UNFORGETTABLE Pandit Samta Prasad Mishra.
`The whole life of a tabla artiste is dedicated to finding a special beat with the tali and the khali. They reside in his heart, because his soul rests and throbs with the tala of measured matras.' These were the last words of Pandit Samta Prasad Mishra (alias Gudai Maharaj) at Varanasi just before he left this world. A major part of the tabla maestro's life was spent outside Varanasi as he was constantly on concert tours. It was only during his last days that he got a chance to reside there again, as if the rhythm of his life had at last reached the point of khali. Emotionally drained, he spent those days alone, though he had a large family. A man of simple living, Pandit Gudai Maharaj breathed his last at his Kabirchaura residence
. There was no big funeral observance after his death like for his seniors Pandit Anokhe Lal Mishra and Pandit Kantha Maharaj. He would often say, "Life is a layakari of dugun, but the death is infinite."
Even as he travelled across the world, the maestro loved to talk in Banarasi boli and eat only his home-cooked food. He would say about the reception he got, "Dunia mein kahin bhi hamar tabla sunke log bol uthelan, `Ee Baaj Banaras Hau Aur Ee Raja Banaras Hau.' (Anywhere in the world on hearing my tabla people say, `He is playing an instrument of Banaras and he is the king of Banaras.)"
The balance between his baayan and tabla (the left and right drums of the tabla) was superb, as Rahul Dev Burman, his direct disciple, once explained:"He has a great musical command over the bayan and tabla which is rare. And it is proved even in Hindi movies `Meri Soorat Teri Ankhan' and `Sholay'."
But the maestro remarked, I am playing only one fourth of Pandit Anokhe Lal Mishra's style and they glorify my name. In the next life I will produce half of his sound quality, then they will really be floored!" He used to wear black in concerts as he claimed that his great ancestor Partappu Maharaj got the divine grace for tabla playing from the direct light of Kali Khoh of Mirzapur. His eldest son Pandit Kumar Lal Mishra is also a known tabla artiste. He said, "My father showed me evidence that the tabla of our family does not belong to the Ram Sahai gharana of Banaras. We got it by the grace of Kali Khoh."
But the documents prove that his music comes from another branch of Pandit Ram Sahai gharana, the gharana from which the tabla of the Banaras baaj originated. Documents say that Prakash Mishra alias Partappu Maharaj was the direct disciple of Pandit Ram Tiwari Sahai (who had five main disciples called Panch Pyare). Pandit Harisundar, known as Bachcha Maharaj, was the grandson of Prakash Mishra, and Gudai Maharaj was the son of Bachcha Maharaj.
It is sad that we don't have any book by Gudai Maharaj.Nor is there any musical document in the archives of any national art institution except some recordings including solo and along with Ustad Ahmad Jan Thirakwa or interviews on All India Radio.
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