Stringed Passion

Stringed Passion
Uma Ananth in a chat with Aruna Kumari, perhaps Indias only blind veena artiste.

“When I was about 15, I took part in the Thiruvayyar music festival in Tamil Nadu. Generally, only great music maestros get to play in that festival. But fortunately, I got a chance to play the veena and was much appreciated by the audience. That’s the most memorable moment of my life,” narrates Aruna Kumari, perhaps India’s only blind veena artiste. A multi-faceted talent, Aruna is not just an excellent veena player but also an accomplished singer and a violin player.

Accomplished artiste
Born in 1966, she lost her vision at the age of 7 years in 1973 due to bilateral retinal detachment. All medical treatments failed. Her parents then suggested that she should learn Carnatic classical music. Her foundation training was under Vidwan Udupi Vasudeva Bhat, and later under Vidushi Lalita Ballal and Vidwan Sooralu Parameshwar Bhat. She began learning veena under Vidushi K R Lakshmi Iyengar and violin under Vidwan K Raghavendra Bhat. She has passed all the grade levels of music examinations with honours and distinction.

Solo concerts
Aruna began her career by singing Sai Baba bhajans, inspired by the philosophy of Sai Baba. But then she reverted to her original passion of playing the veena and is now completely devoted to the instrument. She has been rewarded with several laurels for her passion. A recipient of the Karnataka Rajyotsava district level award for veena excellence, she has also been honoured with the Neelam Kurshed Kanga Award for Outstanding Blind Women. In March 2008, she received the Indira Gandhi Mahila Shiromani Award instituted by the International Integrity peace and friendship society, Bangalore chapter. Aruna has also participated in many music festivals all over India and is credited with more than 250 veena solo concerts of around two-three hour durations in cities all over Karnataka and India.

Aruna attributes all the achievements to the invaluable sacrifice of her mother late Hemavathi S Bhat, who expired in 2007. She says her mother’s constant assistance, day and night throughout the past 40 years, made her achieve the impossible. Recalling an incident that thrilled her to bits, Aruna narrates excitedly.

“Around seven years ago, I played at a music conference in Shimoga. After the concert, one of the guests who presided over the function came up to me and said my style impressed him very much as it resembled that of veena maestro K Balachander. I was overwhelmed and humbled.”

Distinctive style
Actually Aruna developed her Guru Vidwan Ananthapadmanabha’s style. This style of playing the veena is a mixture of Hindustani and Carnatic — a difficult to achieve style which Aruna has mastered despite her being differently abled.

Today, Aruna teaches the veena, violin as well as singing to a few students. Her mission is to revive the popularity of the veena by conducting veena concerts and fusion music programmes at temples, public functions etc, and to teach music to propagate it amongst the youth. She is determined to attain this noble vision.


Devotees Grom Uttar Pradesh And Uttarakhand Perform For Sai Baba

Sai Shiva Shakti

Sai Shiva Shakti

Devotees Grom Uttar Pradesh And Uttarakhand Perform For Sai Baba


Thursday, September 18, 2008: For the last few days, the Vedam tutorial has been commencing at 4 pm every day. This evening, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba arrived at 4.15, took a full round of the Sai Kulwant hall in His chair and came onstage. Youth from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were to present a drama this evening. When the Vedam tutorial concluded at 4.20, Swami went into the interview room and returned to the stage to begin the drama at 4.45 pm. At the end of the half-hour drama which depicted the story of Sage Bharadwaja, Swami took group photographs and blessed two of the participants with chains. Bhajans by the youth followed while Prasadam was distributed to all. Swami accepted Arati ten minutes later before returning to His residence.

Sai Students:

September 18 2008: Another beautiful Thursday dawned in the international hamlet, Puttaparthi. Thousands had arrived from the Northern states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. It has now become a kind of timetable schedule, with devotees from the different places arriving in a manner that the pilgrimage dates do not clash and thus all are assured of the precious proximity to Swami. Swami had agreed for a programme by the youth from these states and a huge backdrop of the Ganges bathing ghat stood in the centre of the hall. As per the regular schedule, the Veda chanting class for Rudram began at 4:00 pm and was going on when Swami arrived at about 4:20 pm.

