History of Indian Classical Music

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There was a time when interested people used to find out places where music programs of various kinds were arranged. They used to attend such places where music programs were held. In the forties, musicians of high caliber were appointed and trained with the help of rajahs, maharajahs, nawaabs and zamindars in various states (provinces) and estates of India. Bihar was no less than any other state in patronizing the classical music and its exponents with full sympathy and hospitality which was a culture embedded in the people of Bihar and Patna was not an exception.

There was a time when interested people used to find out places where music programs of various kinds were arranged. They used to attend such places where music programs were held. In the forties, musicians of high caliber were appointed and trained with the help of rajahs, maharajahs, nawaabs and zamindars in various states (provinces) and estates of India. Bihar was no less than any other state in patronizing the classical music and its exponents with full sympathy and hospitality which was a culture embedded in the people of Bihar and Patna was not an exception.
There were small estates in Bihar, Patna having a few. These estates had their own musicians individually and a kind of competitions used to be organized to select the best musicians who performed during some special occasions and festivals.

Musicians considered Patna as one of the main seats of music in the country and they used to come and perform here. Particularly during the festival of Durga Puja, they never neglected Patna and used to come and perform on the stage specially built for the occasion. Such stages were built at many places in Patna and programs were chalked out. People, all night long, used to see the performances of the artists and enjoyed the music. Several local artists of Patna  also participated. Music was in the air everywhere for three-four days during the Dussehara in Patna and the outside musicians were so much entertained that they didn’t miss an opportunity to praise the hospitality of the Patnaites. Some of them were so impressed that they did not want to leave Patna and were tempted to settle down permanently.

In North Bihar, there was the Darbhanga estate, where several musicians were appointed for the Durbar both instrumentalists and vocalists. One of the vocalists, Pandit Ram Chatur Mullick, was well versed in Dhrupad, Dhammaar and Thumri styles of classical music. He was also an outstanding musician of All India Radio, Patna.

During those times, the musicians of durbars were not allowed to go out to perform nor were they allowed to earn money by going to several doors unless they were permitted on request by other parties for the performance with the condition that they will not charge any money. They were warned thus because they were given all the remuneration from the durbar and this was done only to save the prestige of the musicians and the durbar itself.

There was another estate of Bettiah. This estate also had musicians and Pandit Deepraj among them was an expert in Dhrupad. He was so popular and favorite due to his musical talents that the raaj had bestowed upon him plots of land (jagirs) for the maintenance of his whole family and the coming generations.

The landlord (zamindaar) of Pachhgachhia, Rai Bahadur Lakshminarain Singh was himself a learned person in classical music and was an exponent in playing the pakhawaj (a percussion instrument). He trained many musicians in Shashtriya Sangeet (classical music). One of his best disciple was Magan Khawas, who had earned quite a reputation even outside Bihar. Unfortunately, he died very young at the age of 35.

Another student of the Rai Bahadur was Raghu Jha, who was also a very expert musician. He was an artist of the All India Radio, Patna.

Then there was Ghana Ram, a great musician of the durbar of Maharaja of Dumraon. He had composed Ragas in quite different and peculiar styles, which have now become rare and most of them lost in the flow of time. Those, who are aware of them, are still interested to know them. It makes a good research subject.

The rajahs of the Banaily estate were also very fond of music and they had appointed musicians (gaayeks) of high caliber in their durbar. The entire family of the rajahs had knowledge of music. One Ustaad Iltaaf Hussain Khan, who was an outstanding musician of the All India Radio, Patna, lived in Baneily with Raja Saheb. He had participated several times in the National Program of All India Radio, Delhi, which was a matter of great prestigious status.

A big zamindaar (landlord) of Muzaffarpur, Uma Shankarji, alias Bacha Babu, was well versed in the Dhrupad style of classical music. He also had several musicians in his durbar and Ustad Kalay Khan and his brother Ustad Najju Khan were his famous durbar musicians. Both brothers were known for excelling in Raga Dhrupad. Najju Khan was also an exponent of Khayal, Thumri and Ghazals.

Bacha Babu gave due respects to the artists of other states by inviting them at his place. Artists like Sangeet Martand Pandit Vinayak Rao Patvardhan, Pundit Onkarnath and many other renowned musicians were regularly invited at his place. Ram Hari Dandekar, a musician and a disciple of Pundit Vinayak Rao Patvardhan, was in his durbar for providing training in classical music to the children of Bacha Babu.

At Arrah, there was another zamindaar of Jamira estate, Shatrunjay Prasad Singh alias Lallan Babu, who was a great lover of classical music. He left no stone unturned in preserving the sanctity of classical music by holding annual music conferences. He himself was a master in playing the Pakhawaj and the Tabla. and trained several students whom  to play these two percussion instruments.

In Gaya, there was Maharaj Deo who was also fond of classical music and used to invite famous musicians belonging to other states during the festivals of Holi and Dussehara. People of Gaya had always been music lover and in Pawai, which was then a village, several musicians lived. (Gaya people are very fond of music and still keeping the tradition for introducing music of high class).

Some of the musicians remained in Patna for good seeing the interest, involvement and appreciation for music. Ustaad Aman Khan of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh remained in Patna till his last breath. He was exponent in the Dhrupad and Dhammaar styles of classical music.

A very renowned singer named Bari Zohra Bai lived in Patna for a very long period. She was an expert singer in the styles of  “Khayaal” and “Thumri.” Her songs were recorded by the renowned recording company “His Master’s Voice” (or more popularly known as HMV) and her records were very hot during those days. She was much appreciated and patronized by the Ramgarh Estate of Bihar and the Maharaja of Gidhaur had given her handsome rewards.

