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Chidanand Dattatraya Nagarkar

CHIDANAND NAGARKAR – 1919-1971 – A EUPHONIC SAGA OF HINDUSTANI CLASSICAL MUSIC

The Evolution of Music

Music is divine and serene. Music is spiritual and religious. Music is transcendental. Music is an Art which seems to have transcended from the heavens to enrich the aesthetic senses of the living mortals, and leave behind a trail of peace and tranquility in their hearts. It will not be a judgment of error to aver that there is a strong link and a bond between the spirit and the physical senses. Music, by itself is not spiritual in the truer sense, but is only a means to achieve its end viz realization of the spiritual goal through a process (Sadhana) of discipline – physical and mental (Abhyas/Aradhana/Riyaz). When a ‘Sadhaka’ uses an art, be it Bhajan or Mantra, to convey his innermost thoughts and feelings to God, he is virtually enacting these feelings through the medium of this art viz music. The spiritual bliss, if any, derived out of these actions is the benefit accrued on account of the individual capacity of the Sadhaka to derive the aesthetic delight through the medium. In the spiritual world, the ‘word-content’ contained in a Bhajan or a Mantra has lesser prominence to its ‘musical-content’, as a consequence of which the Raga dominates over the verse. The Sadhaka would therefore be inclined to devote his perception of the Bhajan or the Mantra more towards the musical aspects of it rather than try to comprehend the meaning of the ‘word-content’. Thus, Music has gained more dominance over the choice of the Sadhaka in the pursuit of his/her spiritual realization. When a Bhajan is sung or a Mantra is recited, the tendency of the Sadhaka is to concentrate more on the musical aspects of the spiritual medium being enacted, rather than the words contained in the bhajan or mantra. This finer aspect has played a dominant role in the musical arena, giving an impetus to expose more and more Sadhakas to take to music more seriously in this century. This phenomenon does not degrade the intrinsic value of the spiritual inputs contained in a Bhajan or a Mantra. It also does not relegate religious schools (missions/mutts/ashrams etc) from their present rightful position in the spiritual pursuits of human beings. The overall picture depicts music gaining an upper hand in the priority list of the modern society in the field of arts. Music also plays an important role in the development of dance. Both these arts gained prominence during the end of the 19th Century when Royalty and the ruling Maharajas encouraged these arts. However, during the course of the British rule when Maharajas had to give up their sovereignty in exchange for a privy purse to cover their personal/family expenses, music and dance patronage took backstage. As a consequence of which it suffered very much, and, in the process lost much of its flavor and favour among the artistes. Post-Independence saw the emergence of music and dance back to its former status due to the support of the reigning Government. Thus, learning the nuances of music from a renowned exponent became more of a career than a hobby or a past-time for many lovers of music. The desire and the urge to learn and train in music became a passion for several aspirants hailing from the middle class society. Strange, but true, music which was dominated by renowned artistes and exponents belonging to the Muslim community at one stage, slowly made way for several Hindu exponents to claim their rightful place in the world of music. Thus, one could visualize and hear musicologists with titles “Pandits” alongside ‘Ustads’ in the musical arena on a regular basis. With the eulogistic transformation happening in the mind-set of music lovers caused by the phenomenal changes in the historical environment of music, particularly Hindustani Classical Music, the value and importance of music gained its lost sheen and popularity in the Northern/Eastern/Western parts of India. The desire to learn Classical Music as a career-oriented vision under an exponent/ Guru and to excel in this art to take it to its final destiny,became a musical ‘tapasya’ for the aspirants. All communities in the country exposed their ‘gems’ embedded in their ‘tiaras’ of music. Our Chitrapur Saraswat community did not lag behind in this endeavour. The discovery and the revelation of one of the finest gems from the community to the populace of India and the world was itself a result of the divine blessings of Goddess Saraswati to the Chitrapur Saraswats and in particular to PANDIT CHIDANAND NAGARKAR .

