Monument To Music

Monument To Music
by Aruna Chandraraju

From the window above, the strains of a soothing raga, and the rhythmic beats of a mridangam float down to us. We pause on the steps leading to Sathya Sai Baba Mirpuri College of Music in Prashanti Nilyam to take a good look at the Saraswathi statue that fronts this truly unique college.

You might wonder what is unique about a music college considering India abounds in them. This college not only offers high-grade education free of cost but also a zero-cost all-inclusive residential facility. Attached to it is an enormous music museum with strikingly unusual architecture and a collection of nearly 300 musical instruments from across the world. The Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music also has eminent Indian musicians like Shivkumar Sharma, Yella Venkateswara Rao, Hariharan, L. Subramaniam, and Neyveli Santanagopalan visiting and holding interactive sessions with students. Moreover, the students get to listen regularly to legends in Indian classical and film music who frequent the Sai Ashram and perform there.

We are ushered inside and walked through the building. The classrooms are spacious, airy, and impeccably clean. The library has an impressive collection of nearly 4000 music-related books and 400 CDs and audio cassettes, with new additions every month.

The college offers three courses each in Hindustani and Carnatic streams of music, and teaches vocal and instrumental music including veena, mridangam, sitar and tabla.

It even has classes for dying folk arts like Burrakatha. There is a two-year foundation course (Abhyaasa Gaana), three-year diploma course (Vidya Praveena), and one-year post-diploma Kalapoorna course.

The curriculum was designed by stalwarts like Bhimsen Joshi, Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana and Yella Venkateswara Rao, and professors of music from other universities.

The museum has a giant tabla alongside and its façade has two-storey high tamburas and guitars for pillars, while an enormous trumpet forms another design element. Within is a visual and acoustic treat for the music connoisseur — nearly 300 stringed, percussion and wind instruments from Africa, South-east Asia and Arabic countries, including rare specimens, displayed in a large, well-lit hall.

Some of the smaller instruments are mounted on the wall alongside pictures of the spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba, who is Founder-Chancellor of the university which runs this college. There are bigger instruments at floor-level like a giant veena, mridangam and guitar, all perfectly proportioned and tuned.

For details, contact Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music, Sri Sathya Sai University, Prashanti Nilayam, Andhra Pradesh. Tel: (08555) 287 239; 289 050.

The Hindu Reference

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