Shrikrishna Ratanjankar

Shrikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar

Shrikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar
(1899-1974)

 

♫ Raga Narayani

 

About Shrikrishna Ratanjankar



From: Rajan P. Parrikar (parrikar@spot.Colorado.EDU)
Subject: Great Masters 20: “Gyan Kosh” Ratanjankar
Newsgroups: rec.music.indian.classical
Date: 1995/05/17

Namashkar.

Musician of no mean ability, outstanding composer, inspiring teacher,
exceptional scholar and theorist, competant administrator, and above
all, a lifelong student – that was S.N. Ratanjankar.

Rajan Parrikar

From: Great Masters of Hindustani Music, by Smt. Susheela Misra

Dr. Srikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar
by
Susheela Misra

Never before has the world of Hindustani classical music received such
a double-blow as on February 14, 1974, when it lost two stalwarts on the
same day. In the death of Padma Bhushan Srikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar,
we lost a most dedicated musician and erudite musicologist, and a few hours
later, the grand voice of Padma Bhushan Amir Khan was stilled for ever in
a tragic car accident. Both have bequeathed precious musical legacies for
posterity, each in his own way.

Pandit Ratanjankar with his life of almost ascetic simplicity, his
dedication to and personal sacrifice for the propagation of classical
music, and indifference to publicity and money, was quite an extraordinary
personality in this era when the majority of professionals hanker after
fame, wealth, and a following. The mantle of the great Chaturpandit
Bhatkhande could not have fallen on worthier shoulders. Like his guru,
Ratanjankar was “a dedicated soul wedded to music.” While tragedy after
tragedy struck his personal life, Pt. Ratanjankar sought solace for his
soul by plunging deeper and deeper into the art which alone gave him a
purpose in life and courage to pursue the ideals set before him by his
revered guru.

Decades ago, when Pt. Ratanjankar was known with affection and respect as
“Anna Saheb” among his colleagues, friends and followers, and his voice
was in excellent form, he could have chosen the more paying and exciting
life of a practical musician. But, such was his reverence and loyalty to
the memory of his Guru, that he chose to follow the latter’s footsteps,
to continue the work of training generations of musicians and music
teachers, and to work in every possible way for the propagation of
classical music. So dedicated was he to his ideals, that he stuck on
steadfastly to the Principalship of the Bhatkhande Music College, Lucknow,
through three long decades when emoluments were meagre, and sometimes,
not forthcoming at all! Leaving his family in Bombay, Srikrishna Ratanjankar
spent the best years of his life cooped up in a small room next to his
equally small office-cum-class room in the college. It would not be an
exaggeration to say that but for the enormous personal sacrifices that he
made, this music college would not have survived the years of poverty and
emerged as such a reputed institution today. While personal tragedies
assailed his life repeatedly, this small, frail, man continued to live
like a true Karma Yogi, imparting music to students and scholars who flocked
to him from all parts of India, and Ceylon, writing scholarly articles on
music for various journals, seminars and radio-talks, and enriching our
music with a prolific number of masterly compositions such as Khayals,
Lakshanageets, Taranas and Bhajans (in Hindi and Sanskrit). An erudite
scholar in music, he remained an eager student and research-scholar till
the end.

Born on the first dawn of this century in a middle-class Maharashtrian
family of Bombay, Srikrishna’s father (an officer in the C.I.D.) had a
deep and discriminating interest in music. Therefore, he was able to have
the good fortune of receiving excellent training in the art under the most
efficient masters available. At the age of 7, young Srikrishna was put
under the training of Pt. Krishnam Bhat of Karwar (a pupil of Kale Khan of
Patiala Gharana) whose method of teaching was so thorough that in 2 years
of (nothing but) scale exercises, the boy’s “swar-jnan” was perfected. His
next teacher was Pt. Anant Manohar Joshi (a pupil of Balakrishna Buwa). It
was about this time that Srikrishna’s family came into contact with
Pt. Bhatkhande Ji. The latter was so deeply impressed by the boy’s talent
and zeal, that the Chaturpandit predicted that with proper training, he
would not only become a great musician, but also a pioneer in the
rejuvenation and popularization of Hindustani classical music.

From 1912, Ratanjankar’s family had to endure many misfortunes. Young
Srikrishna lost his mother, and his father had to retire from service on
a premature pension owing to recurring heart-attacks. Unable to live in
a costly place like Bombay, the family shifted to Ahmadnagar where
Srikrishna, though only 13, began to give “mehfils” (music sittings) and
became very popular.

