Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Guru Purnima Utsav in Mumbai


Guru-sishya parampara—the traditional way of transmission of our classical arts—has played a significant role in preserving and perpetuating the rich heritage of classical music through centuries. As prescribed in our scriptures, there is no better way to redeem the ‘guru rina’ (debt of the guru) than to produce your own disciples, carry forward the tradition and offer their swaranjali (musical offering) to your departed guru.

One of the principal inheritors of the Vilayatkhani baaj, veteran Arvind Parikh is perhaps the true extant guru of this tradition who has painstakingly carried forward the legacy of this gharana, both in terms of expression and content. His relentless zeal as a dedicated guru and his meticulous teaching has passed on the essence of this gharana to numerous disciples at home and abroad.  Arvind Parikh is a staunch believer in the guru-sishya parampara and believes that this old style of teaching has meaning and purpose. ‘Palta’ for example, he explained, is practised not just to master the technique; after long hours of regular riyaz or practice, there comes a time when your mind can wander and the subconscious starts working. This bifurcation of mind enables the conscious mind to create music and the subconscious to execute it,” he said.

The two-day Guru Purnima utsav, he organised at the Rangaswar Sabhagar, Y.B. Chavan Pratishthan in Mumbai, featured nearly 30 of his disciples in vocal, surbahar, rudra veena, shehnai and sitar and was dedicated to his guru  Ustad Vilayat Khan. 

In her introduction, Suvarnalata Rao, a senior disciple of Arvind Parikh and the music programme executive at the National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) Mumbai, acknowledged her 91-year old esteemed guru as a ‘maharishi’, teaching for the past 65 years without charging a penny from any of his students. He has prepared an enormous amount of material for his disciples including 400 gat compositions in more than 100 ragas and many video recordings. 

A special feature of the utsav was also the open-minded approach of Arvind Parikh going beyond the confines of gharanas. He had invited vidushi Manju Mehta, a senior disciple of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar last year and Purbayan Chatterjee, the young sitarist of Senia Maihar gharana as the guest artist this year.

The doyenne of the Patiala gharana, Begum Parveen Sultana, chief guest of the day, expressed her appreciation for Arvind Parikh as a guru and also admired his warmth towards artists of other gharanas. Remembering her own gurus, Parveen mentioned that she had personally witnessed the ultimate guru bhakti in two sishyas. One of them was Dilshad Khan (her guru and husband) who would carry his ailing guru Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, and climb three floors to reach the hospital;  and the other is Arvind Parikh who served his guru Vilayat Khan with utmost respect and affection. 

In 2017, Arvind Parikh instituted the 'Unsung Heroes of Indian Music' award to felicitate quiet contributors like instrument makers, sound engineers, and writers. This year, four journalists dedicated to music—Amarendra Dhaneshwar (Mumbai),  Deepa Ganesh (Bengaluru), Meena Banerjee (Kolkata) and this writer, were felicitated by Parveen Sultana.

Several senior disciples of Arvind Parikh offered their musical tributes on Guru Purnima. Sharada Mushti played a serene alap of raga Malkauns on the rudra veena, and Ashwin Dalvi etched out the contours of Suddha Sarang on the deep and resonant surbahar. Rajiv Janardan underlined the vakra chalan (gait) of Gaud Sarang supported by the vocal rendition of raga Bairagi by Purvi Parikh. Sitar player Ramprapanna Bhattacharya rendered electrifying taans in Jonpuri, Amrita More presented a melodious Jhinjhoti, and Amrita Kulkarni portrayed Jaijaivanti. A mesmerising Yaman by Gopal Shah and the gripping Gorakh Kalyan on shehnai by Hassan Haidar were some of the noteworthy performances. No wonder the concluding guest artist Purbayan Chatterjee was inspired to give his best!

Purbayan played a melodious alap and a couple of compositions in raga Nand, set to the seven beats cycle and in drut Ektal. He  remembered his guru and father Partho Chatterjee, Ali Akbar Khan and Ajoy Chakrabarty, who had groomed him and thanked Arvind Parikh for keeping up this healthy interchange between gharanas that challenges and encourages artists to come out of their comfort zone and try something new.

(music scholar and critic)

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