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Monday, April 5, 2010

THE MUSICAL AND SPIRITUAL MUSE OF BENGAL
V SUNDARAM I.A.S.

'The meaning of song goes deep. Who is there that, in logical words, can express the effect the music has on us. A kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech, which leads us to the edge of the infinite, and lets us for moments gaze in to that' …Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Dilip Kumar Roy (1897-1980)

Despite the mean, mendacious and machinating manoeuvres of the Government of India to use their transient authority to curb if not crush the underlying spirit and passion of Vande Mataram , our immortal National Song, students in many Hindu schools run by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Tamilnadu are singing the Vande Mataram song with great, gusto, joy, fervour, passion and enthusiasm everyday.

I have had the good fortune of playing the resonant, vital, vibrant and vivid voices of Dilip Kumar Roy and M.S.Subbalakshmi rendering the song of Vande Mataram (originally recorded in a 78 RPM Gramophone Record in the late 1930’s) at several public functions in schools and other public places. I played this record at several public functions in Tamilnadu in the Cenetenary Celebrations of the Vande Mataram song in 2006. I have seen the tremendous emotional impact of this recorded song on the minds and hearts of the students and the members of the general public. All the students wanted to know more about Dilip Kumar Roy. They said they were generally familiar with the life and achievements of M.S. Suubbalakshmi

Descriptive slip on the 78 RPM H M V

                                  Gramophone record in 14421 (C 1950)
                   of Vande Mataram by Dilip Kumar Roy, and M S Subbalakshmi.


I first heard the resplendent voices of Dilip Kumar Roy AND M.S.Subbalakshmi singing Vande Mataram at Rajghat in Delhi in 1953. Dilip Kumar Roy (1897-1980) musician, singer, writer, was born on 22 January 1897 in Krishnanagar in Nadia district, West Bengal. He was the son of Dwijendralal Roy. He lost his mother in childhood and was brought up by his father. At the age of 16, however, he also lost his father. In 1918 he passed BA with honours in Mathematics from Presidency College and went to Cambridge University in England, earning a Tripos in Mathematics.

Dilip Kumar Roy had his first lessons in music from his father. He later learnt music at the feet of Surendra Nath Majumder, Radhika Prasad Goswami and Achchhanna Bai. During his stay in London he passed the first part of a course in western music. He went to Berlin to learn German and Italian music, returning to India in 1922. He then practiced Classical Music under the guidance of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Fayaz Khan, Pundit Bhatkhande etc.

Dilip Kumar Roy, achieved fame throughout India and abroad as a beautiful and soul-stirring singer. He came from one of the most aristocratic and artistic families of Bengal, and played an important role in creating an artistic renaissance in India. Dilip Kumar Roy was a distinguished composer and singer, whose varied musical experiences and sensibilities transcended the boundaries of his native land. He was equally adept in composition, notation and singing.

During 1922 and 1927 he travelled extensively all over India coming in close contact with its entire musical world. During this period the freedom movement under the inspiring leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was in full swing. Dilip Kumar Roy's soulful rendering of Vande Mataram song of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee captivated the souls and hearts of our countrymen in all parts of India. Mahatma Gandhi paid this tribute to Dilip Kumar Roy : 'I may make bold to claim that very few persons in India - or rather in the world - have a voice like that of Dilip Kumar Roy, so rich and sweet and intense.'


In 1927 Dilip Kumar Roy travelled to Europe to deliver lectures on Indian classical music. He had discussions on musical theories with the two chief music experts of his time. Rabindranath Tagore and Romain Rolland. Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawharlal Nehru were his close personal friends. He had also the good fortune of coming in to close contact with great men like Mahatma Gandhi and Bertrand Russell. Dilip Kumar Roy's rendering of songs composed by Dwijendralal Roy, Atulprasad Sen, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Himangshu Kumar Dutta and Nishikanta was largely responsible for making them popular. He was also close to Kazi Nazrul Islam. Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899 - 1976) was a Bengali poet, writer, musician, journalist and philosopher who is best known for pioneering works in Bengali expressing fierce rebellion against society, tradition, politics, injustice, intolerance and oppression. Popularly known as the BIDROHI KOBI - Rebel Poet - he is widely popular and revered in Bangladesh and India and is honoured as the 'National Poet' of Bangladesh. Dilip Kumar Roy played a leading role in publicising and popularising the ghazals of Kazi Nazrul Islam.


Dilip Kumar Roy was one of the leading exponents of critical appreciation of all modern songs in Bengali. Backed by his wealth of musical knowledge and creative imagination, throughout his life, he attempted to add a new dimension to the evolving musical trends and our growing cultural heritage. In 1928, at the age of 31, he renounced his family life (sannyas) and entered Aurobindo Ashram in Pondichery where he stayed up to 1950. As a member of the music mission sponsored by the Indian Government, he delivered talks on music in many European countries, the USA, Japan and Egypt in 1953.


