Hindustani classical music legend Pandit Jasraj passes away

He had an ability to play with both popular and rare ragas.

August 17, 2020 07:22 pm | Updated 11:38 pm IST - New Delhi

Hindustani vocalist Pandit Jasraj performing in 2009. File

Hindustani vocalist Pandit Jasraj performing in 2009. File

Pandit Jasraj, a doyen of Hindustani classical music, will be remembered for taking the art beyond the rarefied confines of a select set by imbuing khayal with an unmistakable element of bhakti rasa . He died in the U.S. after a cardiac arrest on Monday. He was 90.

The foremost exponent of the Mewati gharana moved away from Dhrupad and brought an element of devotional singing to khayal by employing harkats and murkis that were associated with light classical music.

Archive | Consider your guru as foremost, that’s what music is about: Pandit Jasraj

The purists took time to compliment him, but the connoisseurs couldn’t resist the charm of his Sanskrit stotras , his mastery over shuddha madhyam notes and his ability to play with light and heavy and popular and rare ragas like Durga , Jog and Abeer Todi with equal felicity. Not to forget his sage-like presence on the stage which got a little dramatic in the latter half of his career. He would often end his concert with a kirtan .

Born in a village in Hisar district of Haryana, Pandit Jasraj started as a tabla player and was known as an able accompanist in the classical circuit in Kolkata before turning to classical singing. He learnt from his father Pandit Motiram and elder brother Pandit Maniram but drew inspiration from various sources, including Begum Akhtar.

The bhakti element took birth in him when he saw his father who was a court musician singing every morning at 3 a.m. But it was his association with his spiritual guru Maharana Jaywant Singh of the erstwhile princely state of Sanand in Gujarat that made him believe in the miracles of bhakti . Once his elder brother is said to have lost his voice. It was said to be restored after the Maharana, a devotee of goddess Durga made him sing Mata Kalike .

“I have seen many such miracles from close quarters. It filled me with the belief that the Almighty holds your hand and takes you to the path you are made for, without you even realising it,” Pandit Jasraj once told The Hindu in a conversation. Perhaps it was because of his deep connection with Durga, that he gave the name to his daughter.

The Padma Vibhushan awardee was also a master of haveli sangeet and could speak for hours about its journey and rich history. A keen student of philosophy and spirituality, he loved to spend time with J. Krishnamurti, who loved his singing.

He was married to Madhura Shantaram, daughter of the legendary filmmaker V. Shantaram and often talked about his conversations with his father-in-law who made many classical music and dance-based films. “It was he who always pushed me to have clarity in my voice,” he would fondly remember.

In an interview, Madhura remembered that when they got married, Pandit Jasraj would sometimes wake up at 3 a.m. and ask her to note down a bandish . “Such was his devotion towards his craft. It took me time to adjust,” she had said.

Panditji was one of those rare classical musicians who loved to share his knowledge. It reflects in the vast corpus of his students, as varied as violinist Kala Ramnath and vocalist Sanjeev Abhyankar, who will carry his legacy forward.

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