The Formative Years

CHIDANAND DATTATREY NAGARKAR, was born on 28th November, 1919 in the family of Dattatreya Ramarao Nagarkar and Sitabai Nagarkar at Bangalore. The Nagarkar family consisted of five sons and three daughters. Chidanand inherited all his musical talents from his father, who had a flair for singing devotional musical compositions (Bhajans) and stage acting (including Natya Sangeet). Dattatreya desired that his son, Chidanand, pursue studies seriously and achieve laurels in the field of science, even nurturing a hope to see him become a scientist.

Chidanand was born in a community where prominence was given for pursuit of normal education in order to pursue a successful career in service. Since the majority of its members belonged to the middle class society, securing a satisfactory/permanent job was an end to the means for the path of education. Chidanand’s father held a high official position in a leading textile mill at Bangalore (popularly known as The Raja Mills) and quite understandably desired that his son become an ideal graduate and pursue a successful career in service. Those were the days when normal academic education was regarded as the right type of pursuit for children in the community. However, Chidanand was not destined for this role. He was not very keen in taking his studies seriously, as his heart and soul were in music right from his infancy. For him music was life itself! His mother Sitabai would at times complain, “Poora re ma. Sakalni dhornu thugelo thalo aikkunu purppuro jallo.Thodo velu rest ghe”.The home of the Nagarkars was a ‘soiree’ for classical music, with musical celebrities of the calibre of Ustad Faiyaz Khan gracing the residence on a fairly regular basis. It was quite natural for Chidanand to visualize music to be his ultimate goal in life and make a career out of it. However when his father called him by his side while on the death-bed the boy hardly 14-year old then got so emotional that he promised to start attending classes but then his father himself told him, “No my child. I know that is where your destiny lies! I knew it from the very beginning. Your horoscope says it all. That is why I was trying to keep you away from it to the extent possible since your childhood. Music is a glorious art but then not worth taking it up as a profession; that was my thinking. Perhaps I was wrong. I’ve spoken to Pandurang. Go take up music for a profession. My blessings are there“.

When he showed more inclination towards learning music than pursuing pure academics, his father took a positive/a pro-active decision to allow Chidanand to join Gandharva Mahavidyalaya at Bombay in 1933, established by late Narayanrao Vyas and late Vinayakrao Patwardhan. While at Bangalore, he initially started learning music from Pandit Govind Vithal Bhave, who taught him the basics of Hindustani Classical music to a nicety. Unfortunately, Chidanand lost his father in 1934 at a very young age, and at the age of 15 he went to Lucknow to pursue advance studies by joining the Marris College of (Hindustani) Music – presently known as the Bhatkhande Vidya Peeth – where he received rigorous training under Acharya Pandit S.N.Ratanjankar and Ustad Agha Samshuddin Hyder for six years. Pandit Ratanjankar was the Head of this institution and had already made a mark in the field of music as one of the most eminent ‘Gurus’. It is common knowledge in the ‘Guru-Shishya’ parampara that a Guru easily spots the inherent talents in his Shishya, as was the case in the Ratanjankar- Chidanand relationship. Thus, the ‘Shishya’ derived total benefit of the Guru’s scientific method of teaching in all the genres of Hindustani Music, ranging from Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khayal to Tappa and Thumri. Chidanand developed his own inimitable style of singing based on his dignified and rich baritone voice that he possessed. Chidanand was very much influenced by the renowned Ustad Faiyaz Khan and Ustad Manji Khan and followed the ‘Agra’ gharana. While in Lucknow, Chidanand also learned the Kathak style of dancing from Guru Shambu Maharaj and his nephew Pandit Ramdutt Mishra, and derived implicit guidance in this form of dancing from both maestros. Chidanand attained mastery over music quite early in his career, since ‘sur’ and ‘laya’ was very much in his blood. Chidanand secured the FIRST rank throughout his college career in music and was awarded the Raja Audesh Singh Memorial Gold Medal by Rani Laxmi Devi of Kalakankar State for his ‘Best Khayal’ singing in 1939. Soon after completing his training at the Marris College, Lucknow, under Pandit S.N.Ratanjankar in 1939, Chidanand returned to Bangalore. He was invited by Canara Union, Malleswaram, Bangalore to perform at their community hall. The performance of Chidanand Nagarkar that musical night was of such impressive quality and standard that it left the music lovers of Bangalore thirsting to listen to more of his recitals at regular intervals. Whenever there was an opportunity to sing, he made the maximum use of it to please the music lovers of his community. It was that period of time when Pandit Chinmay Lahiri, Pandit S.C.R.Bhat, Pandit K.G.Ginde, Pandit P.N.Chindore, Pandit Govindrao Dantale, Pandit Dinkar Kaikini, Roshan Lal, Sumati Mutatkar etc were still undergoing training in music at Marris College, Lucknow. Within a couple of years after he secured the Bachelor Degree of Music from the Marris College in 1941, personal tragedy struck in his family. He lost his mother, Sitabai, in 1941 at Bangalore. He married Durgabai Mavinkurve on 12th March 1942. The marriage took place at Ranibennur, a small town located near Harihar in the former Mysore State. The marriage was performed in a grandeur befitting the family. He decided to shift his family to Bombay and settle down there on a permanent basis. Chidanand and Durgabai had 2 daughters and 1 son in their family – Geeta (Mavinkurve), Kanti (Karnik) and Gurucharan respectively. The family resided in a flat in the Canara Housing Cooperative Society at Matunga, a suburban of Bombay. After coming to Bombay, Chidanand was more popularly known as Nagarkar to all his colleagues and well wishers.

