Tribute to Gurus
In North India, Dassehra is a time for riotous celebration, burning images of Ravana; in East India it is the culmination of 9 days of Devi worship, celebrated with a feast of the senses. In South India it is a time of worship of Saraswati, the Goddess of learning; infact, Vijayadashami is also called 'Vidyaarambham' or the auspicious time to start learning. Disciples pay tribute to their Gurus and their instruments. In times of social distancing, the reach out to the Guru has been through the digital medium.
13 disciples of the well known Carnatic singing duo Ranjani Gayatri collaborated to render a particularly appropriate song by Harikeshanallur Muttaiah Bhagavatar called 'Mathe Malayadhwaja' which is an ode to Devi. The moving lyrics speak of the 'bestower of music and the bestower of the ability to experience music/ the authentic joy of music' - words equally appropriate to a Guru through whom a disciple is able to understand this great heritage. Our ancient texts state in unequivocal terms that the aim of the arts is to unite the soul with the Divine; it is not for mere entertainment. A true Guru helps one realise this.
The gist of the lyrics were summarised by Ravali Nallan, who like the other disciples has been learning music for around 5 years under Ranjani-Gayatri.
Madhuri Kaushik, an engineer by training but singer by profession, who initiated the tribute said, "For us all, our Gurus are like our Mothers, to whom this song is dedicated. On any other Vijayadashami day we would all be together at our Guru's place, and would sing to them and receive their blessing. Since that was not possible this year, we decided on this song to express our gratitude. We had pre decided who would sing which portion; Abby edited the song sung by each of us, and a friend and I edited the video. The song has been recorded by 3 of us in USA, 1 is in Canada and 9 of us are in India".
Ranjani-Gayatri are well known teachers; Ranjani shared that she and her sister had started teaching other students while they were in their teens. Their Guru Shri TS Krishnaswami Iyer used to have to turn away disciples as he physically had no time, so asked his young disciple duo Ranjani-Gayatri to teach. This tradition has continued till today when they have a thriving career and very little time to teach. During the pandemic, the teaching has been online, with the notation of the songs as well as the recording being shared online by the young Gurus, themselves not of an age considered senior.
Ranjani confessed "I am not really an overtly emotional person but could not stop the tears when I heard this moving tribute. It's so touching, and we have not even taught this piece to all of them personally." Sung seamlessly with no percussion accompaniment, the song is in Raga Khamas; the disciples also improvise freely.
The students include the singing sensation from Bangalore, classical singer 13 year old Rahul Vellal, who can handle a 3 hour concert with elan, deftly traversing diverse 'Ragaams' and 'taalams' with finesse. 15 year old Spoorthi Rao, winner of the Airtel Super Singer contest
is another talented classical singer
making waves, as is popular pop singer Abby V (Abhishek Iyer, whose hits include 'Channa Ve Channa'). As Madhuri shared "we are all seriously connected with music; it's not only a hobby for us."