Pt. Vishu Narayan Bhatkhande was born on 10th August 1860. Since childhood he was very interested in music. He won many prizes in school for singing. After completing BA.LL.B, he even practised as a lawyer for a while. In 1884, his increasing attraction towards music took him to Pt. Ravji Bua Belbagkar, under whom he received Dhrupad-Dhamaar training. After this he learnt to play the Sitar under Vallabhdas Damulji. He then devoted his entire life to music. Around 1890, his curiosity of scientific principles of music in Sanskrit books was aroused. He travelled throughout India to study this deeply. This resulted in his writing ‘Lakshyasangeet’ a book on music. During his travels in 1905, he collected over 300 records of songs from Mommahad Ali of the Manrang Dynasty. He heard them over and over, as he dwelt and contemplated on them. He also studied Dhamaar under the Nawab of Rampur, who was a singer of the Tansen parampara. His extensive training, his contemplation and reflection led to his authoring 4 academic books titled ‘Hindustani Sangeet Padhati’ (Systems and styles in Hindustani Music). He believed that the performer must be cognizant of both, the art and science of music. Eminent artists and students, both benefit from discourses and discussions on ragas.
The Ten Types of Thaats and their Classification
Inspired by the 72 classifications of Thaat by Venkatmakhi, Pt. Bhatkhande carried out the significant task of dividing the Indian Music System into 10 Thaats. He also brought forward the principle of classification of ragas according to the time a raga must be sung or played. He authored ‘Kramik Pustak Maalikaa’ on the bandishs he had studied with his own initiative. Even today, these six volumes provide guidelines to the performers. Pt. Bhatkhandeji has endowed the world of Indian Classical Music with bandishs composed with an aesthetic union of prevailing principles of art and science of music. The Swaralipi system modified/amended by him is known as the Notation System. He organized music conferences from 1915 – 1925 with the aim of providing discourses on music.
He painstakingly attempted to bring together singers and instrumentalists in the durbars of the Princely States with a view to concretize the raga swaroop. Everyone appreciates selfless and quality service, hence the heads of Princely States (Sansthanik ) also joined Bhatkhandeji in his work. They started providing educational courses in music. ‘Morris College of Music’ an autonomous institute, was founded in Lucknow with the permanent fund received from the government of Uttar Pradesh. It is in this Institution that the syllabus was formulated and the process of disseminating /promoting education through the modern system commenced. Bhatkhandeji’s prime student, Ratanjankarji, published the entire collection of his bandishs in serial books no 5 and 6.
Books authored by Pt. Bhatkhandeji :
1. Historical Survey of Indian Music
2. Comparitive Study – The System of 15th 16th 17th Cent.
3. ‘Abhinav Ragamanjiri’ (in Sanskrit)
4. ‘Lakshyasangeet’ (in Sanskrit)
Bhatkhandeji must be credited for bringing an awakening in the world of music. His research brought forth scientific information for the performers and students to note and heed. He has accomplished the unparalleled task of putting in notations and thousands of bandishs through swaralipi. He passed away in Bombay (Mumbai) on 19th September 1936.