BHARATIYA VIDYA BHAVAN, BOMBAY.

Padma Bhushan Acharya Dr.S.N.Ratanjankar (fondly addressed as “Anna Saheb”), the distinguished music maestro and musicologist, was a Guru with a vision. With the deceleration and the declination of royal patronage and support for music and dance from Maharajas, Nawabs, rich Zamindars etc, the revival of these arts seemed to be waning from the horizon of the world of art in India. The revival of music and dance needed the support of voluntary institutions and the Government to restore it to the past glory and status. Acharya Ratanjankar approached Kulapati K.M.Munshi, pleading support for the cause and future of music and dance, by setting up an Institution catering to the aspiring Vidyarthis of music under aegis of the Bhavan. This pro-active suggestion made by Acharyaji was very much appreciated by Munshiji who favourably responded to it. However, he had an apprehension in his mind that such institutions which are made by men are also marred by them. Hence the onus of selecting and providing able, competent, dedicated and unselfish personnel who would manage and administer the affairs of the proposed institution, fell squarely on Acharyaji. Acharya Ratanjankar responded spontaneously and unreservedly assuring Kulapati Munshiji that the best and most deserving disciple would be considered for this onerous task. He had no hesitation in recommending the name of Chidanand Nagarkar, who was just 26 years of age, for the post of the Principal of Bharatiya Sangeet-Nartan Shiksha Peeth set up under the aegis of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bombay. Kulapati Munshiji had absolutely no hesitation in accepting the recommendations of Acharya Ratanjankar. Thus, Chidanand Nagarkar became the first Principal of this Institution in 1946 at the very young age of 26. He had the able support of dedicated scholar-musicians such as Sitaram Pant Mody (a guru-bhai of Acharya Ratanjankar),Pandit K.G.Ginde, Pandit C.R.Vyas and Pandit S.C.R.Bhat (Shukla Chandrasekhar Ramchandra Bhat){ the senior ‘guru-bhai’ of Nagarkar}, as faculty members. Nagarkar having accepted the onerous responsibility of shaping the future of the institution in transforming it into one of the most prominent and premier institutions in India imparting training in the arts of music and dance, ensured the affiliation of the Shikshapeeth to the Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth in Lucknow. Students undergoing training at the Shikshapeeth were awarded the Degree of Sangeet Visharad from Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth, Lucknow. Nagarkar extended the scope, extent and content of the activities of the institution in several dimensions. More Staff were recruited as Faculty members to include instrumental music and dance as part of the curriculum. He established a ‘Music Circle’ and solicited spontaneous cooperation of several luminaries in the field of music such as Kesarbai Kerkar (vocal), Ali Akbar Khan (sarod) and several others to perform in the monthly programmes of the Shikshapeeth known as “Sangeet Vrind” He also organized annual Sangeet Sammelans, known as ‘Bhatkhande Samaroh’ to observe the death anniversary of Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, who was Pandit S.N.Ratanjankar’s ‘guru’. This annual Sangeet Sammelan was the first of its kind to be held in Bombay and the programme received several accolades from the music loving audiences. Nagarkar also introduced a novel feature for young aspiring singers to perform on stage alongside veteran music luminaries during the Sammelans. This unique feature was to become a trend-setter as the audience had the rare opportunity of listening to two different generations of musicians. These annual events captivated the audiences to such an extent that they were very much looked forward to with a lot of anticipation and eagerness. Such annual Sangeet Sammelans are still being organized at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay attracting larger audiences. The Shikshapeeth has had the unique distinction of sending the largest number of students to appear for the Sangeet Visharad Degree examinations conducted by the Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth at Lucknow every year. The Shikshapeeth has produced several distinguished graduates in music as well as talented musicians who command reputed positions in the world of music. Nagarkar was bestowed with a divine gift of spotting future talents from amongst aspiring students of music and adequately trained them to ensure their smooth progress in the field of music. Some of his students like Vasanti Kodikal, Shashikala Kaikini, Sadanand Pattiarchi, Tej Krishna Jalali, Sushila Nadkarni (to name a few) and several others have established a name for themselves in the world of music. Nagarkar brought Ustad Allah Rakha, the Tabla maestro of international repute to the Sangeet’s Shikshapeeth as a Tabla teacher in 1950.Pandit C.R.Vyas and Pandit Vinayakrao Ingle also joined the Bhavan. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan shifted to its own premises located at Chowpatty, Bombay, in the year 1950. The new building was inaugurated by Shri.Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari.

