M A I N   N E W S

Morning in police station turns musical with all notes classical
* The dilapidated Darbar hall of Quila Sarai in Sultanpur Lodhi reclaims its musical legacy
Vandana Shukla
Tribune News Service

Bhai Gurcharan Singh Ragi (in white) breathes a new life of music in Darbar hall of Quila Sarai on the inaugural day of devotional music classes initiated by Anad Conservatory
Bhai Gurcharan Singh Ragi (in white) breathes a new life of music in Darbar hall of Quila Sarai on the inaugural day of devotional music classes initiated by Anad Conservatory. Photo: Antonio Dolce

Sultanpur Lodhi, May 15
On a Sunday morning, the Darbar hall inside the police station reverberates with musical notes of the Rebab, Taus and Raga Asavari. For an auspicious beginning, Bhai Gurcharan Singh Ragi, 96, eleventh generation exponent of Gurbani kirtan, delivers the first pure note. When about 50 enthusiastic lovers of music - young and old - render alaap, the precarious walls of the quila vibrate.

The hall is an apology, and the prefix “Darbar” adds only to its irony. Bricks pop out of the naked walls, part of the roof is missing compensating for sky light and plaster peels off, making room for plants to sprout. But, then, history has been unforgiving in this part of the land. And, time has taken the remaining glory in its sweep. Yet, amidst tall neglected grass, grown a golden hue with heat and dehydration, a little holly hock plant blossoms in full glory, defying laws of germination.

Guru Nanak emerged with mool mantra

The sarai was built by Sultan Khan Lodhi in 12th century and was rebuilt by Emperor Shah Jehan in the 16th century. Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb studied Islam at Sultanpur Lodhi. The place finds a mention in Aina-e-Aakbari. Above all, it was at Kali Ben river where Guru Nanak disappeared for a while to emerge with the mool mantra. Bhai Firanda, the rebabi, met him here and it was here that Guru Nanak gave a gift of strings to Bhai Mardana. The small town has seven gurdwaras, all steeped in history.

So, does Quila Sarai, with people’s aspiration and hunger for a cultural life, thus far neglected.

After years of persuasion, Anad Conservatory has been able to get a grant of Rs 2 crore from the Government of Punjab to conserve the sarai to open an academy of devotional music. The government has also allotted land to house the existing police post which will be shifted from the quila. Interestingly, among the many keen students of music is constable Kuldeep Singh, who rushes for the class after finishing his duty. He persuaded Bhai Baldeep, founder chairman, Anad Conservatory, to take him as a disciple because, “All the Gurus found their salvation in purity of music, I too wish to follow their path,” he pleads.

Kuldeep wants to be taught pure ragas, though, he can sing folk with great élan. He is not alone, several music teachers from the vicinity have come back as students to get what degrees in music could not give them- knowledge and a Guru.

It is a new approach to culture and heritage. The knowledge that belongs to the people is being handed over to them, in a setting that befits the knowledge.

“The idea is to rediscover the original institution of Quila Sarai, it was a part of great sarai tradition that existed on the Agra-Lahore route,” says Prof Rabindra Vasavada, who is on the panel of scientific advisory committee on conservation headed by Prof. Paolo Ceccarelli, to restore the sarai.

Classes are held in classical music based on devotional music of India. Faculty includes Pt Asit Banerjee (Rudra Veena), Somji Dasgupta (Sarod and Rebab), Pt Indra Keshav Mishra (Dhrupad) and Ashutosh Upadhyaya (pakhawaj). A beginning is made with Gurumat sangeet, that is part of the heritage of the region.

“From Baba Farid to Guru Gobind Singh, all the Gurus used to sing before they penned the Bani, which stands for a perfect harmony between laya, taal, shabad and its meaning,” explains Bhai Baldeep to a class overflowing with students. One cannot ignore the community’s participation in the project - someone brings breakfast, other one cooks the lunch for the faculty and guests. Everybody is put up for stay in local gurudwaras. It is a small town, where facilities are not adequate. But, passion for music takes care of the rest.





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