Seeking a tradition of classical music in an ancient Indian city

Varanasi — Supriyo Maitro is an A-grade vocalist of “Durpad”, the oldest tradition of Indian classical music. He sang on television and radio and performed in front of a large audience, but what is best in his field is what the tradition describes, the sacred path called “Sadana” in the Indian yoga tradition. Have not experienced

Sadana simply means nurturing a spirit of self-fulfillment, and Dhrupad, which originated in one of the oldest scriptures, the “Samaveda,” has been used as a meditation tool.

For an Indian musician who wants to continue learning after learning everything, this desire for self-fulfillment, his desire to improve his spiritual development, is natural. It was this wish that took him to the ghats of the Ganges in the ancient city of Kashi, also known as the modern-day Varanasi.

The ancient city of Kashi, a paradox where people have come to death, knowledge and enlightenment in Buddhist, Jain, Brahmin and other Hindu systems, is full of stories of meditators, classical musicians and Sanskrit scholars. And even Western artists and seekers seeking similar self-fulfillment, the latest to the Indian media showcase is Hollywood viewers and aspirants.

How do you dare to risk success in your career or market and have the nerve to seek the spirituality of classical music and leave it comfortable? Maitro recognizes reasonable relevance. “If the mango has no skin, how can I keep the meat inside? Some people limit their understanding by thinking of the mango as just skin,” Maitro said in Hindi, a metaphorical style to the Epoch Times. Said in.

In other words, what you have learned on the surface is never true. The truth cannot be achieved by mere superficial understanding.

Ravi Shankar Shukla, the priest who plays “Pakhavaj”, has a famous accomplice in Maitro, an iconic oak assigat crowded with believers and people performing death rituals, ” A barrel-shaped drum wrapped in an old-fashioned tradition, it is believed to have been performed by Ganesha, the god of Hindu knowledge, who was originally anthropomorphized in the shape of an elephant’s head.

“The first generation that belonged to Dhrupad said it was created by God. After that trend began, light and people began,” Shukla said. Light classical music offers a rich and diverse genre with recent variants of classical music. Folk songs are older and more diverse than light classical music and are sung in local languages ​​and dialects.

“Once upon a time, it was practiced in the” Mandir “(temple). Only the Vedas, especially the Samaveda, were chanted. Music wasn’t the motive at the time, it was the chanting, “said Maitro, explaining that traditionally chanting was done with technically defined meters, intonation, and” swala. “s “ (note). “It’s systematized. You can see that the Sanskrit meters are very controlled.”

The oldest classical Sanskrit literature, the Vedas, was verbally transmitted in its original form, and this oral tradition was highly codified and refined.

Epoch Times Photo
Classical vocalist Supriyo Maitro (L) and Pakhavaj (barrel drum) player Ravishankar Shukla (R) will practice Durpad-style Indian music on February 19, 2021 in Assigat against the backdrop of the Ganges. (Venus Upadayaya / Epoch Times)

At that time, there were only three notes (swara), followed by Samaveda, followed by “Plaband” (composition written for God based on a mythical story). Indian ancient music treatise.

Maitro and Shukla are 10×10 feet connected by narrow staircases that stretch like spines on many floors that temporarily house believers who come to Shukla and his traditional priestly family for death and posthumous rituals. Sitting in a small room.

Shukla, a digital version of the stringed instrument used in all Indian classical music traditions, while Maitro launches the electric “tamper” Knead unexpectedly Use flour as the dough.

“Paint the kneaded dough in the center of the smaller one, Right face of Pakhavaj To bring out the deep bass, “said the skilled musician Shukla. Maitro said it would take a “lifetime” to learn to knead the dough with the consistency appropriate for Pakhavaj.

India has a mysterious musical tradition. There is an existing temple with music embedded in carved stone pillars, which stack to play music from a variety of classical instruments. This is a music building technique unknown to today’s practitioners.

The most popular of these musical monuments 15th Century Sri Vittara Temple in Hampi.. There are 56 pillars of music.

Shukla smiles and nods when she recalls how to knead the density of wheat dough to make bread, adjust Pakhavaj, and how substances and music can be exchanged, as seen in the pillars of music.

When the praise of the tumbler and the deep bass of Pakhavaj are picked up, Maitro’s voice interrupts Ragayaman. This is a classic melody, especially sung at dusk, and was one of the first to be taught to Dhrupad learners.

