August 5, 2010 – Beautiful Mandolin Concert by U. Srinivas and U. Rajesh

It has been tradition in Bharat that musicians and artists have the patronage of the rulers. Art forms which cater to a higher need in life have always been revered and encouraged. Textbooks of history are replete with examples of great talents that adorned the courts of kings. Almost every ruler worth the name had navaratnas (the nine gems) in his/her court. These were not gemstones but people with different skill-sets and talents who have become part of the lore today.

From Tansen to Birbal in emperor Akbar’s court we had Tenali Ramakrishna and Allasani Peddanna in Raja Krishnadevaraya’s court. And in a time when the King of Kings is on the earth, is it any wonder that His Darbar consists of artists and musicians from all corners of the globe?

Shortly after 5 p.m., Swami arrived for darshan. As He went about the rounds, there was some activity on the stage. A blue carpet was laid out as news traveled that there would a programme by the Mandolin maestro, U. Srinivas and his brother U. Rajesh. The stage was set by the time Swami completed His darshan round. In the portico, Swami had a look at the programme schedule for a Conference that was to begin soon in the SSSIHMS at Puttaparthi. Moving through the Veranda, Swami arrived on the stage. He sat listening to the Veda chanting for a while and read letters. Swami was on the ladies’ side of the stage and after a few minutes, He asked for the artists to be called.

The Mandolin brothers came on stage and sought His permission to get their instruments. Swami agreed and as they came, He blessed them with padanamaskar. The accompanying artists too sought His blessings. There was a glint of pride in Swami’s eyes one felt as He blessed two of His students to accompany the brothers on the tabla and mridangam. Then the concert began.

After a brief and humble offering of gratitude, the brothers began the all time classic, Vaataapi Ganapatim Bhaje. As they plucked the strings, they seemed to be plucking at the heartstrings of everyone present too. Such was the mastery, the finesse and the feeling they evoked. It is said that music is its own language and everyone understands it. That day, one could understand the significance of that statement.

The next song, Yendaro Mahanubhavulu stated that there are so many great people in this world and salutations to all of them. Ah! It was truly the song for a humble genius. The humility of the artist U. Srinivas was so evident in the respectful and soulful manner in which he addressed Swami. Bhagavan was listening to the songs and reading through letters intermittently. Two more compositions of the great saint Thyagaraja followed.

One of the songs contained a medley of performances distributed between the two mandolins and the tabla and mridangam. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the Jugalbandi and a thunderous applause at the end said it all. Swami also seemed so moved and He asked them to continue playing. Turning to the student by His left, Swami issued instructions. The boy went into the interview room and came back to report to Swami. Bhagavan issued further instructions and seemed very keen as He planned something.

In the meanwhile, as Swami had asked, the Mandolin brothers concluded a small piece. Swami asked them to continue and He was busy with His ‘planning’ - the Master’s plan! The next piece was the Sindhubhairavi classic, “Venkatachala Nilayam”. As they concluded, Swami called both the brothers and lovingly draped them with silk shawls! Ah! What an honour it was for them that the Lord rewarded them thus.

Swami lovingly patted them and granted padanamaskar. He was so happy and pleased. Two people who had accompanied the brothers to Puttaparthi also came and took Padanamaskar. One of them showed a beautiful painting of Swami to Him and asked Him for a signature. Swami smiled and took the pen as He signed, “With Love, Baba”. Swami gifted the two students also with safari pieces. And then, Swami beckoned for the Mandolin brothers.

It is almost customary in Puttaparthi nowadays that the performers request Swami for a photograph with Him. That day, was a rare difference. Swami wanted to grant a picture to these brothers! As He called them and seated them on either side of Him, cameras clicked away.

Swami blessed them again and then asked His students to sing the two alaap bhajans. As the two bhajans were concluding, Swami gifted each of the brothers with the photographs that had been taken a few minutes before. Then, He received aarthi and moved towards the car. There, Mr. K. C. Pandey, Trustee of Sai Baba Sansthan at Shirdi, sought His blessings. Swami blessed him asking, “You have come from Sai Baba at Shirdi?” to which he nodded. Swami then retired to Yajur Mandir.

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