Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’
Jammu & Kashmir is a beautiful place and rightly adorned as the paradise on the planet Earth. It is widely known as a pious land where saints and peers were born or have adopted this sacred place as their area of operations. At the same time, this land has also given birth to many artists and litterateurs who have not only won critical acclaim and appreciation at national and international level but have also brought laurels to the region they belong to. They inspire and are being followed by millions worldwide.
Through this feature a humble effort has been made just to give a reference of the highly respected personalities from art world who have been an asset to our society as their hardships eventually converting into success stories inspire others to follow their footsteps and help in preserving our rich cultural traditions.
Kundan Lal Saigal
He is widely known as K. L. Saigal. He was a singer and an actor and is regarded as the first ever super star of Hindi film Industry. It is a matter of pride that he hailed from temple city Jammu. Later on Calcutta now Kolkata became his work place which was the centre of Hindi film Industry during those days before it got shifted to Bombay now Mumbai.
He was born on April 11th ‘1904 at Jammu in a Punjabi family. His father Amar Chand Saigal worked as a Tehsildar in the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jammu & Kashmir and mother was purely a religious lady. During his childhood, Kundan was affectionate towards music and used to accompany her mother to religious functions quite often. He was fond of Bhajans, Shabads & Kirtans and loved to sing these which increased his fascination for music. He also played sitar in Ramleela which was a major source of entertainment during those days.
With the passage of time, with all hard work he groomed himself as a prolific singer and an actor. When he got a break in film Industry, he portrayed unforgettable characters in many Hindi movies which still haunt the movie lovers. His style of singing was copied by many talented singers to establish them in music field which confirms an impact of his stardom.
He was first cousin of Chaman Puri, Madan Puri and Amrish Puri , well known for their acting skills with hundreds of films in their kitty. Although it needs to be mentioned here that Madan Puri and Amrish Puri excelled in negative characters but Kundal Lal Saigal was a perfect choice of producers and Directors for the lead role as a hero.
He made his debut with ‘MOHABBAT KE ANSU’ in 1932 and thereafter he never looked behind and performed convincingly in memorable films like ‘ZINDA LASH’, SUBAH KA SITARA. YAHUDI KI LADKI, RAJRANI MEERA, PURAN BHAGAT, DULARI BIBI, DAKU MANSOOR, MOHABBAT KI KASOUTI, CHANDI DASS, KARWAN-E-HYAT, DEVDAS (Bengali), CRODPATI, PRESIDENT, STREET SINGER, SATHI, JEEVAN MARAN, DHARTI MATA, DUSHMAN, ZINDAGI, PARICHAY, LAGAN, BHAKT SURDAS, TANSEN, MY SISTER, BHANWARA, SHAHJEHAN, OMAR KHAYYAM, PARWANA etc that raised his graph as a prolific performer both as an esteemed actor as well as a versatile singer.
On January 18’1947, at a very young age of 43 years, the first ever super star of Hindi films left for heavenly abode but not before having carved a niche for him in Hindi films. Within this short span of time he not only enamored the art lovers with his exceptional singing and acting skills but he became a role model for many who followed his footsteps to make their fortunes in this glamour world.
Whenever we talk of Hindustani Classical Music, there are a few names that haunt our memories as they are instrumental for this pious land being recognized across the world. They are our pride as they have brought laurels to the motherland through their remarkable achievements in the field of classical music. One of them is Alla Rakha.
Ustad Alla Rakha Qureshi popularly known as Alla Rakha was born on April 29th 1919 at Ghagwal, District Samba Jammu. His father did not like his inclination towards music. But the restrictions from his family members could not stop him from pursuing his career in Hindustani Classical Music and he left home at a tender age of 12 to learn tabla from the great musician Ustad Mian Qadir Baksh of Punjab Gharana. Mian Qadir Baksh had no sons and he formally adopted him and called him next head of Punjabi Gharana of Tabla players. He also sought training in vocal in classical music from Ustad Ashiq Ali khan of Patiala Gharana.
His hard work, dedication and devotion towards Hindustani Classical Music started showing colour soon. Initially he had started as an accompanist at Lahore station and then shifted to All India Radio Delhi in 1936. But he had other plans to fulfill and moved to Bombay now Mumbai Station of All India Radio and joined there as the first ever tabla player. Here he got an opportunity to fulfill his dreams. During those days, Hindi Films were the real exposure that every musician aspired to avail. From 1943 he started working in Hindi Film Industry and started composing music for Hindi films under the name of A. R. Qureshi. He composed music for 23 films between 1943 and 1964.
Although he was getting good response in Hindi Film Industry but classical music was always his priority. He never left any opportunity to perform as a tabla player in classical music events. He had accompanied the greats of Hindustani Classical Music like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Allauddin Khan, Vilayat Khan, Vasant Rai, Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar etc. His performances with stalwarts of classical music were everlasting experiences for music lovers.
