Sunday, November 1, 2015

Unity and Integrity (in India)

Respected… / dear…
I had a very well-read history professor who used to say India will disintegrate into fifty pieces in fifty more years! It’s already twenty years since he said this. And there is no reason to believe it will be a reality in thirty more years (or is it?). What made the professor say so? Why we don’t see such a thing happening? What should we do to maintain the Unity and Integrity of the nation as it was envisaged during its formation? These are some of the questions that we shall try to answer in the next few minutes. 
First of all, let us dwell upon the very terms: Unity and Integrity. What is Unity? … It is different units coming together for one purpose: in the context that we are speaking, it is different units of people coming together for the sake of governance in a well defined geo-political territory. This constitutes the idea of a republic. In that sense, Unity (or unity in diversity) is not unique to the Indian context. Wherever there are republics, there is a need to have unity. Unity is not just displayed during war or emergency or a calamity or a tragedy but also during peace: in our day-to-day transactions, administration, executing welfare measures and all such kinds of cooperation. This sense of unity also comes with a sense of equality and a sense of responsibility without which there can be no cooperation. 
Moving on to ‘Integrity’, what is it? … If we are speaking about an individual, integrity is about the ethical character which is beyond suspicion. In the context of a country, Integrity is all about the indivisibility of the geo-political unit, or the ability of the geo-political unit to stay as a whole in the present and in perceptible future. Probably, we could also think about this geo-political unit having a distinct ethical character. This is because a country takes part in international political and economic transactions and it takes a certain stand in these interactions. The stand also reflects of its ethical character. Therefore, I would say, both the senses of the term ‘Integrity’ are integrated when we use the word in the context of a country. I would also go a step further and say that since integrity has to do with the wholeness, there is also a sense of completeness in its geo-political territory such that the country may not nurse any aspiration of annexing a part of another geo-political territory, which could be called a war. Therefore, Integrity, I think, also connotes peace with its territorial neighbors. 
Moving on, when we talk about these two terms: Unity and Integrity, one would also get a sense that Unity is a precondition for Integrity. Unless a unit of people agree to become part of the whole, neither is there Unity, nor integrity. Once they feel they have a common cause with the rest of the people, they would unite with them, in turn, also bringing about integrity. However, the problem begins when say, 99 units feel that the 100th one is part of the whole and the 100th one feels otherwise. This is also the problem of democracy, where the majority rule prevails. In such circumstances utmost care should be taken not to hush up the 100th voice and settle the dispute as amicably as possible without violence. And THIS is difficult.
The point I am making here is that the issues of Unity and Integrity are acutely political. However, the day-to-day audio-visual images that surround us do not tell us so (after playing a few youtube clippings with search returns for 'Unity in Diversity in India'). … What happens here? They present a beautiful and colorful world where everything is alright and peacefully co-exist as though it is a coherent collage that makes perfect sense. These representations render the ideas of unity and integrity as romantic and glamorous. As soon as you utter the terms Unity and Integrity or Unity in Diversity, these picturesque ideas strike to our mind. But that doesn’t do justice to the ideas and ideals of Unity and Integrity. This is the reason why I DO NOT say in this lecture that ‘India is a land of great cultures; We can see beautiful dance forms like Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi; We can listen to beautiful musical forms such as Carnatic, Hindustani, Rabindro Shongeet, etc’. Because these representations take away the mundane practical issues related to the questions of how we adjust ourselves among a myriad of cultures and peoples; how we solve our disputes; what do we do of unresolved problems; how are we to our neighbors, etc. 
For example, in my opinion, when we talk about Unity and Integrity, it is not possible to avoid the questions of the disputes in northeastern pockets of India, disputes in Kashmir, so many dissident voices from different pockets of the country and so on. To think as to how we respond to these problems, is a very meaningful way of engaging with the question of Unity and Integrity. You might have as well seen the brief visuals of the armed forces in between the clippings that we just saw. What could be the relevance of that? How do the soothing, harmonious pictures of dance and music get along with the forcefully spirited and vigorous visuals of the armed forces? In such a case, what is the nature of Unity we have achieved? Is it serene and peaceful like dance and music or spirited and forceful like the armed forces? These are important questions. 
It is NOT that we should not speak about our culture, music and art forms. We certainly should (I, myself, am a musician with deep appreciation for Indian musical genres!). The vibrancy as well as the variety of culture in our part of the subcontinent is quite breathtaking indeed! However, my point is that the discourse of Unity and Integrity has been carried away by the discourse of culture so much so that we refuse to return to bigger questions which are beyond culture. In other words, it may be good to begin to talk about Unity and Integrity in cultural terms, but it is naïve to remain there and not address the question in political terms: After all, man is a political animal too. 
Let us go back to those fundamental questions that we raised in the initial part of this lecture: Let us first ask what is it that keeps us together and gives us some sense of Unity and Integrity? Well, at the outset, we can certainly say that there is a civilizational ethos that runs through the subcontinent giving us a sense of bonding. We learn from the history text books that from the time of Ashoka, the southern part of the Himalayas has been ruled by kings and emperors, who more or less kept the people of the subcontinent together as compared to their relations with Eurasians or Southeast Asians. Mughals once again consolidated this geo-political territory in the medieval period. During colonialism, the ‘modern’ man awoke to the concerns of loot, plunder and political domination of the economy and of the country by the British. And this united them from across the subcontinent to fight the British. Thus, the long history of the subcontinent shows considerably good signs of bonding. 
Let’s ask the second question: In such a scenario, is there a case for concern, as the professor pointed out? Well, certain problems from the moment of the creation of our nation-state continue to haunt us. Kashmir is one such issue. Certain problems have arisen in the course of last few years. These are the dissenting voices: that of naxalites who think violence will bring about equality; or of tribals in mineral rich hilly pockets of India who can’t face the lobby of the corporate world; or of terrorists who disrupt the status-quo with enormous violence. In my opinion, the problem does not lie in the dissenting voice itself. It rather lies in the way the issue is handled. A country like India, with all its diversity, will have to continuously engage with the question of Unity and Integrity. Each case is specific to itself. A real statesman should negotiate the situation taking into account all its particularities and settle the issue with minimal force and maximum sensitivity. There is absolutely no doubt that Unity and Integrity will get strengthened with sensitivity to our fellow citizens. Therefore, the answer for the question as to if there is a case for concern, relies upon with what sensitivity and what force the problem is tackled by the nation-state. 
After India gained independence, several crores of people have been displaced for the sake of developmental works. These people had to sacrifice not just their resources but an entire lifestyle for the sake of ‘mainstream’ India. In many cases, this sacrifice took the form of dissidence in opposing the established polity. Politics has been the effective way of claiming a fair share of the country’s wealth and resources for different groups of people. Polarization of wealth and resources has mostly been the reason for dissidence in search of an alternative politics for a fair distribution. I shall conclude this speech with a small example of land acquisition in India. Land acquisitions are highly contentious issue in India with farmers, the state and other interest groups vying for the best bargain. The latest Land acquisition bill did not come through since it was perceived as anti-farmer. Nevertheless almost at the same time, there was a successful case of land acquisition taking place for the construction of the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravathi. It was hailed as one of the best models with a win-win for all the interest groups: The Andhra Pradesh Govt has not only promised to pay the compensation for the acquired land in ten installments over the next ten years, but also give back 25% of the developed land after it is ready. This has made people cutting across their occupation agree with the scheme and there was hardly any resistance to this model of sharing resources. This probably is worth emulation elsewhere. 
We shall inevitably see more developmental works in the coming years and obviously there will be different interest groups who would place a huge claim on land and other resources. Such a scenario will need innovative and sustainable plans on the one hand and the political will to engage with people in a truly consultative process, on the other. As stated earlier, each case is specific and there is no panacea for all the ills bothering Unity and Integrity in India. Finally, I would like to reiterate that Unity and Integrity are not glamorous ideas as represented in the Indian media on the day of a national festival; on the other hand, these are the ideals difficult to attain and they relate to toleration of differences. In a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country like India, preserving the pluralistic fabric of the country is the forte of Unity. It is NOT that we need to learn to IGNORE the differences in this cultural diversity; but it is important to learn to LIVE WITH differences of this diversity: the diversity of worships, the diversity in attitudes, the diversity in rituals, and the diversity in food habits and so on. There should be a continuous and honest attempt at attaining this toleration and through that, Unity, because it is worth attaining in a democratic republic like ours. Otherwise, yes! we might indeed be 50 pieces in 30 more years!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Letter to the Editor with regard to "An Exchange on Musicians and Music Critics Published in The Hindu on 4 March 2011