In recognition of Chidanand Nagarkar’s contribution to the cause of Music, he was awarded the “DISTINGUISHED SERVICE “ Plaque in 1968 by Dr.Zakir Hussain, former President of India, during the Tri-Decennial celebrations of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bombay.

On 26th May 1971, Chidanand Nagarkar was having his morning cup of tea, seated in his favourite chair reading the newspaper, when he had a major heart attack (cardiac arrest) to which he succumbed even before medical assistance could reach him. He was quite hale and healthy the previous evening. He was just 51 years 5 months and 28 days old when tragedy struck his family, the entire Chitrapur Saraswat community and left the world of music in a state of shock, utter disbelief and trauma. The Chitrapur Saraswat community had lost one of its embellished jewels in the tragic death of Chidanand Nagarkar at such a young age – a loss which was irretrievable. While it is a universally accepted fact and a truth that death is certain and unavoidable for all human beings born in this world, the uppermost thought haunting everyone’s mind that Black Day must have certainly been – “ O God, Why Chidanand Nagarkar ?”

The world of music lost one of its reputed exponent of Hindustani Classical Music for ever. Chidanand Nagarkar was still holding the post of the Principal at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, when the cold hands of death had snatched away his life and the dedicated services that he had been lending to the Bhavan. As a mark of respect to Chidanand Nagarkar for his dedicated services to the Bhavan, in particular to the Shikshapeeth during its formative years, the Bhavan had extended monetary assistance to his family till his son, Gurucharan Nagarkar, had completed his college education. As soon as Gurucharan completed his academic course in college, he requested the Bhavan to discontinue the financial assistance so far being rendered by the Bhavan to the family. Chidanand Nagarkar was one of the foremost dedicated, unselfish and talented workers of the Bhavan.

Chidanand Nagarkar – A Musical paradigm

The Divine Blessings of Goddess Saraswati endowed Chidanand Nagarkar with a rich, resonant and a charismatic baritone voice, resplendent in its depth. His deep voice had energy and dignity which moulded into its own individualistic style of singing. His expansive mode of expression often reminded one of Ustad Faiyaz Khan, but there was no tendency to imitate Khan Saheb in his style of singing. Chidanand did not become a popular singer, not because of lack of abilities, but due to his diversified activities at the Bhavan. Perhaps, had he concentrated on his music, he would have been ranked alongside great maestros and ustads in music. In his personal life he was more of a philosopher and a true Karma Yogi than a pursuer of name and fame. He did not devote much attention to a singing career and did not bother much to make headway in the competitive world of music. It belies the sense of logic and reasoning as to the reasons why, despite possessing such rare qualities of a musical genius, Chidanand did not get the recognition to the extent he truly deserved. He was a singer of fine quality and used to perform for the All India Radio on a regular basis. One of the music critics in Bombay wrote in his obituary for the singer thus – “Chidanand Nagarkar had an energetic and dignified voice merged with a masculine melody and his own individualistic style of singing. His other specialities were deep development of a raag with the minutest scientific subtleties, totally different taan patterns, highly calculated sharpely and fastest sargams, vivacious layakari, sensuous lyricism and above all that divine classification that he adhered to. He had a perception of the pristine parity of the ragas which attained their true meaning in his rendering. At the same time they gave him ample scope to express his emotional freedom with supreme aesthetic perfection. His singing was clever, intelligent, majestic and he sang with an air of a dictator. He put head and heart into his singing and that invariably cast a spell on the listeners.”

