Pandit Vishnu Narayan
Pandit Vishnu Narayan. Bhatkhande is the father of modern Hindustani music. He dedicated his whole life to research in ancient and contemporary...
Bhatkhande was born in 1860 on Janmashtami day. His father Narayanrao Bhatkhande was employed as an accountant in a large estate in Bombay. The family lived in Walkeshwar,Bombay.
From a very young age, Vishnu showed talent for music. Later on he started playing on the flute. He took an active part in the religious festivals of the year like Rama Navami and Janmashtami.
In school, he was a bright student. While at college, Vishnu learnt sitar from a neighbor named Vallabhdas and within a short time became an expert player.
At that time, famous musicians like Bade Ali Khan gave programmes in Bombay. Vishnu attended them regularly. He found that there was a traditional uniformity in them. This made him study the theory of music from such books as were available at the time.
In the meantime, he passed his BA and LLB too. There was a music club at the time called Gayan Uttejak Mandali. Vishnu joined it and listened to performances by great artistes.
He also started collecting music compositions in Dhrupada, Khayals, etc. These are different types of songs in Hindustani music.
He found from reading old classics on music that their theories had gone out of fashion and the musicians did not follow them. At the same time the ragas, songs and styles of the musicians appeared to follow a tradition. So Vishnu wanted to systematise these traditions scientifically and build up the theory of modern Hindustani music based on the prevailing practice.
While studying old texts on music, he found that in many places the writing or meaning was not clear; there were grammatical mistakes and a lot of difference between the definitions and rules and what was being practised.
In 1904 he had an opportunity to visit South India. He went to Madras, Tanjore, Madurai and other places. There he met prominent musicians. As a result he got some authentic texts on music, like ‘Chaturdani Prakasika’, ‘Swara-mela-kalanidhi’. He got other important works ’copied from libraries.
From a study of these books he found that there were two systems: the Carnatic and the Hindustani systems.
On returning to Bombay, he printed these books and sold them at nominal prices. He went on tour to Nagpur, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Vijayanagar, Puri and other places where he held discussions with famous musicians about his theory of music and had the benefit of their knowledge. Later on he visited Allahabad, Banaras, Agra, Delhi, Mathura, Jaipur, Bikaner and other places and learnt much about the way of singing in those places too.
At the end of his tour he collected and arranged the materials gathered. Yet he found many missing links between the old texts like Bharata’s and Sharngadeva’s and the then practice. He never succeeded in finding them. So he started systematising the music of his own times.
All his life he went on collecting old compositions of music from wherever he could get and published the Sanskrit book ‘Lakshya Samgeeta’ and in 1909 the first part of his famous book ‘Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati’ in Marathi.
In the following year Bhatkhande gave up his legal practice and devoted the rest of his life in the service of music. In 1911 he published his own book ‘Lakshan Geetas’. In 1914 he published the second and third parts of his ‘Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati’.
With the help of the Maharaja of Baroda, Bhatkhande convened in 1916 the first All-India Music Conference in Baroda.
Famous musicians from all over the country participated in it. Papers on the problems of music were read by scholars. From this time a large number of music conferences was held from time to time.
Bhatkhande gave practical shape to his theories by using notations. It is a system of writing music by means of symbols.
He helped start a college of music, Sangeeta Maha Vidyalaya in Baroda using his system of music teaching. He trained music teachers. He wrote graded text books on music. They are known as ‘Kramic Putstaka Malika’.
At the second All-India Music Conference held at Delhi, Bhatkhande brought about a common understanding between musicians on the rules of ragas or melodies. These rules are found in the fourth part of his Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati, published in 1932.
In the 5th All-India Music Conference in 1925 it was decided to open a College of Music at Lucknow and the following year the Marris College of Hindustani Music was established in the name of Governor of the province. Many famous musicians came out of this college. This college also started publishing a Journal of Music.
After a strenuous life of devoted work to the cause of music Bhatkhande passed away in Bombay after a brief illness in 1936 on Ganesh Chathurti day. Now, the musicians of Bombay celebrate every year a music festival in his memory for having brought about a new life to Hindustani music. We must all be thankful to him.