Dear Sir,

I would agree with Mr. T.M. Krishna when he says most music criticisms today are quite facile. Most criticisms would, as Mr. Krishna says, speak generally about the Ragas, Kritis sung, the accompanists and whether they were good or bad with the help of certain adjectives to describe their voice, reach, range, etc. In fact, most music criticisms look alike, provided the names of musicians and Ragas change. This comment may look very sweeping; however that seems to be the trend with a few exceptions. I do not know of Tamil Nadu; but in the context of Karnataka at least, one will have to agree with what Mr. Krishna says.

The descriptions as mentioned above (of a musician, his/her voice range, etc) are necessary. What is more necessary however, is to place the musician in the context of the whole musical scenario. Matters such as the lineage, which the musician traces her/himself in; trends in musical education of which the musician is a part; the differences between the Guru and the disciple in styles of singing, reasons for those differences or the lack of it; why a musician is considered bad, good or great; if there was any experimentation or departures from the past; the response of the audience to a musician either in terms of audience turn-up or applause or both; Sabhas which provide the aegis and the quantum of their contribution to music; number and nature of sponsors; as also the whole turn the music concert format or music industry is taking - these could be some of the more important issues to discuss while placing the musician in context. These should not be considered allied topics 'outside' the field of music. These ARE the factors determining music, its production, presentation and consumption. This requires good knowledge of the field and also an intellectual courage both on part of the critic and the Daily to publish. Part-timers, who shuttle from concert to concert for the sake of reporting may not have the required time to ponder upon those details. It is not the number of concerts that are reported that is important; but it is the quality of analysis. It is not the name and fame of the musician, whose concert is being reported that is important; more important is that the reader rather get an idea as to what is happening to the musical field after going through some 4-5 reviews. This is hardly the case in the present music journalism. It would be a delight to see a different kind of analysis.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಸಂಗೀತ ಮತ್ತು ಅದರ ಪೋಷಕರು - ಮನು ಚಕ್ರವರ್ತಿ ಅವರಿಗೊಂದು ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರಿಯೆ





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  1. ZÀPÀæªÀwð, ªÀÄ£ÀÄ, (2010), ªÀiÁzsÀåªÀÄ ªÀiÁUÀð: ¸ÀªÀiÁd-¸ÀA¸ÀÌöÈw-¸Á»vÀå-PÀ¯ÉUÀ¼À£ÀÄß PÀÄjvÀ aAvÀ£ÉUÀ¼ÀÄ,


  1. David Leliveld, (1994), “Upon the Sub-dominant: Administering Music on All

India Radio” in Social Text, No. 39, (pp. 111-127).

  1. Frykenberg, Robert Eric (1977), “Company Circari in the Carnatic, c. 1799-1859:

The Inner Logic of Political Systems in India”, in Richard G. Fox, (ed.),

Realm and Region in Traditional India, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House

  1. Gayathri, J.V. (1993), ed., Selections from the Records of the Mysore Palace, Vol.

I: Musicians, Actors and Artists, Mysore: Divisional Archives Office, Govt. of Karnataka

  1. ªÀÄÆwð gÁªï, J. J£ï., (1995), UÁ£À«ºÁgÀ, ªÉÄʸÀÆgÀÄ: r.«.PÉ. ªÀÄÆwð

  1. Shashikantha K., (2005), “Carnatic Music, Kannada and Kannadigas: Certain

Moments from Princely Mysore”, published in Journal of Karnataka

Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (53-95)


Monday, May 31, 2010

ಗಾಂಧಿಯ ಪುಣ್ಯದಿನದಂದು...

