26 Jun 2010, 12:07am

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  • Pt. Shreeram G. Devasthali, 1935-2002

    On the occasion of my Guruji’s 8th death anniversary, I’m starting a web page dedicated to his memory. I hope to provide some information about him along with recollections from friends and students, some photographs and of course some samples of his teaching from the times we were able to record it.

    In 1998 I recorded six hours of his reminiscences. By that time his Parkinson’s Disease had taken most of his voice, so he was unable to sing — but he could still tell stories, and it was a great joy to sit with him while he recalled his life in music. I will be including excerpts from this material also in the months to come.

    If you knew Pt. Devasthali, please leave a comment, and it will be included in this page, which I hope will expand significantly.

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    Guruji in 1994

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    In 1991 the American Institute of Indian Studies sent a video team to document one of our lessons. Despite the intrusive presence of camera, lighting team and sound man, the taleem session was unaffected. I digitized my copy of the video and had short clips on YouTube, but recently put the whole thing on Vimeo without interruptions — here is Devasthalibua giving me material in Shri Raag. The extraordinary flow of his teaching is vividly evident.

    Shri

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    He had occasionally allowed us to tape-record very short snippets of material, but the first time he encouraged us to use the recorder was in 1991. He sang a lot of wonderful things that year. Here are a few of them.

    Gaud Malhar

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    Nand

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    We recorded a full year’s worth of lessons in 1994, and while occasionally he had vocal problems due to Parkinson’s, he gave us a wonderful trove of material. Steve Gorn visited us for a while and sat in on a few of our sessions. Here is a bit of Todi.

    Todi

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    With Gajananbua

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    Here is a half-hour of detailed chalan and taans in the beautiful morning raga Bhatiyar.

    Bhatiyar

    More music to come. Keep coming back!

    ————————————————————————

    On the occasion of Guruji’s death in 2002
    the Pune Times of India ran the following article:

    To Sir, With Love

    A few weeks back when some members of the batch of 1976 of Loyola High School met to talk about the old times, a question was casually thrown around: “Which teacher had the most impact on you?” Teachers have an impact for various reasons, not all of them to do with teaching ability, and the matter can raise heated discussion, but the boys of ‘76 were stunningly unanimous in raising one name: S.G. Devasthali.

    There can be no doubt that for the thousands of boys who studied in Loyola between 1966 and 1993, the personality of S.G. Devasthali, Hindi, Marathi and for some time Sanskrit and English teacher, is a deeply etched memory. There can be no doubt that if many of those boys attained something worthwhile in life, or ventured to do something out of the ordinary, it was largely due to some intense grilling conducted by Devasthali early in their lives.

    And if many Loyalites are respected professionals and businessmen who lead clean lives with a sound value system, one would have to think of Devasthali again. Devasthali was an intensely charged man with a bewildering range of capabilities, some of which remained unknown to many of his students. He was a bodybuilder.

    He was a trained Hindustani classical singer, who shared the platform with greats like Mallikarjun Mansur, and taught a select number of students after his retirement. He was a pravachankar, a great patriot and a hugely read man with a mental storehouse of thousands of quotations, for every occasion.

    And he was a unique teacher, who approached every lesson and every class with astounding energy and passion, every time. He seemed to be fully driven by a mission, a mission to turn ‘blockheads’ (one of his favourite words) into men who would do something good in life and make their country proud.

    On 26 June, 2002, this great teacher expired after suffering from a prolonged illness.

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    I posted the following to several Indian music forums:

    Pandit Shreeram Govind Devasthali passed away on the morning of June 26, 2002 at his home in Pune. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. The son of renowned Sanskritist Govind V. Devasthali, he was born on the first of January, 1935. He was 67 years old.

    S.G. Devasthali’s gayaki was principally that of the Gwalior Gharana. His first training began in 1955 under Gangadhar Shreedhar Joshi of Nasik, a disciple of Pt. Eknathbuwa Dasakkar (shishya of Pt. Rajabhaiyya Poonchwale), who also had served as the principal of Bareilly Music College in Uttar Pradesh. Following his initial exposure to Khyal gayaki, Devasthaliji became a disciple of the Gwalior maestro, Pandit Gajananrao Joshi, a relationship which continued for the next 20-plus years.

