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Babus ready with sur & taal

?LET?S GIVE one final check,? HC Pande offered to his friend and off they went again, ?Sa?Re...ga?. Not satisfied still, BK Joshi got busy tuning the tabla once again as HC Pande played a particular note (shruti) on the harmonium to help Joshi take a cue and tune the dayan and bayan. Jhankars were played as well.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 01:07 IST

“LET’S GIVE one final check,” HC Pande offered to his friend and off they went again, “Sa…Re...ga”.

Not satisfied still, BK Joshi got busy tuning the tabla once again as HC Pande played a particular note (shruti) on the harmonium to help Joshi take a cue and tune the dayan and bayan. Jhankars were played as well.

“Now, it’s OK,” said a visibly pleased Joshi. A unique ‘Holi-sitting’ was about to begin.

The ‘holi-yaars’ who started arriving at Pande’s Sunderbagh residence were as special as the ‘sitting’ itself.

For starters, these ‘holiyaars’ hailing from the hills gather every year at the residence of some friends from the second Sunday of December to signal the onset of ‘Holi.’

Till two days after the festival of colours (when the Holi-teeka is held) these holi-yaars would continue to gather at the residence of likeminded people to sing songs of Holi— Songs of love, of the beauty of the festival, of Gods and Goddesses and of life itself.

These ‘holi-yaars’ are special for most of them have either held or are still serving in senior positions in the government. Most of them have served as principal secretary, special secretary, under secretary etc in the state government. What brings them together is their love for the uniqueness of the festival and the classical and semi-classical songs associated with the colour fest since time immemorial.

“In hills, there is the concept of singing songs to mark the onset of the festival.

There, Holi is not just about colours. It is also about the ragas that are associated with the festivity,” said Joshi who retired retired from a senior position in the state government’s bureaucratic hierarchy.

The bada babus, both former and present, started trickling in at Pande’s residence around 2 pm. And after the customary sprinkling of ‘abeer and gulal’ the notes that wafted in the air were seeped in Desh, Hamir, Bihag, Khamaj, Kafi…..

“Each raga has a time of its own. There was a time when Holi sessions that began with Peelu raga ended with Bhairav and Bhairvavi. From noon to sunrise the Holi sessions would continue uninterrupted with the singers and those playing various instruments being alternated to ensure uninterrupted singing,” Pande, a retired bureaucrat recalled.

Almost everyone attending these holi-sessions has a fair understanding of the ragas and of ‘sur, layaur taal.’ “Throughout the year, one is busy in one’s professional and personal commitments. But, this is one time of the year when all activities take a back seat. All that we remember is Holi songs,” said Dinesh C Pande, another former bureaucrat. There are a host of others like Satya Prakash Joshi, Chandrashekhar Pant, Neeraj Pant, BC Pandey (popularly known as khalifa or fullton for his rather English approach), Dilip Joshi (anna), Kailash Bhatt, Naveen Tripathi who are an annual feature in these holi-sessions. This year too the holi sessions are on but with a difference. Having lost several key members of this unique community, the group now feels that the sessions are slowly losing their appeal.

“We had Girija Shankar Pant, Kailash Chandra Joshi, PC Pande earlier and their knowledge about the ragas, songs as well as their capacity to sing was phenomenal. It was then that the sessions used to be absorbing. Now, it’s merely an attempt to keep a tradition alive,” says HC Pande.

With the young brigade hardly showing any interest in taking the tradition forward, the veterans feel that there is hardly anyone to carry on the unique legacy. Still, the flesh might be weak, but the spirit is willing. Musical notes continue to waft in the air this Holi. And hopefully for many more Holis to come! Holi Hai!

First Published: Mar 14, 2006 01:07 IST