Monthly Archives: July 2016

Guru-Shishya Parampara (On the Occasion of Guru-Purnima)

Music is one and only field which follows and respects Indian culture and heritage. Worshiping Guru as God is an age old tradition in India, which is being, even today, practiced at one place: music world. Music world specifically because along with the private pedagogy of teaching, the music institutions and universities follow the tradition of touching Guru’s feet and holding ears in apology while speaking out Guru’s name by the students. Musical performers, be it veterans or amateurs, are known by the identity of their Gurus, unlike in other streams.

Guru-Shishya i.e., teacher-disciple relationship is one of the most divine and sovereign relationship, as it reflects the wider realm of knowledge, sanskaar, and belongingness. There is a deep relationship of knowledge, values of respect and motivation, and sense of Guru’s aura and intimacy around.

Origin of Guru-shishya parampara: Oral Tradition

Oral tradition is a style of pedagogy, which incorporates dictating knowledge verbally. Oral tradition dates back to 5000 years, when the Gurus transferred their in-depth knowledge to the disciples verbally or orally by merely narrating. This is the reason oral tradition in hindi is called ‘Maukhik Parampara’, which means ‘mukh se or through mouth’.

Mythologically, it is believed that the epic Ramayana was written by Adikavi Valmiki, but is narrated and interpreted different by other authors and in other countries. Later on, it was retold and reinterpreted by different other sages, which led to around 300  types of Ramayana. The point is at that there was no trend of writing down the facts. Instead, the Guru sages narrated their tales to disciples and the knowledge further got transferred through generations. It is, therefore, believed that the upanishads and puranas were finally penned down after 800 years after it was narrated by the disciples, the reason why only 75 percent of it was written.  

The similar aspect was adopted in inculcating musical education (Talim). The Gurus used to imbibe all the musical hymns and theory orally and the disciples had to grasp it only with the audible sectors of the body. For this reason, the pupils had to stay with gurus at their homes in order to seek this time-devoting knowledge in-depth and fully. Since the guru and students shared a place as a family, students, apart from seeking education, conducted almost all the reasonable or unreasonable household tasks asked by the Gurus. This way Gurus tested the curiosity of their disciples. And the students were committed to it. Even the bathroom cleaning was conducted by the students as a feeling of respect and ethical gesture. Students too believed that committing life fully over Guru’s care is a great and true path towards knowledge. Therefore, oral tradition gave birth to the tradition of Guru-parampara.

Psychology Behind the chemistry of Guru-Purnima

Eternal respect:  Guru-Shishya Parampara establishes a relationship, which is out of the world for a disciple. Disciple gets attached with that knowledge-father and develops an eternal and Godly respect. Touching feet of Gurus and elders is not merely a tradition, but reflects on many more in-depth interpretations. Touching Guru’s feet signifies ‘May your qualities and knowledge get inculcated in me through your feet dust particles.’

Dedication Towards seeking education:  Not only with the Guru, a student attaches but envelops an utter identity  with that  particular field of knowledge he is seeking.

Motivating Factor:  The feeling of “I will achieve something and make my teacher proud” is the element, which emanates into the student which leads to numerous successes and awards.

Inevitable Perseverance:  Eminent maestro Kaushiki Ji once told in a concert when asked how she perfected the super fast gayaki, “My father (Ajay Chakraborty) lighted a candle and made me practice one particular till the candle is burning.” This is called sur-sadhana personified. Even after reaching a zenith of success, a student remains in the student-zone when he is in touch with his/her guru. Regular and prolonged  practices becomes the part of his lives and he connects himself with the Guru and the stream.

Veena Sahasrabuddhe: A Gayaki Yet To Explore

Veena Ji (1948-2016)

I heard Veena Ji twice in the spic Macay concerts in Delhi. The first time I heard I did not understand the effectiveness of her gayaki as I was too immature for that. The next time when she was about to perform, my Guru recommended me to listen to her and with the open eyes this time, jotting the crispy notes analyzing whatever she sang. I obviously attended the concert as it was like an assignment for me. It was way too complex for me but I analyzed and noted in my diary. I recorded the whole performance to note down further at home. I think this is the best thing I did: I recorded it. I heard the recording repeatedly for few weeks and explored something new and peculiar every time I heard.

Veena Sahasrabuddhe, a renowned Gwalior gharana vocalist, passed away on June, 29th, due to Parkinson disease, leaving Indian classical music on an incomplete journey. Again, the music world is reminiscing the transcended standards set by the great stalwart, leaving it halfway.

VeenaTai’s journey towards Swaras

Veena Ji, popularly known as Veena tai (elder sister in Marathi) by her disciples and other connoisseurs, was a skilled combination of sweetness and vigour. Her gayaki demonstrated a stabilized blend of Jaipur and Kirana styles, apart from the Gwalior heritage. However, she was gifted a musical family background, an eminent Bodas family of Kanpur, where her father, Shankarrao Shripad Bodas and brother Kashinath Bodas had been nurturing her with various Gwalior techniques. She also achieved talim by Padmasree Pt. Balwantrai Bhatt and Pt. Gajananbuwa Joshi.

A captivating Gayaki

Veena Ji had an immense vitality and simplicity in the treatment of notes which could hook the audience for hours. Beginning a raga, she immediately featured the prarambhik aalap with its captivating twists, imprinting her gayaki peculiarity on its first page. Her nectarous voice, powerful though, with the added softness imbibed a new folds to the ragas she presented. Preferring the mid-pace instead of the overly-slow (ati-vilambit) rhythm in the bada khayal was another exceptional features of her gayaki, which engaged even the laymen. Her mandra notes were exceedingly deep and resonant that one could meditate in the moments. Her melodic phrases combined with rhythmic intonations with effortless voyage within all three octaves manifested the jaipur gayaki and its characteristics.

Another characteristic of her singing, one perhaps influenced by the Jaipur gharana, was repeating the same note twice or thrice in a melodic phrase, before moving on to the next. The subtlety and swiftness while acquiring the upper notes and phrases implicitly reflected her ages-spend competence and contemplation.

According to an article in The wire, “Veena Ji’s bol-tans and tans (the patterns exploring the notes of the raga within the rhythmic cycle) were robust, with a profusion of gamaks. And a thread running through all her presentations was her wonderful voice modulation – soft, strong, at all times expressive. Some disapproved of her ‘jabde ka tan’ (jaw movement while singing tans), but the richness of her note patterns and force of her renditions overshadowed this shortcoming.”


Veena Ji as a Bhajan Exponent

Apart from the Khyala gayaki, she was well-known for the bhajans, especially her scintillating style of singing Kabir bhajan, ‘Man lago mero yaar fakiri’. Once she had a bhajan recital at Sawai Gandharva music festival in Pune, when Pt. Bhimsen Joshi heard and invited her at his concert. That was the era when Veena tai uplifted with fame as a vocalist.


Knowledgeable Aspect

She presented a few lectures, workshops, seminars and music conferences, primarily in IIT Kanpur, in which she explained and shared her vast and deep knowledge in the ragas. Listen to this short clipping from later years, where she speaks of subtle differences between Ragas of the same scale. Her experience as a teacher comes through when you listen to how effortlessly she changes the Ragas Puriya, Sohini and Marwa that are from one scale.