GS RAJAN is a music composer, classical flautist and an arts administrartor. A product of Rukmini Devi Arundale's Kalakshetra, he is a disciple of MD Ramanathan in vocal music and H Ramachandra Shastri in Flute.
A former Deputy Secretary of the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama (SNA) of the Government of India, Rajan continues to be the festival director of many International festivals.
by GS RAJAN
Whenever there is talk of the spirituality of Indian music and dance, there is always one bunch of cynics who insist that there is no spirituality left in the arts, and that if any matters of the spirit are left at all, they are in the bottle that is uncorked after the recital. While this is of course an extreme and irreverent view, it was certainly a good idea on the part of Swaralaya to organize a two-day seminar on the spiritual Dimensions of Indian Music at the India Habitat Centre, so that interested people could form an opinion for themselves. Speakers from different parts of India graced the dais. They included eminent mridangist and vocalist from Chennai, TV Gopalkrishnan ; critic Manjari Sinha from Secunderabad; Carnatic vocalist Vasumati Badrinathan from Mumbai; and Dr. SK Saksena, noted musicologist of Delhi. Deepti Bhalla Omcherry, Mohini Attam dancer and vocalist, and sitar exponent Dr Suneera Kasliwal were also among the speakers from Delhi.
While the mornings were taken up by lectures, the evenings were devoted to short music recitals by Madhup Mudgal (Hindustani vocal), Bhagyalakshmi Chandrasekhar (veena), GS Rajan (Carnatic flute) and Mita Pandit (Hindustani vocal). Many of the speakers dwealt on the wealth of spiritual material available in the text of the music compositions, such as the kritis of the Carnatic music trinity of Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, as well as the works of the Alwar saints. The Vaishnava influence on Carnatic music was quite thoroughly covered. Vasumati Badrinathan's lecture focussed on the contribution of the Alwar saints whose Tamil poetry contains high philosophy and has been popularised in the form of verses known as the Divya Prabandham. It is music that has kept these works of philosophy alive through the ages, and they were meant originally to be sung and not simply recited, she pointed out. She enlivened the lecture by melodiously rendering some compositions of the Alwar saints.
TV Gopalkrishnan, whose topic was Nada Yoga, focussed on Tyagaraja's compositions extolling this science, and also regaled the listeners by singing some of the great composer's kritis on this subject. Suneera Kasliwal spoke on the relationship of Indian music and especially the veena to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, and pointed out that music is a universal language of the soul and a vehicle to attain liberation. She illustrated her talk with recordings of two great but rare artists of theh twentieth century, Nikhil Banerjee and Ali Akbar Khan, whose music crosses all barriers of personality, language, creed, etc., and unites the listener with the artist in a common quest. Deepti Balla Omcherry's lecture demonstration emphasized the aspect of Devi worship in music, and highlighted the compositions of great Devi upasakas such as Shyama Sastri, Mutuswami Dikshitar and others, who attained great spiritual heights thanks to their devotion to the Divine Mother through the medium of their music. While all these speakers and musicians stressed on the devotional, theological aspect of spirituality, Manjari Sinha made a very important point when she stated that spirituality is not to be equated with religion at all. Speaking in Hindi, she pointed out that spiritual, or adhyaatmic, is not the same as religious, or dhaarmic.
|In fact, spirituality is the vehicle by which a person tries to cross beyond the bounds of religious rituals, dogma, etc., and Indian music is a mirror of the essentially spiritual nature of our culture. In a well presented paper, she illustrated the basic tenets upon which Indian philosophy is based, and which therefore lie at the basis of Indian music. In a highly analytical and clearly structured presentation, Dr. SK Saksena enumerated both the religious and secular definitions of the word spiritual. He also pragmatically pointed out that Hindustani music today though mostly not spiritual in the commonly understood sense, is still of a good standard, and is intellectual, which is one of the secualar meanings of the word. Though there is no sense in insisting that all music is spiritual, he explained some factors that make a musical composition, when being presented live to an audience, a spiritual experience. These include an exalted and enobling text, sung in the proper way. By proper way, he meant fluid and soft rather than aggressive, sung at a medium pace, neither too slow and lethargic, nor too fast. The words should be correctly sung and not distorted for the sake of a tune, otherwise the meaning is 'butchered.' The most essential factor is that the singer should be lost in the contemplation of the music, and the audience will be 'infected' by this in a positive way. By contemplation he meant not only of the meaning but also the aesthetic experience, and the forgetting of the personal self. This kind of spiritual experience could be initiated by a totally unlettered artist, and Dr Saksena gave the example of a tabla player he had heard once. Dr. N Kochupillai a senior medical practitioner at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), in a sense brought the two streams of thought together when he spoke neither as a musician, nor as a connoisseur or bhakta, but as an ordinary person who had been helped to tide over the troubles of temporal life by the power of music. The two day seminar organized by Swaralaya was highly thought provoking and appreciated by the audience, most of whom faithfully attended all the sessions including the evening concerts.|
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