Maihar Gharana has a rich legacy and tales of greatness.
The Maihar gharana of Madhya Pradesh is a more recent one in the Hindustani system of music, but it rose to prominence in no time through its illustrious practitioners like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee (sitar maestros), Rabin Ghosh (violin), Baijnath Singh, Pannalal Ghosh (bansuri/flute) and Ali Akbar Khan, (sarod) who have catapulted this gharana to the world map.
Behind these great names lies that of a venerable guru Baba Allauddin Khan and that of his daughter, Annapurna Devi (Maa) whose superior virtuosity and talent has been confined to their humble hearth by force of circumstances. ‘Baba' as the highly reputed veteran was addressed by his now distinguished disciples, can be called the chief architect of the Maihar gharana which takes its name from the small town he made his home.
A multi-faceted musician who could play various instruments with expertise and impart training to aspiring youngsters, was a much loved and revered man of his times-right from the royal court (Brijnath Singh Maharaja of Maihar Estate) to the man on the street. A humanist , a devoted husband and father to his family, an equally soft and loving ustad to his pupils, Padma Vibhushan awardee Baba Allaudddin Khan was the personification of ‘simple living and high thinking'.
A recent documentary shown at the two-day Riwaayat event hosted by L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, throws light on many facets of this great musician. That music extends beyond the barriers of caste and creed and a true musician is bound to respect all religions, was well brought out in his life. He married Madanmanjari Devi. He was an ardent devotee of Goddess Saraswati and pictures of venerated spiritual gurus like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Vivekananda adorned the walls of his home.
In fact one of his early morning rituals was to get on to the terrace of his house and face the hillock right across with folded hands, where stood a temple housing the goddess.
That he was a fun-loving man devoted to his family and not just an austere musician comes to the fore in a very touching frame where he follows his wife in the house playing the violin as he's walking in utter delight while she has a good laugh at this musical prank.
Despite all the titles and recognition, his simplicity, captured within the lens of a camera, showed the aging musician walking with a cloth bag to get the daily provisions and en route distributing whatever money left in his kurta pocket to a needy person who happened to cross his path!
The most aesthetic frame is that of Ustad seated with sitar in hand, on a rickety old cot in a semi-enclosed verandah of his house, his wife in the background and Annapurna seated with the Surbahar (bass sitar) on the floor in front of him imbibing lessons. The black and white still speaks volumes of an old, humble, high calibre father-guru, a serious and sincere daughter-pupil and a contended mother; a home and not a house where music vibrated from every brick of its old walls, where we could well imagine another dozen pupils to easily fit in the length of this semi-open verandah where natural light and fresh air would pour in to assist them in their taaleem.
Among his three daughters, only Annapurna inherited his musical trait and turned out to be a teacher par excellence even when she was a learner. Her receptivity to music and her ability and creative perfection was enviable. She married Ravi Shankar, her father's talented disciple but was not fortunate enough to be blessed with a happy marital life. Her divorce took its toll on her as she never performed and turned into a recluse with objective to teach aspiring young artists in the Maihar gharana. Her boundless repertoire and her traditional ‘drupadi' approach have earned her reputed, musical honours. Some of her distinguished pupils are Hariprasad Chaurasia, Nikhil Banerjee and Suresh Vyas to name a few. She is often addressed to as ‘Guru Maa' and to this day, keeps her father's pure legacy alive with her extraordinary teaching prowess.
Keywords: Hindustani music