Professor Chandrakant Lal Das is senior Sarod-player of the Maihar-Senior Gharana and an eminent music scholar of the country.
Born in 1934, he inherited the love for music from his father, late Jainarayan Das who also happened to be a trained classical vocalist and a Sanskrit language scholar apart from being a zamindar in the Terai region of Nepal.
A disciple of Acharya Alauddin Khan, C.L, Das also received the guidance from Pt. Ramchatur Mallick of the Darbhanga-Amta Gharana in the rendition of Ragas in Dhrupad style. He is also credited to have pioneered the trend of reviewing classical music and dance programmes in the newspapers. A number of research scholars and fellows at the Indira Kala Music University, Khairagarh, (Chhattisgarh) and the University of Delhi continue to take guidance from him.
A musicology of national repute, C.L, Das prepared the syllabus of the courses of music from intermediate to post-graduation level for the Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University, Darbhanga (Bihar) and has been the examiner of M.Mus exams in the Magadh, Mithila and the B.N. Mandal Universities at Gaya, Darbhanga and Saharsa respectively for the last four decades.
His also played a major role in bringing classical music and musicians among the gentry in Bihar, creating cultural organisations like ‘Nav Sangeet’, Bihar Sangeet Parishad and other, organising classical music concerts in the auditorium and holding regular music sessions at his residence since the 1950s. The list of artistes who performed in those events included Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amir Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Bahadur Khan, Ustad Nasir Ahmad Khan and Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan.
Many may not agree with views and opinions that I am going to express now.
Over the years of interaction, I have realised that the words uttered during some casual moments by the artiste my enable you understand him better both as a man and as a musician.
It may be an interaction as close friend of the artiste, sharing his personal moments or as a connoisseur of the art, as an organiser, as a reviewer in dailies and monthly journals or as just a learner of the art. Those informal exchanges of words and expressions unravel the artiste’s mind, music, and the moments of his mood swings with all their social and cultural perspectives an make you feel the pulse of the society and the time lived by him.
The first time I had this feeling when I came close to Pt. Ramchatur Mallick.
He has been a legendary interpreter of the Darbhanga-Amta gharana, a style of the Gauda Bani Dhrupad singing which developed in late 18th century in Darbhanga district, popularly known as the Mithila region of Bihar. He was also a court musician of the Darbhanga Raj during the time of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh and Bishweshwar Singh alias Raja Bahadur, the Khandawala dynasty rulers of Darbhanga in early 20th Century.
An influential at the Darbhanga Darbar, Mallickji remained to be a prominent public figure in his lifetime. Even after decades of his death in 1990, he continues to be the most talked about musician of Bihar. But I feel that despite being always among people, many layers of his personality have remained undiscovered and unnoticed.
During more than five decades of my association with him since the 1950s, I had the opportunity to witness his moments of contentment and anguishes which remained hidden from the public eye. He shared those personal experiences that he never discussed with many other around him. Every moment spent with him and those experiences now seem to be the revelation of a new fact those experiences now seem to be the revelation of a new facet of Mallickji as a musician and as human being.
The work known him as an artiste who carried on his broad shoulders the legacy of more than five generation of Darbhanga-Amta Dhrupad singing tradition in his family.
The appeal of his erudite and enchanting interpretation of the Gauda Bani Dhrupad, the passion and the intense feeling in his singing had reached beyond the boundaries of India and had brought many lovers of Indian music and music and culture in Germany to Amta, a small, shanty village in Darbhanga district of Bihar, to learn Dhrupad.
I still remember the days when an official of a recording company from Paris (France) visited Patna and for days kept persuading him to sing Dhrupad, the Vedic music of the country for the Long Playing (LP) record. That album was part of the global project of documentation of the ancient arts of the world on the verge of extinction.
But few may be aware about his love for the popular numbers of the Mithila region. Written by the 14th Century poet, Vidyapati, these lyrics in Maithili language have been widely sung by the locals I the presents Darbhanga and Madhubani districts in day-to-day life activities and on ceremonial occasions.
Many of these numbers were very close to Mallickiji’s heart and he loved singing them after Dhrupad- Dhammar recitals at his stages performances. Even in his first National Programme of Music of the All India Radio (AIR) in 1953, he sang Vidyapati’s compositions. Initially the then AIR officials objects it, considering Vidyapati’s numbers as folk songs while the National Programme of Music was slot for Ragas only. But after a long debate with Mallickji they had to allow him to sing Vidyapati’s Nacharis and Maheshvanis. We can say that Malickji’s radio programmers proved to be of great help in bringing Vidyapati’s works on the cultural map of the country.