Besides being a very impressive singer and an able teacher, Chidanand Nagarkar was a leading musicologist of his generation. He was also a poet besides being a gifted composer. He has left behind a rich and rare collection of his own compositions on devotion and romantic feelings for posterity. Some of his compositions are :- “Hey Gajanana Ganpathi Heramb” (Raag Yaman Kalyan) ; “Panchavidha Mukti path” (Raag Chaaya Tilak) ; “Na Kaiye Guman” (Raag Darbari Kannada) ; “Aisee Ko Manbhavan” and “Chali Gori Gaagariya Fori Bar Jori” (Raag Raageshri); “Maate Tu Jag Janani” (Raag Hansadhwani); “Lal Mile” (Raag Bhairagi Bhairav); “Jogi Bankar Jana Hai” (Raag Bhairavi). He also innovated a string of melodies like – “Kaishiki-Ranjani”, “Ambika Sarang”, “Yoga-Shri”, “Jan-Ranjani”, “Bhairav Naat” to name a few. He used to sing these new creations in self-composed “bandishes” .Most of these ragas have achieved recognition in the music circles and several top singers like Pandit C.R.Vyas and Smt.Malini Rajurkar used to render them at their concerts.

During the period from 1942 to 1945, Chidanand made extensive tours of the country and visited various cities and towns in India to enthrall the music loving audiences with his musical performances. Apparently the spell-bound audiences at Bombay were the most appreciative of his musical talents. Many of his music performances had been arranged at the invitation of the Kanara Saraswat Association, Bombay, where the audience mostly consisted of members of the Chitrapur Saraswat community. Being an anti-regionalist, he was keen on bringing about a fusion between Hindustani and Carnatic styles of music.

Chidanand Nagarkar – A Multifaceted Personality

Before accepting ‘Grihasthashram’ and settling down in the mundane marital life, when he was around 19-20 years old, Chidanand Nagarkar started learning the aesthetics of astrology of the renowned Shrimad Varahamihir’s “Brihat Jathak” under the guidance of Prof.M.R.Bhat, who was residing in Mangalore. Additionally, he took keen interest in learning and studying Vedanta, as well as the spiritual advices of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Bhagawat, Gita, etc. Albeit not being fortunate to undergo collegiate education, he made the maximum use of the Nagarkar family’s library in particular to study the intricacies of Mathematics in which Astrology, Numerology and Astronomy were some of the subjects. The in-depth study of these subjects helped him in predicting the future of persons who used to approach him for this purpose. He also learnt about ‘face study’ of human beings which also helped him considerably.

Chidanand was a multi-faceted personality in his own rights. He was a voracious reader and had made in-depth studies in spiritual philosophy and astrology, to delve deep into the rich treasures of India’s spirituality by studying Vedas, Upanishads and various religious epics. He was conversant with many languages like Braj-Bhasha, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Sanskrit and Urdu. He was competent enough even to compose ‘Dohas’ in Brij-Basha. He was also a very good orator and could deliver lectures on a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from music, sports, religion etc. In his later life, he was invited to deliver spiritual discourses. He was also a good conversationalist, having the proficiency to converse on a variety of subjects in any forum. His sense of humour was a reflection of this trend running in the blood and veins of the Nagarkar family, which is very much in evidence even to this day. He was a simple, humble, compassionate, straight-forward, outspoken, frank and fearless, fun-loving and a down-to-earth human being He never hesitated to speak out his thoughts openly on certain sensitive matters/issues. He was an ardent devotee of Satya Sai Baba and used to render his personal services, as captain of the volunteer corps, whenever Sai Baba visited Bombay.

