Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust is in process of forming a museum society in Jaipur. The museum society will be named as:
Gunijankhana: Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh Jaipur Museum Society
The purpose of the society is to revive Gunijankhana which, in olden days, existed in the City Palace and was patronized by the Royal Family of Jaipur. The erstwhile Gunijankhana was formed to include, encourage and patronize the non-tangible arts i.e. Music, Dance, Dramatics, Poetry, etc. It is not known exactly when Gunijankhana was formed. However, it is believed that it existed much before the name came into existence. Its genesis may be traced to the court of Raja Man Singh I in the 16th Century. A chapter reproduced below may be sufficient to understand the history of Gunijankhana.
However, the revival of Gunijankhana in 21st century will be in a new Avatar. While the erstwhile Gunijankhana was local in nature, the newly revived Gunijankhana will be global in its outlook. It certainly will indulge in encouraging and patronizing the local non-tangible arts and other knowledge creation. But it will be done against and in inter-action of a global backdrop and context. The City Palace, Jaipur will become a platform where performers, artists and intellectuals from world over will inter-act and build a meaningful association.
Gunijankhana will encourage and support following activities:
Art & Culture:
1. Visual Arts: Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Print-making, Installations
2. Literary Arts: Prose, Poetry, Scholarship, History, Geography, Oral traditions,
3. Performing arts: Dance, Dramatics, Music
4. Science: Astronomy, Astrology, Mathematics, Physics,
5. Film: Feature & Documentary
6. Design: Product, Communication,
7. Craft: Painting, Metal, Wood, Stone, Terracotta & Ceramics, Textiles (weaving, dyeing, print, surface), leather,
8. Cuisine: Cooking, Recipes, Spices,
9. Museum Studies: Conservation & Restoration, Museum Management, Curatorial studies,
10. Media: Print, Television, Internet
It will, as part of its activities, arrange:
7. Programs: Education & Training, Art & Culture
It will institute:
6. Prizes, Medals
7. Financial and other assistances with a view to promoting interest in arts, craft, education and culture
To garner knowledge and its dissemination it will indulge in:
· Research, Publication and other forms of dissemination of knowledge.
To further its objectives it will set up:
1. Resource Centers
2. Cultural Centers
4. Art collections
The below is a chapter reproduced from book “Royal Court and The Seraglio” by Nankishore Parika.
The Gunijankhana was the karkhana, or department that extended patronage and support to singers, instrumentalists and dancers. Man is naturally fond of music and dance as they provided solace to the soul. As the rulers of Amber and Jaipur achieved greatness by their service and association with the Mughals, they gave a worthy account of themselves in every sphere of human activity. Just as poets, writers, calligraphers, painters, artists and craftsmen showed the marvels of their art and craft under the patronage of royalty, so also musicians and dancers flourished and gave name and fame to Jaipur. The ‘Khayal’-singing of Jaipur during the nineteenth century vied with the contemporary schools of music known as the Gwalior, Indore, and Kirana (Agra) ‘gharanas’. The Kathak style of dance, recognized as the Jaipur school, competed with Banaras and Lucknow gharanas and the ‘been’ players too were unsurpassed.
Many works in the Pothikhana speak of the love for music and the patronage extended to musicians by the princes of Amber and Jaipur. The poet of ‘Man-Charitra’, Amritrai, tells us that the veena, rabab, jaltarang and mridang were played to classical tunes in the court of Amber when Raja Man Singh ruled in the sixteenth century. The Raja’s example was emulated by the nobility and it is on record that Madho Singh, Man Singh’s younger brother, took a keen interest in dance and drama. He was granted Bhangarh (in Alwar) in jagir, but like his elder brother, he had to go and live in distant provinces in imperial service. His haveli, Madhav Bhawan, in Agra was a frequent venue of musical concerts in which even Tansen and other prominent singers of the court participated. The ‘Rag Manjari’ was composed in his honour by Pundarik Vitthal, a Brahmin of Khandesh.
‘Hastak Ratanavali’, a treatise on dance poses or ‘mudras’ was written during the time of Ram Singh I. Then, or perhaps earlier, ‘paturs’, or dancers, were kept in the Palace and they taught music and dance to the women in the seraglio. The Rajas of Amber not only collected and prompted works on music, but inspired their painters to draw pictures of raga and raginis.
