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A column, titled Bishnupur Gharana, written by Anjan Ganguly on 22.10.2015.
Published on 22nd October, 2015.
In the two articles published earlier we have been discussing about, the Dhrupads and the Khayals, the two prominent subsystems of Hindustani music. Readers must be curious to find the relevance of such discussion in a site that proclaims to have complete devotion towards Rabindra sangeet.
In fact, Rabindra sangeet is a product of Hindustani classical music. Tthakurbari, in Calcutta, was practically an institution of music and culture. Pundits would find this place comfortable enough for long stay and enjoy patronage. Master singers of 'Bishnupur Gharana' were among the frequent visitors. They had laid the foundation stone of music for Rabindranath Tagore. Although he was an escapist in learning and following the traditional route was the last thing he had ever liked, yet it was the musical ambience that prevailed around Tthakurbari throughout the year.
As I have mentioned earlier that each of the Gharanas in India bears an ancestral connection with the legendary Tansen. Both his son and daughter were exceptionally good musicians and the tradition had flowed in either directions.
Misri Singh, later known as Nabat Khan, had married Tansen's daughter, Saraswati. This couple heads the pyramid of numerous Ustads of Hindustani music.
But we are interested in Bahadur Khan, a dhrupad singer down at the eighth generation starting from Bilas Khan, the youngest son of Tansen. Though these singers were Muslim by faith but the songs they used to sing had chanted for Hindu cultism. Hence, Aurangzeb made them soft targets. Bahadur Khan like many others was forced to leave Delhi for good.
He had come to Bishnupur and was cordially accepted by the then Maharaja of Mallabhum, Raghunath Singh Deo II. He was an expert not only in vocal discipline but also in playing several instruments. Raghunath had invited young aspirants having sweet voice to take lessons from Bahadur Khan free of cost. He had been instrumental for creating ample interest for Dhrupads at Bishnupur.
Ram Shankar Bhattacharjee of Bishnupur, an outstanding singer is said to have taken tutelage of Bahadur Khan. His father, Gadadhar Bhattacharjee, was a pundit in Sanskrit and a singer at the court of Malla-raja. Ram Shankar, born in 1761, was taken to music arena at an early age by his father after noticing exceptional interest in music. He too was a pundit in Sanskrit. Composing volumes of Dhrupads in Sanskrit as well as in Bengali goes to his credit. He had died in the year 1853.
Ram Shankar Bhattacharjee is considered as the key-man to set the wheels of Bishnupur Gharana rolling with Dhrupads. He was the person to re-establish the tradition of Dhrupads in Bishnupur while the rest of India was fascinated with Khayal style of music.
Among the followers of Ram Shankar Bhattacharjee Khetra Mohan Goswami (1823-1893), Anantalal Bandopadhyay (1832-1896) and Jadunath Bhattacharjee (1840-1883, better known as Jadubhatta) prepared themselves with utmost devotion. Khetra Mohan Goswami was a genius in the field of musicology and its application. His books like 'Sangeet-saar' and 'Kantha-koumudi' are the products of his vast knowledge. The first reproduction of written form of music in Bengali, the 'Danda-matrik swaralipi' was his innovation. He had put immense pressure to popularise Bangla-kheyal. He was considered among the learned singers of contemporary India while his stay as a guest of Jatindra Mohan Tagore, the Maharaja of Pathuriaghata. One of his better disciples is Shourindra Mohan Tagore, another research scholar and Khayal artist from Pathuriaghata.
Anantalal was another disciple of Ram Shankar Bhattacharjee who had gained fame not only as an artist but as a generous teacher.
Jadubhatta was a regular visitor at Jorasanko Tthakurbari. The presence of the Dhrupad maestro was a key factor for creating an ambience of Dhrupad at Jorasanko Tthakurbari.
Bishnupur has produced a number of prolific singers and masters like Radhika Prasad Goswami, Gopeshwar Bandopadhyay, Ram Prasanna Bandopadhyay and several others. It has shone with brilliance in few peripheral spheres too other than singing Dhrupads, playing on Surbahar, Esraj and Tabla being predominant among them. In the recent times singers feel comfortable to consult Pt Shantanu Bandopadhyay, an expert in Vocal Science.
The specialty of the Gharana is its openness. Unlike other Gharanas of India Bishnupur is ready to share information and knowledge with anyone. Sharing information through internet, launching website are some activities that support their intention. Application of notes here for some well-known raagas differ considerably with that of other Gharanas. Introduction of Khayal in Bengali goes to Bishnupur Gharana.
The Hierarchy of Bishnupur Gharana. Click the above image to view in large.