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Tabla maestro Kishan Maharaj dead
Shahira Naim
Tribune News service

Pandit Kishan MaharajVaranasi, May 5
A hushed silence fell over the Manikarnika ghat shortly after six this evening when Pandit Puran Maharaj lit the funeral pyre of his father, tabla maestro Pandit Kishan Maharaj.

The realisation that the ‘thaap’ of his Banarsi tabla would be heard no more left many eyes moist in the city which has a tradition of celebrating death. In the wee hours of Monday morning the 84-year old Padma Vibhushan awardee, tabla wizard Pandit Kishan Maharaj left the city of Banaras and the world of classical music poorer.

He had been admitted to a local private hospital on 29 April after suffering a paralytic attack. His wife, two daughters and able son and successor of the tabla tradition Pandit Puran Maharaj survive him.

The city bid a farewell to Pandit Kishan Maharaj in true Banarsi tradition.

Thousands came to pay their last respects at his residence in Kabir Chaura where his body was kept for public viewing before starting on its last journey later in the evening.

Lining the streets from his residence to the Manikarnika ghat stood writers, poets, singers, theatre persons and thousands of ordinary music lovers showering rose and marigold petals lending the occasion a typically Banarsi flavour where death is celebrated as much as life. The soaring temperature was clearly no hindrance.

Active till the very end, the Maharaj had suffered an attack last week while eminent sarod player Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his family was visiting him. The sarod exponent was here with his sons, Aman and Ayaan, to attend a music function.

Named Kishan for being born on the auspicious occasion of Janamashtami in 1923, Maharaj was considered to be one of the finest players of the tabla in the country. While recognition came early, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2002.

Maharaj had his initial education in music from his father Pandit Hari Maharaj and later, after his father’s premature death, from his uncle, the great maestro of his time Pandit Kanthe Maharaj. Under such an august tutelage Kishan Maharaj took the Benaras ‘ang’ of tabla ‘vadan’ to greater heights.

He would be remembered for his rare ability to play cross rhythms and produce complex calculations, particularly in ‘tihai’ patterns. An immensely versatile musician, he had accompanied the likes of Ravi Shankar, late Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar khan, Late Ustad Bismillah Khan, Late Pt. Nikhil Banarjee - be it on the sitar, sarod, dhrupad, dhamar or dance.

His ‘Tala Vadya Kacheri’ with the Mridangam Vidwan, ‘Palghat Raghu’ was truly mesmerising.

Uttar Pradesh Governor, T.V. Rajeswar expressed deep grief over his sad demise. In a condolence message released by the Raj Bhawan on Monday, the Governor said the death of Pandit Kishan Maharaj had created a void in the world of Indian music.

He prayed for peace to the departed soul and extended his heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved family. Chief Minister Mayawati also has expressed profound grief over the demise the tabla maestro. In a condolence message she said Kishan Maharaj was aply called ‘Sangeet Samrat’ as he had taken the art of tabla playing to new heights.



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