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Days in Dhrupad

Manjari Sinha
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EVENT A two-day seminar focussed on the various aspects of Dhrupad — from origins to bani to its transition from the devotional to the secular. Manjari Sinha

Sound notesNancy Kulkarni spoke about her transformation from a Western musician to a Dhrupad cello player.
Sound notesNancy Kulkarni spoke about her transformation from a Western musician to a Dhrupad cello player.

“Dhrupad is one of the crowning glories of Indian civilisation, comparable to the Vedas, the Mahakavyas, Buddhist sculpture, Indian metaphysics and aesthetics. Dhrupad is also an important achievement in terms of abstraction of the human voice, the ‘aalap’ without words, without verbal or visual image. In the hustle-bustle, sound and fury of our times, Dhrupad now occupies a space as a music of contemplation, of deep reflection,” stated Ashok Vajpeyi, keynote speaker on the inaugural day of the international seminar on “Dhrupad: Its Future” organised jointly by the ITC Sangeet Research Academy (West), National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) and the Music Forum at the Experimental Theatre at NCPA, Mumbai, recently.

The well-conceived two-day seminar covered areas such as ‘The origin of Dhrupad, evolving into different banis’, ‘Propagation of Dhrupad during the reign of Mansingh Tomar and others’, ‘Transition of Dhrupad from temples to courts’, ‘The present/ contemporary scenario including haveli sangeet, sahitya/ pada of Dhrupad: change in contents’, ‘Dhrupad and instruments’ et al , with panellists from India and abroad deliberating upon these topics with their deep insight and research.

The concluding session focused on the reasons for the decline in popularity, and the future of Dhrupad. Professor Richard Widdess from London and Dr. Puru Dadheech from Indore spoke on the origin of Dhrupad, Phalguni Mitra from Kolkata took an overview of the four banis (styles), whereas Prashant Mallick of Darbhanga gharana explained the distinct features of Khandhar bani. Establishing Jayadeva as the first ‘vakgeyakar’ (composer) of Dhrupad, Dr. Puru Dadheech explained that the pada which is intact with dhruva or sthaayee (a refrain) is dhruva-pada and explained that the songs of “Gita-Govinda” composed by Jayadeva are marked with the raga and tala in which they should be sung.

Demonstrating lucidly the distinct features of the four banis of Dhrupad, Phalguni Mitra explained that bani is the stylistic idiom which should not be confused with gharana or lineage because one gharana tradition may assimilate the characteristics of more than one bani.

Professor F. Nalini Delvoye from France spoke about the emergence of Dhrupad in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh during 15th and 16th centuries. Dadheech underlined the development of Dhrupad in the reign of Raja Mansingh Tomar, whereas Dr. Katherine Butler Schofield from the U.K. talked about the Delhi Kalawant Biradari in the 17th to 19th centuries. Speaking about the transition of Dhrupad from temples to courts, Uday Bhawalkar, professor Ritwik Sanyal and the Gundecha Brothers (Ramakant and Umakant) discussed how the devotional aspect of singing Dhrupad in temples became stylised and sophisticated in the courts according to the temperament and taste of the ruling king and also how the ritualistic music of Dhrupad sung in the temples became secular and abstract in the courts. The tendency of packaging according to the taste of the patron continues till date. In contrast, Shruti Sadolikar talked in depth about haveli sangeet and its devotional fervour of total surrender.

It was heartening to see in the session ‘Dhrupad and instruments’ that Western instruments like the cello have taken to Dhrupad with such sincerity and dedication, with Nancy Kulkarni from the U.S. talking about her total transformation from a Western musician to a Dhrupad cello player in her articulate and melodious lecture-demonstration.

The importance of pakhawaj was underlined by Manik Munde, and Pushpraj Koshti spoke about the surbahar and the veena in reference to Dhrupad.

The concluding session moderated by Arvind Parikh and Ashok Vajpeyi urged different institutions working for the promotion and propagation of Dhrupad to come together and make a joint effort to popularise it.


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