ಗಾಂಧಿಯ ಪುಣ್ಯದಿನದಂದು ಎಂ.ಜಿ.ಎಂ ಕಾಲೇಜಿನ ರವೀಂದ್ರ ಮಂಟಪದಲ್ಲಿ. ಕಾತ್ಯಾಯಿನಿ ಕುಂಜಿಬೆಟ್ಟು ಸಹ ಹಾಡುಗಾರ್ತಿ. ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿ ವಚನಗಳನ್ನೇ ಹಾಡಿದೆವು.
೨೦೦೯ ರಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆದ ನಿನಾದ ಸಂಗೀತಸಂಜೆಯ ಒಂದು ದೃಶ್ಯ. ಹಾಡುಗಾರ ನಾನೇ. ಹಾರ್ಮೋನಿಯಂ ನಲ್ಲಿ ಶ್ರೀ ಶಶಿಕಿರಣ್, ತಬಲಾದಲ್ಲಿ ಶ್ರೀ ಭಾರವಿ ದೇರಾಜೆ, ಮತ್ತು ತಾಳದಲ್ಲಿ ಕು. ರುಕ್ಮಿಣಿ ಎಂ. ರಾವ್.

Monday, January 5, 2009

‘Culture Pulls’: Literature, Music and Elites in Early Twentieth Century North Karnataka

Literature and music were two prominent fields of activities that got institutionalized in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These two fields of activities continuously exchanged resources from each other. As this process was underway, there were intense debates among the elites of the society as to the rights and wrongs of accepting certain elements and omitting some other, from the framework of those cultural activities. This paper looks at certain significant points of negotiations in the process of institutionalization of cultural fields of activities in northern Karnataka, taking into account a genre of Kannada literature, Dasa Sahitya, and a broad framework of classical music.
Betageri Krishna Sharma, a litterateur from North Karnataka, reminisced the occasion of the National Congress Session in the year 1924, in Belgaum,

…In North Karnataka there is no voice that sings Carnatic music; there are no ears that can listen and enjoy that music. A middle and mixed breed of Hindustani and Carnatic music – just as the middle breed between a horse and a donkey – has rusted the ears of the people here…(Krishna Sharma 1936: 682)

