Music as the sweetest language comes from one's depth of mind, absorbing and making one
oblivious of one's anxieties in life. It is especially so with Indian music which is always
in true with celestial peace and tranquility.
The book Eminent Indians: Musicians while underlining the quality of the Indian music
system, being to focus the lives and contributions of some musicians who have distinguished
themselves in the firmament of time.
Among them are: Tansen one among the nine Jewels in the court of Emperor Akbar Ustad
Alauddin khan a consummate teacher who composted many rages and taales; Bat Gandharva the
epitome of the spirit of Marahti Sangeet Natak and Natak Samrat; Begum Akhtar a prodigy who
could make her audience sway to every emotion in the lyrics of the her ghazal; Bismillah
khan who brought in his shehnai music a healing touch that elated children and grown-ups
alike M.S. Subbulakhmi leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in the
Karnataka trading of south Indian Pandit Bhimsen Joshi known for blending the best feature
of diverse schools; Ravi Shankar a fountainhead of creativity; Lata Mangeshkar whose
mellifluous voice has captivated the hearts of millions of people throughout the world and
Amjad Ali Khan one of the very few exponents of Hindustani music who has discovered several
Written in a simple language this book captures the essence of the quality of music, which
each one of these maestros developed. It should be equally useful for connoisseurs of music
as well as all lovers of Indian music.
Recipient of the Janseva Sadbhavana Award M L Ahuja, MA DLL, DCS is the author of over
twenty books now. He is associated with book publisher and distribution of books and
journals. He was travelled extensively both within and outside India. He was presented a
number of papers at several national seminars. He has also contributed a number of articles,
which are mostly on publisher and marketing of books and journals.
The system of music i,e. singing drumming and dancing in India dates back to Vedic
civilisation. In the primitive days of Indian civilisation music lay hidden in the inner
recesses of human mind. In the midst of toil and fatigue whenever any person was in a clear
and peaceful surrounding he or she poured forth the plaints of his or soul either to mother
nature or to the Supreme God. The conception of an ordainer of the universe was present even
in almost of an every person in the ancient society. He had utilized the benevolence of the
greater power and therefore amid sorrows and suffering in the hope of peace and solace the
human being put forth the inmost converse of his her heart to God. There must have been a
tune to those words without the process of permutation and combination of different notes,
and the people of the long past conveyed their ideas through the medium of a single note or
rhythm. At first they used to sing for their material welfare and prosperity. With the dawn
of civilisation their outlook was changed and so was the motive of offering music. Their
music was gradually enriched with the evolution of further notes with graces and emotional
sentiments and moods.
With the progress of civilisation the standard of music culture has been raised. Earlier
music consisted of hymns songs and prayers. Gradually with the progress of human intellect
and the conception of various forms of the deities people paid their homage to those
deities. The sun worship prevailed in the remote antiquity. The sky (akasha) was conceived
as Varuna Devata. The fire worship was gradually evolved. It was thought that flames of
fire were no other than the tongue of the Gods-Vishnu Jihva. Vishnu was the representative
of the sun and the fire; Devi Saraswati the presiding deity of learning and music was
described as the tongue of the sacrificial fire. Songs were stung rhythm and music was
considered as part and parcel of the rites and sacrifices. Various musical instrument and
the cadences of dancing accompanying the songs added to the serenity and beauty of music.
The melody of music is based on raga tunes to please and sooth propensities. During the time
of the Rajput and Moghul rules, music become more significant and rich with its new pattern
and technique. Many of the Persian and Arabic tunes were incorporated into Indian music.
