Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saraswati Puja at Guru-ji's

After the long trip via Dubai on Emirates Airlines - a long night (nice entertainment system, though) from Brisbane to Dubai via Singapore, then a short midday flight to Delhi with some amazing desert scenery over Iran and Pakistan, followed by a train trip which left 6 hours late and arrived 11 hours late - I've finally arrived in Varanasi. I'm staying in Yoga Mandir, Nagwa Ghat, which is really quite nice. Lovely garden, lawn, flowers, it's the first building on the ghats after the buffalo farms, so we have an uninterrupted view of the whole of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganga! I have managed to get mobile internet so I'm actually writing this on my laptop in my bedroom. It's very slow but at least it's comfortable.

The big event since I've been here has been Saraswati Puja, last Saturday. On the fifth day of spring (Basant Panchami), musicians often perform music in honour of the Hindu goddess of learning and music Saraswati-Maa, and there have been concerts in my Guru-ji's house on this holy day for over 50 years. It's a very special event which has seen the likes of Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Kanthe Maharaj, U. Mushtaq Ali Khan and Pt. Debu Chaudhuri performing in front of Saraswati-Maa in a room packed full of music aficionados. Since Guru-ji's passing 5 years ago, the event has become smaller but is still held with full devotion by the family and his students, almost as much in memory of him as of the Goddess.

This year Guru-ji's son Debabrata Bhattacharya organised the event and was to perform last with sarangi player Santosh Mishra, but at the last minute was called away for medical duties. So there were only two items - firstly a young female vocalist (I'll put the name here as soon as I confirm it) accompanied by Guru-ji's student Gautam Chakravarty, secondly my own tabla solo. No lehera player had been organised - in fact I wasn't even sure til the day whether I was playing solo or accompanying somebody - but at the last minute Gautam's son Siddharth stepped in. Siddharth is going really well on tabla, and actually played tabla solo at Guru-ji's Memorial Concert last year.

It was a real honour for me to play tabla solo at this concert, as the final item as luck would have it, in the place where Pt. Kanthe Maharaj once played tabla solo every year. Maybe it's because I've just arrived in Varanasi and not seen any other tabla players to make me feel small, maybe it's the work I've been doing on just playing more relaxed and more enjoyably, maybe the power of the moment, but I think I played as well as I've ever played tabla solo. The tabla were great, the speakers were at full resonance, it was all very well appreciated by all present. It was a great experience, a huge blessing, something I'll never forget and which will give me power in the years to come. Jai Guru-ji! Jai Saraswati-Maa!

Goddess Saraswati and Guru-ji

Ampu-da, Guru-ji's eldest son

Opening vocalist, accompanied by Guru-ji's student, Gautam Chakavarty (tabla) and Anand Mishra (harmonium)

Shen (tabla solo) accompanied by Siddharth Chakravarty (nagma on harmonium)


Shawn said...

Congratulations Shen, sounds like a great concert/event/experience! Did you happen to have recorded your performance? Sounds like it would make a great CD! :) I'd love to hear it anyways...

Shen said...

No recording, but Rodrigo (student of Sharda Sahai and Kishore Kumar Mishra) took some video snippets, as did my girlfriend. Perhaps I'll put some on Youtube, but it will probably have to wait til I get back to broadband in Australia.