For that session of the National Congress, some Kannada musicians ‘from across the Tungabhadra’ (South Karnataka, and particularly Mysore) had been invited. That was where, Sharma for the first time, heard the Veena play of Sheshanna, the celebrated Veena player of Mysore. Comparing that music with the extant music in North Karnataka, he felt that the music in North Karnataka was neither that of the South (Carnatic) nor that of the North (Hindustani) but something in between them. Krishna Sharma was not the only person to talk about this mixed nature of music in North Karnataka. There were others who commented about the music of that region in this way. Shyama Rao Thatti was another public figure, who commented in this way. He said, “In this Department [region] if any Kannadiga sings, he would either sing Hindustani or a kind of mixed style. There are very less persons who can sing pure South Indian music” (Thatti 1926: 492). It was not just the music that was not much familiar to North Karnataka, but also the very appearance of these musical personalities. Speaking about their dress and appearance, Krishna Sharma says, “The musicians of the Southern Country and their attendants, whose dress and appearance were strange for Northern Kannadigas, had come in large groups to Belgaum and had settled down in Vijayanagar. The ears which were lost to the sweet Kannada tongue they spoke, became further anxious in expectation of the sweeter songs they would sing (on the occasion of the National Congress Session)” (Krishna Sharma 1936: 682).[1] These words are characteristic of the cultural gap that existed between the Southern and Northern Karnataka. North Karnataka, specifically Bombay Karnataka, as it was called, consisted of the districts governed by Bombay Presidency till 1956 – Dharwad, Belgaum, Bijapur and North Canara. Southern Maratha, as this region was also called in the administrative parlance, was virtually an extension of Maharashtra. Almost all Brahmin families learnt or were compelled to learn Marathi to participate in the project of colonial modernity. The ones who did not know Marathi, and yet sought a job in this region, had to face a lot of difficulty in the working sphere.[2] This was the region where early Kannada nationalism was born, where the Kannada identity was shaped vis-à-vis the Marathi one. It was the Pune-educated Brahmin intelligentsia of this region that started talking about Marathi domination and the need to come under the umbrella of a geo-political region called Karnataka.[3]
It was not just the relation between two languages that was problematic. The dominated feeling existed when it came to other cultural forms too. The cultural forms such as theatre and music, and the tastes for them were highly modified by the northern forms. Marathi theatre ran its shows in North Karnataka very successfully. Famous Hindustani musicians such as Bala Gandharva, Savai Gandharva, Mallikarjun Mansur, and Balakrishna Buva had either successful careers as directors and actors or at least had a stint on stage.[4] Hindustani music was gaining ground in Maharashtra because many musicians had settled down in the region of southern Maharashtra. And for the first time Marathi (Hindustani) musicians emerged in this area, who also settled in these places. Among these, the important ones were Balkrishna Buva Ichalkaranjikar, Ramakrishna Buva Vaze and Bhaskar Buva Bakhale (Ibid.). The doyen of Kirana Gharana, Abdul Karim Khan had made Miraj his home, leaving behind his ancestral home of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Among the above triad, if Balakrshna Buva and Ramakrishna Buva were important in ushering in a taste for Hindustani music in Maharashtra (Deodhar 2001: 23), Bhaskar Buva Bakhale was instrumental in making Dharwar and other places in the Southern Maratha, the hub of Hindustani music. Born in Baroda, the latter was trained under Fiaz Khan, after a stint with Kirloskar Drama Company. After his training in music, he joined the Training College at Dharwar as a music teacher.[5] He built up the friendship of the elites there and also won them over as students. He also took up the studentship under Nathan Khan (of Agra Gharana[6]), the court musician of Mysore. On his way from Mysore to Mumbai, Nathan Khan used to break his journey and stay with Bhaskar Buva and perform in Dharwar for a month or two (Deodhar 2001: 97). Bhaskar Buva also used to invite the Sitar maestro Barkatullah Khan, vocalists Dulle Khan and Babali Bai (the latter two, the students of his own Guru) to Dharwar and arrange their performances (Choudhary 2002: 34). Owing to these developments even other Hindustani musicians, who paid visits to Mysore court during Dasara or during the Vardhanti (the birth day celebrations) of the Maharaja, had breaks in the twin cities of Dharwad-Hubli for sometime, and performed there (Ibid: 22).[7] This culture of Hindustani music did not take much time to reach other places in Bombay Karnataka. Because of all these reasons, by the time the National Congress met at Belgaum, the Hindustani music was rather an established form in North Karnataka for the aesthetes of that region.
We do get certain strands of narration where it is possible to see the ‘turn’ in the taste for music in North Karnataka. Krishna Sharma himself says at another place that in the Maharashtra of ‘those days’, there was no priority for Hindustani music as it was the case later.[8] He quotes certain examples of songs from Marathi theatre (the plays of Annasaheb Kirloskar) and says they were all in the genre of Carnatic music that was in practice in North Karnataka (Krishna Sharma 1999: 207). The tunes of Kirloskar’s plays used to be that of Purandara Dasa songs, Krishna Parijata songs, Venkatesha Parijata songs and of Javalis (Ibid.). These tunes were based on some Carnatic Ragas. The drama Shakuntala of Churamuri Sheshagiri Rao was full of songs in Carnatic style. Because of this, when Hindustani music came to be popular in North Karnataka, the drama Shakuntala gradually stopped from being played (Dharwadkar 1975: 37). Musician, Gangubai Hangal (1913- ) had her initial music training in the Carnatic genre. Her mother Ambabai was a musician who performed Carnatic music. Her house was the hub of musical activity. Mallikarjun Mansur used to go to her house for Riyaz[9] (Choudhary: 110). The doyen of Kirana Gharana, Abdul Karim Khan also used to frequent her house. There he not just heard Tyagaraja’s Kritis from her but also learnt some Carnatic music from her (Hangal 2000: 3-4, Choudhary 2002: 109). The influence of Carnatic style of singing was noted in Abdul Karim Khan. Gangubai Hangal was trained for sometime by Hulgur Krishnachar, a musician and a scholar on Carnatic music (Hangal 2000: 6-7). Krishnachar, however, seems to have known both Hindustani and Carnatic. Krishnachar actively participated in the discussions of the Music Academy, at Madras. He was sponsored by the Maharaja of Mysore, to participate in the deliberations of the Music Academy. He used to discuss several Sanskrit works on music. In his arguments, he seemed to be a musician who could interpret both Hindustani and Carnatic musics in the light of age old Sanskrit works. In one place, he says that even Maharashtra used to follow Carnatic style of music (Krishnachar, n.d.: 7). To say that Hindustani music was a late nineteenth century arrival to North Karnataka, we have other specific evidences.[10]
The slow disappearance of Carnatic music and the growing popularity of Hindustani music were glaring on the face of the emerging Kannada nationalism in and around Dharwar. Alur Venkata Rao put his efforts in several cultural fronts[11] and music was one among them. The name ‘Karnataka Sangita’ as Carnatic music was (and is) called in Kannada, very much prompted this geared up activity in music among nationalists. Alur Venkata Rao was one who rallied for the name of Karnataka for the region, which was divided into five administrative units, which were to be unified. He defined that name, exposited the meaning, and asked all those who come under this region to experience and cherish ‘Karnatakatva’ or Karnataka-ness. According to the nationalist perception all those cultural enterprises, which were seen in this region, necessarily belonged to Karnataka. As a corollary to this, those fields of activity that bore the name of Karnataka necessarily belonged to this region. Hence, ‘Karnataka Sangita’ doubtlessly meant the music of/from Karnataka.[12] Before we go on to have a glimpse of Alur’s works towards popularising Carnatic music, we shall briefly see the coming into being of the name itself, which prompted the nationalists to act in the manner they did. It is important to know it because this phrase ‘Karnataka Sangita’ is the one that connects Dasa Sahitya with Carnatic music.
In the Sanskrit treatises of the medieval, late medieval and even modern times till the twentieth century, we do not find the word ‘Karnataka’ with reference to a particular genre of music, now known as Carnatic music. But there are references with regard to the land when using this word. The word in connection with the South Indian music came as a late phenomenon. B.V.K. Shastry, a scholar on Carnatic music[13] tries to find out the beginning of the usage of this word. Shastry quotes Bishop Caldwell, the author of A Comparative Grammar of Dravidian Languages, who says:
…Mahomedans at first used Mysore and part of Telangana as Carnatic and extended it to places below Ghats. The English carried the misapplication further and restricted the name to country below the Ghats which never had any right to it whatsoever. Hence the Mysore country which is probably the true Carnatic is no longer called by that name and what is now geographically termed Carnatic is exclusively the Ghats on the Coromondel coasts (Caldwell quoted in Shastry 1999: 246)

