Allauddin Khan

Allauddin Khan

Allauddin Khan
(1881-1972)

 

♫ Raga Charju ki Malhar

♫ Raga Sugandh

 

About Allauddin Khan



From: My Music My Life by Ravi Shankar (1968)

MY REVERED GURU

A famous disciple of Wazir Khan and an extraor-
dinary teacher and performer himself is Ustad
Allauddin Khan of Maihar in Central India.
This saintly and learned man became my revered guru, and
it is to him that I owe my devotion and love for my mu-
sical training.

I saw him for the first time at the All-Bengal Music
Conference in December, 1934. In contrast to the
other musicians, who were wearing colorful costumes,
turbans, and jewels, and were bedecked with medals,
he seemed very plain and ordinary, not at all impres-
sive. But even in my immaturity, it did not take me
long to realize that he had qualities that far outshone
the gaudiness of his colleagues. He seemed to shine
with a fire that came from within him. Although I did
not know enough about music then to discern his
musical greatness, I found myself completely over-
whelmed by everything about him. Baba has always
been a strict disciplinarian with his students, but he
had imposed upon himself an even stricter code of
conduct when he was a young man, often practicing
sixteen to twenty hours a day, doing with very little
sleep, and getting along with a minimum of material
things. Sometimes, when he practiced, he tied up his
long hair with heavy cord and attached an end of the
cord to a ring in the ceiling. Then, if he happened to
doze while he practiced, as soon as his head nodded,
a jerk on the cord would pull his hair and awaken
him. From early childhood, Baba was ready and de-
termined to make any sacrifice for music. Indeed,
his entire life has been devoted to music.

Allauddin Khan was one of the sons of a quite
well-to-do peasant family in Bengal. They did not
have a great deal of money, but were very rich in the
land they owned and the animals they kept. His fam-
ily were Bengali Muslims, converted to Islam only
three or four generations before. The village they
lived in was predominantly Hindu, and they all spoke
Bengali. And so, even though his family were Muslim,
Baba knew all the ways of Hindus and was well ac-
quainted with their customs and ceremonies. Later,
he was to follow a way of life that was a beautiful
fusion of the best of both Hinduism and Islam.
His father used to play the sitar for the family and
for his own pleasure. And Baba’s older brother, Afta-
buddin, was a very talented and versatile musician
who, too, did not perform professionally but played
solely to express the music he felt within himself.
In his later years, he became a very religious man
and was revered equally by the Hindus and the Mus-
lims who knew him. So it was natural that the mu-
sical inclinations of little Alam, as my guru was called
by his family, were intensified by listening to his
father with the sitar and his brother playing a variety
of instruments, including the flute, harmonium (a
small, boxlike keyboard instrument), tabla, pakhawaj,
and dotara (a plucked-string instrument with two
strings). Young Alam used to steal into the little
music room at home to try to play some of his older
brother’s musical instruments – and was frequently
punished for it. When his family realized that Alam
had this burning love for music, they became worried
that he might decide to be a professional musician
and did not encourage him, for music was not thought
of as a respectable profession for a young man. When
young Alam wanted to leave his home and devote
all his life to music, his brother, the influential one
in the family, refused to let him go. The family much
preferred that he take up regular studies in a school.
Baba has told us that by the time he was eight he
could no longer take the strict discipline and enforced
study of books. He hated studying and was constantly
being punished for pursuing the thing he loved most
– music. So, he left his family without saying a word
and traveled to a nearby village, where he joined a
party of traveling musicians led by a very famous
player of the dhol. (Though the drums known as
dhol or dholak are found all over India in different
sizes and shapes, the dhol mentioned here is indige-
nous to Bengal. It is a one-piece drum with two faces
and is played with the hand on the right side and
with a stick on the left.) Baba told the musicians he
was an orphan, and they accepted him into their
group, feeling sorry for the lonely little boy. Then he
traveled with the musicians as they toured, and they
reached the city of Dacca, the capital of the present
East Pakistan. While he was a member of this mu-
sical group, Baba had the opportunity to learn to play
quite proficiently many varieties of drums-the dhol,
tabla, and pakhawaj-and he also took up the
shahnai and some other wind instruments-clarinet,
cornet, and trumpet. During all the time Baba toured
with this troupe of musicians and later stayed in
Dacca, he did not communicate with his family. They
were of course distraught when they realized he had
left. They searched and searched for him, but finally
had to give up.