There was one Mushtary Bai of Agra exponent in the Khayaal, Thumri and Tappa style of music and she also stayed in Patna for years.

Then there was  Baurahi Kaneez, who was expert in singing the Thumri, Daadraa and  Kajli styles of Indian Classical Music. She also spent her life in Patna.

As for instrumental music, it is to be noted that Harmonium, which was an essential instrument for accompaniment with the musicians, was introduced in Bihar by Pandit Ganpat Rao (alias Bhaiyaji), who was an eminent Veenkaria of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. He lived in Patna for years  and made some famous disciples like Sohniji of Gaya and Patna’s Ustaad Ghafoor Khan, who were very famous for playing harmonium. BhaiyaJi used to live in Patna with one Pandit Keshav Maharaj, who himself was an exponent player of Pakhawaj and Tabla, the famous percussion instruments. Keshav Maharaj was the pioneer of spreading music among the amateurs in Patna. His famous disciple was Pundit Shyam Narain Singh, who played the harmonium. He was also a music
teacher in the famous Girls’ High School of Patna.

As regards Tabla, Ustaad Ali Qadar Khan was quite famous for playing it. His son Daddan Khan was just like his father as far as Tabla playing was concerned. His fame spread due to being an expert in Taal  Kaharwa, a type of rhythm which is somehow more popular than other types of rhythms.
“Sarangi” has also been a very important string instrument for accompaniment with the singers. Among the old Sarangi players, Shiv Sahay Ji, Shambhu Guru, Hira Guru and Mukut Guru were famous. They were wizards in giving a faithful combinations of  swaras (musical notes) while accompanying with famous vocalists. Bahadur Khan was also a famous Sarangi player and was equally expert in harmonium. Bahadur Khan’s son Ata Hussain Khan was a good vocalist who was also an eminent artist of the All India Radio, Patna. He also always remained in Patna.

Some other vocalists were also residents of Patna. Ustaad Sadique Khan (who was an expert in playing the Sitaar); Gul Mohammed Khan, expert in Khayaal  in the Kirana  Gharana ( a family tradition) style; Roshan Ara, daughter of  Patna-based Chanda Bai, learned music in Patna but later  settled in Bombay (now Mumbai) where she got appreciation and kept the prestige of Patna. She was nicknamed Maua. Then, there were other singers of repute like Haider, Imam Bandi and Ramdasi. Ramdasi was a very promising musician in the Khayaal style and Bhajans trained by Mukut Guru but she died very young.  These famous classical music exponents were the jewels of Patna.

Patna also had good Kathak Nritya dancers. (Kathak is one of  the classical styles of dance of  North India). There was one Thapa Guru, who was a famous Kathak dancer. At that time there was a group of Bhaands (dancers) whose leader was Alijaan. In every festival, specially in marriages, it had become a prestigious custom to arrange for the dances of the Bhaands and without Alijaan and his party the Mehfil (the function) was considered  to be incomplete.  Alijaan was an accomplished vocalist too and was expert in rendering the Thumri style of classical music. While singing, his expressions and poses were excellent and well enjoyed by the audience.

Speaking of  Thumri, we can mention the name of Karim Khan Saheb of Gwalior. He was a high class Thumri Gayak (singer). The boles (wordings) of Thumri were his originality. He was always invited to Patna during the festivals for his performances. Dussehara was the main festival, when the renowned and reputed  musicians were invited to Patna. Due to the various musical programs, Patna’s Dussehara was famous in the whole country. Musical functions were organized at different Chaurahas (cross roads) under the banners of various Puja Committees. For two, and sometimes three days. Every year during the festival, day and night, music dominated the atmosphere. The people of Patna, males, females, children, old and young, all used to enjoy the music these two or three days by moving from chauraha to chauraha . They wanted to hear all the good artists and so they moved the whole night and enjoyed music.

Some famous artists, who came to Patna every year were Pandit Onkaar Nath; Pandit Vinayak Rao Patwardhan; Faiyaaz Khan Saheb; Aaftaab-e Maushiqui; Pandit Narayan Rao Vyas; Pandit Manhar Barway; Pundit D. V. Paluskar (son of the famous Pundit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar; Ram Marathe (the famous actor and director of Indian cinema); Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan (the great Sarod, a string instrument, player); Ustaad Mushtaaq Ali Khan (Sitar player); Hira Bai Barodkar, Saraswati Rane; and, great Kathak Dancer and Sangeet Samraat  Sukrey Maharaj with his party consisting of his daughter Sitara Bai and son Gopikrishna, brother-in-law Chaturbhuj Chaubey. These artists were from places like Calcutta, Mumbai, Poona, Gwalior, Nepal etc. Apart from them, of course, the artists of Bihar, as named earlier, participated.

Patna has always been in the forefront for keeping up the tradition of classical, light classical and light music and has always given the opportunity to all the musicians not only of Bihar but of the country by providing them with the appropriate platform for their performance and appreciating their innate talents. Patna has always been adorned with music and musicians and the people, even today, are keeping up the tradition. For the last many many years, Patna has been the center and seat of music. Today, of course, there has been a change in the sense that classical music has been overshadowed by the modern trend of music such as the Pop, film music and other very light music. This is due to changes on the social, political, cultural and educational fronts. However, Patna always encouraged the classical musicians who were attracted towards Patna and used to come and perform in the presence of rich as well as the poor and the middle class people and all of them enjoyed their music. Patna always paid them great respect and provided proper hospitality.

Shri Alakh Narain Prasad of Patna was a well-known musician in Patna as well as Bihar and was known for patronizing musicians from all over the country. The annual event of Ganesh Puja at his place was well known through out Bihar where renowned musicians used to gather for 2-3 evenings and also included other items like one-act play, skits, etc.

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