A glimpse of Jashn-e-Mehfil

Guru Gaurav: Celebrating 350th Birth Anniversary of Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

A Review By 

Professor Gajendra Narayan Singh

From very ancient time, Bihar is a land of legends and luminaries who were torch bearers in the field of art, literature, culture and religion. It was the birth place of Gautam Buddha, Mahavir Tirthankar, Sufi saint Sarfuddin, Ahmed Yahya Maneri and the last guru of the Sikhs i.e., Guru Gobind Singh.

Guru Gobind Singh was born 350 years ago at Ajeemabad, Patna as Govind Rai who became the guru of the Sikhs at an early age of 9. In course of time he was popularly known as Guru Gobind Singh. He was not only an extraordinary warrior, but a poet, an accomplished musician and composer who composed ‘Dasam Bani’ of Guru Granth Sahib.

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Gajendra Narayan Singh at Gurū Gaurav

The people of Bihar have the distinct privilege of serving as custodians of Takhat Sri Patna Sahib, the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh whose myriad accomplishment, strategic intervention and sacrifices continue to inspire millions the world over. His contributions and cultural diversity with dignity is unparalleled.

To commemorate the 350th anniversary of his birth, the Government of Bihar in association with the Anad Foundation, New Delhi is curating “Guru Gaurav”, a six day showcase i.e. ‘Jashn-e-Mehfil’ of musical and literary extravaganza with particular forms on the expressive traditions of Bihar and Punjab. Select gharanedar exponents of Hindustani, Carnatic and Gurbani Sangeet in particular as well as poets, scholars will converge at Sri Krishna Memorial Hall to offer their tribute to the illustrious Guru Sahib.

According to Guru Gobind Singh, music is intensely related to human being’s soul – it is not a charismatic game. It gives peace and tranquility. So he says

Jau tau prem khelan ka chaao, sir dhar tali gali mere aao”

Jis sangeet me prem ke swar goonjte hain, wahi aham mitaata hai. Gujarta dino me raag rang hota tha, jang nahi – un prastutiyon mein prem aur karuna ka sansparsh hota tha jo shrotaon ko vimugdh karke ‘roohani khushboo’ se antas ko labrez kar deta tha. Guru Gobind Singh Ji aisa hi sangeet ke kamal the. 

It is in this light, the six day musical fest will be reviewed.

After a long time the music loving people of Bihar and particularly Patna as well as the Sikh pilgrims from all over world who came to Takhat Sahib, Patna to pay their respect and homage to the illustrious Guru Gobind Singh Ji, had the opportunity to witness and listen a grand musical soiree organized by Bhai Baldeep Singh of Anad Foundation, New Delhi along with the Art and Culture Department, Government of Bihar.

Bhai Baldeep Singh Ji has a unique personality as he is not only an experienced organiser, but an accomplished musician too. Probably for the first time, the Patnaites listened to a galaxy of Dhrupad singers of Bihar as well the well known Dagar Bani Dhrupadiyas. Not only the Dhrupad exponents of Bihar, specially Pandit Indra Kishore Mishra, who is the lone representative singer of the oldest existing Dhrupad Gharana of Bettiah, but even the exponents of Dagar Gharana Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar who admired the rich tradition of Bettiah Gharana.

Among the Dhrupad singer of Darbhanga Gharana, Pandit Raghuvir Mallick present his ancestors’ khajana (treasure) of Bandishes, received applause from the audience.

The six day Jashn-e-Mehfil the listeners enjoyed a few more notable performances such as Rudra Bina playing by Ustad Bahauddin Dagar regaled the audience. More so, Pandit Ritwick Sanyal of Dagar Bani tradition also took applause from the listeners for his soulful renditions of Alap. He very aptly rendered a “cheeze” from ‘Dasam Bani’ of Guru Gobind Singh.

Perhaps for the first time the listeners had the oppotunity to listening to Rabab, a rare instrument by Ustad Daud Khan Sadozai. It was a rare treat and listeners enjoyed fully. Daud Khan kept the audience spellbound.

Among the percussion instrument i.e. Pakhawaj has a rich tradition in Bihar – there are two distinct gharanas of Pakhawaj playing in Bihar – Darbhanga and Gaya. The representatives of both the gharanas were played according to their reputation. Both Sangeet Kumar Pathak and Ashutosh Upadhyaya handle and played their instruments quite well, but Ravishankar Upadhyaya was superb. He has an excellent mastery over his instrument. The clarity of bols and its renditions were masterly done.

Dr. Umayalpuram Sivaraman is one of the senior Mridangam player of Carnatic Music. He has excellent mastery over his instrument. But his lengthy playing anyhow disappointed the listeners. The time factor is very important where there are several artists to play and sing.

In between the musical renditions, there were few poetry recitals and a very illustrative item presented by Dr. Ajit Pradhan, who read out his scholarly papers on Raga Katha – a guldasta of Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Baldeep Singh’s own poems as well as select recitation from Dasam Bani regaled the audience.

Six day musical extravaganza had several other items such as Thumri singing by Pt. Ram Kumar Mishra, Sarod recital by Ustad Ashish Khan of Senia-Maihar Gharana. Aashish Khan is the grandson of the legendary Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan of Maihar. But Aashish Khan’s playing was not upto the mark. He failed to show the glory and grandeur of his father Baba Allauddin Khan. In Aashish Khan’s playing Sarod, the melodic content was disappointedly nil. By his playing, he rather proved that the Sarod is harsh and loud sounding instrument. Ustad Roshan Ali is a well known Sarangi player. He should have been given a chance of playing solo.

Last but not the least, it is very difficult to sum up all the artists in a short and brief narration i.e. review. One should conclude by throwing light on virtuosity of Bhai Baldeep Singh, who is an accomplished artist. Although he showed his skills by accompanying several artists on “Jori” very suitably and ably. But the last night of the six day musical galore Bhai Baldeep Singh superbly regaled the listeners himself as a versatile vocalist. He sang several compositions in the raga ‘Asa’. This particular raga is very favorite to Guru Nanak Dev and it is only mentioned in ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ and not anywhere else. Bhai Baldeep Singh’s voice is ‘palledar’, ‘patdar’ and the same time sweet and sonorous, which was the main attraction of the show which captivated the audience till late night.

This six day music samāroha presented on the ‘Guru Parva’ (from 31st Dec, 2016 to 5th Jan, 2017) will be remembered by the listeners many more days to come.