Clad in a simple white dhoti and kurta he has all the simplicity and serenity required by a true rudra veena exponent. Ustad Mohiuddin Bhahauddin Dagar, one of the few rudra veena experts in the country, was in the state recently to render a concert.
Coming from a family of musicians, for Bhahauddin Dagar, choosing music as his profession was a natural choice, it was something that was in his blood.
“My father being a rudra veena maestro, the instrument was always there at home. Hence it was not a difficult choice to make. Moreover I love what the instrument gives in terms of exploration and the capacity it has to imbibe the music and reproduce it,” Bhahauddin says.
Bhahauddin who started practicing sitar at the age of seven with his mother Pramila Dagar soon realised that it was not a part of him. Later it was his father Zia Mohiuddin Dagar who instructed him to take up rudra veena. Bhahauddin Dagar who started playing rudra veena from the age of 16 belongs to the Dagar gharana, which has five Geethis and his is the Saadharani Geeti in the drupad style. “There are lot of norms and restrains associated with this style. It is a style that deeply explores the classicalism of music. It is not something that you can listen for the first time and like, it is something you have to develop a taste for. Also on the other hand though it is structured, after a certain point it becomes abstract and to place and understand that abstractness takes time. One has to listen to it about 10 times to understand what is happening. This could also be one of the reasons why it is not so popular,” he says.
About his early lessons he says, “Ours was a gurukul system where whenever the guru felt fit and it felt right to him, he imparted the lessons. There was no particular syllabus to be covered. It was only after the students mastered what was taught would the next thing be taught to you. Sometimes mastering of one single piece would take years. We were not even allowed to touch the veena for almost seven years.”
So what makes the rudra veena stand apart from the other stringed instruments? “The first factor is its tonal quality, the second is the exactness with which it can render the subtleties or micro notes of a raga. The rudra veena is like a yantra which helps you rediscover yourself, it is almost like a computer wherein if you happened to lose a note or if a phrase has to be corrected it will almost be autocorrected by the instrument. Just like a microscope through which can be seen even the smallest of things, you can achieve the most intricate notes on the rudra veena.”
A rudra veena is taken up by people above the age of 16 as the instrument is quite big one has to be old enough to handle it. The veenas are mostly made-to-order according to a person’s frame. So for this very reason, a veena used by one cannot be used by another. Not only because of the size but also because the instrument becomes one with the person using it and if someone else tried playing the instrument the sound would change. It is more like a living thing. Bhahauddin who himself uses his father’s instrument says, it has taken him almost 15 years to understand the instrument and learn what sounds it produces and how to be with it and so on.
Rudra veena, the instrument created by the Lord himself, stands apart with its superior quality and intelligence.
But unfortunately there are not many takers for the instrument.
About the unpopularity of the instrument he says, “Today the youngsters are more money minded, they want to make their life secure and safe as soon as possible and few have the time to go for it. And rudra veena is something that requires a lot of time, effort and dedication. It takes years of practice and patience to understand your instrument. Taking up the instrument almost becomes a life-changing decision. You should be prepared to become a new human being.
“There are lots of dos and don’ts for the instrument. One should always approach the instrument with utmost dedication and seriousness. Before touching the instrument you have to take a bath. It cannot simply be opened anywhere and everywhere. Also one has to be a strict vegetarian. The instrument should never be used as a weapon to showdown someone. The instrument transcends all religion. For a person to be one with the instrument you should be willing to believe what the instrument signifies and should be willing to believe in Goddess Saraswati and Lord Shiva, the source of its origin. And if you cannot believe in the source you cannot become one with the instrument. Moreover musicians have no class or religion,” says Bhahauddin.
Bhahauddin never pre-decides what he is going to perform at a concert. Whatever he does is impromptu, even the percussion is not pre-decided. “For us music is not a concert, it is not a performance, it is a way of life, where two people share some thoughts about a way of music on stage. Even with the audience we are just sharing what we are exploring at the moment,” says Bhahauddin.