In 1916 Srikrishna took part in the first All India Music conference in
Baroda. In 1917. he was given a scholarship by Baroda State for studying
music. The family moved to Baroda where the teen-aged musician taught the
Maharani for some time. With Pandit Bhatkhande’s approval he became a
disciple of Aftab-e-Mousiqui Ustad Faiyaz Khan and remained with him for
five years. The mutual affection and respect between these two was great,
and the Ustad always mentioned Srikrishna’s name as one of the most eminent
of his “musical heirs”.

In 1923 Ratanjankar’s family went back to Bombay. In spite of the
vicissitudes of the family, and his all-engrossing musical training, he
found time to pursue his academic studies as well, and in the year 1925,
Ratanjankar graduated from the Wilson College. The contact with Pandit
Bhatkahandeji was always maintained, and then Ratanjankar began to take
classes and give performances in the Sharada Sangeet Mandal sponsored by
Bhatkhande. Later on, when Pt. Bhatkhande started the Music College in
Lucknow, Ratanjankar was brought here, first as professor, and soon after,
became Principal. The latter used to accompany the Chaturpandit during his
visits to the various eminent musicians of the day to collect ancient
compositions from various Gharanas. Thus he was able to learn an enormous
number of old and traditional compositions (Dhrupads, Dhamar, Khayals,
Lakashanageet and Thumri). Like Bhatkhandeji, his disciple also strove in
various ways through lectures, classes, demonstrations, writings etc., to
revive interest in classical music among the public.

A senior music teacher of today recalls the first time he met and heard
Sri Ratanjankar. It was in the All India Music Conference organised in
Lucknow in 1924. In that conference where music maestros from all important
centres like Rampur Jaipur, Gwalior, Alwar, Dholpur, Indore, Baroda and
Maihar had assembled, Shrikrishna somehow stood out like a young Abhimanyu
among the revered Dronas, Bhishmas, etc. Besides being a graduate and a
polished musician, he was already a profound scholar in music. His voice
was in excellent form and his erudition in “Sangeet Shastra” was astounding.
He could render rare and difficult ragas like Deepak, Patmanjari,
Natnarayan, Bhankar, etc., with as much ease as the Prachalit (current
and popular) ones like Yaman, Bilawal, Todi, Bhairavi etc.

He knew by heart even the rare compositions published in the fifth and
sixth parts of Bhatkhande’s Kramik Series. We could not help wondering how
and when he had managed to learn such a large number of ragas and
compositions, to take his B. A. Degree, and to make such a deep study of
classics like Sungeeta-Ratnakar, Natya-Shashtra, Lakshya-Sangeet, Raga
Tala vibodh and so on !

Those who have had the good fortune to listen to “Anna Saheb’s”
(Ratanjankar’s) music when he was in his best form can never forget the
vastness of his raga – and – songs – repertoire, the richness of his
creative imagination, the purity and precision of his note-combinations,
and the overall beauty of his well-integrated, systematic style. Being of
a shy and quiet temperament, and a genuine votary of music, Annasaheb never
made any concessions to placate plebian tastes. He retired into his own
quiet shell, and loosened the springs of his great and unspoilt art, only
in front of the knowing and discerning few. His style, though basically of
the Jaipur Gharana, bore the unmistakable impression of Ustad Faiyaz Khan’s
Agra or Rangeela style, while delightfully combining some of the best
characterstics of the Gwalior-gharana. The resulting synthesis was a
remarkable individual style of his own. It was a rare combination of
sweetness and dignity, aesthetic purity and creativeness and of swara
suddhi with Uchchaar suddhi (purity of notes and intonation). I have had
the good fortune to listen to innumerable soirees of Annasaheb when his
music was at the peak of its glory. Some of his memorable performances were
at the various festival functions organised in the college such as Basant,
Hori, Janmashtami and so on. But it was at the annual Sangeet Dhara
programmes, dedicated to Pt. Bhatkhande’s memory, that he really sang like
one inspired, and poured out his soul in song, in honour of his gurus
“Punya tithi.” Past and present students, musicians from far and near,
used to flock to participate in this unbroken-musical stream which
commenced at dawn on l9th of September each year, and lasted for 12 hours.
The ragas Paraj, Bhairavi, Lalit Poncham, Desh, Darbari ,Sohini, and
Malhar that I heard him sing in the Nineteen forties still echo in my ears.

