Music Tradition Of Bihar

You will know some unheard facts about the music tradition of Bihar today. On 10th July 2019, on the occasion of Bhikhari Thakur’s death anniversary, “Biharnama”, a cultural event, was organized at Bihar Museum. Folk songs and lectures by various scholars and writers were organized for the audience.

The lecture by Dr. Praveen Jha, author of “Coolie Lines” brings out some unexplored aspects of the musical tradition of Bihar. “Coolie Lines” is a book written on indentured laborers (गिरमिटिया मजदूर). The indentured laborers went from Bihar on a ship but never came back.

“पाल के जहजवा में रोई-धोई बैठइ हो,
कैसी हो काला पानी पार रे बिदेसिया,
जियरा डराये घाट क्यूँ नहीं आये हो,
बीते दिन कई भये मास रे बिदेसिया;
आयी घाट देखी फिजीया के टपूआ हो,
भया मन उदास रे बिदेसिया”

Lines Written By Bhikhari Thakur

As per the lecture given by Dr. Praveen Jha let’s understand the rich heritage and tradition of Bihar

The first commentary or analysis on Bharat Muni’s ‘Natya Shastra’, the oldest book on music, called ‘Bharat Bhashya’, was done by Bihar’s Carnat dynasty King Nanya Dev.

Today that pothi is also known as ‘Saraswati Hridayalankar‘, and is also in the syllabus of music. The original is not known, but a copy is kept at the Bhandarkar Institute, Pune.

Pakistan’s Salamat Ali Khan, Nazakat Ali Khan (Sham Chaurasia Gharana) who performed his first program at the age of twelve-thirteen, did it in Banailly Estate, Champanagar. When he went to Amritsar from here, people like Omkarnath Thakur heard and named him.

When the name of Pakistan is taken, Roshan-Ara-Begum was born in Patna City. Chanda Bai is the daughter of a tawaif family’s bai, and her father Abdul Haq Khan (Kirana Gharana) was in Darbhanga Raj. He looked like the brother of Abdul Karim Khan Sahab. Roshan Ara Begum’s Guru Sarangiya Laddan Khan remained in Patna City and Roshan Ara Begum kept sending five hundred rupees till he lived.

Farida Khanum ji, whose song is ‘Aaj jaane ki zid na karo’. His family is also from Patna. His mother Mokhtar Begum learned sarangi from Imdad Khan (grandfather of Vilayat Khan) in Patna.

Bihar is the birthplace of Ustad Bismillah Khan. In Dumraon itself, he sang in the temple for five years – ‘Ehi Thaiya Motiya Heray Gail Ho Rama’, and he kept coming to Darbhanga all the time and he had a great desire to come to Darbhanga once before he died.

Bhikhari Thakur Photo
Bhikhari Thakur and his team

All the programs were also finalized, but maybe something got canceled at the last moment. It is heard that he had become very rigid about his fees as well. The university is always short of money.

Chhannulal Mishra’s teacher was Abdul Gani Khan (Kirana Gharana) of Muzaffarpur, where he continued to learn as a servant. His first program also took place in Banailly Estate.

India’s first gramophone recording was done by Gauhar Jaan. Her first program took place in Darbhanga Darbar and she stayed with Maharaj for years. Later went to Calcutta.

Johrabai Agrewali’s recording used to happen along with him. There was many Zohrabai. Agrawali was also different.

But it was Zohrabai Patna wali, whom people are calling Agrewali.

Because the gramophone company used to drop Zohrabai from Patna to Calcutta, it is documented. So the recording is actually of Patnawali only. She went to learn from Kallan Khan of Agra. His singing was such that Bhaiyasaheb Ganpatrao of Gwalior raised his wrist and asked him to tie the Ganda (गंडा).

The sitar has had two heydays in our time. This means those whom we have seen and heard something even in their old age. Ustad Vilayat Khan and Pt. Ravi Shankar.

Ustad Vilayat Khan’s grandfather Imdad Khan, whose name is the Imdadkhani Gharana, from which Shahid Parvez Or Shujaat Khan Sahib, son of Vilayat Sahib is now. So Imdad Khan was brought up in Patna. He was also associated with Sarangiya Laddan Khan.

Pt. Ravi Shankar has clearly written in his biography that his playing was influenced by two people. One is his Guru Alauddin Khan Sahab, and the other is Rameshwar Pathak of Darbhanga. Rather the story is that when Pandit ji learned from Alauddin Khan for a long time, Baba said that now a person can give further lessons in India. And he came to Darbhanga to Rameshwar Pathak for them, but since Pathak ji could not leave Maharaj, he did not tie the ganda (गंडा). Pandit Ravi Shankar writes that Raja Bahadur could not sleep without listening to Rameshwar Pathak’s Bihaag.

Actress Nargis’ mother Jaddan Bai had a kothi in Gaya, and the landlords there nurtured her music. Nargis also maintained relations with Gaya. After that, his sons forgot it.

Ustad Aladia Khan who is the father of Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, his maternal grandfather Sajile Khan was from Bihar. He himself also sang a lot in the princely states of Bihar-Nepal. It was Sajile Khan who composed Raag Bihari, which was sung a lot by the people of his family. Kishori Amonkar ji used to sing excellent Raga Bihari.

