A hamlet in Bidar district, Maniknagar, is home to a rich tradition of Hindustani music. Some of the most well-known Hindustani musicians descended on the village at a recent music festival held here. Maniknagar is also a much-visited pilgrim site today, writes Devu Pattar
Maniknagar, a small hamlet in Bidar district’s Humnabad taluk, has a special place in the world of Hindustani music. Singers and instrumentalists from across the world make sure that a visit to this village, which is home to the Manik Prabhu Samsthana, is definitely on their itinerary. In that sense, Maniknagar is the mecca for Hindustani music lovers from across the world. The Hindustani music festival held on the occasion of the Datta Jayanthi in December every year is a much sought-after event. The recently concluded December event was a huge hit.
Even the biggest names in the Hindustani music world get a few minutes to occupy the stage and hold the audience captive in the magic of their music. Here, hajari, a mere presence, is as important as a performance. Apart from this, Maniknagar is known to host a monthly music programme as well. The place is also known for a series of other music festivals too.
This music tradition of Maniknagar has a rich history, of 165 years, almost as old as the history of the village itself. Manik Prabhu, believed by many as the fourth avatar or incarnation of Lord Dattatreya (1817-1865) was said to have been a great yogi or a mystic saint. He was a great believer in secularism. The saint was a contemporary of Shirdi Saibaba, Akalkot Maharaj and Gondavalekar Maharaj. The saint played an active role in the 1857 struggle for independence. He had a special love for music and has composed several bhajans in Marathi, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada. It is said that giants of the Hindustani music world, including Bade Mohammad Khan and Tarra Hussain Khan performed in the presence of Manikprabhu. Noted Hindustani musician Gangubai Hanagal was known to be a great believer in performing in front of the samadhi (memorial) of the saint.
A part of the credit of encouraging the tradition of Hindustani music at Maniknagar must go to the third seer of the Samsthana, Marthanda Manik Prabhu (1861-1936). Apart from being a great philosopher, he also had immense mastery over Hindustani classical music. He has written commentaries on the ragas of classical music. His ‘Dhyana Marthanda’ was appreciated by the scholars of Varanasi, and he was honoured with the title of ‘Abhinava Shankaracharya’. His works include ‘Guru Sampradaya’, ‘Mahamouna Shataka’, ‘Manika Nirvikalpanodha’. In 1921, he started the monthly magazine called ‘Sakalamathacharya Srimanikaprabhu’. He encouraged cultural, religious and literary events at Maniknagar.
The 1900s was the time that Hindustani music in the country was at the crossroads. Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, a well-known musicologist, who had extensively researched the raga tradition of Hindustani music played a key role in bringing the legacy of Hindustani music from out of the palaces and the umbrella of royalty to the common man. It was also at the same time that Vishnu Digambar Paluskar established the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, the first such institution of pre-independent India in Lahore. A branch of Gandharva Vidyalaya was also started in Mumbai. Marthanda Prabhu visited that school in Mumbai on invitation from Paluskar and stayed in the premises of the music school for a while. Paluskar was also honoured with a necklace of nine gems by Marthanda Prabhu, according to Paluskar’s autobiography.
Later, several big Hindustani singers including Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan, Pandit Bhaskarbuwa Bakale, Pandit Balakrishna Buwa Ichalkaranjikar, Ustad Rehmath Khan, Gauhar Jaan and Pandit Vinayak Buwa Patwardhan visited Maniknagar and performed there. The list only grew, and later came to include many musicians including Rajan-Sajan Mishra, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur and Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Today, the 165-year-old tradition is alive and kicking, and has drawn connoisseurs of music from around the world.