Shastry continues by saying that the English called the area north to Nellore as ‘Circars’, and the area lying to its south was named Carnatic. “All the old English writers on Indian music continued this and called the music of south as Carnatic music…” (Ibid.). This name got fixed in popular usage gradually. In the Journals of Madras Academy of Music (which started being published from 1930), apart from the name Carnatic music, we find it being referred as South Indian music, Karnatak music and Karnatic music, etc. There were other minor efforts to understand this phrase as in Muttanna (1972: 45). According to him, the word ‘Karnataka’ represented the Vijayanagara Empire. And the latter empire was inclusive of both Kannada and Telugu speaking regions. And the music style, which was popular in that region, he says, was called ‘Karnataka Sangita’. However, the florescence of this musical genre should be seen with the consolidation of the British power in the ‘Carnatic’. Frykenberg, who speaks about the ‘inner logic of power’ in south India, defines ‘Carnatic’ as ‘that power seated at Madras which grew to encompass South India’ (1977: 117f.n.). One of the earliest Orientalist work on music by William Jones and Augustus Williard does not make any mention of the variety of music called ‘Carnatic’ (Jones 1962). Later, in early twentieth century, the work of Sambamurthy, a professor of music in Madras University and commonly considered an authority on Carnatic music, was also responsible for the term to stay in usage. His anachronistic quote from the work called Sangita Sudhakara, gave an authoritative tracing back of the term historically. The quote was as below:
Tadapi dvividham jneyam Dakshinottara bedhataha
Karnatakam daakshinesyat Hindustani tathottare (quoted in B.V.K. Shastry, 1999: 244)
Sambamurthy’s scholarship presumed that the work from which this quote came was the one produced in 14th or 15th century (as there was earlier Sangita Sudhakara written in that time). But, B.V.K. Shastry shows the anachronistic nature of this work and says that the actual work from which the quote was borrowed was produced as late as 1911 by one Kashinath Appa Tulsi of Hyderabad (Ibid.). The anachronism arose because of the similarity in the title of the books. Shastry says though the error was pointed out later in the deliberations of the Music Academy, the anachronism still continues in taking the above quote as the first ‘authentic’ source pointing towards the earliest use of the nomenclature of both South and North Indian music (Ibid.). Therefore, the term ‘Karnataka Sangita’ did not originally mean to represent the music of the region that later came to be known as Karnataka.
The cultural nationalism of northern Karnataka claimed Carnatic music for the whole of Karnataka and therefore there were efforts to extend the territory of Carnatic music which was limited to the territories of Princely Mysore, to the north. One of the exemplary works in this regard was by Alur Venkata Rao. Alur tried to popularise Carnatic music by getting some musicians from Mysore. He invited Tirumale Rajamma and her husband Tirumale Tatacharya Sharma to Dharwar from Mysore. The latter was a journalist from the Mysore state. Tirumale Rajamma was a Veena artist. She performed Carnatic music on the Veena for eight to ten days at Venkata Rao’s home as well as at other public places in Dharwad. Alur felt it was not sufficient and sometime later, Venkata Rao called one Narsing Rao, a Carnatic musician and a flutist to perform there. Even after these, Venkata Rao felt the inadequacy of these efforts. He opined that the taste of Carnatic music could only be restored through the Padas of Dasas. With this intention, he called one Yoganarasimham,[14] and arranged his concerts three to four times. What made Alur decide that the performance of Padas (or Dasa Sahitya) might lead to a reversion to Carnatic music is an important question to ask here. It would be interesting to see how Dasa Sahitya represented Carnatic music. ‘Dasa Sahitya’ is a genre of Kannada literature that was produced by Vaishnava Dasas, sixteenth century onwards. The genre had sufficient tinge of classical music. The ragas (tunes) and the talas used in reciting Dasa Sahitya were basically that of Carnatic music. Therefore, Carnatic music in twentieth century Karnataka had a continuous reference to Dasa Sahitya. The manuscripts of Dasa Padas used to have the names of Ragas and rhythms mentioned in the beginning of each Pada or song. When they were printed and published, the editors continued the practice. These Ragas were the common Ragas of Carnatic music. The difference however, was in the way in which the lyrics were given more importance instead of the musical content. Early Kannada nationalists such as Alur Venkata Rao thought that a musical form which was almost eroded by the juggernaut of Hindusthani music because of the Marathi cultural dominance, could be rejuvenated with the help of Dasa Sahitya.
One of the four public institutions in Dharwad (from where Alur came) of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century was Sri Madhva Siddhantottejaka Sabha.[15] Madhva Brahmins had been quite active during that time in North Karnataka. Alur himself was a staunch Madhva, with a capacity “to tolerate opposite views or different views” (Venkata Rao 1974: 263). He said the philosophy of Madhvacharya completely changed his life. This truth dawned on him in 1918, he says.[16] He also produced many works on the philosophy of Madhvacharya, one of them being Madhva Siddhantha Praveshike (Initiation into Madhva Philosophy). He had planned a scheme along with Karpura Srinivasa Rao, to publish all the works of Madhvacharya in Kannada. Later, he quit this plan since he thought the Madhva Siddhantha Granthalaya of Udupi did much work on these lines (Ibid: 259-260).
Dasa Sahitya was considered to be the distillation of Madhva’s philosophy. In Kannada there was a saying “Sudha odi pada helu” (Keshava Dasa 1947: 6). This meant that one could/should sing a pada (like a Dasa), after reading Sudha (Srimannyayasudha of Madhvacharya). In other words, it meant that a pada (of a Dasa) essentially represented the philosophy of Madhvacharya. Alur Venkata Rao also tried to work for Dasa Sahitya and publish it. In one of the meetings of Madhva Siddhanta Pracharini Sabha of Puna in 1914, there was a resolution to collect, edit and publish the Padas of Dasas.[17] The literature was even collected. But because of the financial crunch, it could not be published. Even in his works, he quotes certain lines from the Padas of Dasas as the basic guidelines of his life.[18] Betageri Krishna Sharma at one place says that he knew how to read Marathi (Devanagari) because he used to read the Padas of Dasas printed from Belgaum.[19] Thus, among the Brahmin elites of North Karnataka, Dasa Sahitya was a popular corpus of songs.
Women of Brahmin households sang them during their daily chores. They were also sung during the Bhajan sessions. These songs had a pan-Karnataka nature to some extent.[20] This was because of the assemblage of the pilgrims at pilgrimage centres during certain festive occasions. These were the moments when exchanges from, corrections in and additions to one’s repertoire used to take place. Thus, when pilgrims met at Madhva centres of pilgrimage such as Udupi or Mantralayam, the Padas of Dasas also travelled to places with them and found new soils to stay in day-to-day practice (Havanur 2000). Hence, the Padas of the Dasas formed a potential corpus of music specific to Karnataka in Kannada language. Alur considered it as a medium through which the taste for Carnatic music could be restored and hence, arranged performances of the Dasa Padas.
