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A treasure of India's heritage

Print edition : Aug 09, 1997

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Princely patronage has gone, but varied forms of public and private support have encouraged and promoted Indian classical music.

THE pre-Independence era was a period when classical musicians were patronised mainly by the princely states of India. Classical musicians could demonstrate their skills only when when they performed before the kings and princes, who had a very benevolent attitude towards classical musicians. On occasions such as festivals and ceremonies and specially organised functions, musicians were invited by the princely states and generously offered rewards and awards in the form of cash, jewellery and edibles; royalty knew that artists had no larger means of earning a livelihood and that they mainly depended on its patronage. The number of musical conferences and conventions was very limited and only musicians of a very high stature were invited to them. Interestingly, musicians visited kings and princes not only on invitation but on their own. The princely states were then so affluent that they always welcomed musicians and were generous with rewards and gifts.

The abolition of privy purse and the decline of the princely states after Independence became a matter of great concern for classical artists as their fate appeared to be in jeopardy. But the Government of India and the State Governments took steps to foster art and culture. They encouraged artists not only by instituting various prestigious awards and monthly honoraria but also by establishing institutions such as the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which sends artists to different parts of the world as the country's cultural delegates. Many private music circles and colleges were also established.

Even in the United States and European countries, Indian classical music was treated with high esteem by musical organisations, colleges and teaching institutions. Further encouragement came from all the universities in India. Various music recording companies and government media such as Doordarshan and All India Radio allowed artists to avail themselves of royalties, a step that has positively expanded the sphere of Indian music throughout the world. These steps have evidently added grace to Indian classical music and the world at large has come to know about this great treasure of India's heritage. India and its artists have won tremendous acclaim in all parts of the world. The government has done all that is possible to elevate and boost Indian music and musicians in the last 50 years.

As for me, I have had the privilege of inaugurating important national events and great conventions and occasions abroad by performing my art, an art that is rightly considered most auspicious. The instrument I play is intrinsically meant to please the Gods in temples and the government has patronised it. I have also won recognition in various countries of West Asia, Europe and the United States and I indeed owe a great obligation to the Government of India for all the favour it has shown to my humble self.

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