Mallickji was high profile personality in the age of Rajas and Rajwadas during the British rule. But even in the post- Independence period, he remained an icon. A brilliant execution of Dhrupad and Dhammar in front of Dr, Rajendra Prasad , the first President of the country at Rashtrapati Bhawan in the 1950s, evoked wide appreciation. Even in the Akashvani, Delhi he was given the special grade to broadcast classical music, bringing before the world the rich heritage of Dhrupad singing, well-preserved in the Mithila region of Bihar.
But behind this face of a veteran vocalists of the Darbhanga Amta gharana and a representative of the generation of musicians, patronised by the rich and royal families, there was a simple human being who loved spending moments with children and sharing humorous experiences with them.
I have also witnessed his moments as a family man and his concerns an anxieties about his grandchildren. After the untimely death of his only son, Ramji Mallick, the two grandsons, Arun and Vijay had became very much attached to him.
Mallickji had already gone through the pains of losing his wife at quite a young age. She died when Ramji was very small. But he had managed to survive this trauma because of the love for the young boy and had even refused to remarry to devote his love to the motherless child. The sudden death of Ramji came as yet another major blow t the old musician and her he remained in a state of shock for months.
The agonies and pain of losing near and dear ones in the family could be felt in his rendition of Nacharis the temple at Deoghar, now in Jharkhand. He was a passionate devotee of Lord Shiva and visited the Vaidyanath Dhan temple at Deoghar every year. Some priests at the temple had even started learning Dhrupad from him.
But many may be surprised to known that this deeply religious man continued to be a lover of good food and wine till the end of his life.
I have been a witness to all these moments of predilections and musical prowess during my long association with him. Decades went by while I was busy sharing his experiences of the memorable music sessions at Bela Palace and Nargona Palace at Darbhanga Raj or of the Darbhanga House at Chowrangi in Kolkata. He virtually relived with me millions of such moments, discussing his lineage and the legacy of Ragas and rare Dhrupad compositions in Sanskrit at the drawing rooms of my Rajendranagar residence in patna. Even during his past programmes in patna or in other cities, this mood of sharing his past with me continued.
He is no more, but the nostalgic memories of the moments spent together are still fresh in my mind. When I look back at those events and episodes of his life that he shared with me, they seema to be the testimony of a time.
This book is an effort to put together those events and experiences.
Though many things at Darbhanga and Rajnagar have changed and even the cultural scene of these places have adapted to the modern pace of life, the mood evoked by Pt. Ramchatur Mallick and the musical moments of the Darbhanga Raj continue to reverberate in its air.
The Nargona Palace which was the residence of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, a Khandawala dynasty ruler of the erstwhile Darbhanga Raj in early 20th Century is now a part of the LN Mithila University, holding classes of the humanities.
The Bela Palace which was the residence of Kumar Bishweshwar Singh alias Raja Bahadur, the younger brother of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, is now the post and telegraph department office.
The Lakshmishwar Vilas Bhawan or the Anandbagh Palace specially known for its architecture, based on the Buckingham palace and its magnificent Darbar hall which witnessed rare rendition of Ragas and rhythms, is now owned by the Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University. It was built in late 19th Century by Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh, the uncle of Kameshwar Singh and Bishweshwar Singh.
Even the Natak Ghar which presented memorable presentations of the plays like ‘Shirin-Farhad’ and ‘Rustam-Sohrab’ is now the music department of the LN Mithila University.
I now feel that people who are curious to know about the musicians and feel the musical mood of the pre and the post-Independence era, may find the fine-history of Pt. Ramchatur Mallick quit informative.
The compilation of Mallickji’s experiences seems to be a sketchbook of the days when the musicians were nurtured by political bigwigs of the time and the Gharanas of Hindustani music took shapes mostly at the villages or towns which were close to the royal palaces. It’s also a nostalgic journey of the time when Dhrupad singing was still the dominant classical vocal style in the North, and Thumri singing was confined to a certain segment of the society.
The later parts of his life tell the tale of the time when the musicians started leaving the royal Darbars to be attached to Akashvani Kendras in Delhi and in other cities in the country. That age is also marked by the day-long music conferences and concerts. Many these days may not be able to realize the wide changes brought by these public programmes in the cultural scene of the country at that time. It had emerged as a big economic support for the artistes who were eager to get out of the confines of the Darbars.
And, the last years of Pt. Ramchatur Mallick’s life also show the growing awareness among people about Dhrupad, the most ancient music of the country, its origin, development and its global appeal.
I am thankful to my family which has been a great support in getting the book published.
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