Somewhat later, we see a supplement to the works of Venkata Rao in Hulgur Krishnachar, in trying to popularize Dasa Sahitya as ‘Karnataka Sangita’ or Carnatic music. Hulgur Krishnachar, a music teacher and scholar from Hubli (in North Karnataka), wrote a book in the late 1930s, Karnataka Sangita Shastra Vimarshe. He held an ordinary job at the Railway Workshop in Hubli. He was respected as the “Mahavidwan” by the Maharaja of Mysore. He participated in the deliberations at the Music Academy at Madras almost every year, to which he was sent by the Maharaja. Krishnachar had a novel assumption for his argument in his book. It was that ‘Karnataka Sangita’ and ‘Dakshinatya Sangita’[21] were different musical categories. Karnataka sangita (what came to be called Carnatic music) was the actual music of Karnataka that got originated and was nurtured in Karnataka. Tracing the Sanskrit theory books of 16th and 17th century, he argued that Karnataka Sangita initially inspired the Dakshinatya Sangita. But later, from the time of a theoretician of music called Venkatamakhi (belonging to 18th century) in Tanjore, Karnataka Sangita went in the way of Dakshinatya Sangita in the southern region. To talk about it in more detail, he says, for Karnataka Sangita, the spadework was done by one Narahari Tirtha, a disciple of Madhvacharya (Krishnachar n.d.: 18). Karnataka Sangita was firmly put in place by the theoreticians such as Pundarika Vithala. The latter belonged to the 16th century and he hailed from the region of Karnataka. Krishnachar says that Pundarika Vithala was the Adyacharya (initial exponent and teacher) of Melaprastara.[22] In the 18th century, a scholar belonging to Tanjore, Venkatamakhi proposed a new system of Melaprastara in his book Chaturdandi Prakasika. According to Krishnachar, this work is actually based on Pundarika Vithala’s work, though it does not acknowledge or mention Pundarika’s name at all. Venkatamakhi’s work became the base for Dakshinatya Sangita. Since Pundarika Vithala’s work was produced earlier and he was from Karnataka, Krishnachar said that Karnataka Sangita was the original system of music, which the people in the South, have changed according to them and about which they have written theories of late, i.e., in between 1750 to 1850 (Ibid.: 42). Further reading of Krishnachar suggests that what he calls Dakshinatya Sangita is actually the music set to notes in Telugu language. Hence, what he calls as Karnataka Sangita is on the one hand, theory exposited by theoreticians such as Pundarika Vithala and on the other, the Kannada Padas brought into vogue by Narahari Tirtha and continued by Sripada Raya, Vyasaraya, Vadiraja, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Vijaya Dasa and other Dasas (Ibid: 55).
Krishnachar ends his essay with a paranoiac note of Kannada nationalism. Karnataka Sangita, which was the mother for both other systems of music – Hindustani and Dakshinatya, has now remained a namesake system in its own motherland, Karnataka. Karnataka has been attacked and occupied by either Hindustani or Dakshinatya music systems. Kannadigas should wake up and show concern about their music, executing Karnataka Sangita through their own literature. He also urges the Kannada Sahitya Parishat to give more publicity to the literature for Karnataka Sangita – the Dasa Sahitya in Kannada (Ibid: 60).
Another matter he talks about in his book is that the way Dakshinatyas or the people of the Southern countries derided Karnataka Sangita. He says that the Dakshinatyas have fooled the people of Karnataka into believing that the Dakshinatya Sangita is independent, whereas the reality is that its base is in Karnataka Sangita. Dakshinatyas also threw intolerable criticisms and allegations on Karnataka Sangita. And Krishnachar says after he started speaking about Karnataka Sangita, with historical materials in meetings, and conferences and published them at various places, this attitude of the Dakshinatyas was slowly changing (Ibid. 41-42).[23]
The void felt by some of the earlier scholars with regard to the lack of an iconic figure in the field of music in Karnataka, was to some extent ‘filled’ by the efforts of Krishnachar. Krishnachar wrote another book called Karnataka Sangitavoo Dasakutavoo[24] (Karnataka Sangita and Dasa Kuta). But here, his aim was to more firmly establish the relation between Karnataka Sangita and the repertoire of the Dasas. Or rather one could emphatically say that it was to state that Karnataka Sangita was nothing but the repertoire of the Dasas, that he wrote this book. He says that there is no book in Kannada, which explains the history, scope and the speciality of Karnataka Sangita. In the time of the unification of a vaster Karnataka, he says, it is the aim of this book to drive away the inertia of the Kannadigas with regard to their music and make them aware of Karnataka’s culture and history (Krishnachar 1951: 66). For him, the bond between Karnataka Sangita and Karnataka as a region is firm because the theoretician of music Pundarika Vithala (about whom he speaks in detail in both the books) and the composer Purandara Dasa, both belonged to Karnataka and both lived in the same time too (Ibid: 20). It was not possible for him to show any reference to Purandara Dasa in Pundarika Vithala or vice versa. In fact these cross-references do not exist between Kannada and Sanskrit works. But the spatial and temporal proximity of these two personalities sufficed for him to conclude that these two figures were the parental figures for Karnataka Sangita and that Karnataka Sangita is the one, which is the parental system for Dakshinatya Sangita.
However, not everybody gave this premium to Dasa Sahitya as a bridge to Carnatic music. Shyama Rao Thatti, a prominent figure in North Karnataka and considered to be a great scholar by Alur himself, did not agree that Dasa Sahitya could be a suitable material for Carnatic music. He did not have any doubt that Karnataka required its own Kannada repertoire for Carnatic music. But Dasa Sahitya could not constitute this since it paid more premium to lyrics and its meaning than to its musical content. In imagining a unified culture for the linguistic state of Karnataka, he thought that it would be befitting for Karnataka culture, if it could produce some composer on lines of Tyagaraja. He says:
When it comes to music, the culture of Kannadigas is not very different from that of other South Indians (though in North Karnataka one sings Hindustani or a mixed style). But our language does not go with Hindustani music. It would be unbearable to the ear of an aesthete if the Padas of Purandara Dasa or Jaimini Bharata are dragged and adapted to Hindustani music. If, by God’s grace, Karnataka comes under a unified administration in future, there is no doubt that the music of North Karnataka would give up this mixed style and follow the purer Carnatic style with greater interest, which is more suitable to our language, nature and culture.
The most savouring item of Carnatic music is the Kritis of Tyagaraja. One cannot ignore them just because they are in Telugu language. As it is befitting that the Marathi speaking people of the North give importance to the compositions of the ancient ones in Hindi and Vraj language, it would be befitting that we have a pan-South Indian vision when it comes to music. Someone might ask and object, don’t we have the Padas of the Dasas in Kannada. Yes, they are there. But in them, the import [of the lyrics] is more significant than music. It is desirable that the meaning of the lyrics in them is more important considering the capacity of the lyrics to induce conscience and renunciation in one’s mind. But, the function of music is not to teach anything [through lyrics]. Hence, it is equally desirable that meaning has a lesser significance in music because the function of music is to stimulate emotions and thereby to bring to one’s experience at least a fraction of that glorious delight, which is part of Ishwara, the cause of Life. What can be deduced from this is that for music there is a special requirement of compositions called Padavarna. This kind of compositions is seen in Tyagaraja….
One more thing we can deduce from the above words is that it is necessary that one should be acquainted with Telugu language at least to some extent, if one loves Carnatic music…It is very difficult to cater both to poetry as well as music and to consolidate the bond between them as between a husband and wife. Tyagaraja has achieved this fantastic feat with his luminous talent. Therefore, it will certainly not harm, but enrich our culture to study the life, music and Kirtana of Tyagaraja till we have a composer in Karnataka who can compose Gitas with equal dexterity as could Tyagaraja (Thatti 1926: 492-493).