BABA’S EARLY ADVENTURES

The first forty years of Baba’s life were full of
adventure, and he underwent many unusual, almost
unbelievable, experiences through his intense love
of music. Baba was never clear about how long he
was with these musicians or how much time he spent
in Dacca, but he says that he arrived in Calcutta when
he was about fourteen or fifteen. I remember his tell-
ing me about the hardships he suffered there.
He went to one of the most famous Bengali singers
of the day, Nulo Gopal, a very devout and orthodox
Hindu. Baba instinctively thought it might be better
if he said he was a Hindu himself when he approached
this teacher, so he took a Hindu name. Nulo Gopal
saw the tremendous ardor and talent for singing this
boy had, but he warned Baba that he himself had
learned music in a very old, traditional style and said
that he would teach Baba only if Baba had the pa-
tience to learn in the same way. That is, Baba would
have to learn and practice nothing other than the
sargams, palta, and murchhana (solfeggio, scales, and
exercises) for twelve full years. Only then would
Nulo Gopal start teaching all the traditional compo-
sitions. This, he said, would not take a very long time,
because Baba would already have a firm background!
Baba did agree to the arrangement, and arduously de-
voted himself to his study, but unfortunately, after
only seven years or so, Nulo Gopal died. Baba was
so grieved by his death that, out of respect to his
teacher, he took an oath never to take up singing
as his profession. According to Baba, the excellent
training he received from this guru in those seven
years caused his musical sensitivity to grow to such
a degree that he could notate in his mind as well as
on paper any music he heard. This ability was to
prove very helpful to him later.

During the seven years Baba was learning with
Nulo Gopal, he took a job at the Star Theatre (run
by Girish Ghosh, the father of Bengali drama) as a
tabla player in the orchestra to make a little money,
and he had some training in the playing of the violin
from an outstanding Indian Christian teacher. Baba
also participated in the frequent orchestral parties
held by a prominent composer, Habu Dutt, who was
the brother of the famed Swami Vivekananda. Habu
Dutt had studied both Eastern and Western music
and maintained an orchestra for which he composed
in raga and tala framework; he used all the Western
instruments as well as a few Indian ones. This later
inspired Baba to create his own ensemble, the Maihar
Band, which was quite famous for many years.
It was often frightening just to hear Baba talk
about the hardships he suffered as a young man in
Calcutta. The little pay he received at the Star Thea-
tre and occasional extra income he got by playing a
recital here or there all went to pay for gifts or offer-
ings he brought to his teachers-fruits or sweets-in
gratitude for their giving him lessons. Most of the
time he had his one meal a day at some anna chhatra,
a food dispensary provided for the poor by some
rich families. (Until very recently, these existed in all
the large cities as a common form of charity.) The
rest of the day Baba either went hungry or nibbled
at a handful of chick peas and drank the water of
the river Ganges. He had no one particular place to
stay. Sometimes he took a room in a cheap boarding-
house, and other times he stayed in the stable of a
wealthy family.

