Excerpts from

Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra - Novel institution

By Pt. Vishnu narayan Bhatkhande


In the four volumes of his Sangeet Shastra Pt. Bhatkhande attempts to compress in a systematic form the ocean of Indian music. Written originally in Marathi as dialogue between master and his disciple, the book contains not only compositions and fundamentals but also provides a lively commentary on musicians their practices and contemporary society.


On Setting up an Academic Institution for Music



          I recall that some two-three years back, I felt that we should attempt to create an institution here which shall promote the classical principles of music.

Q.      But we do have several ‘clubs’ and ‘associations’?

A.      Yes, they do exist and I admit that they serve music in their own way but I envisage an institution which is in altogether a different class.

Q.      How so?

A.      Its aim shall be to collect all ancient and modern treatises, publish them, get them translated, organize lectures of scholars on aspects of music, discuss music formally, write a history of current music system, arrange the various Raga-compositions and publish them, resolve conflicts upon Raga-s through dialogue amongst stalwarts and scholars, seek cooperation of connoisseurs residing in prominent Riyasat-s (princely states), collect historical details about Gharana-s, organize concerts of stalwarts at appropriate time to popularize Aprachalit (Lesser known) Raga-s, get proficient vocalists appointed in institutions to impart systematic knowledge of music, to learn self-created rules and notations systems of famous vocalists-instrumentalists, to maintain accounts and publish them through a monthly journal etcetera. I think, to date, there is no such institution in existence. The people who have started music institutions for livelihood can not be expected to fulfil theses tasks. And those who consider music as entertainment alone are not worth wasting one’s time on.

Q.      So, what happened to this plan?

A.      I planned to hold two or three lectures on Shruti-Swar, then gradually promote awareness about the significance and need for such organization so that it appeals to music lovers and enthusiasts. When I confessed my views regarding the lectures to a scholarly friend of mine this aesthete expressed his opinion which shattered my enthusiasm.

Q.      Why, what could he have said?

A.      I do not blame him. He unabashedly expressed what he felt was in my favour. I would quote him for your benefit. He said,

“I do not have great knowledge about music, but observing the state of affairs I may give you some advice. It is for you to take it or leave it. Just think, is there anyone who likes to think about the classical principles of music? Have you ever come across four scholars discussing music objectively? First, search for those, who have learnt music through adequate discipline and study. If you do find a few, how many of them, do you think, would be able to discuss matters in an amicable manner?  Under such a scenario, who could come to attend your lecture? You will have to think about all this. The intellectuals are likely to stay way and those who do come to attend shall do so more with an aim to enjoy the vaudeville. When you discuss such uninteresting subjects as Shruti, most of them would leave disheartened. It is possible out of decency some of them patiently sit through with eyes on the clock, but I can state with certainty that in the next lecture not even a tenth of them would come to attend. How are they concerned about your dedication and labour; they would only say that such a session should be enjoyable to them. I tell you mister, that to get money out of people’s pocket involves a different bag of tricks. You should learn these. The world bows to those can induce it to. Remember this. Think for a moment, what do people care about your Shruti-system? Who would sit to hear your nattering, be they 22 or 2200? Who has that kind of time and patience? People would say that write such things in books, we’ll read them when we find time for that. When you do write, who would trouble himself to read it? But, on face they would ask you to write it down. After all what is the content of your lecture? Yes, if you garnish it with some mimicry, some Thumri, a few impossible tales then a little fame might come your way. People these days talk a lot about religion, devotion, emotion; you should include these in your lecture. It should include such things as Nada-Brahma, Parabrahma, Sachchidananda, Meditation, Ancient Sages, past glory, music knowledge of mythological women and indifference of modern women to music, sad state of medieval music and present revival, national affairs etcetera to create interest. If along with all these you discuss Shruti etc. in small measures, it does not seem likely that people would speak ill of you.  Let there be some singing but not exalted; music should be entertaining, part singing, part theatrical, part devotional, part like western band and of other light varieties so that audience may pour out their magnanimity. For such a presentation even if you dress in white plain national dress with basil beads around your neck, people would be attracted. After all, what is the colour of water; that, in which it is mixed! Music leads to God! Use such shloka-s as ‘Mudbhakta yatra gayanti’ and ‘Chaitanya sarvabhutanam' during Dhruv-pad recital. You can while away quite some time in singing and explaining them. There should also be some ‘popular’ item to captivate the audience. Do you catch the essence of my speech? Sheer theoretical aspect of music would not be acceptable to anyone. After all, who would sit listening to history of Sa Re Ga Ma? Out of a thousand barely five or ten might get some joy in such a discussion, why would the others sit there? A given Pandit was born at a given place in a given century; his particular system and notes within that system were such and such... why drag oneself in such tangles? Such a Pandit was born lived and died; why should we grieve? If someone were to comment in such a way, I would not be surprised. As your friend and well-wisher I would give you such advice that people come and express their sympathy for your organization. If you wish, you may follow some of these without which there is no positive outcome. I plead forgiveness for my sermon. Though I have little knowledge of music I have made quite a study of the world. I have benefitted from the company of wise. It is possible that you may find flaw in my suggestions, but you have to keep you ultimate goal in view. I hold that you might come across examples of such honourable persons and I do not deny the merit in your objectives. I accept your contention that there is no such organization in the city, but to run it for some appreciable length of time once you start it, some money is required. Talking of money brings in focus the interests of those willing to contribute. One who blinds himself to pace of the age shall hardly succeed in his venture.”

Q.      How did you feel about his advice?

A.      No, I did not get angry. I had no desire for personal achievement and to collect money had never entered my mind. I had thought that my lectures might enlighten the educated and cultured people about intricacies of music, but his speech did away with my misconception and I left the idea then and there. Indeed, the audience may loose interest at any point and they might even say that there should be a presentation of dance. How shall their desire be fulfilled? To abuse their money by deceiving them is not my intention. Prudence dictates that do not try to sell that, which has no demand. I decided that whatever knowledge I have gleaned from the company of the wise and enlightened I should try to order and present in the book form. There shall come a time when this information may find some user and the society shall be served.

References :

Bhatkhande Sangeet Shatra Vol. III. Sangeet Karyalaya, Hathras. June 1984.

Excerpts from Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya: Swar-Mandal

Excerpts from Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya: Other Veena-s

Dr. Lalmani Misra on Wikipedia

डॉ लालमणि मिश्र विकीपीडिया पर

Pt. V. N. Bhatkhande on Wikipedia

For views of musicians on aspects of music click here



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