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Bhatkhande, A Pioneer

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Bhatkhande, A Pioneer

He Resurrected Science of Hindustani Music

Sunday Chronicle September 18, 1949

The article as it appeared in the Sunday Chronicle in 1949.

The article as it appeared in the Sunday Chronicle in 1949.

Music like all art, is a vital part of a nation’s culture; and in this era of fulfillment of national aspiration and cultural regeneration, it possesses immense value for all of us. It was the outstanding personality of Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande whose anniversary falls on 19th September that stirred the Indian mind to taking an abiding interest an a living musical culture, which in the past, had expressed itself in noblest and most beautiful forms and enriched the life of the nation

Pt Bhatkhande personified in himself the intellectual and cultural activity that marked the last quarter of the 19th century. Born of a noble Brahmin family, Bhatkhande was a man of modern outlook. Talented and educated, he started life as a lawyer. The degenerate condition of the art of arts, however, turned this seemingly prosaic lawyer into a musician, who was destined to be one of the greatest authorities in the field.

Condition of Music

Since times immemorial, Indian music is based upon a sound scientific system. With the advent of foreign rulers from the North, the art slowly drifted away from its scientific moorings. The professional artist of the period pandered to the taste of their royal masters, and being illiterate., they were declined to accept the old “Shastras” as a binding authorities. The result was obvious: The theory and practice of music were at variance. On the other hand, the huge mass of music “Granthas” that came to be written from time to time by the writers of old did not admit of easy and practical codification. Attempts to rearrange and systematize the drifting music only added to the confusion.

Karnataki System

'Pandit Bhatkhande was both a theorist and a practical musician.'

‘Pandit Bhatkhande was both a theorist and a practical musician.’

Pandit Bhatkhande envisaged a possibility of establishing the contemporary Hindustani Music on a sound foundation so as to render its study easy and intelligible, and singing a master of easy self-application.

He first made an intensive study of the various schools of music by going from place to place and listening to the most prominent exponents of old schools. His study of the Southern System convinced him that their ought to be a fair exchange of good points between the two great music system of the country, and he reconstructed a workable system for the North on the Shastric basis of the South. This he did by successfully adopting the basic principles that underlay the valuable work. “Chatur-Dandi-Prakashika” of Pandit Venkatesh Makhi, the noted South Indian scholar.

The special characteristics of the Northern music were retained undefined and they enabled to keen the system easily distinguishable from that of the South.

The “Lakshya Sangeetam”

The results of his original research were incorporated in his Sanskrit publication “Lakshya Sangeetam” and its serial commentary entitled “Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati”, Published in four volumes. The commentary dealing mainly with the theoretical aspect of the North Indian Music, purports to trace the historical growth and transaction in the form of each raga. Information in detail about a large number of well-known as well as less-known ragas. With a host of Cheezas” (songs) illustrating each raga with musical notations is embodied in another series of six volumes, entitled “Karmika Pustaka Malika”.

Written in a style that has lucidity and simplicity., the two series run into thousands of pages. A high level of excellence is maintained throughout. The works have not only expounded a new outlook by representing a remarkable synthesis of the various conflicting theories of music, but have also established a literary tradition in the domain of music.

They have clearly indicated the lines on which every budding musician-irrespective of the “gharana” or “School” to which he may profess to belong – should proceed.

Stupendous Achievement

Panditji’s achievement on the practical side was equally stupendous. His pioneering labour was responsible for the series of All-India Music Conferences inaugurated in 1916 by his late Highness the Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwar of Baroda. This was by far the most noteworthy development in the history of Indian Music. The conferences were being held annually and did much useful work in simulating the study of music. Artists and experts drawn from the whole of India gathered together for discussion of musical problems. A free and frank interchange of thought and opinion among them facilitated the attempt to find a system of adequate notation to express beauties and refinements of ragas.

Music Academy

This soon led to the establishment of the All-India Music Academy. The school at Gwalior and Lucknow were founded in 1926. In subsequent years, the Universities of Banaras, Lucknow, Calcutta, Patna and Punjab adopted Panditji’s system of instruction. The Bhatkhande University was founded in 1940 four years after the death of Panditji. The University has recently been recognized by the Government of India and raised to the status of All-India National Academy.

Facilities for research, collection and preservation of the best classical compositions with a view of evolve a uniform method of teaching, have been provided in these institutions. With this end in view, Panditji personally coached up special students for the purpose of turning them into music teachers of his system. And today, the music lovers view with great admiration the great tradition that is being carried on by his pupil and that erudite musician Pandit S.N. Ratna-jankar, Principle of the Marris College of Music at Lucknow.

Order Out of Chaos

Pandit Bhatkhande was both a theorist and a practical musician. But music, let it be known was not his profession. With a firm belief in the utility of his method he discovered and laid down certain fundamental principles that governed Indian Music. The immensity of his self-imposed task of evolving order out of chaos is already evident. How one man could have ever executed it and that too so successfully in a life-time what could not be achieved for centuries! –indeed a miracle in the realm of music. The popularity that Panditji enjoyed among the music minded society is the measure of gratitude which it owes him. His work was a standard, a model for his successors to improve upon and perfect.

The National Government have not been slow in recognizing the fundamental importance of music from the cultured, educational and aesthetic points of view. The establishment of the All-India Music Trust is a step in the right direction, and augurs well for the fulfillment of Panditji,s dream of genrral mass education in music in years to come.


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