When he was in his twenties, Baba went to a city
called Muktagacha, then in eastern Bengal, now in
East Pakistan. It was here, at the court of Raja Jagat
Kishore, that he heard the celebrated sarod player of
the time, Ustad Ahmad Ali, and for the first time,
he experienced the full effect of the musician and the
beauty of the music. In his studies under Nulo Gopal,
Baba had felt he was approaching the field of strict
classical music, but when his guru died, he thought
he had reached only the threshold of the musical
sanctuary. He realized he needed another good teacher
to elevate him to a higher level in his playing and
understanding. So, he decided just then, in the Raja’s
court, that he must take this musician as his guru
and learn to play the sarod. Baba’s burning desire
to learn and a recommendation from the Raja per-
suaded Ahmad Ali to accept the boy as his disciple.
When Baba began learning from Ahmad Ali, he gave
up all his old dilettante musical interests and devoted
himself solely to the sarod. The next four years or
so were spent living and traveling with his ustad,
serving him in every way, even cooking, and learning
and practicing music as much as he could.
After some time, Ahmad Ali left the court and
traveled to his home, the city of Rampur, taking Baba
with him. By this time, Baba had learned a great deal
of the art and technique of the sarod and had ab-
sorbed most of the knowledge of his ustad. Some-
how, he felt that Ahmad Ali was a bit apprehensive
about Baba’s proficiency and was afraid that Baba
might outdo him as a musician. One day, it happened
that his guru called Baba and said that he had given
him enough taleem (training) and praised him for
achieving a fine standard of musicianship. Now, he
said, it is time for you to go out and perform, and
establish your own reputation, following the tradi-
tion of sikkha, dikkha, and parikkha (derivations
from the original Sanskrit of shiksha, diksha, and
pariksha, which mean training, initiation, and evalua-
tion).

Since Rampur was the most important seat of Hin-
dustani classical music, Baba was overjoyed when he
learned there were almost five hundred musicians who
belonged to the court of His Highness the Nawab
of Rampur. Out of these, at least fifty ranked among
the foremost artists and were famed throughout
India. They included singers of dhrupad, dhamar,
khyal, tappa, and thumri, as well as players of been,
sursringar, rabab, surbahar, sitar, sarangi, shahnai,
tabla, pakhawaj, and many other instruments. At the
head of all these musicians was the truly great Wazir
Khan himself, a member of the Beenkar gharana, and
thus of the family of Tan Sen. He was the guru of
the Nawab and, in his seat next to the Nawab’s
throne, enjoyed a position that was unique at that
time. After taking leave of Ustad Ahmad Ali, Baba
went on a kind of musical “binge,” and he met all
the ustads and studied a little with a great many of
them for a year or so. He was completely intoxicated
with the ecstasy of meeting all these great musicians.
After Baba settled down a bit, he decided he must
finally go to learn from the greatest musician of them
all, and the one about whom he had heard so many
stories – Wazir Khan.

A GESTURE IN DESPERATION

Ustad Wazir Khan, a direct descendant of Tan
Sen, was the greatest living been player of the time.
Filled with enthusiasm and bubbling with hope, Baba
went off to meet him, but the sentries who guarded
Ustad Wazir Khan’s gates, frowning at the young
man’s shabby dress and poor appearance, denied
him entrance. In despair, young Allauddin Khan
rather melodramatically decided that he would either
learn from this great master or give up his life. Nour-
ishing these severe thoughts, he bought two tola
weight of opium with which to kill himself if neces-
sary. But fortunately, he met a mullah (Muslim
priest), who dissuaded him from such extreme meas-
ures and suggested another plan.

The mullah composed a letter in Urdu on behalf
of the young aspirant, explaining how he had come
all the way from Bengal especially to learn from
Ustad Wazir Khan, and if that were to prove impos-
sible, he would swallow a lump of opium and end
his life. But there remained the problem of present-
ing the letter to the Nawab. While the spirit of des-
peration was mounting, young Allauddin happened
to hear that the Nawab would soon be on his way
to the theater, so he stationed himself on the road,
hours ahead, and as the Nawab’s vehicle finally ap-
proached, he threw himself down in front of it. The
police dragged young Allauddin Khan away to face
the Nawab, who, when he heard the whole story, was
so impressed by the fervor of a young man ready
to use such grave methods that he called him to the
palace to play for him.

