Not War, it’s the Sound of Music
Maharashtra may seem a long way from Lucknow today, but once upon a time the Avadh region shared borders with the Maratha kingdom in Bundelkhand and with other parts of western Uttar Pradesh. And, despite what some Gujaratis and Mumbaikers might say about UPwallahs now, the Mughals and Marathas have enjoyed an age-old relationship and together fought Ahmad Shah Abdali or Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Afghan king.
Now, should I hold that historical reality against fellow Lucknowite Nusrat Durrani today? Should I try to shame this contemporary Durrani, who is the creator of the wondrous ‘Rebel Music’ series and of MTV World and who continues to explore new ways to connect the youth of the world through pop culture, for what his namesake did in the 18th century?
What a bad idea!
However, let us go back to history when the Rohilla pathans of this area had revolted against Delhi in 1752. The local pathans were encouraged by Abdali to rebel against the Mughals. At that time, Safdarjung, a soldier-statesman, was sent by Delhi to crush the rebellion in Avadh which he did with the help of Maratha soldiers.
Dr Anil Balapure, senior scientist at Lucknow’s Central Drugs and Research Institute (CDRI), recalls in Lucknow ki Rachi Basi Tehzeeb, a lovely book published by Sanatkada, a local NGO, that the first people from Maharashtra perhaps settled down in significant numbers in Lucknow during this time as warriors, administrators, traders and artists. They were followed by those who came here after Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II was defeated by the forces of the British East India Company and exiled to Bithoor near Kanpur, close to Lucknow.
A flood of immigrants from Maharashtra arrived in the early 20th century to make money, and to make music. While a Gujarati owned one of the city’s first paper mills set up beside the Gomti river, the manager of the mill was a Maharashtrian. Maharashtrians from the Sangli and Satara area chose to live and practise their trade in the old city of Lucknow to continue a bustling business in bullion, specialising in the fine art of galati or the melting of precious metals like gold and silver for making jewelry.
Ustads Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan and Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, founder of the Marris College of Music, had also attracted music lovers to Lucknow. Dr Nilkanth Keshav Natu’s ancestors had come from the Konkan area with Peshwa Baji Rao II to Bithoor. Dr Natu’s grandfather practised medicine at the court in Rampur but he moved to Lucknow in 1926 out of love for North Indian classical music.
An advocate by profession, music was a passion with Bhatkhande. He played the flute and learnt vocal music from Vazir Khan and Chhaman Khan of the Rampur gharana and Mohammad Ali Khan of the Jaipur gharana. All self-styled nationalists please note that it was Bhatkhande’s knowledge of many languages and his curiosity and love for the way of life of other communities that made him a master of different cultures.
Born in 1860, Bhatkhande’s numerous conversations with many musicians and philosophers of his time broadened his view of the world and of music, and he was able to write a series of books on the theoretical aspect of North Indian classical music.
He developed a new notation system and organised several music conferences around the country in Baroda, Delhi, Benaras and Lucknow between 1916 and 1923, at a time when many other human beings were engaged in the First World War.
Each conference organised by Bhatkhande resulted in a music college in that particular city which exists to this day, like Lucknow’s Bhatkhande Music Institute, originally known as Marris College of Music and a classical landmark that is as important as Lucknow’s many imambaras and darwazas.
The institute has had two Maharashtrian vice chancellors. There was Dr Vidhyadhar Vyas, and, now, Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar, also known as the nightingale of Lucknow, who also encourages students to make money by learning to organise musical events, apart from performing. With Maharashtrians like her in Lucknow, there is hope that citizens of this city will continue to live here, deeply appreciating each other.