MUSIC Over the years, raga Deepak has developed a reputation for troublemaking. It almost seems well deserved JITENDRA PRATAP

O f the thousands of ragas in Hindustani classical music, the two most talked about, particularly during the time of Emperor Akbar and Miyan Tansen, were Deepak and Megh. Whereas Deepak was associated with the creating of heat and lighting lamps, raga Megh was associated with downpour and cooling.

With time, musicians began considering Deepak an inauspicious melody. They stopped teaching it, particularly within their houses. Once Ustad Alauddin Khan inadvertently taught his son Ali Akbar Khan the raga inside his house, and next morning Ali Akbar was found with a very high fever that lasted several days.

This writer too recalls the havoc Deepak caused him and his guru, ‘Baba' Alauddin Khan.

In January 1945 while living in Maihar, I met with a jeep accident. My sister the late Maharani Vijaya Raje Scindia of Gwalior sent her personal physician Dr. Mahabir Singh to Maihar to providenecessary medical aid.

Baba at that time would often become semi-conscious, for which he was taking heavy doses of belladonna. I took the opportunity of Dr. Singh's visit and requested him to examine Baba. Dr. Singh suggested he should go to Gwalior for check-up and treatment. Baba expressed his disinclination to go to Gwalior.

Dr. Singh had suggested treatment at Gwalior to me too, and I told Baba if he did not go with me I would not leave Maihar. Baba reluctantly agreed, on condition that he would not be asked to perform there. I agreed, but secretly sent one of his sarods with Dr. Singh.

The Gwalior medical college hospital examined me and Baba. Baba was diagnosed with gastric ulcer. Maharani Scindia brought the renowned physician Dr. Koiyar from Bombay by private aircraft. He prescribed the course of treatment and in a week's time he began to feel quite well.

One evening, Baba told the Maharani about Gwalior's medieval period Maharani Mrignayani, the consort of Raja Maan Singh Tomar, who was credited with establishing of the rich Dhrupad idiom, and sang a song composed by her in praise of her husband Raja Maan Singh Tomar that was set to raga Deepak. Its lyrics were “Raja Maan, hoon to cheri hoon teri. Raja Maan, kaahu ki hoon cheri-bal-bas hoon, cheri hoon teri”.

After a gala time at Gwalior we returned to Maihar to resume our routine of receiving music lessons from Baba and practising the rest of the day. Late Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, the eminent flutist, had come with one of his disciples to learn from Baba. One morning Baba recalled his happy moments in Gwalior and I mentioned his singing Rani Mrignayani's composition in Deepak. At this Baba started singing it, but immediately stopped, touching his ears and saying “Touba-touba” for having attempted to sing it inside the house.

A little later we dispersed and I left for my house in old Maihar town. I found Pannalalji waiting for me. He eagerly asked me to teach him that composition, saying the raga “pulled him”. I advised him to learn it from Baba. But Baba had declined and Pannalal had told him he would learn from me.

In the evening, as usual, I went to Baba's place with my sitar. It was summertime and the mats were spread in the large courtyard of Baba's house. Normally he would send away anyone else saying “Baba Jiten” had come to learn, but on that evening he told me to go inside and wait as he was teaching his grandson Ashish Khan, eldest son of Ali Akbar. I could make out that Baba was agitated. As I started walking, he said, “It is alright, you better come now.” I started repeating lessons in raga Puriya.

After some time Baba sarcastically said, “Now you are a great musician and have become capable of teaching raga Deepak”! I looked at Pannalal and told him he had played mischief. Baba scolded me for accusing Pannalal. I told Baba since he was in a disturbed mood I better not trouble him to teach me this evening. At that Baba sardonically said, “Yes I am no good at teaching. You better go back to your former teacher Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan to learn in a better way.” He said, “I had to lead a dog's life to learn all these and then passed them on to you. But you are squandering all these by giving away to all those who do not deserve it.”

At this I got up and banged my sitar on the floor, saying, “If my learning makes my Baba cry I do not wish to play anymore on my sitar.” I ran out and locked myself in my house. I saw a figure dressed in a lungi and a half-sleeve vest with a lantern in one hand and a walking stick in the other approaching my house. I was shocked to find it was none other than Baba. Finding my house locked from outside, he turned back. Next morning, I saw three tongas coming to Baba's house and going back to the railway station with all those who were staying with Baba.

The flame is doused

In 1948 the annual All India Women's Conference was to be held in Gwalior. I was chairperson for the Entertainment Committee. I was asked to invite local and out-station musicians, particularly Baba and his famous Maihar Band.

I asked my wife Monica who was in constant correspondence with Baba on my behalf. Baba sent a telegram to my wife confirming his coming to Gwalior with the Maihar Band. The telegram was followed by a lengthy letter to Monica with sentiments like, “Baba Jiten has not bothered to write a line to me. A father does not bow down before his son and it is the son who has to bow down before the father. Why is he not coming for his music lessons? I have not stopped teaching him….”

Baba came to Gwalior a few days later and asked me to go with him to the nearby forest to learn raga Deepak, to which I strongly objected but he would not listen. So I went. After teaching it Baba asked me if I noticed anything outstanding in it. I said nothing, since I had made up my mind to have nothing to do with such an inauspicious melody.

LEGEND of DEEPAK Legend has it that Emperor asked Tansen to render Deepak to light the palace lamps. Tansen commenced meditating on raga Deepak, but before doing so he asked his daughter Saraswati to meditate on Megh so that there would be a heavy downpour to cool his body which would get overheated

‘DIYA JALAAO' The music director of the film “Tansen”, late Khemchand Prakash, was a music scholar. He set the song “Diya jalaao” with the genuine fervour of Deepak raga. The composition had much resemblance with Ustad Alauddin Khan's version of the raga.