    Devasthali lived with Gajananbua in Lucknow during 1956-57, during which time Joshi was appointed Music Director for All India Radio. Gajananrao Joshi learned music not only from his father Anant Manohar Joshi, but from many great artists including Pt. Ramakrishnabuwa Vaze (Gwalior), Ustad Bhurji Khan of Jaipur-
    Atrauli Gharana, and Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan of Agra Gharana.

    During 1957 and 1958 Devasthaliji lived with Gajananrao Joshi’s guru and father, the great Pt. Anant Manohar Joshi (Antubuwa), a disciple of Pt. Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar. During this time he learnt a number of old traditional Gwalior bandishes as well as some of Antubuwa’s original chiz-s.

    In subsequent years S.G. Devasthali continued his pursuit of music, working intensively from 1961 onwards with the late sarangi maestro
    Ustad Mohammad Hussain Khan of Pune, the son of Ustad Kadarbaksh Khan. Mohammad Hussain Khan also learnt music from
    Bashirkhansaheb Gudiyaaniwale and Ustad Aman Ali Khan of Bhendibazaar Gharana. It was during his association with Mohammad Hussain Khan that S.G. Devasthali acquired the complex sargam techniques which were heard in his singing and which formed a huge part of his teaching.

    In the mid-nineteen-sixties Pt. Devasthali came in contact with Ut. Chand Saheb Shaikh of Pune, and began studying with him to learn ghazal, naat and quawaal. During this time Devasthali began singing in the Chishti mehfils in Pune, where he was known as “Ram-saheb,” and connoisseurs praised his interpretations of Urdu
    songs.

    Besides these individuals Devasthalibua collected raags and compositions from a great many other artists. His keen intelligence and profound musicality allowed him to absorb repertoire
    rapidly, and he worked closely with Pt. Mallikarjan Mansur, Pt. Anandrao Limaye., Khansaheb Azizuddin Khan and Shri Makarand Bakre on repertoire of Jaipur-Atrauli tradition.

    A brilliant teacher, he retired from public performance in 1975 due to indifferent health. He made his living as a teacher of Hindi at Pune’s Loyola School. From the early 1980′s be started teaching music privately while serving as Honorary Director of the Muktangan Balaranjan Kendra, a children’s educational institute in Pune. Since 1986 his work as a music teacher took on greater importance, and through the late 1990′s he was a generous source of extraordinary music for students from all over the world.

    Our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and shishya-parivar. Hindustani music has lost a great voice, but one who through the twists of circumstance remained unknown and unsung.

    We are all diminished this day.

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    Very beautiful tribute. Thank you:-)

    I have just discovered your wonderful site. Thank you for sharing the gems of Indian music and your passion and commitment. I am slowly reading through all the articles on your site.

    blessings,

    peter

    30 Mar 2013, 5:43am
    by pradeep chakraverti


    Thank you Warren, for bringing Devasthali Sir back to us. i am a student of him as well, but only a schoolboy student trying to learn a language. Which i unfortunately did not do too well (in terms of marks!) But i learnt one mantra “Language is the mother of communication and communication is the mother of relationships”. He had mastered that and he passed that on too. While i had some idea about his connection to Music, i fathomed the depth of his immersion in it only when my own interest in music deepened. That showed me yet another dimension of this ‘many-splendored person. i do agree with an observation earlier about the role that he played in forming so many lives as a teacher; wherever and in whatever he taught. He gave; always, freely and joyously. While we were the blessed receivers.

    Thanks to this blog (and Sandeep Agate); i again read Henry Longfellow’s immortal lines, which i heard from Sir so many times.

    Also the immortal picture of him with Gajananbua.
    What more can one wish for?

    Pradeep Chakraverti
    Loyola, 1971 batch and ICM lover.