Baba gave a very impressive performance on the
sarod and on the violin, and then was asked if he
could handle any other instruments. The Nawab was
quite amused when Baba, replying, boasted that he
could play any instrument available in the palace.
So, all the instruments were brought out and, to the
astonishment of everyone present, he did just that
– one by one, he played them all, and quite deftly,
too ! The Nawab asked him if he had any other talents,
and Baba said that he could write anything played or
sung. The Nawab was overwhelmed when Baba did
this easily on the first attempt. The Nawab then sang
him a very difficult gamak tan, a complicated embel-
lishment in a phrase. Fortunately, young Allauddin
had detected that the Nawab was becoming a little
annoyed at the thought that such a young man might
know more than he, and so he meekly replied that
such a tan would be difficult to write down. The
Nawab was so pleased at this that, in a benevolent
mood, he sent for Ustad Wazir Khan and recom-
mended young Allauddin to him as a deserving stu-
dent. The Nawab himself called for a large silver
tray full of gold sovereigns, sweets, material for new
clothing, a ring, and new shoes. All these were given
to Wazir Khan on behalf of the disciple, and the
binding ceremony between Wazir Khan as guru and
Allauddin Khan as shishya took place on the spot.
As Baba has said, from the time he moved to Cal-
cutta until he came to Rampur, he had communicated
with his family and had visited their home several
times. His family, hoping they could give him a
reason to stay with them, forced him to take a wife
on one of his visits, and later, had him marry a sec-
ond time. (Muslims may marry up to four times.) But
to their horror, Baba ran away from home on the
day after each marriage ceremony. His fanatic love
for music left no room for such things as marriage
or a family then.

In his first two and a half years as a disciple of
Wazir Khan, Baba more or less had the duties of a
servant and errand boy to his guru and was not really
being taught music by him. Baba was rather unhappy
about this, but he still spent as much time as he could
practicing what he had learned from Ahmad Ali and
others on the sarod. Then one day, there came a
telegram to him in care of Wazir Khan, asking him
to come home immediately because his second wife
had tried to commit suicide and was critically ill.
She was an extremely beautiful woman, and the peo-
ple of her village had tormented her, saying she could
not keep her husband at home for all her good looks,
and teased her to such an extent that in her unhap-
piness she tried to kill herself. Wazir Khan had the
telegram read (it was in English) before passing it
on to Baba. He was shocked and not a little angry to
learn about this, because Baba had told him that
he was completely alone and had no family. Imme-
diately, he summoned Baba. After being interrogated,
Baba tremblingly revealed the truth. When the great
man heard the story, he was deeply moved. He real-
ized that this was a young man with an unheard-of,
abnormal desire to learn music, a love so strong that
he would forsake anything else in life, including
the love of two young and beautiful wives.
In tears, Wazir Khan embraced Baba, saying he had
never realized any of these things, and he felt ex-
tremely sorry that he had not paid any attention to
Baba in those two and a half years. Then he advised
Baba to go home for a while, and as soon as he had
straightened matters out, to return to Rampur. Wazir
Khan promised that he would consider Baba as his
foremost and best disciple outside of his own family,
and said he would teach him all the secrets of the art
of music that the members of Tan Sen’s family pos-
sess. “I’ll teach you all the dhrupad and dhamar
songs,” he said, “and the technique and different baj
[styles of playing] of the been, rabab, and sursringar.”
He qualified his vow, however, by saying he could
never permit Baba to play the been, because it is tra-
ditionally restricted to the Beenkar gharana – his fam-
ily – and he warned that if Baba were to play it Baba
would never have an heir and his family would die
out. Then Wazir Khan further explained that it
would be quite possible for Baba to use all the tech-
niques and styles of playing the been on the sarod,
and he agreed to teach him to play the rabab and
sursringar, two instruments that were going out of
use at that time.

Wazir Khan did indeed keep his promises. Baba
told us that many years later, when he was serving
His Highness the Maharaja of Maihar, one day news
arrived that Wazir Khan was on his deathbed. Baba
rushed straightway to Rampur to be with his guru.
Wazir Khan blessed him before he died, saying that
Baba’s name and the names of his disciples would live
forever and carry on the great tradition of the Beenkar
gharana and the glory of Mian Tan Sen.