The Kirana Gharana had a whole branch in Darbhanga. Music historians only take the name of Dharwad, while half of Kirana’s army was in Darbhanga. Abdul Haq, Maula Baksh, Aziz Baksh, brother of Abdul Karim Khan.

These people were also the masters of Gauhar Jaan and Zohra Bai. When Maula Bakhsh and Aziz Bakhsh used to pass through the streets of Darbhanga singing Marsiya while leaving Tazia, it is said that the whole of Darbhanga used to cry. Aziz Bakhsh’s own son Abdul Gani Khan came to Muzaffarpur, whose disciple is Channulal Mishra.

The oldest Gharana of Dhrupad, which is running till date, is the Gharana of Bettiah. It has been in existence since the time of Shah Jahan. Even though there are not many lives left, there are.

The Darbhanga Gharana is flourishing, and that too is almost equally old. Dagur Gharana is after that.

Although we should talk about Bani here, in Dhrupad, Bani is the root. The term gharana was earlier for khayal singers. The Vishnupur Gharana of Bengal was born from Bettiah. Rather, thirty percent of the Dhrupadiyas of Bengal consider themselves to be related to Bettiah. Falguni Mitra calls himself the son of Bettiah.

Bharat Bhashya (भरत भाष्य)

Varnaratnakar (Jyotirishwar Thakur) and Ragatarangini (Lochan) have explained the Thaat system of music that Bhatkhande ji brought, but Raza Khan of Patna City has made divisions on the common features of ragas. What else is that?

Raza Khan also discovered one of the oldest guitars, Raza Khani guitar. The relationship of ragas with prahar and time is described in the Hastamuktavali. Nanyadev has explained Rasa in such a simple way, which is still going on to date. He wrote that when sung in delayed rhythm, Karuna Rasa will be born, if sung in middle rhythm, then humor and Shringar Rasa will be born and when sung in a fast rhythm, Veer Rasa, Rudra Rasa or Terrible Rasa will be born.

Talking about musicologists, it is my belief that Bihar is a stronghold of music scholars. Rather, it is possible that there is more studying, analyzing, and documenting music here and musicians come from outside.

Nanyadev’s ‘Bharat Bhashya’, poet Lochan’s ‘Ragatarangini’, Jyotirishwar Thakur’s ‘Varnaratnakar’, Shubhankar Thakur’s ‘Hastmuktavali’ and Mohammad Raza Khan’s ‘Naghmat-e-Asifi’ are direct proofs of this.

Talking about modern times, Rajan Parrikar became a blogger musicologist in the internet era. His entire study is based on Ramashray Jha ‘Ramrang’. Great music scholars like Ramrang ji were rare. Darbhanga, the birthplace of him and his Guru Bholanath Bhatt.

Thumri (ठुमरी)

Purbiya Thumri is born on this soil only, and this Thumri singer-singer believes that there is no other such ‘Thaah Ki Thumri’. There is no fuss in it, it is sung in a steady manner. And there is the fragrance of the village even in the restrictions.

Even Thumri of Banaras went from here. Badi Moti Bai’s father was Rai Saheb of Darbhanga, from here she went to Banaras.

Gaya’s Dhela Bai’s voice was said to be among the top four voices of India. He was called equal to Abdul Karim Khan. Kumud Jha Dewan ji sings one of his songs – Thaare Rahiyo Tu Shyam, Gagariya Main Ghar Dhari Aaoon.

It is heard that her voice was like a lump of jaggery, so she got the name Dhela Bai. His room is still in Gaya, but every trace of him has disappeared. The only picture is available through Kumud Ji.

Begum Akhtar was also brought up in Gaya and Ghulam Muhammad Khan was her teacher. At the age of fifteen, the program in which he sang on stage for the first time and Sarojini Naidu burst into tears, took place in Patna itself. Jaddan Bai, Rasoolan Bai, Siddheshwari Devi, and Badi Moti Bai all lived in Gaya. At that time there was a ‘Shanichar Club’, where now probably a bank etc. has opened. There used to be a gathering.

Bengali Tappa. It was also created in the soil of Bihar. Ramnidhi Gupta (Nidhu Babu) was a clerk in Chhapra. He felt that he should learn music, so he started learning from a master. And there in Chhapra, he started writing Tappa after drinking alcohol, and later when he came to Calcutta, people started singing.

In Bihar, there have never been a lot of ups and downs in singing. In other places, many Dhrupadiyas do not sing Khayal. Imagine not singing Thumri. That Thumri is a weak and tawaif singing. Whereas Pt. Ramchatur Mallik ji sang all the four songs. He also sang Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri-Tappe, and Vidyapati Geet. Did not differentiate between them. This is the specialty of Bihar.

Now together we have to think about how to make Bihar the stronghold of music again. Dhrupad Sansthan opened in Bhopal, where there is no Dhrupad Gharana. And despite having two main gharanas in Bihar, it could not open.

Even Prashant-Nishant Malik ji had to move from Darbhanga to Allahabad to open Dhrupad Sansthan, because there was no proper cooperation from the state. Music college was about to be opened in the seventies. The education department made all the drafts, included in the five-year plan. Even an advertisement appeared in newspapers for the appointment of Principal, but nothing happened.

Now you say that when singing, playing, and dancing, all three have their roots in Bihar, then why disregard Bihar’s musical tradition?

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