Art

Melodies of bygone Bengaluru

Vocalist and Sanskrit scholar T.S. Satyavathi at her residence in Bangalore

Vocalist and Sanskrit scholar T.S. Satyavathi at her residence in Bangalore   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

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Musicologist, vocalist and Sanskrit scholar, TS Sathyavathi, says art will survive if it becomes part of school life

As someone steeped in classical music and languages, I would like to speak about Bengaluru’s rich cultural past when its musical heritage wasn’t just restricted to classical and film melodies. Those were the days when city schools, colleges, public institutions and concert spaces encouraged the growth and proliferation of art, music and languages by arranging competitions in varied forms. Are we far from all this now? In a way, yes, as we have left behind quite a few forms of music. Music, nevertheless, is alive in every part of the expanded city, although inaccessible in terms of distance, traffic, time and inclination.

I used to stay in VV Puram as a girl in the late 1960s and studied at Maharashtra Mahila Vidyalaya (now called Vasavi Vidyaniketan) and later went to Acharya Pathasala college. I would run to school once I heard the school bell ring. It wasn’t just the proximity to school, but the open grounds and vast expanses available even five decades ago. There was hardly any people in South Bengaluru and Jayanagar was called Bhayanagar (frightening) for its lonliness. People would hesitantly invest in Jayanagar and JP Nagar.

My school had every kind of competitions going on. I vividly remember competitions in Sanskrit, Ramayana, devotional, patriotic and Sampradaya songs. Recitations in Sanskrit would include works of Kalidasa such as Raghuvamsha, Shakuntala and Meghadhoota.

They were all held in schools and colleges. Some were held at Rama Mandirs and as Ramothsava specials. I cannot forget how each competition would have nearly 500 participants, with all schools in the State participating. As a ninth and tenth standard student, I bagged the first prize in Ramayana. Twenty shlokas would be given months in advance for us to study and be ready with our analysis. My principal had come down heavily on me for having missed this competition when I was in eighth standard, as we could not retain the shield.

There was sincerity behind every effort. Poet laureate DV Gundappa would attend the Sampradaya songs competition, especially at Town Hall or the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs. He would enquire about the variety of songs presented. He even asked me details about my prize-winning song.

If we can ensure schools, colleges and cultural organisations have such cultural competitions, the city as a whole would benefit. I also feel between the 1960s and 1990s Bengaluru was sparsely populated. The roads were empty and walking to any sabha to listen to your favourites was an easy affair. We would go to Seshadripuram for the Ramanavami series. We would take a bus from VV Puram, and walk from Malleswaram. Our journey, by bus and walk was leisurely paced, relaxed and would put us in the right frame of mind to discuss the nuances of the performance on the way back.

At the Fort High School concerts that showcased the giants of the classical world, had loud speakers placed on the outside. As children, we would have an early dinner and listen to the music till we fell asleep on our mother’s lap.

Can we imagine such unhurried listening now? While sabhas mushroom in every part of Bengaluru today, only a handful such as the Karnataka Ganakala Parishath, Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha, Krishna Gana Sabha, Seshadripuram Ramaseva Samithi allow free entry.

As told to Ranjani Govind

(This column features the city through the eyes of a prominent Bangalorean)

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 7:03:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/melodies-of-bygone-bengaluru/article26521033.ece

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