Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Guru of Gurus

Dr. K. Rohiniprasad

Today people can simply enrol themselves in any school of classical music and obtain degrees. This has been possible because of the foresight and untiring efforts of pioneers in the field like Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Bringing it out of royal patronage, Paluskar made Hindustani music available to everyone. A commemorative stamp was issued in his name in 1973. It is unfortunate that there are no recordings of this great man’s music.

Vishnu, the son of a Keertankar named Digambar Gopal Paluskar, was born in 1872 at Kurundwad. From his childhood, Vishnu learnt singing and accompanied his father during concerts. During Datta Jayanti festivities, a bursting cracker blinded him permanently. Dr. Bhadbhade, who had tried in vain to save the boy’s eyes, arranged for music lessons with Balakrishna Bua Ichalkaranjikar, a teacher trained at Gwalior. It was hard and strenuous instruction under the old taskmaster until 1896. With no regular courses or lessons, everything depended on the moods of the teacher. Vishnu’s success, in spite of these difficulties, as well as his closeness to his patron, the Raja of Miraj caused jealousy among the other students. They created a rift between the teacher and Vishnu, who had to leave Miraj. After performing successfully at the Maharaja’s court in Baroda, he toured Saurashtra, Gwalior, Mathura, Bharatpur, Delhi and the Punjab. For the public concert in Saurashtra, he charged a nominal fee, departing from tradition.

At Mathura he studied the Brij dialect thus improving his understanding of some of the finest compositions in Hindustani music. After his sojourns to Amritsar and other parts of the Punjab, he founded the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya at Lahore in 1901. A turning point in the history of modern music, this was the first school run without royal patronage. It was run by public support, donations from the rich and funds raised by the concerts of Paluskar. The school trained pupils in music and inculcated respect for the art and a missionary zeal. Students like Omkarnath Thakur, Vinayakrao Patwardhan and Deodhar became legendary performers and teachers.

The activities of the school expanded as Paluskar founded a branch of the Mahavidyalaya in Bombay in 1908. Later he shifted the school at Lahore to Bombay along with the printing press for music books. His efforts around 1915 to house the school and a hostel resulted in heavy debts in spite of his concert earnings. In 1924, even as he was performing elsewhere, the property was attached by the creditors. Meanwhile, Paluskar started an ashram in Nasik and moved there in 1924. He travelled widely in India and Nepal but his poor health prompted his patrons to shift him to Miraj, where he passed away in 1931.

With an attractive voice and musical sensitivity, Paluskar was a great musician and teacher, with uncompromising moral courage and awareness of the social values of art. He did not hesitate to prohibit smoking in his concerts even by maharajas. He amended the texts of some khayals when he considered it necessary and systematised the theory, notation system and syllabi of music lessons. Apart from countless music lovers, he was respected by the likes of Lala Lajpat Rai, Lokmanya Tilak, Gopala Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi and Annie Besant. His Ram dhun, "Raghupati Raghava" was sung at the Dandi march in 1930. His "Vande mataram" was sung at every Congress session.

Out of Paluskar’s twelve children, only one, Dattatreya, survived. Unable to learn music from his father, who died when the boy was only eleven, Dattatreya was trained by his father’s disciples and rose to great eminence before his untimely demise in 1955.


Blogger saikat said...

i have heard the mellifluous orcastristration of d.v paluskar but how can i listen vishnu digambar paluskar

11:11 PM  
Blogger subroto roy said...

Dear Saikat,
You can definitely find some recordings of the great maestro with All India radio.

2:07 AM  
Blogger vinay said...

no you can't. vishnu digambar paluskar was never recorded.

6:57 AM  
Blogger akshat megadave said...

2:36 AM  

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