Divine music as tribute to Swami Vivekananda

Swami Prasannatmananda honoring Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia
Swami Prasannatmananda honoring Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia

CUPERTINO, CA: Over 1700 music lovers witnessed a divinely memorable evening in connection with the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda at the Flint Center in Cupertino on Saturday, April 20. Celebrations started at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland on January 12 this year, which was the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda.

The spectacular April 20 music program began with traditional Vedic chanting in front of an arresting backdrop depicting Swami Vivekananda reclining in a relaxed mood, as if he were enjoying the music being offered to him. Swami Prasannatmananda, the assistant swami of the Vedanta Society of Berkeley, then addressed the gathering.

Quoting from Nobel Laureate Romain Rolland, he said: “Swami Vivekananda’s words are great music. He set to music the tune that was haunting the ears of millions in the modern world, the tune of human unity and equality, tolerance and love, the tune of the divine in the heart of man.”

The swami added that Swami Vivekananda was an extraordinary musician, both vocally, having been trained in classical Hindustani music from one of the greatest ustads of that period, as well as being an accomplished instrumentalist. His specialty was pakhwaj. Swami Vivekananda believed that, “The greatest aid to the practice of keeping God in one’s memory is, perhaps, music.”

Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, the renowned bansuri (flute) player, accompanied by Pt. Subhankar Banerjee on tabla set the tone of the evening with raga Madhubanti. For an hour and a half, the maestros enthralled the audience with their brilliant performance, especially with their rendition of the Jugalbandi, a musical dialogue. They seemed to have united with the listeners, lifting them to an ethereal level.

Padma Vibhushan Pt. Jasraj, one of the greatest Indian classical vocalists of Mewati Gharana of Hindustani Classical Music, was accompanied by tabla virtuoso Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri along with Suman Ghosh (harmonium) and Tripti Banerjee (vocal). The strength, power, and extraordinary skill required for the performance of this music was masterfully demonstrated by Pt. Jasraj’s exquisite rendering of a song composed by Swami Vivekananda, “Hara Hara Bhutanatha,” which emphasized the Swami’s divine feelings expressed so beautifully in the song.

Another significant offering to the Swami was Pt. Jasraj’s soul-stirring performance of “Nirvanashatakam,” or “Six Stanzas on Nirvana.” Panditji’s two hour outstanding presentation swept the audience into a higher dimension of human consciousness and will reverberate in their hearts forever. The program was conducted by Vijaya Asuri.

The yearlong celebrations of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary will continue with the following events: Vivekananda Pilgrimage in July-Aug 2013 – A bus tour in the Bay Area where Swami Vivekananda lived, lectured and traveled during his stay in 1900.

cademic Session in Oct-Nov 2013 – Panel Discussions at UC, Berkeley Campus, with eminent scholars and academicians from different Universities. Concluding program on January 12, 2014.

Ritu Maheshwari
India Post News Service