Throughout the day and late into the night, Annasaheb lived in a musical
world of his own, engrossed in ancient music classics, and composing new
rare-combinations like Marga-Bihag, Kedar Bahar, Sawani Kedara, Rajani
Kalyan, Salag Varali, Sankara Karan etc. He also experimented on new types
of compositions like Varnams from Carnatic music with Hindi Sahitya and
Taranas with Sanskrit verses instead of Persian ones. Well versed in
English, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Marathi, all this came to him with ease. It
was a joke (though a fact) among his students, that his “companions” during
railway-journeys were never light magazines or novels, but heavy classics
like the Samaveda, Bharata Natya Sastra, and Sangeeta Ratnakara.

With the passing of years, the strenuous years of music teaching, the
impact of tragic personal losses, and deteriorating health-all these factors
ruined his voice. Ratanjankar performed less and less frequently. He
concentrated on other aspects of music-creativity. As an examiner in various
universities, and as a member of the Syllabus-Committee, he wrote and
published his Sangeet Shiksha in 3 parts, the Abhinava Sangeet Shiksha, the
Tana Samgraha, etc. His Abhinava – Rag Manjari alone contains nearly 200
of his original and beautiful compositions. He never tried to publicise the
fact that his compositions are being broadcast from the various stations of
All India Radio almost every day. Generations of musicians will revere his
memory as one of the most eminent and prolific Vagyeyakars of modern times.

Only a musician-cum scholar could create such beautiful classical songs in
which Swaras and Sahitya, blend so harmoniously. Annasaheb’s musical credo
was that the effect of music ought to be, and is pure aesthetic joy” and
that the musician should be able to draw out from every raga whatever rasa
or emotion he wishes to”. Perhaps it was to illustrate this point that he
wrote his successful musical operas-Govardhanodhar, Jhansi Ki Rani and
Shivamangalam. The first of these was put out as a national programme from
all stations of AIR. In all of them, he made use of a plethora of ragas
to produce various rasas.

When the Indira Kala Sangeet University was inaugurated in Khairagarh
(Madhya Pradesh), Principal Ratanjankar was persuaded to accept the
Vice-Chancellorship. Leaving his humble college in Lucknow was a most
painful wrench for him. Again, like a true karma-yogi, he felt it was his
duty to take up this new challenging job, see this infant University
through its birth-pangs, and put it on firm foundations. In fact, a less
dedicated person could not have borne this heavy responsibility. Night and
day, he strove selflessly for the University. Only his closest-associates
know how he secretly used to donate a large slice of his own salary back
to the University whenever funds became inadequate. He did not lay down
the heavy reins of this office until he had steered this institution out
of troubled waters and set it sailing along calm seas.

At a time when the majority of north Indian musicians looked askance at
Karnatak music, Shri Ratanjankar was one of the very few who studied deeply
the theory and ragas of the Karnatak system, appreciated its great
traditions, and adapted much from it to enrich the Hindustani system.
Averse to party politics, and narrow provincialism, he remained dignified
and above petty jealousies. Sangeet Kalanidhi Justice Venkatrama Iyer
described Ratanjankar as “the symbol of the unity of lndian music”. As a
member of the expert committee of the Music Akademy, Madras, he contributed
richly to “promote close mutual understanding between the two systems”.
As chairman of the Music Auditions Board, Pt. Ratanjankar was closely
associated with AIR for a number of years. He participated in many music
seminars with his scholarly papers. Among his more well-known disciples
may be mentioned the late Chandrasekhar Pant, the late Chidanand Nagarkar,
Chinmoy Lahiri, Dinkar Kaikini, P.N. Chinchore, Dr. Sumati Mutatkar,
S.C.R. Bhat, K.G. Ginde and others. While all of them have been regular
broadcasters, two of them served on the staff of the AIR for many years.
But now most of them are teaching music.

Shri Ratanjankar adorned many positions of honour in the world of music
and was honoured with the title of “Padma Bhushan” by President Rajendra
Prasad in recognition of his outstanding services to music.

Musicians and musicologists from all over the country pay their homage
to the memory of this rare “missionary” in music who lived a life of utter
simplicity and dedication, and who enriched Hindustani music in many ways.
In one of his many lovely Bhajans he used to sing: “It is a precious gift
to be born as a human being on this earth. Do some good work while you are
here. Keep your mind and body and your entire life pure and clean. Help
those in need. Make your life useful and purposeful”. In fact, this
describes Pt. Ratanjankar’s own approach to life.