The first thing that catches our attention here is the certainty of the opinion that once Karnataka is unified, in North Karnataka one could certainly witness the blossoming of Carnatic music. With this assurance in mind Thatti also has an assurance for himself that a unified Karnataka would usher in a personality modelled on Tyagaraja, for Carnatic music in Karnataka. Until then, the Kannadigas were to study the life and lyrics of Tyagaraja, which would yield the desired result ultimately. Hence, it was not in unison with which the elites of North Karnataka chose Dasa Sahitya as a medium through which Carnatic style could be achieved. Scholars like Thatti attributed more of lyrical value to Dasa Sahitya and therefore, it automatically lost the qualification to be music per se, though he was clear that Carnatic music in Karnataka should be in Kannada.
Venkata Rao says in his book published in 1957 that his efforts in establishing Carnatic music did not bear fruit even till then (Venkata Rao 1999: 28). It was true that the stray efforts of Kannadiga nationalists did not find any success in ushering in either Carnatic music or Dasa Sahitya in North Karnataka. What was more powerful was the machinery of the state to patronize cultural forms, whether it was the princely states or the colonial state. The existence of small princely states such as Aundh, Miraj, Ichalakaranji, Kolhapur, Sangli, Kurundwad and Jamakhandi etc. (Nadkarni 1983: 6) and their patronization of music in late nineteenth and early twentieth century brought Hindustani music in a big way to Maharashtra and the southern Maratha. These tiny states in the Deccan became centres of musical activity in the 19th century (Deshpande 1987: 2175). Musicians such as Abdul Karim Khan had made this place their home. On the other hand, the colonial government implemented policies to foster Hindustani music in this area. The officials of the administrative machinery too, patronized Hindustani music substantially. The words of Mudavidu Krishna Rao,[25] a Kannada nationalist, are quite important in reconstructing the history of music in Karnataka. With a sense of loss, he laments:
…Carnatic style of music has disappeared among the common educated populace of our region [Dharwar]. Carnatic style of singing was heard even till 1895. In a few months after the establishment of Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha for the protection of the Karnataka culture, Late Phatak Gurunatha Rao, an eminent lawyer of this place established a Carnatic music school. Chimmalagi Venkanna, who was a Vidya Visharada in Carnatic music and who was a student of the famous Narayana Swamy of Tanjore, was the teacher here. Several young men had trained here. Around 1893 Venkanna died accidentally in the house of Phatak, when that part of the house was struck by lightening. This, in a way, was a lightening that struck the very Carnatic style of music in this place…Moreover, some of the Marathi officials who came over to Dharwar, had some special liking for Hindustani music and put up efforts to spread that music. By the time the Carnatic music school was on the wane because of the death of Chimmalagi Venkanna, a Marathi gentleman by name Balavanta Rao Sahasrabuddhe came here as Inspector of Education. He had a great regard and respect for Hindustani music. He had learnt Hindustani music and was an expert in that. With inspiration from him, another music school started here. But this one imparted only Hindustani music. Meanwhile the Government approved the teaching of Hindustani music in the Kannada Training College here. The famous Hindustani musician Late Bhaskar Buva Bakhale was appointed as the music teacher in that College. When he was free, he used to work in the music school as well. The teachers who got trained in this college, and were taught music by Bhaskar Buva, helped Hindustani music spread even in the interiors…thus, one of the best and important part of Karnataka culture has been destroyed in this region (Mudavidu Krishna Rao, quoted in Dharwadkar 1975: 37-39).
Thus, the state patronage in different forms ushered in and created tastes for a new form of music called Hindustani music in North Karnataka and the efforts of the Kannada nationalists were nullified by an effective state intervention. By the time Karnataka was unified in 1956, Hindustani music in north Karnataka was a well-established form of classical music. However, the idiom provided by the early Kannada nationalists was adopted by the later Kannada nationalists such as A.Na. Krishna Rao in the 1960s, who were quite instrumental for the birth of a musical genre called ‘light music’ in Kannada.


