Joyous Songs Memories

The rejuvenation

Holikotsav is a unique spring festival celebrated in our country since tens of thousands of years. The month of Phalgun is the second month of the Sixth Rutu, Shishir. Phalgun Pournima is Holi. The day we burn all our negative thoughts and evil habits in a fire, cleanse ourselves of such pollution and welcome positivity, from the divine, from within as well as from without.

The next day (traditionally in Maharashtra on the 5th day after Holi, on Rangpanchami) we see an explosion, a joyous riot of colours as we express joy at the end of the winter and prepare ourselves for the onset of the new year, a mere fortnight away, on Chaitra Shuddha Pratipada: aka Gudhi Padava. This is celebrated across a wide swathe of countries which had Hindu civilization, spread most effectively by the Cholas, along the east coast across into South East Asia and Indonesia. Everyone of these countries has a celebration on Chaitra Pratipada since more than a thousand years.

The one song apt for the day is this one.

Shobha Gurtu, a remarkable singer with a unique tonal quality and enormous vocal power, virtually gave up singing Hindustani Classical Music (I remember hearing her sing that genre in the late 60s) to focus on a wide variety of musical forms called light classical music, which have origins in folk music. Thumri, Dadra, Tappa, Hori, Kajri, Chaiti, Purbi. Born Bhanumati Shirodkar, her mother Menaka was a skilled danseuse. Shobhatai married a Kashmiri Pandit son of an IPS officer and specialised in semi classical forms. Her ability to bring in a wide variety of emotions into her singing is unique, and she could bring in pain as well as raw passion with equal felicity. She was particularly adept at effortlessly adding pure classical passages into her singing, thus creating a new form, and reviving the magic of forms like Thumri, of which she became the greatest exponent in time. She was particularly influenced by Begum Akhtar and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. I remember the evening she spent with us in our college explaining these forms, regaling us with her amazing singing and leaving us in a trance in the late 70s.

People like Shobhatai through their complete dedication to the artform truly kept it alive, and ensured wider publicity. What a loss it would have been if we didn’t have devoted and extremely skilled artistes like her honing their skills, singing these varied forms and keeping them alive. No words can adequately express the gratitude we owe her for a lifetime of dedication.

A happy Holikotsav to all of you, I will spend the day with the divine voice of Shobhatai Gurtu resonating in my ears.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

6 replies on “The rejuvenation”

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