Dilip Kumar Roy wrote a number of valuable books on music. At the request of the Government he wrote in 1938 two books Gitasagar and Sangitiki for the syllabus of Music Department of Calcutta University. Other books he composed on music were Surbihar, Hasir Ganer Swaralipi, Gitamanjari, Dwijendragiti etc. Besides he wrote a number of books on various subjects. A total of 80 books are credited to his name.


The notable of them are his Novels like Maner Parash (1926), Dudhara (1927), Dola in two volumes (1935), Plays like Apad O Jalatanka (1926), Sada Kalo (1944), Shri Chaitanya (1948), Bhikharini Rajkanya (1952); Essays on Sri Aurvindo O Dharma Bijnan, Chhandasiki, Kavirsi O Gunishilpi (discussion on Aurovindo, Rabindranath, Atulprasad and Sharat Chandra, 1978); Travelogues- Bhramyamaner Dinpanjika (1926), Abar Bhramyaman (1944), Bhusvarga Chanchal (1940), Edeshe Odeshe (1940), Deshe Deshe Chali Ude (1955) and works of Satire like Aghatan Ajo Ghate, Chhaya Pather Pathik, Ashruhasi Indradhanu. He also wrote a volume of poetry titled Eyes of Light (1945).


                                          Cover page of book
                                   by Dilip Kumar Roy published in 1940.


In my view Dilip Kumar Roy's most interesting book about men and matters is 'AMONG THE GREAT' which was published in 1940. This book brings together his accounts of his conversations and correspondence with Romaine Rolland, Mahatma Gandhi, Bertrand Russell, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sri Aurobindo. Dilip Kumar Roy declared: 'My chief aim is to elicit the views of these eminent personalities on various aspects of life, from the role of art and science to social equality and moving on to spirituality. All these great men are men of profound insight who have wrestled with the central problems of life and reached decisive certainties'.

                                      PILGRIMS OF THE STARS
                        Autobiography of two Yogis, Ma Indira Devi &
                                            Dadaji Sri Dilip Kumar Roy.


Pilgrims of the Stars is an autobiographical account of the inner journey of two remarkable contemporary Indian yogis- Dilip Kumar Roy, a renowned musician, philosopher, and scholar, and his disciple Indira Devi, a visionary poetess and dancer. Here I would like to digress and touch upon the remarkable mystical life of Ma Indira Devi.


Born in 1920, Ma Indira Devi was born to wealth and luxury. Yet curiously enough she felt no attachment to either. She had imbibed early a deep love of books and learnt Urdu and English from her infancy till she became perfectly at home in these languages.


She had a native aptitude for the histrionic art and acted brilliantly in amateur theatricals which attracted so much attention that she was pressed by a film magnate to join the movies. She declined; for, lonely in the midst of opulence and stirred relentlessly by a mystic impulse, she longed only for the Divine. It should also be borne in mind that Ma Indira Devi was a remarkable dancer who had mastered the styles of Manipuri, Kathakali and Bharata Natyam.


The turning point in her life was reached at Jabbalpore in 1946 where she had the good fortune of meeting Shri.Dilip Kumar Roy. He had gone there to deliver a talk on his Guru Sri Aurobindo. Ma Indira Devi came under the magnetic spiritual influence of Shri.Dilip Kumar Roy and she instantaneously decided to accept him as her Guru.


Shri Dilip Kumar Roy hesitated to accept her as his disciple. Ma Indira Devi had to wait for a few years till she met Shri.Aurobindo, who after seeing her in 1949, wrote to his disciple Sri.Dilip Kumar Roy and directed him to accept Ma Indira Devi as his disciple. Sri Dilip Kumar Roy adopted her as his daughter and disciple and she came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram renouncing her home, family, wealth and social activities to dedicate herself to the spiritual life under her Guru's guidance and direction.


Gradually, she began seeing visions of various gods and goddesses along with one figure she did not know, who later revealed herself as the great Saint Mirabai of hallowed memory. This noble queen of Mewar and composer of devotional songs, which are sung to this day throughout India, had given up her throne and palace and family to become a wandering mendicant in the name of Krishna, the Lord of her heart. Now she manifested herself again to Indira and sang song after beautiful song which Indira, after her samadhi, dictated to Sri Dilip Kumar and others. These songs, nearly about 1000 in number, were published by Sri Dilip Kumar in 7 books entitled Shrutanjali, Premanjali, Ushanjali, Vibhanjali, Sudhanjali, Bhavanjali and Deepanjali which were hailed by thousands of spiritual seekers in India and abroad.


Both Sri.Dilip Kumar Roy and Ma Indira Devi built a temple called Sri.Hare Krishna Mandir at Pune. Near the temple they also had their Ashram where for nearly 3 decades they lived together and did spiritual sadhanas in the field of prayer, meditation and devotional music. In the Ashram Ma Indira Devi learned singing from Sri Dilip Kumar himself.


