The foundation for institutionalised education in Hindustani music was laid in the 19th century, but it was only in the early decades of the 20th century that special schools for imparting music training became a regular feature. Mumbai (then Bombay) was one of the main centres to usher in this transformation, with the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya being one of the earliest schools that attracted several students who did not belong to hereditary musician or courtesan families. The Gandharva Mahavidyalaya had originally been established in Lahore in 1901 by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931), but he started a branch of the school in Bombay in 1908. Soon, this branch became the headquarters of the school.
Several years later, BR Deodhar (1901-1990), one of Paluskar’s disciples, founded the School of Indian Music in Bombay, evidently on Paluskar’s insistence. The name of the school was suggested by Sarojini Naidu, poet and political leader in the independence movement, whose sister Sunalini Rajam was Deodhar’s student.
In an article that appeared in the Golden Jubilee Souvenir published by the School of Indian Music, Deodhar mentions that the school started functioning on July 1, 1925, without a single musical instrument. Soon, female and male students enrolled and were taught separately thrice a week. The School of Indian Music also organised concerts periodically that attracted several listeners. In particular, concerts held to observe Paluskar’s death anniversary drew large audiences and many well-known vocalists and instrumentalists performed on such occasions.
The School of Indian Music, situated near the Royal Opera House in Mumbai, continues to impart training in Hindustani music to this day.
But Deodhar’s involvement in Hindustani music pedagogy was also seen outside the realm of the School of Indian Music, as he was a member of government and non-government committees that deliberated upon institutionalised music education.
As an author, Deodhar’s contribution to the relatively recent published work on Hindustani music is significant. His bio-sketches of many noted musicians are factual and musically relevant, shorn of any adjectival verbosity. The bio-sketches first appeared in successive issues of the Sangeet Kala Vihar, a magazine started by the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal in 1947. Later, these were published in a book entitled Thor Sangeetkar, later translated into English and published as Pillars of Hindustani Music. These bio-sketches form part of essential reading for any serious student of Hindustani music.
Deodhar was also known for his immense collection of traditional vocal compositions and his scholarship with regard to rare raags.
We end this episode with two tracks featuring his performances. The first is a short exposition in the raag Gandhari.
The second track is a rendition of raag Palasi, recorded for the All India Radio.