During the British period the practice or culture of classical music was obstructed to some
extent. At the end of the nineteenth century it was again revived. In modern Indian
especially with the advent of cinema and radio and television music remains as a progressive
and dynamic art. Its aesthetic appeal and beauty have attracted men of letters as well as of
common intellect. Music has become now a fountainhead of their inspiration peace and
It has been recognized that music in the truest sense is the most sweetest and sacred
language of the immortal soul that resides with the depth of all objects sentient and
insentient. The primitive people used to sing songs of joy and melancholy but the singing
cannot be said to be the music in the truest sense. The music as the sweetest and charming
language comes from one's depth of mind makes him or her absorbed and oblivious of one's
pangs and anxieties of life. It is especially so with Indian music which is always in tune
with the celestial peace and tranquility. Its aim is always to achieve perfect balance
between the heaven and the earth.
Music has a sublime quality that affects the very depths of the soul. The emotion it
generates through its notes and beats uplift us in the worst of times. Listening to music
seeps into our constructive and in the process creates a positive veil of constructive
energy around our body. Again music is one of the best forms of fine arts of the world.
Architecture music sculpture and painting are the four forms of fine arts and in these four
intellect and intuition as well as head and heart are blended together. The sweet and
soothing vibrations of the musical tones touch the core of the hearts of human beings by
creating an ecstatic joy and happiness which the bestow solace and abiding peace in our mind
even when the soft voices or tunes die. The sweet tunes of the tones of music bring
concentration and mediation mind can only bestow upon us peace and everlasting bliss.
Through the spiritual practice or sadhana of music we attain that peace and bliss even in
his phenomenal life on earth.
Oven the years music has been promoted and improvised first by gharanas and then by
academies institutions schools colleges and universities. As a result a number of musicians
have emerged from time to time but their success stories vary with the intensity of their
sadhana devotion to various forms of this art genre. Of the most prominent singers of
dhrupad a from of music had been Swami Haridas and Tansen. The Swami lived sometime at the
end of the fifteenth century. Even at a very young age he become a recluse belonging to the
Yogic lineage of the Andhra philosopher saint Nimbarka. His songs are abundant with bhakti
or adoration and stem from a state of rase. Haridas sang of Kunj Bihar (one who wanders
among bowers) the Lord of Brindavan and his love Radha. Tansen the other great name amongst
Dhrupadiyas and the pupil of Swami Haridas was born in he earlier part of sixteenth century
in Behat near Gwalior. He was the son of one Makarand Pande and was born of the blessings of
a Muslim faqir Hazrat Mohammad Gouse. The boy was named Ramtanu and was called Tanna Misra
later to become famous as Tansen. Tansen joined the court of Akbar and was among the nine
Today the distinction between gharanas is breaking down Gharanas existed when teaching was
by world of month. The music has now been institutionalized with almost every style beings
taught. The students have also become more inquisitive and do not rest with mere limitation.
With the facilities of the radio the gramophone and the printed book the monopoly of masters
is also crumbing. All these factors are creating new styles which may not be classed as a
particular gharana but are beautiful. Again throughout the length and breath of the country
there and kinds of music of various degrees of simplicity and sophistication. Each tribe
each folk group and each region has its own music. Each tribe each folk has group and each
region has its own music. Every one of them has contributed to the character and growth of
classical music. The most creative music outside the classical
fold in modern times has come from Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).
Bal Gandharva had been a singer actor par excellence. He symbolized the golden ear of the
Marathi musical stage. Hailed as the very epitome of the spirit of Marathi sangeet natak and
natak samrat the king of Thespians-his feminine roles on the stage the sartorial trends in
dresses among women their hairdo and their mannerisms. He was a living legend whose many
faceted attainments in the thespian art truly seemed to transcend all frontiers. His fans
spanned a wide spectrum covering not only the entire strata of Marathi speaking society but
also a conspicuous segment that represented the theatre loving Gujaratis Parsis and even
Begum Akhtar in twentieth century India was one of India's legendary musicians who could
make her audience sway to every emotion in the lyrics of a ghazal. Hailed as a prodigy she
played a pivotal role in raising the ghazal to a status, which was on par with the classic
khayal and dhrupad. Music connoisseurs regard her among the ustads of traditional gharanas.
It was her great artistry that took the music from the kothas and gave it a place on the
concert stage as a light classical music.
