As elsewhere, music in India has its origins in religion. Hymns sung to the temple gods eventually began to be organised into ragas. It was just as well that Varanasi, the holiest Indian city, with some of the holiest temples, shrines and ghats, became a cauldron of music and musicians.
Anshuman Maharaj, a sarod virtuoso at 28 years of age, is a rarity in an age when young musicians prefer other instruments.
From Tansen in the fifteenth century to Ravi Shankar in the twentieth, Varanasi nurtured a panoply of musicians. Music thrived, as did the musicians. Varied musical styles and instruments evolved in these schools of music (gharanas) and people flocked to them from far and wide. Even the Bhakti movement saints –Kabir, Ravidas, Ramananda – all of whom hailed from Varanasi, used music to spread their message of humanity. Blessing them all was the Hindu God Shiva, Varanasi’s presiding deity, a god among other things of dance and music.
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