A GIFT TO POSTERITY

By (Late) Khwaja Khurshid Anwar 

BHATKHANDE (the Chaur Pandit of Laksha Sangit) is considered the father of modern renaissance of classical music in the sub-continent. During the first quarter of the current century, he ably demonstrated in his numerous books (he was an LL.B. and a distinguished advocate) that classical music as practiced in India in our times has radically changed and deviated from the rigid rules set down in 'Sangit Ratnakar whose author Sarangdeva had died only a few years prior to the birth of Amir Khusrau. The later Sangit writers after Sarangdeva were also aware of this gulf between 'theory' and 'practice' that had been created in the course of time and tried to bridge it according to their personal whims and fancies, instead of giving a rational and scientific basis to their theories as was done by their great forerunner Sarangdeva. They were all otherwise able and critical scholars but the fanciful theories they put forward (the ragas, their ragnis and their offsprings) were not only critical of one another but were even self-contradictory. But then, as Ranade has whimsically declared in his book on classical music, "the Pandits are born to disagree with each other." Even the great Sarangdeva when quoting from the earlier authors, i.e., Bharata's 'Natya Sastra' (300 B.C.) and Matanga's "Brhatdesi" (400 A.D.), had to admit that the old type of music was altogether extinct.

THE QUEST FOR THE SUDDHA SCALE
The fact of the matter was that Indian music was still groping to pin-point the perfect (Suddha) notes of an ideal scale as its basis. In order to discover this Suddha scale Sarangdeva divided the scale from the fundamental to its Octave into twenty-two srutis (microtones) and distributed them equally among its twelve notes. Unfortunately the distribution of srutis among the seven Suddha notes seems to have been not only arbitrary but also unjust. Three of the notes (Sa, Ma and Pa) were allotted four srutis each, two of them (Ni, Ga) two each and the remaining two notes (Re and Dha) getting three srutis each. On what principle this allocation is made, Ratnakar is silent Another inexplicable action of Sarangdeva was to assign the fourth sruti, in place of the first, to the fundamental note of the octave. The later sangit writers finding the chasms between the theory and the practice still wide open, instead of discarding the sruti hypothesis as unsatisfactory stuck to it, overawed perhaps by the overpowering authority of Sarangdeva. Instead they started juggling with the srutis It was only Bhatkhande in our times who got rid of this bugbear of Hindustani music by declaring the sruti system to be an unnecessary appendage of our classical music, at least as a method of extracting the Suddha scale from it. He, however, permits its judicious use as an aesthetic element in music though, at the same time, he insists that the srutis play no part in the correct exposition of our ragas.

FRESH WIND
While Sarangdeva's South India was slavishly following the rigid system of Ratnakar, a fresh wind had started blowing in the North. It came with the emigrants from Bukhara and Turkistan who fleeing from the Mongol terror took refuge under the Delhi Sultanate. According to Longman in his History of India, "there were as many as fifteen exiled princes living at the Court of Delhi and the Sultan Balban took great pride in relieving and supporting them with every mark of hospitality. Many eminent literary men, historians, poets and doctors of Islamic law also came with the fugitive kings and gave a literary distinction to the court of Balban. Chief and most notable among them was the famous Amir Khusrau (born in a village near Delhi to an emigrant family) whose verses have become part of the folklore of India."
The collapse of Hindu political system in the North resulted in Intellectual stagnation of Brahmanism. "The royal patronage having been stopped, scientific research came to a standstill Brahman astronomers, mathematicians, chemists and other investigators," remarks Howell, "stopped at the results already reached." But in the South things were different. Sanskirt learning was not neglected as it was in the North.
The Northern-School, under Muslim influence, has adopted a new scale as its basic or Suddha scale while the Southern school has retained the traditional one inherited from Ratnakar . Ranade in his book says: "Scholars believe that this change in the Northern School was wholly due to our contact with the Persian Art of which Amir Khusrau was the pioneer. With his rare insight and Art he introduced new and finer variations of the Ragas and it is therefore true that he not only contributed to the polish of the Art but also extended it's possibilities, evidently widening the gulf between Northern and Southern Schools."

BILLAWAL THATH--THE SUDDHA SCALE
Ranade has thus conceded that the new Suddha scale adopted by the Northern school was an outcome of Muslim influence. Prior to Amir Khusrau there is no mention of this scale as the basic scale of Hindustani music, and it was long after his death that this hypothesis first made its appearance in Naghmat-e-Asafi of Muhammad Reza. In our own times, it was Bhatkhande who first declared that "he too, like Reza, considers Bilawal Thath to be the Suddha thath of Hindustani music." Ranade, however, takes it with a pinch of salt. He first quotes Capt. N.A. Willard from his book on Hindustani music as saying that "the musicians of his day never used the term Suddha for any of the musical notes such as Re, Ga, Dha, Ni of today but referred to them as 'Tivra' or 'Sharp'." Comments Ranade: "Published only twenty years after Naghmat-e-Asafi, Willard's book makes no mention of the Bilawal scale as the Suddha scale of Hindustani music.'! And then, he wryly concludes: "It may be said to be a very brilliant and useful creation of the late Pandit Bhatkhande."
It is self-evident that the premises in the above argument can in no way justify the conclusion deduced by Ranade from them. He has already admitted that the Northern School under Muslim influence had adopted a new scale as its basic or Suddha scale. Now such a radical change that was to revolutionize the whole structure of Hindustani music could only come from the brain of an intellectual giant, and I am convinced through strong circumstantial evidence that this change was first introduced by Amir Rhusrau himself--being the foremost personality of his age in the field of Art. He was the real architect of classical music, as it exists today

THE SUDDHA SCALE OF THE SITAR
It is universally admitted that the Sitar was introduced in our music by Amir Khusrau. Says Ranade: "Curiously enough the Suddha scale of the sitar is the same as the Suddha scale of the Northern School." Now is this fact a mere coincidence? Amir Khusrau's chapter on music in his book "Ejaz-e-Khusravi" brings us face to face with a musicologist of a truly great stature. It would be presumptuous on our part even to think for a moment that he of all persons could be ignorant of the fact that in his delicate instrument he had captured the elusive will-o-the-wisp of Hindustani music--the Suddha scale--for all posterity. In this context I am tempted to mention a particular raga composed by Khusrau named SAR PARDA--literally the Major Raga. It is composed in the Suddha scale--the scale I have been discussing so far and this scale is none other than the Major Scale of Western Music.

FROM KHUSRAU WITH LOVE
This Suddha scale of the sitar after the remaining flat notes, Re, Ga, Dha, Ni, and the sharp Ma are added to it, gives us the complete scale with twelve semi tones to the octave. Finding that the twelve notes thus obtained are the identical notes which the Southern pandits use as the basis of their system, Ranade hopefully declares that "the sitar is thus a good compromise between the two schools.. .Khusrau has left to posterity an easy means of bringing the two schools as near each other as possible."
I am, however, inclined to go much further than that. The close proximity of the sitar scale to the tempered scale of the West has been mainly responsible for the enthusiastic reception this fine instrument, introduced by Amir Khusrau in the 13th century, has earned abroad--not only from the layman but also from a/ musician like Yahudi Menuhin. Khusrau, from his grave, has stretched his hand of love across the Seas and it has been affectionately grasped by kindred souls.