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------------- (1951), Karnataka Sangitavoo Dasakutavoo (Kannada – Karnataka Sangita
and Dasa Kuta), Dharwad: Kannada Research Institute

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(9), pp. 681-685

------------- (1999), Nanna Nenapugalu (Kannada – My Memories), Raghavendra Patil
and Suresh Betageri, eds., Malladihalli: Anandakanda Grantha Male

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Neighboring Cities”, in Tradition and Change in Eight Urban Musical Cultures,
B. Nettl, ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press

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[1] Gayathri (1993: 133-140) provides certain materials of correspondence regarding the performance of the Mysore musicians in Belgaum and the accolades they get from senior protagonists of Indian nationalism such as Mahatma Gandhi. Reference to this Conference is also available in the autobiography of the doyen of Hindustani music, Gangu Bai Hangal, who had attended this Conference as a schoolgirl of eleven years, singing the welcome song in a troupe. She remembers having seen Veene Sheshanna in that Conference. See Hangal 2000: 5. She also says that Savai Gandharva, her own Guru to be (and also the Guru of Bhimsen Joshi), also attended this Conference.
[2] Krishna Sharma (1999: 231) talks about the difficulties he faced as a Municipal servant in Belgaum, without knowing Marathi. He left that job only in two days.
[3] Alur Venkata Rao, arguably the first Kannada nationalist in North Karnataka gives accounts of the students from North Karnataka going to Pune for higher studies. From his narration we can discern the caste factor in the Kannada – Marathi divide. If Brahmin boys mixed more with Marathis and knew or learnt Marathi, the Lingayaths spoke Kannada and maintained their own groups (Venkata Rao 1999: 34-37).
[4] Krishna Sharma had watched several Marathi plays, especially that directed by Anna Saheb Kirloskar and he remembers the music of those plays had more leaning towards the South than North (1999: 206-207). It is interesting to note that Bhaksar Buva Bakhale, a famous musician of early twentieth century had worked in that Company as a young artist (Deodhar 2001: 93).
[5] The date of his arrival to Dharwar is not specified in either Deodhar (2001) or Choudhary (2002). But it is possible to guess the approximate period to be either the last decade of the nineteenth century or the first decade of twentieth century. This guess is based on the fact that Bakhale was born in 1869 and after 1910, he became very busy in performing in the Punjab and Sindh.
[6] Gharana is essentially a lineage of music that has characteristic repertoire of items, ways of modulating the voice and varieties of improvisation. It had a strong connotation of a family till twentieth century. But after that it has come to symbolise the lineage of studentship, which is characterised by those specificities of music performance. For more information about Gharana, see Neuman 1978.
[7] Mohan Nadkarni, who was a reviewer of music for Times of India, Mumbai for a long time, and has been writing articles on music since 1948, even goes to the extent of saying that the traffic of musician through Dharwar was a significant reason for the florescence of Hindustani music there (Nadkarni 1983: 7).
[8] The date is not sure. But he is talking about a period immediately after he passed his 5th standard in 1912. There is a gap of twelve years between this moment and the National Congress Meet at Belgaum. Though one should not attach too much value to these twelve years, it is sure from the previous paragraph that Hindustani music activity began in North Karnataka at the turn of twentieth century.
[9] In Hindustani music parlance, Riyaz means practice sessions.
[10] Even in what is called as Hyderabad Karnataka (the districts of Raichur, Bidar and Gulbarga), the entry of Hindustani music was a late phenomenon. The Gazetteer of India observes the music in Raichur and Adoni (an adjacent place, now under the territory of Andhra Pradesh) thus: “Raichur and Adoni were at one time big centres of Karnatic music. The popular taste later veered towards Hindustani music and the importance given to classical Karnatic music lessened. Even so, till recently, celebrated musicians from South India used to visit Raichur often to give performances, which drew large audiences” (Gazetteer of India 1970: 124)
[11] Venkata Rao gives a short list of the arenas of his cultural activities. That included works in the field of establishing libraries; having conferences on music, drama and industry; art exhibitions, and establishing Kannadiga associations (Venkata Rao 1999: 98). Specifically speaking some of his forays into what he called as the ‘cultural’ were as follows. He was the vice-president of an amateur theatre group in Dharwar; he organised a Kirtana (also known as Katha Kalakshepa) conference of one week in Bangalore; he was phenomenal in organising the first Ayurveda Conference in Bangalore. (Venkata Rao 1999: 123-124).
[12] Alur Venkata Rao said, for example, that Karnataka Sangita or Carnatic music is a jewel that Karnataka has ornamented Bharatidevi (India) with (Venkata Rao 1999: 11).
[13] He was a music critic for Deccan Herald, and Prajavani (English and Kannada dailies respectively) published from Bangalore.
[14] Yoganarasimham studied music from Mysore Vasudevachar. He was the Principal of the Sanskrit College, Mysore and held various positions in Mysore Education Department. He belonged to a special category of those who held a government office and also performed music, as patronisation was supposed to be the single role of a government officer in early twentieth century (Shastry 1999: 408-409).
[15] The other three were Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, Sri Sankaracharya Sankrit School and Victoria High school (Venkata Rao 1999: 27).
[16] He attributes this change rather to a single sentence occurring frequently in Madhvacharya’s treatises: “Naham Kartaa Harih Karta, Tatpooja Karmachakhilam” (I am not the one who does [things], Hari is the one, and every work [that one does] is his worship). See Venkata Rao 1974: 245. Whenever he talked about his spirituality, he uttered this sentence to give the gist of his religious understanding.
[17] It is curious to note that he uses the word ‘Jirnoddhara’ (reconstruction and revival) for the works related to the collection, editing and publishing of Dasa Sahitya (Venkata Rao 1974: 257).
[18] The title page of his work, Nanna Jivana Smritigalu carries the above-mentioned Sanskrit sentence from Madhvacharya and a corresponding line from Purandara Dasa, which gives the same meaning. He quotes from Pranesha Dasa at another place (Venkata Rao 1974: 246).
[19] One Abaji Ramachandra Savanth published Pada-s of Dasas from Belgaum in Devanagari script, in 1880 and 1894. This is the only record we have about Dasa Sahitya being published in Devanagari either in late nineteenth or early twentieth century.
[20] There were variations as well since it was more of an oral tradition than a textual one. But the learning of these songs used to take place at the level of all Karnataka.
[21] In this part of the chapter, we will distinguish between ‘Karnataka Sangita’ and ‘Dakshinatya Sangita’, because of Krishnachar proposition. ‘Karnataka Sangita’ (the term as used by Krishnachar) would be different from ‘Carnatic music’ in the sense that the latter term referred to the classical music genre of the whole of southern India. Whereas, the former term is restricted to music within what was considered to be Karnataka. On the other hand, Dakshinatya Sangita was restricted to the countries to the south of Karnataka.
[22] It is a system of classifying Raga in Carnatic music according to the sharpness of the notes in them.
[23] Beluru Keshavadasa agrees with the author and says that in both Madras as well as Mysore region, the same system of music prevails. Hence, it is difficult to drive home what Krishnachar is saying. We do not get anybody who can sing or play the kind of Karnataka Sangita that Kirshnachar is speaking about. And it is not the duty of just Krishnachar to wake up the Karnataka people, and to spread the music in both South and North Karnataka. Further he says that Mysore musicians just imitate the Madras ones. In no Kannadiga there has been the birth of self-respect to sing in Kannada. Kannada musicians are not even shy that they are singing in a language, in which they cannot understand the Rasa-Bhava (Keshavadasa n.d: 3-5).
[24] The publication date is also very indicative of the mood of the time. It was published in 1951, on the eve of the Unification of Karnataka.
[25] He ran a Kannada newspaper called Karnataka Vritta, to which Alur Venkata Rao wrote editorials (Venkata Rao 1974: 140).