Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition

By Janaki Bakhle | Go to book overview

FOUR
THE CERTAINTY OF MUSIC’S MODERNITY

Vishnu Digambar Paluskar

Bhatkhande’s career in music, as we saw in the previous chapter, offers us a retrospective look at the contradictions within a scholastic, historicist, and fundamentally liberal Brahmin agenda for music—one that did not quite succeed institutionally. In the next chapter, we shall have occasion to look more carefully at his institutional shortcomings and at the notion of music as part of a national agenda. In this chapter, in direct contrast with Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, who can be seen as a tragic figure, we spend time with his counterpart, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, who comes to us over the course of history as a triumphant figure. Pandit Paluskar was the neotraditional counterpart to Bhatkhande. His understanding of music was simple, straightforward, contained few contradictions, and focused on the simple, spiritual, and public duties of music over the arcane and intellectual. Vishnu Digambar, as he was known in his time, rejected the courtly life of princely states in favor of a more peripatetic career, had close ties to Hindu reform associations, was active in the nationalist movement, and, toward the end of his life, retreated into spiritualism, bhajans, and Ramayana pravachanas.

Paluskar’s mission for music—and it was a mission in the religious sense of the term—was threefold. The first was to raise the status of musicians by

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