Chidanand became an introvert and detached himself from the ‘material world’. He had a flair for Yoga and Spiritual meditation. His control over his pranas (including his body, spirit and mind) was the resultant effect of constant rigorous ‘Yogabhyas’ (physical exercises from Yoga) and ‘Dhyan’ (meditation). He would very often enter into a trance while meditating and had been noticed by several persons to be floating in mid-air. He could produce ‘Udi’ and ‘Idols of Gods’ from space as though he was performing a miracle. (Incidentally, Satya Sai Baba was also known to be performing such miraculous acts). Divinity and Spirituality was not unknown to the Nagarkar family, which seems to be flowing in their blood. HH Shrimat Krishnashram Swami and HH Pandurangashram Swami were born in the Nagarkar family before taking ‘sanyas’ and being initiated as Gurus of the Chitrapur Saraswat community and the Mathadipathi of Shri Chitrapur Math, Shirali. Chidanand also knew the art of black magic but he never used the knowledge on human beings. He studied Astrology and Astronomy excessively. It is believed that he had even predicted the date and time of his death! His predictions always turned out to be true and correct. In the year 1970 he had informed Vasant Panshikar (one of his students) that the year 1971 would be his last year of existence and he would not be alive after that year. In the event he survived in 1971 he expected to live till he was 75 years of age. Seven days prior to his death, while eating his regular ‘pan’ at the panwala’s shop, he had informed his ‘panwala’ that seven days later his body will leave from his house. As per his fate and destiny, his prediction turned out to be very true – he expired on Wednesday, 26th May,1971. Chidanand used to derive his spiritual and divine strength from HH Anandashram Swamij of Shri Chitrapur Math, Shirali, and Satya Sai Baba. Perhaps, due to this he devoted much of his time towards religion and spirituality. He also has written several books on religious topics.

The humanitarian facet of Chidanand’s personality came to the forefront on account of an incident which occurred in 1957. When he was the Principal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (music section), one of his student-disciple – Vasant Panshikar- could not appear for the final exams owing to financial constraints and domestic responsibilities. He was unable even to remit the monthly fees of Rs.10 to the institution. When Chidanand came to know of the personal constraints of Vasant Panshikar, he arranged to remove the name of his student from the rolls of the Bhavan and asked him to resume training at Chidanand’s residence without collecting or charging any fee. This was the right approach to the ‘Guru-Shishya’ Parampara, wherein ‘Swar’, ‘Kanswar’, ‘Ragswarup’ etc were imparted in a domestic atmosphere. Vasant Panshikar considered himself to be very fortunate, as was the hand of his destiny, in being able to train himself under such a ‘Guru’ as Chidanand Nagarkar.

Chidanand Nagarkar was not in favour of the ‘Gharana’ system prevalent in the Hindustani Classical music world in India. According to him the word ‘Gharana’ technically meant a ‘family’, but in relation to music it was a misnomer, as this aspect of music led to ‘perpetuated groupism’

In its original sense, a ‘Gharana’ implied the tradition of a group of musicians living in a particular region and practicing a set pattern/style of music ideal to their cultural tradition and social system. To cite a few ‘gharanas’ – “Agra”, “Benares”,“Gwalior”,“Jaipur” – they represent the respective regional locales/roots. Chidanand opined that although the representatives of these ‘gharanas’ were masters in their styles and concept, they were averse to accept any changes, modifications, innovations or infusion of new ideas in their traditionally accepted and established styles of singing. Owing to lack of proper infra-structure such as transport facilities, absence of music circles, music conferences, transmission avenues (radio/gramophone) etc led to the confinement of the ‘gharanas’ to a regional status. Besides, the inter-group rivalries which existed between various states and provinces during the British regime, not only stinted the growth of music but also harmed its progress. There was a time when musicians believed it an unworthy act of teaching outsiders and restricted imparting the aesthetics of music only to their kith and kin, albeit they lacked in talent. Hence, Chidanand conscientiously believed that if Classical music was to survive in India, all the Ustads have to step down from their high pedestal of ‘gharana’ addiction to reach the hearts of music lovers. Despite the strong opposition made by Chidanand against the existing system of ‘gharanas’, he strongly felt that there was a need to develop and evolve a single ‘gharana’ unit incorporating the principles and techniques of other ‘gharanas’. A similar system of education in music had been conceived by the late Pandit Bhatkhande. The main objective of such a scheme was aimed at diffusion of knowledge in building up the personality of the singer and the listeners.

