“I think about myself before thinking about my audience because I am my first listener and I do believe that every listener of music is a musician in itself.” These are the words of Sangeet Maharshi Pt. Rajaram Shukla and if you have heard him once it’s very difficult to forget him and his personality.
Tall height, strongly build muscled body, cheerful personality Pt. Rajaram Shukla was one of the stalwart of Indian Classical Music. From last 40 years one can see him in simple Indian attire in the dream city of Mumbai.
Jaunpur, the town which was the birthplace of the most important form of Hindustani Music, Khayal gayaki was also the birthplace of Pt. Rajaram Shukla. Those days were not so conducive or favourable for one to be musician but there were some great men who were trying hard to keep the tradition alive and protect it for future generations. Panditji was born on May 1 1925 in a small village of Sulatnpur in Juanpur.
A scholar of Persian and Urdu languages, analyst of Shrimad Bhagvatam and a poetic personality, Shri Ramlakhan Shukla, father of Panditji had already decided the future aims and career for his son. Though he was able to recognize the love for music in young Rajaram, he thought it would not be good idea for a Brahman child to learn music. Young Rajaram was not able to live without music so he left the Sultanpur and reached the birthplace of Raja- Ram, city of Ahyodya. Pt. Bhagvat Kishor ‘Vyakul’ was an established musician of that time. He was bestowed by various titles and rewards by many rulers and emperors ruling in different regions of India. He started teaching Rajaram and soon due to his prodigy-cal capabilities his progress astonished Vyakulji. Soon guruji learned that Rajaram was learning music against his father’s wish and he was eager to bring them together. His efforts began and in that direction he took rajaram along with him to Sultanpur and arranged one musical program of rajaram in the village. Though happy, listening to his own son Rajaram’s father was not able to accept his son on the form of a musician. Vyakulji continued with his efforts and finally was successful in bringing the son and father together. Rajaram was accepted in the house and his training continued in the house itself and later he got married and was blessed with a baby boy. Fortune was not in his favour and soon within the span of a month he lost his wife and the newly born baby.
Ramlakhan Shukla was completely broken by seeing his son’s family destroyed into pieces. He was not able to see is son dying day by day and so called both his sons and asked them to complete their wishes and responsibilities towards the society. The reply from his younger brother was quite spontaneous, “ I will shoulder the responsibilities of the family and let us allow brother Rajaram to purse and dedicate his life to music”. This created a healthy and happy environment in the house and soon Rajaramji got married for second time and living along with the family for few months he left for Allhabad where he met Pt. Mohan Mishra. Along with him Rajaramji roamed throughout the India where he was able to listen quality music of a very high level. This was the second stage of his musical career.
He used to visit his native occasionally and continued the riyaz. Kunwar Shripal Singh of Singarmau, Uttarpradesh was greatly influenced by his gayaki and appointed him as the professor of music in the college of Harpal Singh. He was not happy in that environment despite of all the allowances and perks because that place was not conducive for the development of the music but he continued there and left the job after serving for 2 years.
He arrived in Mumbai some 40-42 years back and like every other artist even he had the same desire for receiving the best of what is available and started to learn the best of the music from the established gurus. His arrival in Mumbai became fruitful. He was able to establish himself in few years and gained fame. Mumbai radio started playing him on air and likewise his fame spread like across the music fraternity. But due to his different and saint personality he never got carried away in the fame and raised himself above the mundane social life.
In true sense he justified himself as the Pandit. He characterized the ideology of a Pandit with his simple and down to the earth personality. As it is quoted in Mahabharat:
“Artha mahantmasadh vidyameaishwarya wa,
Vicharatyasamruddho yasa pandit uchyate”
Panditji never took the pride of knowledge of music nor had any desires for monetary benefits. He never thought of such narrow and greedy thoughts and remained untouched by the limelight in the city of Mumbai.
He truly justified the name given to him by his parents, Raja Ram. Love and affection for his disciples, control over ones desires and greed, and zero frustration were the characteristics features of his personalities. He was truly an example of doing deeds without expectations revealing his saintly attitude. Padmapuran states that:
“Sarvatra sampadastasya santusta yasya mansam,
Upaand gadh padasya nanu charmavrutev bhu.”
Music is a pure art form and its primary purpose is creating emotions. He remained completely dedicated to the sadhna of music for the purpose of creation. One of the disciples of panditji residing in Fatuha near Patna is just like his guru, with saintly personality. Due to his busy schedule for the basic living and livelihood many times it was not able for him to come to Mumbai and take the lessons so panditji himself used to visit Fatuha to teach him. Such a dedication for teaching and affection towards his disciples is really noteworthy and outstanding.
Panditji had a very deep personality but his music is much deeper than it. True masculine voice, ability to sing with ease, modulation of various meend and gamak techniques were notable features of his vocal abilities. The creation of a divine atmosphere when taking the musical ‘aalaap’ is so intense that one could hardly able to stop the flow of emotions through the eyes. He contributed to the tradition of his gharana and entire Hindustani music with nearly 400 compositions.
Panditji has a true opinion like any other musical expert that words when used in excess to beautify the music will only distort the power of the swaras and will destroy the essence of the bandish. On the canvas of imagination he could paint the raga with the optimum amount of words and maximum of swaras like an expert artist. Though he belonged to the tutelage of Gunigandharva Pt. LaxmanPrasad his gharna was Jaipur gharana but he had also developed his own style of gayaki. His style was compared to Ust. AmirKhan sahab. Merukhand style and “Chut-Ang” style are two extremes and features of this gharana which are often notable in their compositions. Ust. AmirKhan Sahab’s style was also featured with meru-khand and free style but both the gharanas had a small difference in their presentation and the distinguishing factor was the approach of ‘meendh’. We cannot find the repetition of the notes in his aalap and his emotions were at the apex of his gayaki. He was blessed with all his qualities from his great guru Gurudev Shri Gunigandharva Pt. Laxman Prasadji.
The prominent names of his disciple’s from Mumbai are Shri. Murli Manohar Shukla, Shri. Srinivas Baal, Shri. Skhiji Upadhyay, Shri. Rajendra Zaveri, Pt. Kalika Maharaj, Smt. Kunda Kulkarni, Smt. Jayshree Chaugule, Smt. Vinaya Apte, Shri. Shyamrang Shukla (son), Shri. Rajkumar Singh, Shri. Sanjay Shaha, Late Shri. Vishwanath More, Shri. Rajendra Mule, Shri. Pramod Chokshi, Smt. Deepika Som, Shri. Dayal Singh, Shri. Ramashankar Tripathi, Shri. Madhukar Dhumal, Shri. Vijay Singh (Patna) and many more.