Music this Month – September 2019

    O Mind, Return Home….


    This month, we are heading towards the annual Autumn Festival almost all over the globe. This is the time when we worship the Divine Mother. Divine Mother Durga, as Uma Haimavati, gave the knowledge of Atman to the gods for the first time.  The gods thought they were powerful. The Divine Mother came to them as Uma Haimavati and showed them that the Atman or Reality is the  Truth.

    This Uma Haimavati is worshipped every year during this season. She comes to remind us: “Remember the Truth! Return Home. Why are you deluded in this strange land of delusion?”….

    Chittabrata Saha is a renowned singer in Holland. He presents to you this wonderful song, sung by Swami Vivekananda before Sri Ramakrishna. Hope you will enjoy it.



    Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande

    Prajna Bhattacharya

    Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande was a great Indian musicologist of Hindustani classical music. The   notation system in Hindustani classical music introduced by him is widely used even in present day. Prior to Pt  Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande,  Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar’s notation system had already been developed and was in use to teach Indian music. Pt.Vishnu Digambar Paluskar’s notion was very precise, but the use of too many symbols made it very complicated. So this system was replaced soon by another notation system which was equally precise and easy to understand. This system was introduced by Pt Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, who brought  about the Renaissance in Hindustani classical music.

    Bhatkhande structured the Hindustani classical music and documented the raga grammar, which was mainly practiced orally down the centuries. He reclassified the Ragas as Raga (male), Ragini (female) and Putra (children) to the Thaat system. He also explained the ragas in an easy-to-understand language, and composed several bandishes and lakshan geet, which explained the grammar of the ragas.

    Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande was born on 10 August 1860 in Walkeshwar, Bombay. From his childhood he was inclined towards music. He started learning bhajans from his mother and continued his music study from several teachers along with his formal education. Besides singing, he started learning Sitar from the renowned sitarist Ballavdash ji and Gopal ji. Subsequently he began studying Sanskrit texts that dealt with the theory of music.

    He completed BA degree from Elphinstone College in Bombay in 1885 and graduated with a degree in law from Bombay University in 1887. Afterwards he briefly pursued a career in criminal law.

    In 1884, Bhatkhande became a member of the Gayan Uttejak Mandali, where he broadened his experience with music performance and teaching. He studied at the Mandali where he learned a variety of compositions, both in khayal and dhrupad forms under the guidance of great musicians. Music was something of a leisurely pursuit for Bhatkhande.

    Pt.Bhatkhande reorganised the state music school of Baroda and established “Madhav Music College” in Gwalior and Maris College of Hindustani Music in Lucknow, which popularly are known as Bhatkhande College of Hindustani Music.

    After the death of his wife (1900) and his daughter (1903), Bhatkhande abandoned his legal practice. He devoted the rest of his life to systematising the prevailing forms of Hindustani music and building on that system a coordinated theory and practice of music. He travelled throughout India, meeting with ustads and pundits, and to carry out research on music. He began the study of ancient texts such as the Natya Shastra and Sangeet Ratnakara.

    Bhatkhande travelled throughout India and studied a lot of music-related literature in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu, Gujarati, Marathi and English,. He also travelled in search of music and met many ustads and pundits of precious gharanas. Pt. Bhatkhande collected many precious compositions of various gharanas, specially “Manrang Gharana”. Along with this he composed several bandishes of his own under the pseudonym “Chatur Pandit” and wrote all these bandishes in his self-developed system of notation. Pt. Bhatkhande  somehow managed to collect these rare compositions, notated those and published in the form of books in his self-developed system of notation.  Pt. Bhatkhande wrote a number of books in Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi and English. For example, he wrote Hindustani Sangeet Padhhati, Lakhsan Geet Sangraha , Swar Malika Sangraha and Geet Malika in Hindi. He also wrote a short historical survey of the music of upper India and a comparative study of some of the leading music systems of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in English. Pt. Bhatkhande wrote all of his works using two pseudonyms, “Vishnu Sharma” and “Chatur Pandit”.

    A brief description of Bhatkhande’s notation system is described below:

    Full tone notes or Shudhh swar:  There are 7 full tone notes or shudhh swar in Indian music. These are Swaraj, Rishav, Gandhar, madhyam, Pancham, Dhoibat and Nishad. These are abbreviated as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha and Ni. Pt Bhadkhande has assigned no sign to full tone note or Shudhh swar in his notation system. They are written as

    S  R  G   M  P  D  N

    Half tone note or komol swar : There are only 4 notes in Hindustani music which make the komol and give the lower pitch than the natural one. These are R G D and N. For writing notation for half tone note or komol swar, a small horizontal line or hyphen or a dash put beneath the note and written as

    Sharp note or tivra swar: M is the only note in Hindustani music that sharpens and give the higher pitch than the natural one. To indicate sharp note in Bhatkhande’s notation a small vertical line is put over the note and written as


    Symbols of low, medium and upper octave:  In Pandit Bhatkhande’s notation there is a ‘.’ used beneath the notes of Mandra Saptak (low octave), and above the note of Tar Saptak (upper octave). No symbols are assigned to the notes of Madhya Saptak . They are written as:

    Symbol of taal or rhythmic cycle: There are 3 important pieces in taal which are ‘Sam’, Tali’ and ‘Khali’ These are shown in 3 different symbols in Bhatkhande’s notation system.

    SamX (Sam is indicated by putting a cross mark)

    Tali 2, 3 ,4 (‘Talis’ other than ‘Sam’ are indicated by putting the digit two, three and four, depending on the total ‘Talis’ in a ‘Tal’).

    Khali0 (Khali is indicated by putting Zero or a small circle)

    Example of Teentaal with the symbols.


    Music is divine. Properly used, music leads to the Divine. Sri Ramakrishna, Mother and Swamiji, all loved music immensely. Bhagavan Sri Chaitanya Deva began the tradtition of kirtana. All for God. The tradition of music is ancient, It is Veda itself.  Each month, we bring you news and contributions about music.

    Mrs Prajnaparamita Bhattacharya

    is the Contributing Editor

    of this page.