Chidanand Nagarkar – The Final Act

Chidanand Nagarkar passed away on 26th May 1971, succumbing to a massive heart attack while enjoying his morning cup of tea, reading a newspaper seated in his favourite chair at his residence. He was 51 years old at the time of his death. His sudden death shocked the entire Chitrapur Saraswat community and his well-wishers from the world of music.

Chidanand had given several music concerts all over the country, but more particularly in Bombay. His performances used to be of a very high quality, leaving the audiences spell-bound and unsated. The knowledgeable audience would always clamour for more music whenever he performed. While performing for Chitrapur Saraswat community audiences, his performance always used to be the best. Chidanand has been accompanied by stalwarts from the music world – Allah Rakha, H.Taranath, Shashi Bellare, Y.R.Ingle, S.V.Patwardhan, Shripad Nageshkar (on Tabla); A.Kerkar, Ram Narayan, Dattaram Parvatkar, Amir Bux (on Sarangi); P.Madhukar, V.G.Jog (on Harmonium)’ Anant Jog, G.G.Kharadkar (on Violin) - to name a few. He has also composed poems and created new ragas – his compositions generally tended towards religion.

Twelve years after his death – in the summer of 1983 – Chidanand is reported to have appeared in his spiritual form during the sunset hours (between 5 and 6 P.M.) at the house of Vasant Panshikar in Goa. He had also advised Panshikar on certain matters.

Chidanand Nagarkar was a philosophical musician from the ‘Agra Gharana’. He advised his ‘shishyas’ by emphasizing the basics of religion and spirituality –

“Never criticize any artiste. Enjoy the multi-dimensional beauty of nature, such as the ocean of sound, to reach the ultimate reality – “SAT-CHIT-ANAND” - through music. Find all the beautiful aspects of God in the unlimited blessings he has showered on different human beings – such as beautiful features, vibrant eyes, enchanting smiles, winsome looks, beautiful voices, sober temperament, knowledge of arts and science etc. Have the ability to enjoy beauty and good in everyone”.

“It is said that art is a link between the sense and the spirit. Whenever we speak of spiritual feelings in relation to art, we are prone to imagine that the word ‘spiritual’ is meant to represent a feeling of devotion towards the unseen, and that this is expressed through different forms of art. Nothing can be farther from truth. This devotion is actually born out of awe, love and worship of success. Likewise, it is sometimes born out of fear of the same unseen force”.

“When a devotee uses art to express his feelings towards God, he is merely dramatizing the feeling through the medium of art. The benefit he derives, if at all, in spiritual terms comes through his capacity to derive aesthetic delight”.

“We need not mistake Bhajans, Vedic hymns, songs of church etc for forms of art having any spiritual value. It is the ‘word-content’ of a song that becomes more important than the ‘musical-content’, and as such it is the words, if properly understood and followed, that are of any spiritual value. It does not seem necessary to musically embellish the words contained in such compositions. It should not be presumed by this opinion that such songs have no place in society. In fact, the average mind is more attracted by the music than the words of such devotional songs, and popularization of such songs has its own value in a progressive society”.

“Music by itself is of no spiritual value but only a means to an end. And the end is not the music but the realization of the reality, namely, the beauty, through the sense of hearing. The trance we go into while listening to music is an aesthetic experience and not a spiritual one.”

Was Chidanand Nagarkar a musician or a spiritualist ?

Nandakumar Hattiangadi,

Bangalore.

(email – nandakumar.hattiangadi@gmail.com)

(Inputs sourced from ‘Chit-Anand’ – a publication of Popular Book Depot, Bombay and from Shri. Bhasker Rao Haldipur, Bangalore)

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