By V Ramnarayan
Vishnu Narain Bhatkhande (1860-1936)
(Continued from blogpost dated 20 October 2012)
Bhatkhande and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, another great pioneer in the propagation of Hindustani music, did not come together to collaborate in this pursuit, and but for great efforts on the part of music historian BR Deodhar, a disciple of Paluskar (and an admirer and follower of Bhatkhande in his pathbreaking work), they might have stayed apart all their lives. According to Prof. Deodhar, Bhatkhande and Paluskar once discussed the idea of working together, with Paluskar teaching students and Bhatkhande lecturing on the science of music, and distributing books on music as well, but the two giants perhaps had serious differences of opinion on the manner in which the project was to be carried out. It never took off.
In addition to studying south Indian classical music and applying his understanding of the melakarta scheme, Bhatkhande studied Urdu and Persian with the help of assistants he employed for the purpose. In addition to republishing old and forgotten treatises, he invited senior and expert singers from different gharanas to perform in Bombay to be recorded for posterity. Though deeply religious and a daily performer of rudra parayana, he was above religious affiliations when it came to learning music or discussing it, often becoming the disciple of Muslim ustads. He was a model of financial discipline, spending institutional funds with even greater care than his own money.
A shy, retiring man, Bhatkhande had a few trusted friends whom he shared his thoughts on music with. One of them was Shankarrao Karnad. Whenever In the words of Deodhar, “Whenever Panditji came across a particularly rare cheej, he invariably made three copies of it: one for himself, another for his closest disciple Principal Ratanjankar, and the third for Shankarrao Karnad. Not only was he averse to pushing himself forward, he was almost allergic to publicity. He never craved for riches.”
Vishnu Narain Bhatkhande died on 19 September 1936, after a yearlong illness. In the words of Prof. BR Deodhar, he “formulated the scientific laws of music. The entire world of music owes a permanent debt of gratitude to Panditji for his unique contribution.”