    27 Jun 2012, 3:04am
    by Shirish Khinvasara


    I am an ex-student of Loyola School, Pune.
    Devasthali Sir has left a profound and lasting impact on me and I would credit to him in large measure, whatever interest I have in Marathi literature & Hindustani music.
    He was an excellent teacher.
    But above all, he deviated from the textbook curriculum to inculcate ‘Bhartiya Sanskar’ on all his students.
    We probably didn’t understand his emphasis at that point in our life, but today when I look back, I realize the importance of his teachings.
    He very patiently made us realize and understand the importance of the writings Sant Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Kabir, Vivekanand, etc. etc.
    To that extent I will be honest to say that without Devasthali Sir, my education in Loyola would have remained incomplete…

    27 Jun 2012, 12:22am
    by Rohan Bhate


    Thank you Warren, this is really great, feel Mr. Devasthali deserves this credit and respect.

    I had the great fortunes of having him as my class teacher in Loyola, year of 1988-89, besides having him teach us Hindi, Marathi interspersed with a lot of Sanskrit.

    He was strict, feared (also because he was so huge) but respected deeply. We were serious in his class, even a simple mistake would irritate him but his deep rooted knowledge and his patience clearly made him a great personality.

    Even today, we all remember him fondly along with the other teachers who made us whatever we are today, and a great amount of the credit clarly goes to him.

    Miss you Mr. Devasthali, i am sure you have earned your rightful place in the stars!!

    Dear Warren,

    Thank you for creating this tribute page to Guruji! It was you who first introduced me to Indian Classical Music and recommended me to study with Guruji in Pune. I am very grateful to you for those transforming experiences.

    I went to India on a Rockefeller Traveling Fellowship in 1992-1993, and spent 10 months studying with Guruji. After taking daily lessons with Mr. Devasthali for four months, I was invited to stay in his home with his family. I spent many hours every day practicing the raags and taans, and had many warm and memorable events with the family members. It was an experience of total immersion in a caring environment that was completely without comparison — it was a watershed year in my life.

    During my year with Guruji he would often jot down poem fragments into a small book for me; his quotations could be in Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, or English. All were carefully translated and interpreted. I keep the book with me in my office and refer to it frequently; here are some samples:

    “Kathni thothi jagatamen, karni uttam saar” [talk is useless; work is the highest essence; Sant Kabir]

    “Jo bhi karo kamaal ka karo” [Whatever you undertake, you should aspire to reach the highest peak; ascribed to Upendranath Ask's father]

    H.W. Longfellow, Psalm of Life:

    Life is real! Life is earnest!
    And the grave is not its goal.
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
    Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end or way ;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
    Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
    And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
    Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
    In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
    Be a hero in the strife !

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
    Let the dead Past bury its dead !
    Act,— act in the living Present !
    Heart within, and God o’erhead !

    Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time ;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
    Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again.

    I recently wrote a tribute piece to Guruji; I performed it at The College of New Jersey on my violin, triggering sound samples of his singing using software in Max/MSP on a laptop. Here is a link:
    http://www.tcnj.edu/~nakra/GuruShishyaParampara_live.mp3

    With best wishes,

    Teresa

    Teresa M. Nakra
    Associate Professor of Music (Technology and Theory)
    The College of New Jersey

    15 Sep 2010, 3:28pm
    by agnelo swamy 87 batch Loyola pune


    adversity is a blessing in disguise

    15 Sep 2010, 3:25pm
    by agnelo swamy


    jo rak de dar par sar wo hi sardar banta hai

    3 Aug 2010, 7:24pm
    by student


    Thank you for sharing and continuing to share this wonderful gift through your teaching.

    11 Jul 2010, 5:11pm
    by ramesh Chadha


    Dear Warren,

    A wonderful thought for enlightning me with multiple aspects which I was unaware. I was his student at Hindi High School (1958 to 1964). He was the source of inspiration. He had profound knowledge in English, Sanskrit and I was fortunate to have a teacher like him. I last visited him Pune in 1969. I was looking forward to see him again when I visited India in 2006. I tried to contact you on your web site but had no response.

