Achintya Bhattacharya is a promising Pakhawaj player of the present generation who has received global accolades for his outstanding performances. He is also a graded artiste of All India Radio in both Pakhawaj and Tabla. Kaushik Chattapadhyay caught up with him at the sidelines of his performance at the Vivekananda Society Hall on December 23, and spoke to him. According to Bhattacharya, Dhrupad evolved from Vedic Chanting and thus it is the purest form of chanting Mantras.
Q. In what way can you contribute to society?
A. I feel that the love for Dhrupad and Dhamar is diminishing. It would be wrong to say that our present generation is totally diverted from their own culture, but still many of them are. Sanskrit is becoming obsolete and thus theMantras which are chanted in the form of Dhrupad are also becoming irrelevant. I believe that our scriptures and our literatures are important source of knowledge. We should be proud to be born in such a culturally rich land. It is always my aim to inculcate the importance of the Vedas and pass on whatever little knowledge I have gained to my students and audience. This cultural crisis is threatening many art forms and may result in their extension. Thus our institution named ‘Mridanga Mandir Cultaral Society’ is formed to publicize Dhrupad as well as Pakhawaj by arranging programmes throughout the country and abroad at regular interval.
Q. Is there a dichotomy between Vedic Chanting and Dhrupad?
A. No, there is no dichotomy between the two. The sacred syllable OM which summarises many principles of theology, philosophy and mysticism isthe first and foremost concept of Dhrupad. Little children just learning to toddle about are given a three wheeled contraption which they push forward, holding on to the cross-bar. The OM is such a vehicle for the spiritual child. The three wheels are ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’, the three components of the Manthra. OM is the primal sound inherent in the life-breath.
Man’s motto is to cultivate his faculties for the great adventure of realising his oneness with thebasic substance of the universe, a substance that is attribute less but yet is mistaken to have attributes like Names, Forms and Functions. This is declared in the Vedas and elaborated in the Upanishads. To get the mind and the intelligence fixed in thatoneness, man must meditate on them in silence and solitude, under the guidance of a Guru. If the teacher himself gives the answers for the questions he asks, how can the people progress? If the people are left to him, he would be helpless. If he is asked to scribble whatever he can, he can only doodle. So the teacher has to hold his hand and train him in the movements. The skill of the hand and brain have thus to be reinforced by the guiding hand of the Guru.
Q. Future plans....
A. I do not dare to dream of creating any new compositions because everything has been conceived and developed much earlier. It is impossible in a single life to learn and grasp thehuge bulk of creations that our legendary icons have left for the upcoming generations. The material and the spiritual are the two in the balance; they both have to be attended, in equal measure, at least until a certain stage of progress is attained in spiritual development.