindusthani music, when the system of Rag-Alap and the Dhrubapada style of music founded by Baiju Bawra, attained perfection of expressions, and was held in the highest estimation by the royal courts existing in that period. Under the influence of his inspiration, Raja Man Tomar of Gwalior brought four Nayaks or authorities of Dhrubapada Hindusthani music in his court,who were named – (I) Bhanu, (2) Chharju, (3) Dhundi. (4) Chanchal Sashi. Really, the Gharanas of Hindusthani classical music were formed by Swami Haridasji and these four Nayaks, who were all Kalawantas. During the reign of the Emperor Akbar, Mian Tansen, the disciple of Swami Haridas, was called the greatest of all musicians and was the main centre of a great musical upheaval. All the disciples of other Nayaks became his disciples and his style of Alap and Dhrubapada was regarded and accepted as the best ever known. He enriched the Dhrubapada style with some Persian ornamentations. Mian Tansen was the leader of a group of famous musicians, namely :- (1) Khoda Bux, (2) Masnad Ali, (3) Ramdas, (4) Chand Khan, (5) Suraj Khan, (6) Khande Rao, (7) Suragnan Khan, (8) Jagapat (Mridangi). SAINT HARIDAS’S DISCIPLE – MIAN TANSEN Mian Tansen was the greatest disciple of Swami Haridas and a foster child of Pir Md. Ghaus of Gwalior while others were either his colleagues or disciples of other Nayaks of Gwalior. All these musicians were attached to the Court of Delhi. The other notable disciples of Haridas Swami were (1) Brija Chand. (2) Gopal Lall, (3) Maharaja Samokhan Singh of Ajmir, Singhalgarh, who was the greatest Veena player of that period. From the period of Akbar, notable Gharanas of Northen India were formed by the descendants or disciples of the above-mentioned musicians. But as Mian Tansen was accepted as the greatest of all musicians by Emperor Akbar, his influence on other musicians was paramount. He formed the main Gharanas, that is, the Seni Gharanas of Hinduathani music. After the death of Mian Tansen, three Gharanas representing his traditions were notable. The first Seni Gharana was formed by his youngest son, Bilas Khan ( Tan Tarang ) at Delhi Darbar. This Gharana represented the choicest Dhrubapada style in Goudi Bani. The second Seni Gharana was formed by another son of Tansen named Surat Sen, who used to sing Dhrubapadas in Dagar Bani and whose descendants subsequently settled at Jaipur, The third Seni Gharana was formed by Misri Singh, the celebrated Veena player, who was the son of Maharaja Samokhan Singh and married Saraswati Devi, the daughter of Tansen. His descendants formed the main Gharana of Veena music and used to sing Dhrubapadas in both Dagar and kahandar Bani. Besides these three Seni Gharanas, the other famous Gharanas were formed by Brija Chand and Suradas at Mathura, whose disciples were the Brahmin priests while Chand Khan and Suraj Khan were the founders of Tilmandi Gharana of Dhrubapadas in Punjab. We find the name of the Agra Gharana specializing in Dhamar style formed by Hazi Sujan Khan, Which was famous during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan. With the decline of classical music, musicians of all the Gharanas underwent severe hardships during the reign of Aurangjib. But Mahammad Shah Rangile, the Badsha, revived the Delhi Darbar in the early eighteenth century with the musicians of all Gharanas assembled at Delhi. GREAT VEENKAR AFTER TANSEN Niamat Khan Veenkar who was a descendant of Misri Singh (son-in-law of Tan Sen) and later on received the title ‘Shah Sadarang’ in the Darbar of Md. Shah is ranked as the second great musician of India after Mian Tansen. He was the high priest of Md. Shah’s Darbar and invented new techniques of the veena music and Dhamar. He also created the classical Kheyal and founded the famous kawal Gharana through his disciples, whom he taught classical Kheyal. The Kawal Gharana thus formed, was regarded as the authoritative line of Kheyal. Other Gharanas like Agra Gharana and Gwalior Gharana of Kheyal, grew up from the main Kawal -Gharana. During the latter part of eighteenth century, progressive disintegration of the great Mughal Empire was followed by the provincial Subadars and the subordinate Rajas becoming virtually independent and the Emperor of Delhi had only the symbolic possession of supreme authority and honour. As the financial position of the Delhi Darbar became precarious, the most famous musicians of Delhi took shelter in other courts. At this stage the Seni musicians who came attached to different courts of India, devoted themselves more and more to the culture of instrumental music. Although they were authorities on the Dhrubapada songs, they were divided into two camps. The descendants of Bilas Khan and Niamat Khan made Banaras their home town, but were attached to the courts of Lucknow and other states. They were called Eastern musicians. The other camp which was formed of the descendants of Surat Sen settled at Jaipur and were called Western musicians. The Eastern musicians of the Seni Gharana used