SPLENDOUR OF SILVER - reflecting the finest of silversmithy
The royal family of Mewar has always provided patronage and support towards the continuation of the age-old traditions of music. The Maharanas themselves were passionate lovers of music, art and literature-thus showing the softer more gentle pursuits in their warrior lives. Owing to their love for music, a special place called Naubat Khana for the shahanaai players and the Nakkar Khana for the Nakkarchis had been built. They performed daily at sunrise and sunset.
Rana Kumbha (r. 1433-68), the multifaceted ruler of Mewar, builds the strongest foundations for the Indian classical music and emerges as one of the greatest and most valuable proponents. Rama Baisa, Rana Kumbha's learned daughter was also credited with having a profound understanding and knowledge of music shastra. She was given the title of Bageshwari (A raga in Hindustani classical music).
Rana Raimal (r. 1437-1509), the son of Rana Kumbha, too was a great patron of the arts and music. Rana Sanga (r. 1509-27) son of Rana Raimal introduced Arabeetasha, a musical instrument. The instrument was captured from the army of Babar the Mughal invader and during his reign Rana Sanga, introduced this into the army of Mewar.
Poet, saint and passionate devotee of Lord Krishna, the legendary Bhaktimati Meera Bai was the daughter-in-law of Rana Sanga. She was a refined musician and composed and sang devotional love songs to Lord Krishna. Meera Bai's Padaavali has a collection of 250 padas (songs) composed in classical Ragas. Meera Bai introduced a new Raga - 'Meera Malhar' which is rendered by artists in Dhrupad and Khayaal schools of music.
The Raagmala series of paintings belonging to the early seventeenth century period have been found in Chawand in Mewar. These paintings depict the court with its patronage of musicians.
Rana Amar Singh I (r. 1597-1620) was the presiding monarch in that period. The visual detailing in these paintings is exquisite and 'Raag Deepka' and 'Raag Maru' are clearly depicted in this series. The 'Raagmala' series illustrate the auditory capacity of music in the visual form. They are a priceless historical reference to the rich tradition of music in Mewar and indeed in India.
Nau Chowki, a set of nine domes at Lake Rajsamand was built during the reign of Rana Raj Singh I (r. 1653-80). Intricately carved musical instruments and dance forms adorn these nine domes, showing the love for music the Maharanas of Mewar had.
Carrying the idol of Shrinathji from Mathura to Sinhad Village and then to Nathdwara in Mewar (1672 AD), Rana Raj Singh I helped to protect the idol from the vandalism of Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor. This was important in the development of music in Mewar as this occasion introduced a new style of temple music called 'Haveli Sangeet' to the court of Mewar which later on became famous as Dhrupad singing. It is this Prabandh singing which grew to become the rich foundation for the traditions of Dhrupad and Dhamaar Gayaki in Mewar. The lilting melodies and refined notes of music based on the ragas, set in accordance with the seasons and time of day and different Jhankis (displays) according to the code of Pushti Marg, echo in and around the temple. These bhajans (devotional songs) are based on the padas composed by the Ashtachaap (a group of eight great poets of the Vallabha sect). These poets were in fact singers of devotional songs in praise of Lord Krishna. The Dhrupad legacy is one of the most ancient systems of clan singing. The style was to sing praise to the gods and goddesses in Shringaar, Veera and Shant Raasas. This was a pure form of Bhakti sangeet.
Originating in the temples, this style of music reached the courts of the Maharanas in the form of Dhrupad and Dhamaar. This then became the pride of Mewar, and from here, India received remarkable vocalists and instrumentalists along with the Rudra Veena and Sursingar.
Keeping Alive the Patronage
Even after the severance of the states and the merger of the Royal House of Mewar with independent India, Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar of Udaipur (r. 1955-84) maintained the tradition of the conservation and perpetuation of the arts and cultural activities in Mewar.
