Guru Poornima - Remembering our Gurus
it is an incomparable journey where the Guru leads you
from the visible to the invisible,
from the material to the divine,
from the ephemeral to the eternal.
By Sampada Pillai
Guru Pt. Bindadin Maharaj
#Guru Poornima’ an immensely important day in the life of a disciple and her #Guru ! A day where emotions are riding high ! The disciples planning endlessly on how to celebrate the event in the best way possible and express their deep gratitude towards their Guru.
I thought that this year I would begin by writing about the brilliant personalities who contributed greatly to #Kathak. We have always heard about them from our Guru’s and read about them from various sources such as books (for me these have been the primary source) and the internet. So few records are available on these legends and one can only learn about them deeply when one comes in contact with some veterans in the field who have been fortunate enough to be associated with them in some way. Either as a descendent or disciple or close friend! The oral tradition in Kathak helped me to stay connected to my Gurus and always made me curious about the life of a Kathak in that era.
It is an incomparable journey where the Guru leads you from the visible to the invisible, from the material to the divine, from the ephemeral to the eternal.
I have made an attempt to put together all the information that I have collected over the years and write this blog. I will trace back history to the court of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula (1775 AD – 1798 AD) where Guru Prakash ji was the court dancer and later his sons Pt Thakur Prasad ji and Pt. Durga Prasad ji became famous as court dancers in the reign of Nawab Wajid-Ali-Shah (1847 AD – 1856 AD). It is believed that Pt Durga Prasad ji taught Kathak to the Nawab! The patronage given by the Nawabs helped in developing this art and made Lucknow its centre.
The #Lucknow #gharana of Kathak flourished under the two inimitable exponents, the sons of Pt Durga Prasad ji – #Pt #Bindadin Maharaj ji and Shri Kalka Prasad ji.
Guru Pt Bindadin Maharaj : He was born in 1830 in Handiya Tehsil, Allahabad and his original name was Vrindavan Maharaj. It is believed that he commenced learning Kathak at the age of nine under the tutelage of both his father and uncle. His ‘taleem’ for four years comprised of studying and dancing only four bols – Tig dha diga diga and it is said that he would practice daily for twelve hours !
There are many references to an incident in the court of Nawab Wajib Ali Shah where Pt Bindadin Maharaj, then just a boy, had a discussion on tala with the Pakhwaj maestro Shri Kudau Singh. Pt Thakur Prasad ji was disturbed and worried about his nephews manner and was scared of any kind of humiliation in the court. The incident describes that on one side was the twelve year old Pt Bindadin Maharak ji and on the other side was the great Shri Kudau Singh ji praying to God. Then Pt Thakur Prasad ji asked Pt Bindadin ji to stand up for his performance and the entire court was so amazed at his proficiency and adroitness that they admitted that Pt Bindadin ji was in far more better form than Shri Kudau Singh. The Nawab was extremely pleased with him and showered enormous wealth on Pt Bindadin Maharaj ji.
Pt Bindadin Maharaj ji was gifted with poetic tendency and was a great composer. He was a devout follower of Lord Krishna and worshipped him dearly. His genius as a composer is seen through his innumerable compositions in praise of the Lord. The thumris, dadras and bhajans written by him became an integral part of the Kathak repertoire in the Abhinaya section. He has to his credit over 400 bhajans which are still sung and danced today and around 3000 thumris have been composed by him especially for Kathak and he created beautiful ‘bhaav’ on them. We come across his pen name – ‘Binda Kahat’ in such compositions. During his time, though there was the Mughal influence on Kathak, he kept his belief and purity of the art intact. It was he who resurrected Kathak which had then taken over a different character owing to the institution of courtesans. The dance which was more on the seductive side and which aimed at pleasing the patron once again regained its original character and became a form of worship. Pt Bindadin Maharaj ji gave Kathak a new life !
During the first war of indepence he went to Nepal and Bhopal with his uncle. He was received warmly in both the places. He was not just a celebrated Kathak dancer there but he received huge amount of riches too ! He is one of the architects of the Lucknow Gharana, the other being his brother Shri Kalka Prasad ji. The duo became so famous that no one in India could rival them. Their art was so great that they became legends in their own lifetime.
Guru Pt Bindadin Maharaj passed away in the year 1918 leaving behind a vast legacy in Kathak which one can now see through Pt Birju Maharaj ji and his senior disciples.