THE REMARKABLE ”IMPURIST”

Few people have any idea of the contributions Baba
has made to the world of music, especially in the in-
strumental field. Above all, I feel, he is responsible
for enlarging the scope and range of possibilities open
to an instrumentalist. He has led us away from the
confines of narrow specialization that prevailed in
our music really through the first quarter of this cen-
tury. Until then, one player would do only music of
a light and delicate nature, and another would per-
form only romantic compositions, some musicians
were purely spiritual and others emphasized the “ma-
terialistic” side of the music – the wealth of embel-
lishment. Because Ustad Allauddin Khan, as a young
man, was taught by so many masters, he learned a
variety of styles of singing and playing and acquired
a good many instrumental techniques – wind and
bowed and plucked-string instruments, and even
drums. And so he very naturally incorporated in his
playing of the sarod some of the characteristics of
diverse vocal styles and of the playing styles asso-
ciated with a number of different instruments. He
is known mainly as a sarod player, but he also per-
formed on several other instruments. He was equally
well known as a violinist, and as he did with the
sarod, he played the violin with his left hand. Three
stringed instruments that he did not perform on in
concerts are the been, the sitar, and the surbahar,
although he was acquainted with their techniques.
Musicians who follow Baba’s example may now
choose from a great many vocal and instrumental
styles-alap, dhrupad-dhamar, khyal, tarana, tappa,
thumri-and synthesize, creating a whole new con-
cept in interpretation and performance.

Baba faced much criticism in the beginning, as
indeed, some of us, as his disciples, have been and
are still facing. Early in his career, he was reproached
for not playing “pure sarod” when he performed
and was criticized for bringing other techniques into
his playing. I myself, when I began public appear-
ances, faced the charge of not playing “pure sitar”
and of having sarod techniques in my music, because
I had learned from a sarod player. And I remember
clearly that even into the late 1930s, sitar playing was
restricted to a very limited dimension, and the players
kept to their favorite specialized areas of music. There
were some who used a small sitar for the “authentic”
sitar baj (here baj means style of playing) and played
only medium-slow Masitkhani gats with simple tans
(or phrases), a style of composition created by Masit
Khan. There were others who played only medium-
fast Rezakhani gats and still others who used a rather
large sitar and played it more or less in the way one
plays the surbahar (a large, deep-sounding instru-
ment with very thick strings). I have heard the well-
known sitarist Enayat Khan play the alap, jor, and
jhala (first three movements of a raga) on the surba-
har, then put aside that instrument and take up a
small sitar to do the fast Rezakhani gat. His father,
Emdad Khan, is known to have done the same thing.
The criticisms of “impurity” of style are likely to
come from other musicians who use the same instru-
ment, and they and their admirers can cause quite
a storm of differing opinion. Also, musicians who do
not belong to one strong and well-established gharana
are often open to harsh judgments. A musician who
is a member of a certain gharana may – and often
does – change his style, enriching and expanding it
after hearing other musicians and interpreting their
ideas in his own way. But, if questioned about this,
he has recourse to the shelter of his gharana. He can
claim that there is a precedent for what he has done
and trace it back through his own gharana’s traditions.
Often, though, I am amazed that a musician who
upholds the highest tradition can be cruelly criticized
if he also happens to be a creative artist and brings
about many innovations. The great Tan Sen and then
Sadarang and even Allauddin Khan faced this sort
of criticism early in their careers, but later their “in-
novations” became part of our musical tradition, and ,
were well established through their disciples. That
is one of the beauties of Indian classical music – that
since the Vedas it has never stood stagnant, but has
kept on growing and being enriched by the great
creative geniuses of successive generations.

