Vrindavan: Once upon a time, temples in Braj, the land of Lord Krishna, reverberated with classical "Dhrupad" and "Haveli sangeet". But today, loudspeakers blaring spurious folk music mimicking Bollywood tunes have invaded the lanes of the region, scholars lament.
"You only have the ubiquitous loud-speakers blaring round the clock spurious Braj folk music, mimicking Bollywood tunes and vulgarly gyrating to despicable titillating beats. The pristine purity of `Haveli Sangeet` has vanished. It`s just cacaphonous noise all around," Pakhawaj artist Pandit Madhukar Chaturvedi said
"Remember, Sri Krishna was a perfect avatar with 16 `kalas` (performing arts) and a great penchant for music. His flute had the power to mesmerise not just humans but the elements too," he said.
Ratnambara, a research scholar on musical traditions of Braj, said: "Swami Hari Das began the musical tradition but in the famous Bankey Bihari temple itself, `sangeet` has vanished. Nimbkacharya and Radha Ballabh sects do have `Samaj Gayan` on special occasions, but generally the temple musical traditions are on the decline."
Padmini, a music lover from Agra, feels: "The `Haveli Sangeet` tradition has virtually been eclipsed by `filmi bhajans` on CDs. Listening to a great exponent of `Haveli Sangeet` or `Dhrupad`, the effect is sublime, and you feel transported into another world," feels .
"Hardly any temple in Braj promotes `Haveli Sangeet`, though a few temples in Gujarat have managed to save this rich heritage of Braj, developed by Ballabhacharya and later Sur Das and Asht-Kavis of the Pushtiya Marg tradition of Vaishanavism," she added.
Satya Bhan Sharma, one of the last exponents of `Haveli Sangeet`, says: "The tradition which was nurtured and flourished in the temples of Sri Krishna-Radha of the Vaishnavites, is no longer popular even in the temples. Only a few temples in Vrindavan, Nathdwara have musicians versatile in this form."
Chaturvedi adds: "It is temple music basically, but due to oppression by Muslim rulers it was given a new name `Haveli Sangeet`, practised by Vaishnav saints, who sang before each `darshan` (glimpse) of the deity in the temples of Goverdhan and Mathura."
"Some exponents feel Haveli music has an edge over `Dhrupad-Dhamar` gayaki for its rich `bhakti` (devotional) content and direct communication with Sri Krishna."
"In Barsana, Vrindavan and some temples of Gujarat, one can still experience the heavenly soul-touching strains of this form of music," explains Chaturvedi.
But of late, the classical musical traditions have virtually disappeared.
Vrindavan`s music maestro Acharya Tringunaneet Jaimini says: "Adulterated music branded as experimental music is proving to be a grave threat to the classical Indian musical traditions."
"Bollywood has undoubtedly helped promote and sustain interest in all forms of music for decades and Akashvani did nurture the classical traditions for a long time, but in recent years, we see a marked decline in the quality of the output."
"The so-called experimental music, as in fusion and other variants, is playing havoc and so is the spurious mixing culture," Jaimini adds.
However, not all agree with this generalisation.
"Modern music with all its interesting variety and flavours is the way to go ahead. It`s wrong to label it spurious. What is music to one`s ears may be cacaphony to others," argues pop music fan Mukta Gupta.
"The younger generation with its changing perceptions, values and the new demands and pressures in a globalised scenario has little patience for `sadhna` and `riyaz` that classical music requires, given its spiritual predilections," she adds.
Little wonder the older "guru-shishya parampara" (teacher-disciple tradition) style of singing and dancing are no longer in favour. The "gharana" tradition is on the wane.
"In the Braj region, we had two distinct streams - the Agra Gharana and the celebrated Haveli Sangeet. Both are losing patrons," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Heritage Society.