It is pertinent to add here that he had expertise in another musical instrument called Pakhawaj also. He was the first person having introduced tabla to western audience with captivating performances. It is said that once Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Alla Rakha gave joint performance somewhere at abroad. After the performance, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma exclaimed with joy that it was an outstanding performance. Alla Rakha with a smile reverted back in mother tongue Dogri saying, ‘When two Dogras are performing on the stage, it has to be charismatic.”
For colossal contributions to Indian Classical Music, he was awarded Padma Shri in 1977 and Sangeet Natak Academy award in 1982 in addition to several awards and honours from prominent Government and Non Government organizations.
At an age of 80, this great musician left for heavenly abode on February 03rd 2000 at his Mumbai residence but never before having taken tabla to peak in Indian Classical Music and inspiring thousands others to adopt this particular instrument to quench thirst for art.
Pt. Shiv kumar Sharma
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma was born on January 13th 1938 at Jammu. His father Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma was an eminent vocalist and musician of Benaras Gharana and served as a priest in the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jammu & Kashmir. Right from an early age of 5 years he had started seeking formal training in music from his father who was his Guru as well. It’s astonishing that at an age of 12, he performed as tabla player at Radio Station Jammu that stunned everyone.
During his stay at Kashmir in connection with his job, Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma got introduced to Santoor, a folk instrument used there. This instrument fascinated him and he decided to work on it and later on wished that his son Shivkumar Sharma should work on it extensively and make use of it in classical music with certain modifications. Shiv Kumar Sharma, who was quite young and a fine tabla player during his childhood decided to work on Santoor and rest is the history. With sheer dedication and devotion Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma has made so many modifications in the instrument that it has become one of the most popular instruments used in classical music since long.
In 1955, he performed for the first time at Bombay now Mumbai and thereafter he never took a back step and went on giving rousing and enchanting performances thus making santoor a talk of music world. After giving background music in some scenes of super hit Hindi film ‘Jhanak – Jhanak Payal Baje’, In 1960 he came up with a solo album in Indian Classical Music that was immensely popular and opened new vistas for him. He, pairing with Pandit Hari Prasad Chourasia as Shiv-Hari, rendered memorable music in Hindi Films like ‘Silsala’, ‘Chandini’ etc and proved his worth as music composer as well.
But he had passion for santoor and preserved his experimental as well as creative works through many albums that are regarded as all time classics like ‘The Glory of Strings_ Santoor’, A Homage to Rain God’, ‘Hundred Strings of Santoor’, ‘Pioneer Santoor’, ‘Sampradya’, ‘Essential Evening Chant’, The Last word in Santoor’, ‘Sangeet Sartaj’ etc.
For colossal contributions to Indian Classical Music, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan, 2nd highest civilian award of Republic of India in 2001, Padma Shri, fourth highest civilian award of Republic of India in 1991, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award in 1998, Maharashtra Gourav Award in 1990 , Sangeet Natak Academy award in 1986 and Honorary citizenship of the city of Baltimore USA in addition to several awards and honours from prominent Government and Non Government organizations from time to time.
On 10th May 2022, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma left this word for heavenly abode at his Mumbai residence. Although physically he is not with us but santoor that he invented and modified in recent form will always remind us of this great exponent of Indian Classical music who not only marked his presence as a prolific musician at national and international level with highly rated and appreciated performances but has brought honours to his motherland also.
Prof. Ram Nath Shastri
Padmashri Prof. Ram Nath Shastri is widely known as ‘Pitamaha of Dogri’. Some remember him as ‘Bharatendu Harishchandra of Dogri’ also. He was born on April 15th’ 1914 in the family of Vaid Gouri Shankar, an Ayurvedic Doctor hailing from a small village Marhi in Reasi. His father moved to Jammu along with his family for better prospectus. He wished his son Ram Nath to adopt his profession and inspired him to study Sanskrit that would have helped him immensely in practicing Ayurved. He did study Sanskrit but he had some other plans to fulfill and serve the Duggar Land.
He worked as Sanskrit and Hindi teacher for some years in Rajput School initially. Thereafter he got job as a Sanskrit Professor at Prince of Wells College now Gandhi Memorial Science College Jammu in 1943. In 1970 he got retired from state’s education department and joined Jammu University as senior Fellow Dogri and worked there till 1975. He has also worked as Chief Editor in Dictionary Project of Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture & Languages continuously from 1977 to 1985.
As far as literature is concerned, he had passion for it since he had studied Sanskrit which has such a classic literature. He started quenching his thirst for writing with writing short stories and essays in Hindi. But soon he realized that he could do justice with his creative writing in his mother tongue only. Moreover the pathetic condition of Dogri moved him from within and he decided to become a torch bearer despite all odds to win reverence for his mother tongue that it duly deserved. It became his mission and he went on to give the movement desired pace with his thought provoking writings and organizing skills.