Maitro called Raga “Roughly classical melodyBut he says it’s more than that. “For me, it’s intuitively ordered and very difficult to explain. It’s a basic amount of Indian music. It’s like a grammatical rule that helps you to understand music intuitively. Thing.”

He said there are countless raga in Dhrupad. “They are categorized into different numbers in different traditional texts, but musicians continue to make new raga.”

Raag Yaman by Supriyo Maitreyi:

Music culture

Outside of Shukla’s house, there is always the hustle and bustle of the Indian pilgrimage town. Flute sellers play melodic music in heavy traffic, with Sanskrit chants, giant lamps, bells and cymbals every night.

Maitro, who also teaches music, said he witnessed a higher level of technical musical awareness in the city of Kashi, even among untrained musicians, than elsewhere. “On the first day I arrived at Kashi, I heard a snake charmer playing” Bimparasi “. His “bean” (folk wind instrument)). ” Bimparasi Is an Indian melody played from late afternoon to sunset and requires classical music training.

“A flute player near the coffee shop plays raga. I asked him if he had learned, and he told me he learned just by listening to the city’s index. Classical music. Listening and learning raga is not common. In this city, classical music is embedded in every home of everyday life, “said Maitro. These untrained people aren’t even aware that they have such a high musical consciousness, he said.

“They don’t have egoistic pride. Even the boatmen here know the musical” turn “,” he said. Turn is a technique used in raga vocal performances. It is very technical and requires training.

800 meters from Assi Ghat, Shukla’s fast-paced staircase marches in a long cotton loincloth that he wears. Hold the end with one hand and climb the steep stairs of Tulsi Ghat.

Lined with many small temples and houses, Tulsidas has the legacy of the 16th-century saint and poet Tulsidas, who wrote Ramcharit Manas, who spoke the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. He spent most of his life in Tulsi Ghat and died in Assi Ghat.

Professor Vishwamber Nas Mishra has inherited the legacy of Tulsidas. Electronics professor In the 13th generation of the famous Indian Institute of Technology and Pedigree of Banaras Hindu University.

Mishra is the chief priest of the Sankat Mochan Temple, a 16th-century shrine founded by Tulsidas. He is also a seasoned Pakhavaj player and the current organizer of the 100-year-old classical music festival in the city in the first week of May.

Mishra’s ancestral generation was a classical musician who grew up in ghats.Others of his time related to Kashi’s musical heritage include the sitar maestro. Ravi Shankar And Shenai (pipe instrument) Maestro Bismiller Khan, He lived and played regularly on the banks of the Ganges, even during his heyday.

Kahn was not a PhD. In music, but if you ask him anything about raga, he could elaborate on you, Shukla said. But if you ask him to write about raga, he can’t. He was more than a professor because he was trained in “para para” (tradition).

Epoch Times Photo
Classical vocalist Supriyo Maitro (L) and Pakhavaj (barrel drum) player Ravishankar Shukla (R) will practice Durpad-style Indian music on February 19, 2021 in the ancient city of Kashi’s Assigat. (VenusUpadhayaya / Epoch Times)

“Dhrupad has a culture and you can’t do anything without it. Music is a practice. In practice, the more you practice, the more you know it. The person becomes quieter and the person becomes lighter. You can see, “said Shukla. He said that oaks are a spiritual town and their perceptions are unusual because the audience arrives enthusiastically.

According to him, the classical tradition of music is, in a sense, similar to today’s school education. As an individual graduates from grade 1 to grade 12, he or she develops knowledge and understanding.

“But classical music is a tradition, not a degree. The more you do it, the more clear it becomes. It’s another classical learning tradition like” Dayana “(meditation) or” Sannyasa “(abandoned). It seems like. The more devoted a person is, the more he can get, “said Shukra.

Maitro left Kashi after spending eight months in Kashi due to the blockade of COVID-19 in the second week of April. Shukla, who he calls “Baiya” (brother), is pleased that Maitro was able to practice at the temple. “He could practice at Lamb Temple for a week, and in one such practice he composed” Bandish “. [poetry] At Ragabasant. “

“I’ve been trying to compose something in Ragabasant for the last five years, but I wasn’t happy with what I composed. That day I was practicing in Lamb’s Mandir. Around 2 pm, all the songs It arrived at me, “said Maitro.

“I played to Shukla Ji that night and asked about the composer, and he replied that it was traditional. I think it’s a special blessing from these sacred sites,” the blockade lifted. Mitro, who will return to the oak when it is done, said.