to play on Rabab and Veena beside singing Dhrubapadas while Western Seni musicians specialised in Sitar and Veena and also sang Dhrubapadas. The kawal Gharana was for a period attached to the Delhi Court. THE MAIN GHARANAS During the middle of the eighteenth century, the main Gharanas of Hindusthan, which were founded by the Seni musicians and their disciples took final shape. The main Gharanas were as followes: (1)Seni Gharana of Dhrubapa and Rabab, formed by three great brothers, Jaffar Khan, Payar Khan and Basat Khan of Lucknow and Banaras. (2)Seni Veenkaras, laid by Nirmal Sha of Lucknow. (3)Kawal Gharana laid by Bade Md. Khan Kawal, of Lucknow and Gwalior. (4) Gwalior Gharana of Kheyal formed by the three great Kheyali brothers;- Huddu Khan, Hassu Khan and Nathu Khan. (5) Agra Gharana of Kheyal and Dhamar, formed by the descendants of Hazi Sujan Khan (Dhamar) and who later on became disciples of Shah-Sadarang. (6) Betia Gharana of Dhrubapada formed by the disciples of Haidar Khan seni of Lucknow, who were the kathaks of Banaras, as well as Muslim Ostads of Kalpi. (7) Bishnupur Gharana of Dhrubapada formed by Bahadur khan Seni, through his disciple Ramshankar Bhattacherjee. (8) Tilmandi Gharana of Punjabi Dhrubapada singers. (9) Lahore Gharana by Punjabi kheyalias, disciples of Shah-Sadarang. (I0) Ataruli Gharana of Dhrubapada and Kheyal founded by the Brahmins of Mathura who embraced Islam later on. (11) Dagar Gharana, founded by Bairam Khan, a great scholar and Dhrupad singer, who was a descendant of a priestly line of Mathura. (12) The Seni Gharana of Sitar of Jaipur, founded by the celebrated Amrita Sen. (13) The Sarod Gharana of Saharanpur, disciples of Omrao Khan, a son of Nirmal Sha Seni. (14) Sarod Gharana founded by Niamutulla Khan, a disciple of Basat Khan Seni. (15) The Sitar Gharana of Lucknow founded by Golam Md. Khan, a disciple of Omrao Khan Seni. BIRTH OF RAMPUR GHARANA Now we come to the origin of Rampur Gharana which is the latest and last of the greatest Gharanas of India. After the end of the Sepoy Mutiny, Wazed Ali Shah, the great patron of music settled at Calcutta from Lucknow. He brought with him here great musicians like Sadeque Ali Khan, Kasem Ali Mian of the Tansen Line and Murad Ali Khan and Taj Khan of Kulpi School and some outstanding kheyalias also. Among the other great musicians of the Tansen line, Sadeque Ali Khan, the great Rababi and scholar, settled in Benaras and trained some priestly musicians like Mithailallji and Bajpayeji. Benaras thus became a prominent centre of classical music. But there were two shining luminaries of Hindusthani music were invited with great respect and promise of princely allowances by Nawab Kalwe Ali Khan of Rampur State (U.P.), which was founded by the Pathans of Rohilkhand. These luminaries were named Bahadur Hussain Khan Bahadur Khan of Bishnupur) and Amir Khan. Bahadur Hussain was a nephew of Payar Khan Seni, the celebrated Surasringar player, while Amir Khan was the son of Omrao Khan Seni, the renowned Veenkar. Thus he first used to play on the Surasringar and the second on the Veena. Both, however, were the masters of Dhrubapada singing of the Tansen Line. Bahadur Hussain concentrated more on the instrumental music and had such a charming style of play that people used to say that his fingers were made of diamonds. Not only the lovers of classical music, but even uninitiated laymen were overwhelmed with rapturous joy by the sound of his instrumental displays. He introduced many new Alankaras (embellishments) in the instrumental music and variations of Jhala or Jhankar which are unequalled even up to now by any instrumentalist of India playing Sitar or Sarod. CUCKOO-VOICED SANADA PIYA Amir Khan Veenkar, on the other hand, had a very melodious voice and though originally an instrumentalist his concentration was on vocal music. In the Rampur Darbar, he seldom played on Veena in the presence of Bahadur Hussain Khan who, by the way, was his uncle-in-law. But he used to sing in the Darbar, vocal Alap, Dhrupads and Dhamars. In that period classical Thumri was created by the famous composers Kadar Piya, Sadar Piya, and Sanada Piya, who were attached to the Court of Lucknow during the reign of Wazed Ali Shah. With the departure of Nawab of Lucknow to Calcutta the Lucknow Darbar broke up and Sanada Piya accompanied Bahadur Hussain and Amir Khan to Rampur. Sanada Piya had a voice like that of the “cuckoo” or Kokil and his style of Thumri was very fascinating. But Amir Khan sang Dhamar in such a way that the charms of his voice and styles, overpowered even the best specimens of Thumri. Amir Khan not only used Meend and Alankaras, but also used some Alankaras which sounded like Murki and Firat. RAMPUR    GHARANA’S SPECIAL   CHARMS The Rampur Gharana of music founded by Bahadur Hussain and Amir Khan, was characterised by some special charms in the use of Alap, Dhrupad, Dhamar and in the instrumental music which were not found anywhere in India. Both of these great musicians gave all their theoretical