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Devotion and Musical Practice in North India

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David L.
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  1. Introduction
  2. The bond between a guru and his disciple
  3. The Hindu school of tabla music
  4. Ustad Afaq Hussain of the Lucknow gharana
  5. Analogous to religious pursuit of siddhi
  6. The details of the cilla retreat
  7. Sahai's testimony
  8. Ethics and aesthetics in the study of tabla bol grammar
  9. Conclusion


The guru-shisya parampara is the system of master/disciple lineage that characterizes the traditional education system of North Indian music. The term parampara, ?disciplic succession,' is introduced in the Bhagavad-gita (4.2), when Krsna tells Arjuna: ?This Knowledge of yoga was passed down in disciplic succession and in this way the seer-kings knew it.? In the music tradition, the disciplic succession of the family lineage (gharana) is officially continued in the ganda bandham ceremony in which the student is ?elevated to the status of a close disciple? with the tie of a thread around the student's wrist. This gesture and a nazrana payment ?freely given with the greatest respect?symbolize the bond? between a student and his guru. The tabla disciple's devotion to the guru is a form of bhakti devotion in the same way that a yogic disciple submits to the will of a guru in order to master the esoteric practices held within the realm of his teacher's knowledge. Following the ganda bandham rite, ?the new disciple can expect to receive a more intensive training, including techniques and compositions? reserved for close disciples. It has been argued that the ?dilution of classical music? in modern day India is due to the decline of the gharana system that seeks the systematic dissemination of musical knowledge to such worthy students, in favor of the music college system which offers a survey education better-suited to hobbyists.

[...] ?Musicometric Dynamism of the Jatis?.(Journal of the IMS Vol 1982) 29 [xviii] Ibid [xix] Bhowmick, K.N. Traditions of Tabla-Riyaz in Banares School.? 63 Edwin Gerow, ?Abhinavagupta's Aesthetics as a Speculative Paradigm,? 189 [xxi] Robert Simms, ?Aspects of Cosmological Symbolism in Hindusthani Musical Forms.? 81 [xxii] For an account of a Sufi halvet experience, cf. Özelsel, Michaela. Forty Days. Vermont: Threshold Books [xxiii] James Kippen, The Tabla of Lucknow [xxiv] Ibid. [xxv] Robert Simms, ?Some Thoughts on the Meaning of Riaz in Hindustani Music,? 6 [xxvi] Edwin Gerow, ?Abhinavagupta's Aesthetics as a Speculative Paradigm,?191 [xxvii] [...]


[...] In the same way that tantric power is divided into action and knowledge, the musical knowledge (ilm[xi]) received by the disciple must be actualized through practice (riyaz) in order to be transmitted.[xii] Thus, integrity of the entire musical tradition depends as much on riyaz as it does on the guru-shishya parampara.?[xiii] This importance of riyaz to the fidelity of the lineage necessitates that practice is standardized across the tradition. The Banares gharana imparts on its disciples five ?Traditional Principles of Riyaz? which by their emphasis on bhakti should be cause of musical inspiration.?[xiv] The principles advise that: i. [...]


[...] On completion of the cilla, God grants whatever the person has wished for.?[xxiii] Afaq Hussain, a Muslim ustad of the Lucknow gharana, urged the disciple to ?treat his riyaz as he treated his daily worship to consider God to be his audience, and to meditate on his practice in the same way that he meditated on God.?[xxiv] As the practice of music can thus be equivalent to the practice of religion, the result of intense riyaz during a tabla cilla can be seen as a kind of musical enlightenment. [...]

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