As a teacher, Baba aims at perfecting the hand and
finger technique of the student. No matter what in-
strument the student may choose, Baba insists that
the student who shows promise should also learn to
sing the palta, sargams, and other song compositions,
carefully delineating the scope of the raga and its
distinctive notes and phrases and correctly using the
microtones, or shrutis, to give the proper effect to
the music and make it come alive. The reason for this
is, of course, that the basis of our music is vocal, and
it is composed primarily of melody, of embellishment,
and of rhythm; any melodic phrase, with or without
a definite rhythm, that can be sung can also be played
on an instrument, with each instrument’s own fea-
tures bringing a special quality to the sound. Ac-
cording to our tradition, even the instrumentalists
are required to have a moderate command of the
voice. This makes it easier for them when they take
on the role of teacher to instruct their students,
merely by singing the gats, or tans, or todas, or even
the alap, jor, and jhala. Along with the ability to sing
the melodies, Baba recommends that his students
learn to play the tabla and acquire a good knowledge
of taladhaya (rhythmics). In mastering the funda-
mentals, the student learns all the technique of prop-
erly handling the instrument of his choice, working
in the particular idiom, tonal range, and musical
scope of a given instrument by practicing scales,
palta, sargams, and bols taught by the guru. Gener-
ally, Baba starts with basic ragas like Kalyan for the
evening and Bhairav for the morning, first giving,
many pieces of “fixed music” in the form of gats,
tans, or todas based on the raga. By “fixed music” I
do not mean music that is written down as it is in the
West; rather I am referring to what we call bandishes,
which literally means “bound down,” but in this con-
text means “fixed.” These are vocal or instrumental
pieces, either traditional compositions or the teacher’s
own, that students learn and memorize by playing
over hundreds, even thousands, of times, to be able
to produce the correct, clear sound, intonation, and
phrasing. Thus, Baba lays a solid foundation for the
student to know the sanctified framework of the
ragas and talas.

When the student, after some years of training, has
fairly good control of the basic technique of the in-
strument and has learned a few more important morn-
ing and evening ragas (Sarang, Todi, Bhimpalasi,
Bhairav, Yaman Kalyan, Bihag, and so on) and has
some mastery of the fundamentals of solo playing,
then he may expand his creative faculties and is
encouraged to improvise as he plays. But he has to
be careful not to impinge on the purity of the raga.
That is, his playing must be correct both in technique
and interpretation. The right feeling of a raga is some-
thing that must be taught by the guru and nurtured
from the germ of musical sensitivity within the stu-
dent. Unlike some other musicians, Baba has never
been stingy or jealous about passing on to deserving
students the great and sacred art that he possesses. In
fact, when he is inspired in his teaching, it is as if a
floodgate had opened up and an ocean of beautiful and
divine music were flowing out. The disciple spends
many hours simply listening to his guru, and then he
endeavors to fill up the frame of a raga with impro-
vised passages born out of the compelling mood of
the moment or enlarged through his own attempts at
improvisation as his understanding grows and he
becomes more familiar with a particular raga. At
first, the student may improvise only a fraction of his
performance, but as his musicianship matures, so his
confidence grows, and he improvises more and more.
It is, in a way, like learning to swim. It is exhilarating
in the beginning to feel your own body moving
through the water, but you are afraid to swim far and
there is always the fear of losing control somehow. So
it is with a raga. You are always a little afraid at first
that you will make mistakes, play the wrong notes,
and go out of a raga or lose count of the rhythm as the
raga carries you along, but your confidence keeps
growing, and one day, you feel you have complete
control over what you are playing. A truly excellent
and creative musician of the Hindustani system will
improvise anywhere from fifty to ninety per cent of
his music as he performs, but this freedom can come
about only after many many years of basic study and
discipline and organized training (if he has a good deal
of talent to begin with), and after profound study of
the ragas, and finally, if he has been blessed with
guru-kripa, the favor of the guru.

