When Ustad Asad Ali Khan passed away a few years ago, it suddenly struck me that future generations would not possibly hear the Rudra Veena played in the majestic ‘Khandarvani’ style, that he had mastered. A legacy passed down through many generations has only one doubtful inheritor. When the tiger was getting extinct the dwindling numbers were carefully recorded & great efforts were & are being made to make sure that our children and their progeny do not miss out on this beautifully evolved animal. However, a treasure chest of our heritage has just disappeared and very little attention is being paid to this fact. It may be argued that Darwin’s theory of evolution would necessitate the birth of new forms emerging from the old. If anything can positively affect even a very small group of people intensely in the present, it has relevance and requires support. The Rudra Veena and many other instruments, and art forms in the country like Dhrupad, Surbahar, Gottuvadyam, Kudiyattam, Biraha, Pandavani and the Patua style ofpainting are fast disappearing, and very little is being done about this fact. Our ancestors, realizing that each human being is unique, designed many roads leading to the same goal. We learn about these great discoveries from our gurus and then choose one or more to find our own way to our goal. Each of our art forms represents a philosophy of life and when one is lost, we lose one road to the top of the inner mountain.

 

Smt. Kishori Amonkar, the great vocalist said a few years ago, that once a handful of musicians leave us, classical music would not remain the same. Changes come and they should, but once the ‘raison d’ être’ changes then there is a problem. In the past three years, Smt. Gangubai Hangal, Smt. D. K Pattamal, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, Ustad Asad Ali Khan and many others have passed away with practically no one to replace them. India is definitely progressing. We may become the leading economic, technological, military power by the year 2020, but India may not remain India. Its biggest contribution to humankind is that it has developed different forms of ‘Yog’, different methods of connecting with the inner self. The knowledge & wisdom of these techniques is slowly getting lost. They are either mutating into something with a totally different world view to ensure their survival or are dying a slow death, like the Rudra Veena.

 

The West has given us so much in the outward tangible domain. Cell phones, internet, cars, planes, air-conditioners etc. due to which our day to day living has been made much easier in the physical domain. The intangible domain, which contributes to making our lives fuller & more meaningful, has been experimented with extensively in this country. However because its results take time to show, belief in the processes suffers in this day and age of instant gratification. The Rudra Veena which is one of the casualties, forms a beautiful part of our classical music which is nothing but ‘Naad Yog’ which is a wonderful method of connecting with the within, to reach a goal which is abstract, subtle, inspiring and mystical.

It is much easier to see the deforestation taking place all around us, but much more difficult to be able to realize the inner blindness which is taking over society at large.

(written by Dr. Kiran Seth)