                      SHRI.DILIP KUMAR ROY    MAA INDIRA DEVI
                                     1897-1980                       1920

A spiritual classic, Pilgrims of the Stars offers the reader an inspiring and humorous glimpse into the daily struggles and victories of two great souls. Dilip Kumar Roy describes his spiritual training by his Guru, the Indian statesman and saint Sri Aurobindo, and his meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramana Maharshi, and other spiritual luminaries. Indira Devi's candid memoirs of life and her Guru have a special beauty and simplicity, and contain a wealth of practical advice for spiritual aspirants.


Dilip Kumar Roy was awarded 'Sangit Ratnakar' for his valuable contribution to music. He was also honoured with the membership of the Indian Music and Drama Academy (1965) and the Honorary Degree DLit of the Universities of Calcutta and Rabindarbharati.


What can I say about the glorious music of Dilip Kumar Roy and his ecstatic rendering of VANDE MATARAM? No one can deny that great music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. Dilip Kumar’s music, once admitted to our souls, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies. It wanders quiveringly through the halls and galleries of our memory, and it is often heard again and again, distinct and living, as when it first displaced the wavelets of the air.


Dilip Kumar Roy's music moves us, and we know not why. We feel the tears, but cannot trace their source. In this context I am inspired to recall the words of Addison: 'Music wakes the soul, and lifts it high, and wings it with sublime desires, and fits it to bespeak the Deity'. When the whole country ought to reverberate with the resonance of VANDE MATARAM today, the best salutation I can offer to Dilip Kumar Roy can only be in the words of his Acharya and Guru Shri Aurobindo:


'I have cherished you like a friend and a son and have poured on you my force to develop your powers to make an equal development in the Yoga. Your destiny is to be a Yogi but an ascetic dryness or isolated loneliness is not your spiritual destiny since it is not consonant with your swabhava which is made for joy, largeness, expansion and a comprehensive movement of the life force - Poetry and music come from the inner being. That is why you got the poetic power as soon as you began Yoga, Go on in the path of Yoga without doubt - Surely you cannot fail!”


Known as 'Dadaji' to his countless followers, Dilip Kumar Roy was a most remarkable human being who spread light and joy wherever he went. A supreme seeker of Truth, missionary of music, musicologist, virtuoso singer, linguist, translator, poet, lyricist, novelist, biographer, raconteur, patriot and yogi, Sri Dilip Kumar Roy was one of the most gifted personalities of the recent times. Under the aegis of Sri Aurobindo, his entire personality blossomed as a complete, harmonious being.


Dadaji strove to make the earth a world of harmony, beauty and love. He was a profound seer, philosopher, thinker and poet; but all his life he remained as simple as a child - unspoilt by the veneration and reverence in which he was universally held. The source of his magic was not far to seek---he was so spontaneously human! He had transparent sincerity and unswerving regard for Truth. For all those who had the privilege of knowing him, the impressions of his, spontaneous love, nobility and greatness remain etched upon their memories.


Sri Aurobindo had many disciples, and Dadaji was the most outstanding of them all. His work was an offering of love to his creator. As Dadaji said, "Grace involved responsibility". And he discharged that responsibility by ceaseless work. To quote Dadaji, "Work is Sadhana". He wrote great books which rank only next to Sri Aurobindo's in their sweep of thought, spiritual insight and beauty of expression.


Rabindranath Tagore wrote "Dilip Kumar possesses one great gift; he wants to hear which is the reason why he can draw out things worth hearing. Wanting to hear is not a passive quality but an active one; it awakens our power of speech because we come to know our mind's true expressions. Dilip Kumar has on many occasions given me the joy of discovering my own thoughts."


On 6th January, 1980 he said to Ma Indira Devi, "Wash my hands, I have to touch the Lord's feet." The great minstrel saint reached the lotus feet of the Lord, at 3:40 PM on that day.


Sri Aurobindo had once written to Dadaji: "Nobody can write about my life because it has not been on the surface for men to see". This can equally be said of Dadaji. So whatever we may write about him, a lot more will always remain unsaid.


I am presenting below my most favourite poem of Sri.Dilip Kumar Roy.


The Blossom Never Knows


The blossom never knows the fragrance sweet
That in its blossom’s mystery lies,
The deeps that mirror forth the Infinite
Question its secrets with their sighs.


For whom throng still the murmuring bees,
Restless amid the perfumed trees?
Whose memory thrills the impassioned breeze
And paints the magic skies?


Whose one lamps through the way-lost night
Glimmer in moon and starry light?
Whose glory in the dawn breaks bright?
For whom yearns all and cries?


For whose greatness down the ages long
Are the wide heavens a sapphire song?
For whom runs the stream with bablling tongue,
Repeats whose harmonies?


Whose breath perfumes trees, flower and grass,
Inspires the atoms’s dance in space?
Whose trailing robes in twilight pass,
A shadow in longing eyes?


Oh, if thou never wilt appear,
Why are thy masks of Beauty here?
Why sound thy anklets everywhere,
The spell that never dies?


My heart forgets that in my heart
Thy throne for ever lies.




Source: From: Among the Great 1940: by Dilip Kumar Roy (out of print)









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