He proved his class as a prolific short story writer through much acclaimed and publicized collection of short stories “BADNAMI DI CHHAON”. Through “DHARTI DA RIN”, a collection of poetry and ” TALKHIYAN”, a collection of Ghazals. He not only enriched Dogri literature in these geners also but proved his versatility as a creative person. He wrote “JHAKDIYAN KIRAN”, a collection of One Act Plays and immensely popular play “BAWA JITTO”. His outstanding contributions as a translator include ” UPNISHADS”, Bhurathari’s ” NITISHATAK” and ” VAIRAGYASHATAK”, Shudrak’ s ” MRICHHKATIKAM” by the name of ” MITTI DI GADDI”, Bodhyan’s Sanskrit play ” BHAGWAD AJJUKIYAM”, Raj Mahender Vikram Verma’s Sanskrit play ” MAT VILAS”, Guru Rabinder Nath Tagore’s three plays “BALIDAN”, “MALINI” and “DAK GHAR” and noble award winning poetry collection ” GITANJALI”, Mahatma Gandhi’s ” ATAM-KATHA”, Vinoba Bhawe’s ” GEETA PRAVCHAN” Maxim Gorki’s ” LOWER DEPTS” by the name ” PATALVASI” and Dharamvir Bharti’s ” ANDHA YUG” by the name “ANNA-YUG” etc.
He along with likeminded five others formed DOGRI SANSTHA in 1944 on Basant Panchami, a festival commemorating the beginning of spring thus symbolizing the beginning of a new era for Dogri. It became a pioneer organization with the passage of time and has the privilege of being a strong voice for mother tongue and cultural traditions since its formation
On March 08th 2009, Prof. Ram Nath Shastri left this world for heavenly abode but not before having enriched Dogri literature with class original works, translation of world’s best literature and infusing a special feel for mother tongue.
Pt. Dinu Bhai Pant
Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant was born on 11 May 1917 in the beautiful village of Panthal situated at the foothills of Trikuta hills. This was the period when Dogri language did not get much recognition. Panditji was deeply hurt by the indifferent attitude of the local writers towards their mother tongue. He along with his other companions tried to take the initiative that the local writers writing in Urdu and Hindi should also start writing in their mother tongue ‘Dogri’.
Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant was fond of writing since childhood and his poems were full of humor and satire. But in humor-satire itself, he would narrate the harsh realities of life in such a way that one who read or listened would not only be mesmerized but at the same time was forced to think over it as well.
He was astonished to notice that literary programs never had more than 50 or 100 audiences. Then he thought that why not to organize such programs in his mother tongue, in which the Dogras should participate in good number and relate to their problems and culture. Moreover who writes in Dogri should also be encouraged in such literary gatherings.
His strategy was successful and the audience started participating actively in literary get together. Now a large number of listeners started coming to the Kavi Goshtis and at the same time many people from the same audience also started taking interest in writing.
In 1943, Dogri language lovers got such a poem ” SHEHR PEHLO PEHL GE” which has enriched Dogri language so much that today this poem has become a mile stone in Dogri Language. This poem over nightly made Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant, the favorite poet of the masses.
He was an exceptional playwright as well and wrote ‘Sarpanch’, raising voice of the people against the tyranny, in which the sacrifice of Data Ranpat is depicted. The success of ‘Sarpanch’ encouraged Pandit ji to pen down another play called ‘Ayodhya’ which is based on Kaikeyi, a character from Ramayana. Pandit ji was also honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1985 for this play. Then he also wrote the play ‘Nama Gran’, a long poem on “Mian Dido” and “Maharaja Gulab Singh”. His poetry collection ‘Guttanlu’ is an invaluable heritage in Dogri literature.
On the day of Basant Panchami in 1944, Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant, Professor Ram Nath Shastri, Bhagwat Prasad Sathe, Sansar Chand Badu, D C Prashant and N D Mishra formed Dogri Sanstha. Now regular cultural programs were organized which proved to be a boon for Dogri language. Gradually, Dogri Sanstha expanded its scope and took the initiative to enrich Dogri language by visiting different places of Jammu division by staging plays and organizing Kavi Goshtis thus providing platforms to local poets and writers of different places.
On 23 March 1992, this great unique poet passed away. But he left behind a legacy on which every resident of Duggar Pradesh is proud of.
The soil to which these souls belong is honored with their achievements and for inspiration that others seek from such personalities. It becomes our duty to preserve our cultural heritage for which the stalwarts have worked with all commitment and fondness. What we need is just to follow their footsteps thus realizing that we owe a lot to our motherland and preserving own cultural heritage means to preserve our identity.
We have to keep this important fact in our mind that those who get detached from their roots don’t survive for long and who care for and flourish their roots are intact for ever. Let us realize this basic mantra and remember these nice souls who are always inspirational for us. Let we all seek their blessings to live a responsible life thus fulfilling our obligations towards our cultural heritage.
Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’