and practical knowledge to Nawab Haidar Ali Khan, a brother of the then riuling Nawab of Rampur. Haidar Ali was a unique musician in the vocal and instrumental music and had a very valuble collection of musical scripts containing the teachings of the great masters. These collections are still carefully preserved in the court of Rampur. Rampur State, during tho time of Haidar Ali Khan had a galaxy of musicians. All of them became disciples of Bahadur Hussain or Amir Khan. Although they belonged to other Gharanas before they came to Rampur, they changed their old style and were influenced by the styles of their masters and thus became identified with the Rampur Gharana. Bahadur Hussain composed many Taranas, which were demonstrated by the kheyal singers of Rampur State. SOME GREAT MUSICIANS OF TANSEN SCHOOL The following outstanding musicians became initiated in the Tansen tradition by Bahadur Hussain or Amir Khan 1. Md. Hussain (Veena) 2. Nabi Bakash (Veena) 3. Kutubuddaulla (Sitar) 4. Enayet Khan (Kheyal) 5. Ali Hussain (Veena) 6. Bakar Ali Khan (Kheyal) 7. Assad Khan (Surasringar) 8. Fida Hussain Khan (Sarod) 9. Boniat Hussain Khan (sarangi) All these musiciains of different styles of music adopted the Raga system and the ways of execution of Tansen Gharana. So, the Rampur Gharana may be said to be a special formation of the original Tansen Gharana During the early part of this century Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur emulating the examples of the previous musical Darbars, formed a unique musical association presided over by Sangeet Nayak Wazir Khan, son of Amir Khan (Veenkar). Wazir Khan learnt Veena from his father and Surasringar from Bahadur Hussain in his prime and Nawab Haidar Ali Khan as his guardian, developed his extraordinary musical genius. Wazir Khan also learnt Dhrupad, Dhamar and was both a melodious vocalist and a great instrumentalist. Nawab Chhamman Saheb, the son of Nawab Haidar Ali, was a colleague of Wazir Khan and excelled in Dhrupads and Surasringar display. WAZIR KHAN OF RAMPUR Thus Wazir Khan and Chhamman Saheb were the successors in the line of music of Amir Khan and Bahadur Hussain. Wazir Khan by musical teachings built up the musical career of the following outstanding musicians. 1. Allauddin Khan (Sarod) 2. Hafiz Ali Khan (Sarod) 3. Mehdi Husssain Khan (Dhrupad & Kheyal) 4. Mustaque Hussain Khan (Kheyal) 5. Pramathanath Bandopadhya (Ruddraveen) 6. Jadabendra Mahapatra (Surbahar) 7. Pandit Vatkhandeji (The great Musicologist) It may be noteworthy that Wazir Khan who was in Calcutta in his youth, had special liking for the Bengalees and helped a good deal for the development of classical music in Bengal. Nawab Chhamman Saheb also gave lessons to Pandit Vatkhandeji. Among the Nawab’s other disciples we may cite the names of : 1. Raja Nawab Ali Khan of Lucknow-(Sitar). 2. Girija Sankar Chakrabarty of Bengal-(Dhrupada, Kheyal and Thumri) In conclusion, we should not forget the fact that the Vatkhande College of Music, Lucknow, which is now the Centre of Vatkhande University, got tremendous support from Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur, and Nawab Chhamman Saheb, who helped this great institution both financially and also with the precious teachings of the Rampur Gharana. For every song and each Tana and each Dhrupad he (Raja) gave a crore of rupees to this musician (Kalavid), namely Tansen, who was the embodiment of the art of music. Though these statements of Badaoni and that of the author of the Virabhanudaya Kavyam seem to be exaggeration, to some extent, yet it is clearly understood that Rewa and even its adjacent places were famous for the culture of classical type of Prabandha-Gitis. VRINDAVANA’S CONTRIBUTION Vrindavana was also a famous seat of culture of Prabandha-Gitis. From the history of Bengal Vaishnavism we come to know that most of the Vaishnava savants were headed by Swarupa-Damodara, Ray Ramananda, Swami Krishnadasa, Swami Haridasa, Krishnadasa Kaviraja, Raghunathdasa Goswami, Thakur Narottamadasa and others were well-versed in the lofty or sublime Prabandha type of Gitis. It is said that Thakur Narottama devised the Padavali-Kirtana on the ideal of the classical Dhruvapada, in slow tempo at Khetari, West Bengal. It might be the fact that Vrindavana drew its inspiration and impetus of the culture of Dhruvapada from Gwalior and its adjacent places, but yet it cannot be denied that Vrindavana and afterwards Mathura, created the schools of their own. And those schools were maintained by a host of Kalavids like Krishnadasa, Haridasa and others. These celebrated exponents of music were all upholders of Dhruvapada. BIJAPUR AS CENTRE OF CULTURE Bijapur was also a seat of culture of classical music, and specially of Dhruvapada. Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur was a contemporary to the Emperor Akbar. He devoted the best part of his life to the cause of classical music, in which he took interest from his early age. From Asad Beg’s mission to Bijapur, we learn that Bijapur was so famous for its culture of classical music that Akbar was also attracted to this kingdom. From the editorial comments of the journal, Lalitakala, April 1955 – March 1956 and Joshi’s article on ‘Asad Beg’s Mission,’ in the ‘Potadar Commemoration Volume’, 1950, we come to know that Asad Beg went on his Mission in 1603-1604 A.D. It hals been stated thus: “Speaking about the events of 1603-04, Asad Beg says that he was invited to the royal palace to bid farewell to Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur on the night of 27th Sh’aban. A grand music party had been arranged for the occasion. Asad Beg found Ibrahim so rapt in listening to music that be could hardly reply to Asad Beg’s question. The conversation for sometime was mainly concerned with music and musicians”. It should be remembered in this context that Dhruvapada the most prominent feature of musical culture of that time i.e. in the sixteenth – seventeenth century A.D. Dr. Nazir Ahmed has written as follows in the Introduction to the book, Kitab-i-Nauras by the said Sultan : “Ibrahim was a master of Dhrupada and his book in the same style became so popular as to attract even the Moghal Emperor Jahangir, and the Emperor claimed the Kitab-i-Nauras to be in form of Dhrupada which §ultan learnt from Baktar. It has been stated that about four thousand skilled musicians thronged on an occasion, and the Sultan wished that skillful musicians should always adorn his court by their presence.” From the fact it is proved that Dhruvapada used to play a prominent part in every musical function not, only in the royal court,but also in the kingdom of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. The Emperors Jahangir and Shajahan were also great patrons of Dhruvapada. The names of Jagananath Kaviraj, Dirang Khan. Gunasamudra Lal Khan, the son-in-law of Bilas Khan are worth-mentioning. in this connection, asnoted exponents and connoisseurs of Dhruvapada Prabandha. In the beginning of the eighteenth century A.D. when Mohammed Shah was on the throne of Delhi, Dhruvapada was also held in high esteem in his court. The name of Mohammed Shah’s court-musician, Niyamat Khan Sadaranga is worth-mentioning. in this connection. Niyamat Khan Sadaranga was a Veenkara as well as a Dhrupadiya. Though he devised a new style of Kheyal in slow tempo, yet he was noted as an exponent of Dhrupada of the pure Seni school. The decadence in the culture and appreciation of Dhruvapada came probably during the British rule in India. It came to a climax, when the last titular Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II ascended the throne of Delhi, and granted by a Firman, the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company. VISHNUPUR AS CENTRE Vishnupur (Bankura) and different parts of Bengal were also recognised as the Seats of culture ofDhrubapada. When the noted musicians of the Seni school found no help and support from the Emperor, Shah Alam II they began to seek refuge in the Durbars of other ruling Princes including those of Lucknow, Banaras, Betia and Bishnapur. Before the end of the eighteenth century, Bahadur Khan of the Seni Gharana and Peer Bux, the Pakhowaji, were invited by Raja Raghunath Singh II of Bishnapur and were appointed in his court. And from that time onward the intensive culture of Dhruvapada, started in Bengal. HERITAGE OF PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA It may, therefore, be said that the Prabanda type of Giti undoubtedly originated during the pre-Christian era, and evolved out of the ancient Jatiraga and different Gramaragas as depicted in the Natyasastra, Brihaddeshi, Sangita-Sama.yasara, Sangita Ratnakara, etc., through ages, and attained development, assuming novel modes, new names and phases. It still survives in the form of modern Dhrupada i,e Dhruvapada, though lacking in its prestine glory and traditional ideal. The term “Dhruvapada” connotes sacred or celestial Giti or song; for “Dhruva” means ‘sacred’ or ‘that which Is everlasting and celestial’ and ‘Pada’ means Giti or Gana. Originally its literary composition or Sahitya was graceful, majestic and contemplative by nature. It breathed an air of sublimity and grandeur in laudation of the gods and godesses, and the Father in Heaven, though in Iater days, it lost that lofty ideal to some extent. During the time of Akbar the Great, the four styles or methods of presentation of Dhruvapada centered on the regionol utterances or Vani (Bani), and as a result thereof, differeiit Vanis such as Khandara Vani, Dagar Vani, Naohara Vani and Lahar Vani evolved. They were merely the outward features or “Nibaddha Prabandha Gitis. However, Dhruvapada of Dhrupada require to be maintained and sustained in all their characteristic purity, supreme value and importance, even in these days, so as to preserve the glorious heritage of classical music, and to enrich the priceless treasure of art and culture of India. (Courtesy of Indian Music and Mian Tansen by Pandit Birendra Kishore Roy Choadhury ) *

