Legendary Flute Player Pandit Pannalal Ghosh (31st July 1911 – 20th April 1960)

Calcutta, 31st July, 2011 (WBRi/OOBE): Exactly 100 years ago in Barisal (Present Bangladesh) was born the legendary Indian Flute Player, Amulya Jyoti Ghosh more famous as Pannalal Ghosh. He was a disciple of Ustad Allauddin Khan, and is credited with giving the flute its status in Hindustani classical music. He is also credited as the inventor of the modern long bansuri. He inherited his love of music and the bamboo flute (bansuri) from his grandfather, Hari Kumar Ghosh who played sitar,tabla,and pakhawaj and learned sitar from his father, Akshay Kumar Ghosh. There are two incidents which relate Pannalal Ghosh to Bansuri. At age 9 while looking for a stick, Pannalal found a flute floating in the river and he retrieved the instrument to began his lifelong relationship with the bansuri. When Pannalal was 11 years old, he met a sadhu who held both a conch and a flute. The sadhu asked Pannalal if he could play the flute, and young Pannalal obliged. The sadhu gave him the flute and told the boy that music would be his salvation. 1n 1928, Pannalal Ghosh joined the fight for independence. He also joined a gymnasium where he learned martial arts, boxing and stick fighting. He shifted to Calcutta in search of livelihood and won the All Bengal competition in boxing which helped him in getting a job as a coach in an athletic club. In 1929, he lost his father. He had continued playing Sitar and Bansuri (Flute). He scored music for the silent films in Calcutta. Music director and composer Anil Biswas gave him a break and he began to play in his musical productions. He experimented and invented the seventh hole of madhyama. He became famous for his flute playing and started getting performances at the major music conferences. In his performances, he essentially rendered the Khayal Gayaki in its fullness. At this time he came in close contact with great maestros like Ustad Inayat Khan (sitar), Ustad Dabir Khan (Been), Ustad Amir Khan (sarod), Ustad Badal khan (sarangi), and vocalists such as Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Majid Khan, Pt. Tarapada Chkraborty, Pt. Bhismadev Chattopadhyay and many others. In 1936 Pannalal began working with Raichandra Boral, music director of the well known 'New Theater' and one year later he met his first guru, Kushi Mohammed Khan - the 'Harmonium Wizard'. In 1938 as music director of the dance troupe of the princely kingdom of Seraikella State, Pannalal was one of the first classical musicians to visit and perform in Europe, which he found rather agitating and unsettling. Soon after his return to India his guru expired. Thereafter he underwent training from Girija Shankar Chakravarti. In 1940, Pannalal moved to Bombay on the advice of his first disciple Haripada Choudhary (who had himself recently moved to Bombay). There he joined the Bombay Talkies film studio and gave music to quite a few films including 'Basant.' Pannalal's wife, Parul Biswas, (sister of Anil Biswas), was a graceful singer of kirtans who became one of the first well known playback singers for the new 'talking' films. Pannalal first met the legendary Ustad Allaudin Khansahib, (reverentialy known as 'Baba') in 1946, when Baba came to Bombay with his disciple, Pandit Ravi Shankar. Initially, when Pannalal asked Baba to teach him Khansaheb replied, "You are already great, you don't need to study more." Pannalal implored Baba to please teach him so that he could learn "authentic music and sur." In 1947, Pannalal's lifelong yearning to learn music from a true guru was fulfilled when Allaudin Khansaheb , convinced of Pannalal's sincerity to learn, accepted Pannalal as his disciple. Pannalal then accompanied Baba to his home in Maihar, where he received intensive taalim (training) from Khansaheb for the next six months. Under Baba's firm yet understanding tutelage, he blossomed into the wizard of the bamboo reed. Pannalal earned fame through his regular broadcasts on AIR (All India Radio) and his many live performances at music festivals throughout India. The eminent vocalists Ustad Fayaz Khan and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur appreciated his music very much and requested Pannalal to accompany their vocal recitals on bansuri. He was praised for his adaptation and rendering on the bansuri of the khayal-ang- gayaki (the classical vocal style), particularly influenced by the great master of the Kirana gharana, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Pannalal also incorporated alap, dhrupad-ang-gayaki, tantrakari, jhala, thumri, dadra and folk music into his performance style on bansuri. Well versed in tabla and rhythm, he would perform in such difficult tals as jhoomra and tilwara. His music was steeped in devotion and had an intangible ethereal element, immense emotional depth and was infused with spiritual profundity. In addition to introducing the larger instrument, Pannalal Ghosh is credited with inventing the bass bansuri and introducing the six-stringed tanpura, high-pitched tanpuri and the surpeti or sruti box into Hindustani music. He created and popularized several new ragas including Deepawali, Pushpachandrika, Chandramauli, Panchavati and Nupurdwani, as well as multitudinous vilambit and drut compositions in many well known and rare ragas.Pannalal practiced daily meditation and observed maun by not speaking on Thursdays. He took the vows of Ramakrishna and put his faith in music. He took Mantra Diksha from Swami Birjanandji Maharaj who was a direct disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Because of his intense spiritual practice he started loosing interest in day to day life and decided to take Sanyasa. When he expressed his desire to Swamiji, his Guru, he was told that he would attain Moksha through music only. He should practice music as religiously as his spiritual practice. His music showed total spirituality, simplicity and purity. Pannalal's impressive rendition of Raga Darbari Kannada in his 1956 National Programme broadcast from AIR Delhi fetched him further acclaim and at this time B.B Keskar, director of AIR, awarded him the meritorious post of composer-conductor of the Indian National Orchestra and producer for AIR Delhi. He held the post and maintained his devotion to the interpretation of classical music on the bamboo flute until his untimely and sudden death due to heart attack at the age of 49 on April 20, 1960 in New Delhi.