The extraordinarily accomplished Dagar brothers Ustad Naseer Ammenuddin Khan and Ustad Naseer Moinuddin Khan introduced the Jod and Aalaap techniques to the perfectly set raga and taal padas of Ashtachaap. In this style particular to the Dagar family, the complete circle of the aalaap moves around the bol of "Antar Taran Taran Tu". The character of the raga is also contained in this movement. This ancient classical style is retained only in the Dhrupad style.
Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar hosted the Dagar brothers in Udaipur in the late 1950's and used the occasion to record their performances. The Maharana then formulated the Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Kala Trust and collected all the recordings of the Dagar family and housed it in the archives of the Trust. As a true lover of music, he held musical performances in the great The Durbar Hall of the Fateh Prakash Palace, Udaipur.
Apart from the Dagar family, performances were also held by Pandit Omkar Nath Thakur, Dr. Premlata Sharma (Benaras), Pandit Jaganath Prasad (Udaipur), Pandit Dharmandhikari (Mumbai), and Shri Purshottamdas Pakhavji (Nathdwara) etc.
In order to felicitate the various artists for providing services of permanent value to society through the medium of Indian Classical music, Rajasthani Folk dance and music Maharana Bhagawat Singh Mewar decided to introduce Dagar Gharana Award in 1981-82 as a part of the Maharana Mewar Foundation Annual Awards (MMFAA) organized by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation. More than 30 artists have been awarded so far. Every year during the annual award ceremony one day is dedicated to music by inviting some of the best artists to perform at The City Palace Museum, Udaipur.
The late Maharana was a true patron and provided sanctuary and financial assistance to a wide spectrum of artists. The Maharana also lent support to the theoretical side of music. Manuscripts and other treatises were collected under the aegis of the Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Kala Trust.
The love for music and its patronage is kept alive till date by the 76 Custodian of the House of Mewar and Chairman and Managing Trustee of Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur.
By initiating various cultural programmes under the umbrella of Eternal Mewar, Shriji has been making consistent efforts to create a platform at a global level for the art, craft and music of Mewar.
Kartik Poornima and the Holika Dahan Festival organized by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation are the best examples of Shriji's initiatives to promote music and culture.
Every year on the auspicious day of Kartik Poornima some of the best artists from all over the world are invited to perform at The City Palace, Udaipur.
Holika Dahan Festival during the month of March is a four day festival which includes everything from art, craft, music and tradition and culture. In the year 2013 renowned artists from all over India were invited to perform at The City Palace during the Holika Dahan Festival.
Guru Purnima is another such initiative started since 2003 by the Shree Eklingji Trust, one of the philanthropic arms of Eternal Mewar. 'Swaranjali' an evening of devotional music is organized each year on Guru Poornima where local artists as well as artists from various parts of the country are invited to perform at Shree Eklingnath ji Temple as an offering to Parmeshwaraji Maharaj Shree Eklingnath ji.
Shriji has also taken many steps to preserve the music and culture of Mewar by creating a system to archive old records and data related to music. Today, with his efforts priceless records of various arts performed in Mewar are easily available for the people to hear and appreciate. It is to his credit that the safely preserved cultural heritage, in the form of a manuscript Sangeetraj by Rana Kumbha, has reached the masses. The difficult Sanskrit manuscript showing Rana Kumbha's devotion to music has been translated into Hindi titled 'Maharana Kumbha Ki Bharatiya Sangeet Ko Den' under his purview. This book is authored by Dr. Seema Rathore, Head of the Department of Music (Vocal), Government Meera Girls PG College, Udaipur, Rajasthan and she is also recipient of MMFAA Maharana Kumbha Awardee 2005.
It would be most pertinent to mention here that all the instruments on display belonged to Members of the Mewar Family some of which are over hundred years. This makes the collection unique as it is a continuation of family's personal interest in music and preservation of these musical instruments. Yet another shining example of 'Living Heritage' practiced by Eternal Mewar.