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The Gharana Of Maihar



The Gharana Of Maihar

Sarodiya Allauddin Khan Gharana
Rampur Gharana

Just after the uprising in 1857, Wazid Ali Shah, the ex-Nawab of Oudh, moved to Calcutta with all the musicians of his court. Kalve Ali Khan, the Nawab of Rampur, wanted to have a great musical community. He called many of Wazid Ali’s musicians to Rampur, where Bahadur Hussain Khan, a sursringar-player of the Senia Gaharana, and a dhrupadiya, who belonged to Saraswati’s (Tansen’s daughter’s) line and Amir Khan (1814-1873), a beenkar, founded the new darbar. Many other musicians moved to the new darbar, among others the khyaliya Bakar Ali Khan and Enayat Hussein Khan, the beenkar Mohammed Hussain, the sitariya Qutabdaula ( from Lucknow) and the sarangi player Bonizat Hussain Khan ( from Gwalior). Among their disciples was the Nawab itself and his younger brother, Haider Ali Khan, too.

Wazir Khan (1851-1926), the son of Amir Khan, was teaching in Calcutta and Midnapur for a while, before joining the court of Rampur in 1900, where he became the master of the Nawab, Hamid Ali Khan. While he was in Rampur, he started teaching Alauddin Khan for the sake of the Nawab.