The prosperity and importance of Amber-Jaipur increased under Sawai Jai Singh, but it is a matter of regret that we do not possess much knowledge about music and dance at his court. The rule of Sawai Pratap Singh was, however, a golden period of the Gunijankhana as it was of the Pothikhana and the Suratkhana. He had at his court many poets.
This ruler not only had a keen interest in literature, music and art, but also had a deep understanding and knowledge of all three. The musicians of his court had compiled a comprehensive treatise on music in seven chapters which has no parallel in writings in Hindi. It is titled “Radha Govind Sangeet Sar” and is printed. Though the printed version requires a large errata, the way Indian classical music has been discussed in it, makes a deep impression. Radhakrishna, a poet, had composed ‘Rag Ratnakar’, a comparatively smaller work, which has also been printed as a book.
Pratap Singh was a poet and devotee of Radha-Govind, whose ‘darshan’ and presentation of a self-composed ‘pada’ was a daily practice with him. These ‘padas’ which he composed all his life, were set to ragas and raginis by his musicians. Under him, Ras-Leela was staged in the temples of Govind-Dev and Brajnidhiji, the latter built by him, and music concerts were frequent. Like Nagridas, the poet-prince of Kishangarh, he composed devotional ‘padas’ and set them to music. He sang them in his devotional ecstasy. One day, he sang a ‘pada’ which spoke of his devotion and dedication to ‘Ghanshyam, Radha and Govind’ in these terms:
“When my eyes are cast on Ghanshyam,
What business do I have with others?
One who has drawn from the cup of love,
What abandon can he have from a dose of opium?
‘Brajnidhi’ has tasted the nectar of Braj, so
What pleasure do we have in Raj? “
‘Brajnidhi’ was his pen-name, which frequently occurs in the ‘padas’ composed by him. Indeed, he had ascended the ‘gaddi’ of Jaipur in most inauspicious circumstances and the ‘Raj’ of Jaipur had given him little respite or pleasure. In desperation, he turned repeatedly to his God and enjoyed life more in the composition of poetry and music.
The contribution of Sawai Pratap Singh towards the promotion of literature, music and art was contrast of the age in which he lived – an age of chaos, frequent wars and intrigues. His death in 1803 brought more unrest and more disorder in Jaipur and things were normal again only after Maharaja Ram Singh II came of age. This ruler again found time and resources to promote and develop music, dance and some other fine arts. Ustad Aladiakhan, the master musician of the period, says about the Gunijankhana of Ram Singh:
“The Maharaja of Jaipur maintained a very big Gunijankhana. The court singers were disbursed about Rs. 1.5 lakhs every month as salaries. Some of the noted artists of the Gunijankhana then were Haider Bux, son of Duleh Khanji, Karim Bux, brother of Haider Bux, Mohammed Ali Khan, Behram Khan, Dhagge Khuda Bux Agrewale, Gulab Abbas, Taus Khan, Kallan Khan, Manji Khan, Imrat Sen (belonging to the progeny of Tansen’s daughter), Alam Sen, Amir Khan, Mammu Khan, Wazir Khan, Chhote Khan, Ilahi Bux, Lalsun Senia, Mubarak Ali Khan, Rajab Ali Khan (the Maharaj’s ustad) and Khariat Ali Khan of Alwar (brother of Rajab Ali Khan).”
The Maharaja had learnt to play the veena from Rajab Ali Khan and had bestowed a jagir upon this guru, besides a haveli for his residence in the Dariba Pan area of the city. He was also given the honour of ‘palki’ (palanquin).
Ram Singh was the last patron of Ustad Behram Khan Dagar, whose descendants carry on the tradition of ‘Dagar Vani’ or that particular style of Dhrupad singing to this day. Behram Khan had lived in the durbar of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab and later in the court of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’. He was among those artists who had left Delhi in 1875.
The holy place of Galta near Jaipur had a versatile pontiff, Harivallabhacharya, who was a great musician. He composed a work on ‘Ragmala’ and an illustrated copy of it is now stated to be in the India Office library at London. Hiranand Vyas had compiled ‘Sangeet Ratnakar’ and Sangeet Rag Kalpdroom’ during Ram Singh’s time.
Ram Singh’s reign thus marks a milestone in the progress of the Gunijankhana after Sawai Pratap Singh. It is said that some 161 artistes were then on the payroll of the Gunijankhana. Carpenters and potters worked to make and repair the instruments. The Maharaja gave all respect and honour to the artistes and there was provision to pay pension to the widows of deceased artistes.