    I feel indebted to him for all the “patience Strong” peoms and shaping me for the future.
    I will always cherish his memory.

    Ramesh Chadha

    Albany, NY

    Warren, Thanks a lot for sharing your feelings & the information about Pandit Devasthali Ji. When I listened the Talim recordings (Shree, Gaud Malhar, Nand & Todi), I found a great similarity with Pt. GajananBuwa Joshi in the teaching style – it is so obvious to have the similarity as Devasthali Ji himself was disciple of GajananBuwa.
    I also got a new information that Devasthali Ji used to sing in Chisti concerts with name ‘Ram Saheb’ – that’s very interesting! I never knew that !
    Unfortunately multifaceted personality like him is lessor known even in the music field because he was not part of the performing racket!
    I always think that he deserved much more recognition!

    27 Jun 2010, 11:35pm
    by Chetan Mehendale


    Thanks Warren, for this blog to honor Devasthali sir – I don’t know what I can say that has not been said a thousand times before by his students, be it in school or elsewhere.

    He was definitely an inspiration to all, and stood head and shoulders above everyone else for his character, his integrity, his drive and his passion for any subject he taught. I seldom remember him opening any of the prescribed textbooks, and instead he would teach us Hindi or Marathi using stories and personalities from the rich trove of literature and history, and impart his own philosophy about life and how it should be lived – with honor, dignity and honesty. Not for him the syllabus, or exams, or prepared question and answers, or marks – he challenged and inspired us to seek and to question – sometimes even ourselves – and in so doing, he prepared us for the much larger exams in life!

    I can safely say that whatever many of us are today, whatever values we have got, whatever successes we may have enjoyed, whatever challenges we may have faced and overcome – a large part of the credit must go to Devasthali sir!

    Thank you once again!

    27 Jun 2010, 3:35pm
    by Vijaya Sundaram


    I have always loved and respected you, Guruji. I remember how we used to sing together — Warren, you and I — and how Warren would play the tamboura and record, and I would transcribe at top speed while you/we sang.
    I remember when you gave us lessons for three or four hours at a stretch, with a stop or two for coffee, which Bhaiyyaji brought.
    I remember how you would raise a quizzical eyebrow at me, when you wanted me to quickly translate one of your taans into sargam, and I would.
    I remember how you would tell Warren and me, “No man can serve two masters,” when talking about us pursuing too many things at once.
    I remember how you would smile indulgently when Warren and I told you about our enjoyment of the music of a certain loud, occasionally tuneless, but joyously boisterous and creative Hindustani singer, and you’d remark that everything we listen to goes into us, and that we have to be careful when absorbing music.
    I remember how you and I would quote English poets at each other.
    I remember how you were pleased that I chose to go into teaching English language and literature, but how you also urged me to not stop singing. (I shall start again, soon).
    I remember how you listened, with an open mind, to the music we had composed and made.
    Thank you for everything.
    Love and respect,
    Vijaya

    27 Jun 2010, 2:23pm
    by Sandeep Agate


    Dear Warren,

    A wonderful initiative on your part to honor Devasthali Sir!

    I have had the benefit of his guidance and teaching when I was a student at Loyola High School. Based on the discussions in Loyola’s alumni groups and online forums, it is evident that Devasthali Sir has probably been the source of inspiration for most of his pupils in their lives. It is impossible to forget his style or substance and both continue to guide us still.

    One of the recitations that I recall from my school days is a stanza from the poem “The Psalm of Life” by H. W. Longfellow. It was one of Sir’s favorite poems/stanzas and he recited this often to inspire us to achieve something greater than our immediate material aspirations. Staring from behind his glasses and smiling through his beard, he would say, with perfect intonation:

    Lives of great men, all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us,
    Footprints on the sands of time.

    Devasthali Sir has left footprints that leads us still.

    Thank you again for putting this blog together.

    Best,
    Sandeep Agate
    Loyola High School, ’87/’89 Batch

    27 Jun 2010, 1:48pm
    by Heather


    Thank you for all the music, Gurujee, I am forever indebted, and my music forever imprinted with what you taught me!

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