Wazir Khan (Rampur)



Allauddin Khan (1866-1976)

Baba (directed by N.D. Keluskar, 1969) – documentary film

(Please click image for film)

Allauddin Khan was born in Shibpur village in Brahmanbaria, in present-day Bangladesh, the son of Sabdar Hossain Khan, also known as Sadhu Khan. Alluddin’s elder brother, Fakir Aftabuddin, first taught him some music in the home.

At the age of ten, Allauddin ran away from home to join a jatra band, a traditional Bengali form of theater. This experience exposed him to the rich folk tradition of Bengal. After some time, he went to Kolkata, and was accepted as a student by singer Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya, alias Nulo Gopal. Allauddin committed to a 12-year practice program; However, Nulo Gopal died of plague after the seventh year. Khan then became a disciple of Amritalal Dutt, a close relative of Swami Vivekananda and music director at Kolkata’s Star Theatre, with the goal of becoming an instrumentalist. At this time, he also took lessons in European classical violin from a Mr Lobo, a bandmaster from Goa.

Alauddin Khan got interested in sarod after a concert at Jagat Kishore Acharya’s, zamindar of Muktagachha, where he listened to Ahmed Ali Khan, a student of Asghar Ali Khan (Amjad Ali Khan’s grand-uncle). Alauddin became his student, and studied the sarod under him for five years. His next step was to go to Rampur for lessons from the beenkar Wazir Khan, court musician of the Nawab there, and one of the last direct descendants of the legendary Tansen. Through him, Alauddin was given access to the Senia Gharana (Tansen school of music), arguably north India’s most coveted body of musical knowledge. He later became the court musician of Brijnath Singh Maharaja of Maihar Estate in Central Province.

During his time as a court musician, Allauddin Khan completely reshaped the Maihar Gharana of Indian classical music. The Maihar Gharana was established in the 19th Century, but Khan’s contribution was so fundamental that he is often thought to be its creator. This was a period of rapid change for Hindustani instrumental music, thanks not least to Allauddin Khan, who infused the beenbaj and dhrupad ang, previously known from the been, surbahar (bass sitar) and sur-sringar (bass sarod), into the playing of many classical instruments.

For though he gave concerts on the sarod, Allauddin played many instruments, something that shaped his pedagogy. He put together an orchestra with Indian instruments, the Maihar String Band, and while his son, Ali Akbar Khan, was taught the sarod, his daughter Annapurna Devi learned the surbahar, students such as Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee played the sitar Rabin Ghosh on violin and Pannalal Ghosh the bansuri. Of course Ravi and Ali Akbar Khan were to be very famous and spread this gharana over the world – something that Allauddin himself had started when, in 1935–1936, he went on an international tour with Uday Shankar’s dance troupe.


Allauddin stayed at Maihar from 1918 to his death. In 1955, he established a Maihar College of Music. He was given the Sangeet Natak Academi Award in 1952, and the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan – India’s third and second highest civilian decorations – in 1958 and 1971, respectively.

When many people hear the name Allauddin Khan, they think of a grumpy old man (after all, he lived to 110) with a hot temper but a heart of gold – anecdotes about him range from throwing a tabla tuning hammer at the Maharaja himself to taking care of disabled beggars. (Nikhil Banerjee said that the tough image was “deliberately projected in order not to allow any liberty to the disciple. He always had the tension that soft treatment on his part would only spoil them”.)

Allauddin was a very religious man, and though Muslim by name, was strongly devoted to the goddess Saraswati, in the form of Sarada Devi, to whom there stands an old and famous temple atop a hill in Maihar. This is why Allauddin, despite more lucrative offers from other courts, never left Maihar, refusing to move away even for hospital treatment – he would rather die near Sarada Devi than live someplace else.

A few years before the turn of the century, he married Madanmanjari Devi (1888–?). He had one son and sarod heir, Ali Akbar Khan, and three daughters, Sharija, Jehanara and Annapurna Devi. After Sharija got married, and her jealous mother-in-law burnt her tanpura, Allauddin decided not to train his other daughters, but Annapurna proved so talented he changed his mind. She later married and divorced Ravi Shankar.