When I myself start to perform a raga, the first
thing I do is shut out the world around me and try to
go down deep within myself. This starts even when I
am concentrating on the careful tuning of the sitar
and its tarafs (sympathetic strings). When, with con-
trol and concentration, I have cut myself off from the
outside world, I step onto the threshold of the raga
with feelings of humility, reverence, and awe. To me,
a raga is like a living person, and to establish that in-
timate oneness between music and musician, one must
proceed slowly. And when that oneness is achieved,
it is the most exhilarating and ecstatic moment, like
the supreme heights of the act of love or worship. In
these miraculous moments, when I am so much aware
of the great powers surging within me and all around
me, sympathetic and sensitive listeners are feeling the
same vibrations. It is a strange mixture of all the
intense emotions – pathos, joy, peace, spirituality,
eroticism, all flowing together. It is like feeling God.
All these emotions may vary according to the style
and approach of playing and to the nature and princi-
pal mood of the raga. We Indians say that in a per-
formance of our classical music, the listener plays a
great role. It is this exchange of feeling, this strong
rapport between the listener and the performer, that
creates great music. But wrong vibrations emanating
from egoistic, insensitive, and unsympathetic listeners
can diminish the creative feelings of the musician. Al-
though I am not a Tan Sen, at times I have seen
miracles happen with my music. Perhaps my playing
does not cause rain to fall from the skies, but it has
made tears fall from the eyes of my listeners. The
miracle of our music is in the beautiful rapport that
occurs when a deeply spiritual musician performs for
a receptive and sympathetic group of listeners.

A LEGENDARY TEMPER

Besides being famous for his performances and in-
novations in music, Baba was also very well known
throughout the musical world for his temper. I was
rather apprehensive about meeting him for the first
time in person. But I still remember how surprised I
was when I found him to be so gentle and unassuming,
endowed with the virtue of vinaya (humility) in the
true Vaishnav spirit. It is only when he is wrapped up
utterly in his music that he becomes a stern taskmas-
ter, for he cannot tolerate any impurities or defects
in the sacred art of music, and he has no sympathy or
patience with those who can. His own life has been
one of rigorously self-imposed discipline, and he ex-
pects no less from his students. Baba’s views on celi-
bacy and especially on intoxication through alcohol or
drugs are extremely rigid and severe. He strongly in-
sists that the students follow brahmacharya – for the
disciple, a traditional Hindu way of life that includes
only the absolute essentials of material needs. This
way, with no thoughts of fine clothes, fancy foods, sex
or complicated love affairs or anything else that satis-
fies and encourages physical desires, the student can
channel all of his powers and forces, both mental and
physical, into the discipline of his music. Music, to
Baba, is a strict, lifelong discipline that requires long
and careful training, and if a student is not prepared
to regard music in this way, he had better not take it
up at all.

Unfortunately, Baba no longer travels or performs
now, although on special occasions he may be seen
playing the violin or conducting the famous Maihar
Band (an ensemble of Indian and Western instru-
ments) of which he is still the director. He also con-
tinues as Principal of the Maihar College of Music
which he attends every day. In 1952, Baba was made
a Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademi (National
Academy of Performing Arts), and in 1958, he was
awarded the Padma Bhusan, an honorary title for out-
standing citizens, by the President of the academy.
Viswa Bharati, Tagore’s university, gave him the hon-
orary degree of Doctor. Thus, honor and recognition
came to him in the evening of his life, but he remains,
following the saying in the Geeta, unmoved and un-
ruffled as he pursues his work and the study of
music, never bothering, never worrying or looking
back. Baba himself believes he is well over a hundred
years old, and his centenary has already been marked.
His true age is not known, because records have not
been kept, but what does it matter if he is over a
hundred or nearing a hundred? What he has accom-
plished in his lifetime many others could not do if
they had three hundred years to live. He is respected
and well regarded by everyone, including the most
orthodox Hindu Brahmins, as a rishi, responsible for
safeguarding traditions, for developing, teaching, and
passing on to disciples the art of music.
There are so many things one could add about
Ustad Allauddin Khan. He belongs to a school that
seems so far removed from our modern industrial era,
and yet, in every way, he has been ahead of his time,
injecting a new significance and life into Indian in-
strumental music. With him will pass an era that
upheld the dedicated, spiritual outlook handed down
by the great munis and rishis who considered the
sound of music, nad, to be Nada Brahma – a way to
reach God.