The musical patter of ghunghroos, the loud taal of a teacher giving time, a sitar strain here, an alaap on the air there; if sounds could be captured as colours, the Bhatkhande Music Institute Deemed University would make for a beautiful picture indeed.

One of the oldest and the only University of its kind, Bhatkhande, as it is popularly known, is not only a part of Lucknow’s cultural and historical legacy, but is even now the fount of musical knowledge and traditions for its students.

Originally called the Marris College of Music, this repository of musical and artistic traditions of India, first came into being in 1926. With help and encouragement from generous benefactors like Rai Umanath Bali, Rai Rajeshwar Bali and Raja Nawab Ali, Pt. V. N. Bhatkhande established this institution to preserve and propagate the classical and folk musical traditions of India. It was named after the then Governor of United Provinces, Sir William Sinclair Marris. After independence, the govt. of Uttar Pradesh took over the institute and renamed it as the Hindustani Sangeet Mahavidyalay and in Oct, 2000, the same was accorded the status of a Deemed University and was renamed after its founder Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande.

Located in quiet corner of Qaiserbagh, the building hosting the university is the erstwhile Parikhana of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. An architectural marvel in its own right, the beautiful façade of the building has adorned countless calendars and posters, not to mention the hearts of its students.

 

In the last 90 years or so of its existence, Bhatkhande has been graced by some eminent faculty members and has had some illustrious students associated with it. Begum Akhtar, V.G. Jog, Anup Jalota, Kanika Kapoor, Talat Mahmood, Pt. W. D. Amardeva are just some of the prominent musicians that Bhatkhande has been associated with at different points in time.

Prof. Shruti Sadolikar, Vice Chancellor of the university, says, “We don’t just produce performers, but also a knowledgeable, appreciative audience for those few who end up performing on the stage. These are people who have the trained ear to appreciate the nuances, the emotions of a performance. A knowledgeable audience helps an artist evolve as well. This silent river of music has been flowing through the city and the state and the Bhatkhande Music Institute has played a significant role in bringing this to fruition. “

The institute attracts a sizable number of international students who come here to learn the intricacies of the Indian classical music. Lakpiya, an international student from Sri Lanka says, “What I love the most about the university is the individual attention that we get and the freedom to learn at our own pace. There is no time restraint here if you want to practice your craft even after the class is over and the teachers go above and beyond their duty to make sure we perfect our chosen field of study.”

 

The University’s annual gala, the Bhatkhande Jayanti Sangeet Samaroh, has hosted performances from eminent personalities like Pt. Ravishanker, Amjad Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, N Rajam, VJ Jog, Sitara Devi and is among coveted events on the Lucknow cultural calendar. Every year in the month of September the three-day music event charms the audience with the hues of classical notes. Inaugurating this year’s function, Governor Ram Naik said, “The fact that Pt Bhatkhande came to Lucknow from Maharashtra to establish a music institute proves that music has no boundaries. The institute set up by him is still a temple for the music enthusiasts.” Maestros like Pt Ajay Pohankar, Pt Arvind Parikh, Anupama Bhagva and Pt Arvind Kumar Azad adorned the just concluded grand function.

Apart from awarding graduate and Master level degrees, the university is also engaged in serious research and has several doctorates to its credit. On the other end of the spectrum, it also allows something called Casual Admissions for students and professionals who cannot take up a full time course. As Prof Sadolikar puts it, “I think everybody should spend at least a couple of years at Bhatkhande or any other music or art institute for that matter. You understand the intricacies of the craft and the hard work that goes into producing the simplest of notes. So we encourage students to learn even when they cannot dedicate themselves completely in pursuit of the performing arts. We don’t enforce the 75% attendance rule and we do not give them degrees, but the learning that they take away is its own reward.”

With its rich cultural legacy, its beautiful Nawabi era architecture and its musical ambience, a visit to the Bhatkhande Music Institute stirs the hidden artist inside you and puts you in awe of the foresightedness of its founders. A labour of love if ever there was one.

(To read the full interview with Prof. Shruti Sadolikar, click here.)