Allauddin Khan was fond of sankeerna (compound) ragas, and created many ragas of his own, including Arjun, Bhagabati, Bhim, Bhuvaneshvari, Chandika, Dhabalashri, Dhankosh, Dipika, Durgeshvari, Gandhi, Gandhi Bilawal, Haimanti, Hem-Behag, Hemant, Hemant Bhairav, Imni Manjh, Jaunpuri Todi, Kedar Manjh, Komal Bhimpalasi, Komal Marwa, Madanmanjari, Madhabsri, Madhavgiri, Malaya, Manjh Khamaj, Meghbahar, Muhammed, Nat-Khamaj, Prabhakali, Raj Bijoy, Rajeshri, Shobhavati, Subhabati, Sugandha and Surasati. Many of these have not become common Maihar repertoire; Manjh Khamaj is perhaps the best known.

Ustad Allauddin Khan’s son, Ali Akbar Khan and his daughter, Annapurna Devi grew up in Maihar. Ravi Shankar, who started to learn from Gokul Nag (Vishnupur Gharana, Calcutta), Sharan Rani, Pannalal Ghosh, Timir Baran and Nikhil Banerjee  (who joined in 1947 only), they both became the leader musicians of the gharana.

Baba Allauddin Khan with Nikhil Banerjee

The Hindu tradition usually talks about a gharana after the third generation of the same style, but because of the great influence of the musicians of the Maihar Gharana on every level, it came to be called gharana even before the third generation appeared.



Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960)

Pannalal Ghosh: Raga Yaman

Pannalal Ghosh was born on July 31, 1911. Born in Barisal, East Bengal now Bangladesh the family first lived in the village of Amarnathganj and later moved to the town of Fatehpur.He was brought up in a family of musicians. His grandfather, Hari Kumar Ghosh, father, Akshaya Kumar Ghosh, and maternal uncle, Bhavaranjan, were proficient musicians. Mother, Sukumari (daughter of Mr. Mazumdar of Dhaka), was a singer. His younger brother Nikhil Ghosh was a distinguished tabla player. Young Pannalal was highly receptive and absorbed good music from various sources. He regarded the “Harmonium Wizard”, Khurshid Ahmad Khan, as his first guru, and was fortunate also to have had the blessings and systematic training from the legendary Ustad Allauddin Khan, with whom he studied, beginning in 1947.

As the music director of the dance troupe of the princely state of Seraikella, Pannalal Ghosh visited and performed in Europe in 1938, and was one of the first classical musicians to have crossed the boundaries of India.

After joining All India Radio, Delhi, as Conductor of the National Orchestra in 1956, he composed path-breaking orchestral pieces such as Kalinga Vijay and Andolika. His contribution in semi-classical as well as film music also was equally significant, and his name is permanently linked to many famous movies such as Aandolan, Anjan, Basant, Basant-Bahar, Duhai, Munna, Mughal-e-Azam, Police and Nandkishor.

On breathing his last on April 20, 1960, Pannalal Ghosh left behind a large number of disciples and admirers. Amongst his noteworthy students and followers have been Haripad Choudhari, Aminur Rehman (Bangla Desh), Fakirchand Samanta, Gaur Goswami, Shreeram Joshi, Rashbihari Desai, Mahesh Mastfakir, Devendra Murdeshwar,Keshav Ginde, V.G. Karnad, Nityanand Haldipur, Bhailal Barot, Prabhakar Nachane, Sharad Mohalay, K.D. Desai, Suraj Narayan Purohit, Hari K. Chabria, and Lalitha Rao and Mohan Nadkarni. Because of his humble and helpful nature, Pannalal has always remained a very popular and respected personality among the music connoisseurs, and endeared many senior musicians as well.

Pannalal Ghosh was the first to transform a tiny folk instrument to a novel bamboo flute (32 inches long with 7 holes for fingering) suitable for playing traditional Indian classical music, and also to bring to it the stature of other classical music instruments. Also to his credit are the introduction of the special tenor flute, 6-stringed Taanpura, high-pitched Taanpuri and Surpeti into Hindustani music.

He also mastered the technique with such a great proficiency that he could present with ease the heavy ragas like Todi, Darabari, Miyan Malhar, Puriya, Shri, Puriya Dhanashri, Kedar, etc., retaining intact the entire beauty as well as the grammar. These ragas are now the speciality of the flautists of his Gharana. He also created and popularized several new ragas including Deepawali, Pushpachandrika, Hansanarayani, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Noopurdwani.