With his intricate articulation of melodies the magic and magnificence of his art its gentle
and gliding streams of melody as well as striking sense of tranquility Bismillah Khan in the
twentieth century brought in his shehnai music the healing touch to elate children and
grown-ups alike with electrifying effect to swarm the people around with a spiritual
complexion tune and melody to attract great scholars sages and men and women to whatever
religion they belong.
M.S. Subbulakshmi the golden voiced singer from South India in the twentieth century known
as modern Meerabai had been the leading exponent of classical and semi classical songs in
the Karnataka tradition of south India. She was one of India's greatest singers whose life
and music remained the purest from of worship. If music can unite the world and bring it
peace Subbulakshmi achieved it to some extent. She impressed the audience with her deep pure
and abstract emotional appeal transporting them to a sense of unity with the supreme deity.
Her bhajans are means of prayer and solace in the village where bhakti marg or the way of
devotion supersede mere intellectual philosophies. Her repertoire included compositions in
language from many part as vehicle for spreading spirituality among people. She has been
recognized as one of the greatest singers in the world and become a legend.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in the twentieth century had emerged as one of the foremost classical
singers of all times. He has crafted fro himself a unique gayaki (musical style) by blending
in the best features of diverse schools. his music bears the stamp of maestros like Amir
khan Kaesaebai Kerkarand Bade Ghulam Ali khan all of whom he intensely admired but never
actually learnt form them. His life tells us the story of a veritable colossus among men a
giant not because of his headstrong behaviour but because behind every quick and oddity lied
an all-consuming passion for the ultimate before which the prosaic the conventional the
stultifying all fade into nothingness.
The Ravi Shankar centre in New Delhi is a testimony to Ravi Shankar 's dedication to Indian
classical music and culture teach and create new works. He is a legendary virtuoso sitarist
and a creative and influential musician. He is not only a great performer but is also a
teacher par excellence. He is a fountainhead of creativity has come up with new ways to
present it within classical parameters. His dedicated practice made him memerize his
audiences. But it is the soul in his music that has made him stand out. While he is able to
bring tears to people 's eyes with a few notes and make them feel like their hearts are
breaking he is also able to fill them with inexplicable joy.
The glory that Lata Mangeshkar has gained is undoubtedly the greatest that any Maharashtrian
after Shivji and any women of modern India after Indira Gandhi has achieved. The popularity
that Lata Mangeshkar has gained during her liftman shows her excellence in the field of
music. Songs have been the life of thousands of movies that Bombay's film studios have
rolled out year after year and Lata's contribution to this music has been par excellence.
Amjad Ali khan in the modern era is a product of post-independent India. He is perhaps among
the very few exponents of the Hindustani music who could be said not merely to have leant
music but literally to have been born into the art. Virtually following the Guru-shishya
parampara he inherited sarod form his ancestors and through his single-minded devotion he
gave it a new dimension. He has discovered several new rages and has gained international
This book Eminent Indians: Musicians attempts to study the upbringing achievement and
contributions of some such musicians and music gurus. It brings into focus their travails
and sufferings in arriving at their mission. But because of their sincere efforts and
dedication their lives have becomes role model for the succeeding generations.
It my attempt to study and present to the readers the works of such musicians and maestros I
have consulted numerous sources. While it is difficult to keep track of each one of them I
am grateful to the library staff of Sangit Natak Akademi a repository of such an information
for making books accessible to me. Rupa & Company and his team of editions and production
specialists deserve my thanks to endow excellence to the presentation of this book, which is
a part of Eminent Indians. My wife Asha Ahuja cooperated with me to a great extent by
allowing me to concentrate on my study after my office hours. Writing is just my hobby and
not my full-time profession. But it indeed involves a strenuous work of extracting
information and putting it together Nonetheless the prospects of sharing the information at
large can be a source of joy. Towards this end in view, if I can achieve it at some time or
the other I should feel happy.
North Indian Music (289)
Original Texts (60)
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