He was a connoisseur, who took delight in listening to Ustad Karamat Khan for hours in his own room. Karamat Khan was amount the last giants of the Gunijankhana, who lived up to the ripe age of 108 years. In his old age, when his voice fumbled and head shook, he would remember that seat below a gas-lamp in Maharaja Ram Singh’s room and say: “My master used to entertain me by offering half a kilogram or more of ‘rabari’ while I continued to sing before him”. What informality and intimacy between the artiste and his patron!
This writer also remembers that great musician. Already past his century, he was totally bent with the burden of his year, but he used to come to Prof. D. C. Dutta, Head of the English Department of Maharaja College, in a tonga daily to give lessons in playing the veena to him. One day, he sang a ‘cheej’ at the request of his disciple, who was hearty in his approbation of what was sung. The veteran and tired musician remarked:
“Wherefrom can I bring that stamina and voice, but the elasticity of the throat is still with me. After all, I had ‘malai’ for two paise (taka) a pao (a quarter of a seer or kilogram).”
The artistes of the Gunijankhana were divided into categories. The great masters were exempted from daily attendance. They did not have to go to the ‘Hara Bangla’ (green bungalow) in the City Palace, where, according to tradition, music went on from sunrise to sunset. They were called by the Maharaja on special occasions to entertain his distinguished guests.
Madho Singh resumed all the traditions of the Gunijankhana, just as he maintained all the good things initiated by his predecessor. There were still some giants left of the receding regime and Karamat Khan and Riazuddin Khan Dagar were among them. Besides, there were the Bhatt brothers, Phoolji and Mannuji, and Ustad Kishanji, who used to experiment with the ‘Kachcha Jadu’ or quasi-magic, i.e. music. Pandit Madhusudan Ojha, the great Sanskrit scholar of Vedic texts, had prepared an illustrated ‘kharda’ (roll) on music called ‘Rag-Ragini Sangrah.”
The Kathak dancers of Jaipur had developed their own style what is now known as the Jaipur gharana. The style became distinct from the Lucknow and Banaras gharanas because of its footwork. Harihar Prasad, Hanuman Prasad and Narayan Prasad are representative names of this gharana. During the last years of Maharaja Madho Singh, as many as eight families of Kathak dancers were on the payroll of the Gunijankhana.
Kathak was the name of a community living in the Shekhawati area of the erstwhile Jaipur State. When the Shekhawat chiefs joined imperial service of the Mughals, the Kathak dancers also went with them and performed there. When the Mughal empire crumbled, musicians and dancers also left Delhi and Agra and shifted to provincial capitals. Jaipur was a very favorable durbar and it is said that Girdhari or Dulhaji, a descendant of Bhanuji Kathak, came to Jaipur.
Both Harihar Prasad and Hanuman Prasad were the sons of Girdhari. The two brothers are called ‘Deva Pari-ka-Jora’ (pair of Deva and Pari, angel and fairy). The former gave more emphasis on ‘tandav’, while the latter regarded ‘lasya’ as supreme. Hanuman Prasad was a devotee of Shri Govind Dev . He danced before the deity after spreading ‘gulal’ on the floor and his dancing feet would draw the outline of an elephant on the floor.
The late Narayan Prasad was the son of Hanuman Prasad. He too became a maestro by continuous practice since childhood. In the evening of his life, he shifted to Delhi for nothing was left in Jaipur now. His disciplines are many including Babulal Patni.
According to Dr. Jaya Chandra Sharma, the Jaipur gharana of Kathak has two branches and the originators of both were natives of Churu district.
Among the last great singers of Gunijankhana, Gohar Jan still lives in the memory of many people. She was given due respect by Maharaja Man Singh II, who gave her a liberal pension till her death. In all, 38 women – singers and dancers – were in the service of the Gunijankhana in the last phase. There were 10 Kathaks and a whole lot of sarangi, pakhawaj and tabla players and other instrumentalists to accompany them on various instruments.
With the merger of Jaipur State into Rajasthan in 1949, the Gunijankhana too passed into history. And the artists spread out far and near. The Senia Gharana, who had specialized in the veena and later in playing the sitar, migrated to Pakistan. The Dagar brothers are now giving training in singing ‘Dagar Vani’ in various places all over the country. Some of the artists are employed by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Delhi Kathak Kendra imparts training in Jaipur gharana style. Jaipur also has a Kathak Kendra now, but it is to be seen how these institutions keep alive those music and dance traditions that the Gunijankhana had established and developed in this artistic city.