The journey of meditation and music of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma

Music for Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma was a poignant journey of joy within. A gentle and soft person, the renowned Indian music composer and instrumentalist, he is the pioneer of the instrument Santoor. A Padma Vibhushan recipient, he worked relentlessly to get this local, lesser known string instrument from Jammu and Kashmir that was played only to accompany Sufiana compositions, a new life.

Pandit ji was born in Jammu in 1938. His father Pandit Uma Datt Sharma, a vocalist of the Varanasi gharana gifted the ordinary instrument when Shiv Kumar ji turned 13. His father also entrusted him with the responsibility to get the santoor recognition as a national classical music instrument.

So as a young teenager, Pandit ji studied the santoor in-depth and transformed its tonal quality.  He worked on the materials, including walnut wood, to enhance the sound and played it day and night to become one with it. With his distinct playing style, he positioned the Santoor as an Indian classical music instrument to become an artist of international eminence. When he played with the strings of the Santoor, the audience was transported with its breezy whispery-like sound, the swoosh of waterfall cascading down the mountains that touched every pore of their skin.

Pandit ji said that the Santoor is mentioned in the Vedas as the Pinaki veena. Pinaki means the arrow and it was called so because of its piercing sound. Later, it was called the Shat Tantari veena because of its a hundred wires and was played along with Sufiana music because of its spiritual nuance.

The tall handsome Pandit ji gave his first public performance in Mumbai in 1955. But he struggled for 15 years to give the santoor its well-deserved eminence. He traversed through this rough journey listening to Osho, then known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Pandit ji was among the spectators listening to Osho who visited Mumbai to give public discourses. Pandit ji said that he got a lot of strength listening to Osho. He therefore pursued playing the santoor even though it was compared to the well-established ‘sitar’ and ‘sarod’ but not accepted at par with these as an instrument of classical Indian music.

Pandit ji said that Osho is the only one who gives a holistically and clear view on any subject. He expressed the inexpressible making assimilation easy. Osho inspired him to not only listen but to live what he said in the discourses by translating it into action in day to day life.

During one of his visits to the Pune ashram, Pandit ji was presented the book Osho Dhyan Sutra. That book influenced him. He would often hear the musical tones when he played the santoor as though someone else was playing it. In this book, Osho explains that this process of witnessing the music as he played it as ‘sakshi’. This helped him realise that he was practicing the art of witnessing unknowingly. A spiritual musician, the santoor was his soul-mate.

On music, Osho says that sounds are natural, for example, the sounds of breeze in the bamboo trees, streaming water, and singing of the cuckoo and inherently meaningless but man has accorded meaning to them. He also says that ancient most music was born out of meditation. Those who meditated shared their experience of divine silence through the sounds of rhythmic harmonious music. He also says that perhaps they listened to their inner silence but did not know how to share it. So they called the sounds a rhythmic harmony music.

He adds, generally, we think that music consists of sounds but “to the ordinary musician the sound is important. To the master musician the silence is important: he uses sound only to create silence.”

As the music becomes intense and deep, it draws you inwards. It consists of the silence between two sounds. This is why in ancient days Classical music was sung in the temples to experience silence. Music is sheer joy and celebration because it is closest to silence.

“Listening to great music you suddenly become silent – with no effort. Falling in tune with the music you lose your ego with no effort. You become relaxed, you fall into a deep rest. You are alert, awake, and yet in a subtle way drunk.”

It is time now to close our eyes, listen to Pandit jis music and travel inwards to be rejuvenated.

Ma Prem Shashin

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