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From the Courts of Mewar

Rana Kumbha and his descendents

The department of Sangeet Prakash played an important role in the encouragement of music by providing sufficient patronage and support to the artists in the royal court of Mewar. In the political background of Mewar, music was used to infuse a sentiment of valour and supreme sacrifice on the battlefield through the chaaransor or bhats.

The songs enhanced the brilliant forms and techniques of music. The appreciative rulers honoured the musicians by conferring titles and jagirs thus providing them with financial assistance. From the days of Bapa Rawal, the founders of the Guhilot dynasty in Mewar to Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur who is the present custodian, the royal house of Mewar has always been patrons and supporters of Kavi-kovids (learned poets).

Rana Kumbha (1433-1468) was the greatest patron of music. He was also an extremely erudite scholar. He was a cultured and refined ruler and was dedicated to preserving and developing classical music in an age devoted to violent warfare and rampant destruction of the indian heritage. His unflinching commitment to the preservation of Vedic learning and ancient cultural traditions remains the most remarkable attribute to his genius. The musical legacy of Rana Kumbha is endowed with a robust and distinct element of spirituality. Rana Kumbha was an accomplished musician, and in his time was considered to be a leading authority on the science of music.

Also acclaimed as 'Sangeet Shiromani', he wrote an outstanding treatise on indian music titled Sangeet-Raj.This magnum opus of the medieval world has over 16000 shlokas or couplets. It is considered not only a pioneering and path breaking scholarly work on indian classical music but is often venerated as the fifth Veda.

Rana Kumbha also wrote extensively both on the subject of music and miscellaneous literary commentaries in Sanskrit. Sangeet-Raj, Geet Govind, Rasik-Priya Tika, Mewari Tika, Sur-Prabhand Sangeet Ratnakar Tika are some of the epic works credited to the genius of this outstanding fifteenth century ruler of Mewar.

Rana Kumbha was not only an accomplished musician but also a great authority on the subject. Till date his several important and worthwhile treatises on the subject stand testament to his scholarship. In his quest to preserve the ancient traditions of classical music, Rana Kumbha devoted himself to learning, perfecting and codifying Prabandh Gayan, one of the purest musical forms that has its roots in ancient Vedic ethos.

In his musical works on Prabandh Gayan, Rana Kumbha classifies the sections of Dhrupad-gayaki as Udgrah, Dhruv, Melapak, Antara and Aabhog. He further embellishes the Prabandh with six angs or facets that lend greater depth to the singing of Dhrupad. Today, Dhrupad is restricted to only four angs, namely Raagalapati, Prabandh Geet, Laybaat and Bol-Baat.

The classification of Prabandh Gayan, which is Rana Kumbha's greatest contribution to the world of indian classical music, demonstrates the warrior king's in-depth knowledge and mastery over the genre. His detailed study facilitates the emergence of the four schools of Vaaniyon Vaani, Khandar Vaani, Dagar Vaani and Nauhar Vaani.

Rana Kumbha, the multifaceted ruler of Mewar thus builds the strongest foundations for indian classical music and emerges as one of the greatest and most valuable proponents.Rama Baisa, Rana Kumbha's learned daughter was also credited with having a profound understanding and knowledge of music shastra.

She was also musically vibrant, and was hailed as a vageeshwari - purist scholar. Rana Raimal, the son of Rana Kumbha was a great patron to the arts and music. Rana Raimal introduced Arabeetasha, a musical instrument. The instrument was captured from the army of Babar the Mughal emperor and during the reign of Maharana Sanga, it was introduced into the army of Mewar.

Poet, saint and passionate devotee of Lord Krishna, the legendary Meera Bai was the daughter in law of Maharana Sanga. She was a refined musician and composed and sang devotional love songs to Lord Krishna. Meera Bai's Padaavali has a collection of 250 padas (songs) composed in classical Ragas. Meera Bai introduced a new Raga - 'Meera Malhar' which is rendered by artists in Dhrupad and Khayaal schools of music.

In her approach towards music, there was a beautiful harmony of all three aspects of music namely- vocal, instrumental and dance, with a unique synthesis of classical and folk. She is said to have written six outstanding books - Raag Sorath, Narsi Ro Mayaro, Raag Govind, Padaavali, Satyabhamaji, Nu Roosan and a commentary on the Geet Govind. Popularly known as the 'mandaakini' of Rajasthan, Meera Bai was a renowned musician. Her intense bhakti - devotion greatly influenced her compositions.

The Raagmala series of paintings belonging to the early seventeenth century period have been found in Chawand in Mewar and are now in the Government Museum at Udaipur. These paintings depict the court with its patronage of musicians. Rana Amar Singh I was the presiding monarch in that period.

The visual detailing in these paintings is exquisite and 'Raag Deepka' and 'Raag Maru' are clearly depicted in this series. The 'Raagmala' series illustrate the auditory capacity of music in the visual form. They are a priceless historical reference to the rich tradition of music in Mewar and indeed in India.