Basking in the glory of Guru Shishya parampara

The evening ended with the Guru paying his respects to his shishyas, to the audience and to his own Guru. 

The evening began with the shishyas paying their respects to the Guru and the audience.

Among traditional Indian learning systems, the Guru Shishya Parampara holds a unique place. I was fortunate to experience a significant event within this parampara (tradition) on Saturday, 9 September 2023. The occasion was the Guru Vandana by shishyas (students) of Pandit Milind Date of the Senia Gharana. An acclaimed flautist and composer, Pandit Milind Date is a disciple of the renowned maestro of the bamboo flute (Hindustani Classical tradition), Hariprasad Chaurasia of the Senia Gharana.

I was able to catch the performances of the second part of the evening, starting with Gauri Deshpande’s controlled rendition of Raag Bageshwari. She was followed by the earnest Anurag Joshi who played Raag Kirwani, followed by a piece in Dhrut Teen Taal. Both were accompanied by Charudatta Phadke on the tabla.

Gauri Deshpande accompanied by Charudatta Phadke
Anurag Joshi accompanied by Charudatta Phadke

It was an evening of felicitations as well since there were several veteran and seasoned musicians from Pune’s classical and semi-classical music industry. A delightful surprise for the audience came in the form of an impromptu performance by Sasan Bazgir, an exponent of the ancient Persian instrument, Setar, accompanied by Arvind Paranjape on the tabla. An Iranian poet, writer, musician and assistant professor based in Tehran, Sasan had presented an introduction to Persian music earlier in the week at the Lalit Kala Kendra at the Savitrabai Phule Pune University as a guest expert. 

Arvind Paranjape (tabla) accompanying Susan Bazgir on setar.

Following Bazgir’s performance, 21-year-old Ninad Barve took centre-stage, presenting Raag Chandrakauns. The evening’s disciple tributes closed with Mahesh Jeste’s masterful rendition of Raag Jog followed by a dhun in Raag Desh. Charudatta Phadke’s energy served well to bring deeper meaning to the musical conversations, while Kushal Bhalerao accompanied on flute.

Ninad Barve accompanied by Charudatta Phadke.
(left to right): Kushal, Mahesh Jeste and Charudatta Phadke.

For the layperson, every rendition would seem gripping. Till they heard the next senior disciple and so on. Which is the beauty and purpose of students performing with their school and guru. As a music reviewer, my focus is always on gauging if the performer is living up to their potential in the moment, and if they have progressed in their art and craft from earlier performances.  Which is in line with the intent and purpose of the Guru Shishya parampara – to guide the learner on their path to discovering themselves and fulfilling their own individual potential. The purpose of listening to a performer is never to compare them to another performer but to evaluate them with respect to themself – the hallmark and ultimate purpose of traditional Indian learning is to reach one’s own higher self.

As Milind Date took stage, he said some words to the audience, which were a beautiful discourse on the purpose of learning in general and in the particular context of learning music in the Guru Shishya tradition. My English translation of his Marathi words (with apologies for any inaccuracy): “Every individual has a capacity and ability. If the person has been able to perform to that capacity, they are successful and famous. And that is the purpose of a guru to help the person reach their potential and become competent with respect to their capacity and ability.”

As he began his performance, he embodied the same sincere humility, cheerful countenance and request for forgiveness from the audience that his students had introduced their performances with: “I will present Raag Yaman, which I think I can play to some extent. I will try to present the Raag to the best of my abilities. Please forgive any mistakes that I may make.”

(left to right): Arvind Paranjape (tabla), Pandit Milind Date and Ninad Barve
(left to right): Jacob Panicker, Arvind Paranjape, Milind Date during the performance of fusion composition, ‘Breaking Through the Mist’

Milind played a soulful rendition of Yaman, accompanied by Ninad Barve on flute and Arvind Paranjape on tabla. The energy flowed through into the flute and out into the audience, as is usually the case with Milind’s performances (many years ago, a college student had exclaimed: “He is the only flute player I know who dances, headbangs, stomps and sways while performing on stage!”. He closed the evening with one of his fusion compositions (from his Fusion Ensemble band), Breaking Through the Mist, with Jacob Panicker joining on electric guitar. It brought the audience to its feet.

As the audience dispersed, I reflected upon the energy the performances had filled me with, but there was also a glow. That glow was from having touched and experienced the positive, sincere and respectful conduct of a Guru and his students. It would be appropriate to say that I was basking in the reflected glow of how a good education affects onlookers and society.

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