Moving in the chair through the ladies side, Swami reached the centre. He seemed to be intrigued by the backdrop that had been erected. He studied it as He passed by. The previous day, Swami had not moved through the gents side. And so, as He entered the gents side of the hall, all of them were so happy and excited. Like bees getting attracted to a rose, they seemed to be buzzing all around the orange robed figure. Swami bestowed Abhayahasta and seemed to be making a sort of futile attempt to calm down the devotees! Moving through the students, Swami collected letters and blessed the boys holding trays. As soon as He moved to the stage, Swami said that the coaching was enough for the day. The teaching students took padanamaskar and returned to their places and then Swami sat in the silence that prevailed.

It is amazing how His mere presence has such a soothing and calming effect on everyone present. The 10,000 strong crowd sat in a serene silence and all the 20,000 eyes were riveted on Swami. It was after a few moments of blissful silence that Swami asked for the programme to begin as soon as He returns from the interview room. As Swami went in, the performance area was cleared. The actors got ready. Swami came out soon enough and then the programme began. A few actors moved up front and opened a huge scroll which Swami read with a smile for about a minute or so. Then receiving His blessings and padanamskar, the lads returned to start the drama.

The drama was based on the secret behind the Sai Avatars. It was entitled “Sai Avataran Rahasya”. It showed a modern youth very disturbed, coming up to his saintly uncle with doubts. The uncle offers him sage counsel along the lines of the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba. Very intrigued and interested in knowing more about Swami, the lad asks his uncle about the same. Narrating the story of how Swami suffered a paralytic attack and cured it during the Guru Purnima of 1963, the uncle narrates the story of how Swami as Lord Shiva promised sage Bharadwaja of three advents into his clan. When the sage visits Kailas to request an audience with the Lord, he sees Shiva and Parvati engaged in the cosmic dance. Mother Parvati smiles at him and he mistakes it as mockery. As he is leaving, he suffers a paralytic stroke on the left half of his body. Lord Shiva then revives him and tells him that his suffering of the stroke was a blessing in disguise. He confers the boon of being born in his lineage, not once but thrice. In the second advent as Sathya Sai, the left side of His body signifying the Shakti or Parvati aspect would suffer a stroke for exactly the same time as sage Bharadwaja waited, i.e. 7 days. The drama then cocluded with all the children coming front and forming the Sarva dharma symbol that Swami has gifted the world.

The drama concluded and Swami asked so sweetly, “Drama over?” He makes such a perfect audience. Always asks, “Is it over already?” as He is so engrossed. Many times, we humans do not enjoy things because we have expectations and keep judging the performance. As someone beautifully put it, “if you judge, you just do not have time to Love.” We can safely add the corollary that when you Love, there is not a moment free where you can judge. And Swami is always so engrossed for He sees the sincerity and effort. God sees the efforts and so whether it’s a fantastic performance or an average one, they are the same for Him as long as the efforts have been put in. Not so for humans. We judge everything by results forgetting the fact that many things that we ourselves have learnt in our lives is because of the encouragement and support that our efforts (and not our results) have received!

Swami called the actor “Bharadwaja” to come up to Him. He materialised a gold chain and gave it to him. His hair and beard were so copious that Swami could not put the chain around his neck! Swami then asked what was “Parvati’s” name! He said that the drama was fully based on Parvati! Calling ‘her’ Swami created another beautiful gold chain with a pendant for the lad who did that role! Swami then wanted Shiva, Parvati and sage Bharadwaja to pose for photos with Him. The three were overjoyed and after that, Shiva fell at Swami’s feet. It was such a poignant and beautiful sight! Swami then called the videographer and told him, “I will come down and pose for photos.” Swami then moved down the stage and with a beatific smile posed with the lads. As it always happens, after the session, all of them took the opportunity to fall at His feet and speak a few words with Him. After that, Swami moved up the stage and blessed prasadam to be distributed to all. He also asked them to sing bhajans which they did. After two bhajans, Swami received Aarthi and left.

Reference (With Pictures)