Friday, 14 December 2012

Pandit Ravi Shankar: Priests recall the marriage of the Sitar maestro with Sukanya in 1989 at Chilkur Balaji temple

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar cherished strong ties with Hyderabad. It was in Hyderabad on January 24, 1989 he married Sukanya Shankar, his disciple. Sukanya was 34 and the Pandit 69 years old. The wedding ceremony was performed in secrecy at Sri Balaji temple at Chilkur in the city outskirts. But the music legend could not keep the wedding secret for long. Within an hour of the wedding ceremony, city reporters fanned out, spoke to his close aides and friends and broke the news to the world.

Recalling the event, CM Srinivasaraghavachary Swamy, then head priest of Chilkur Balaji temple, told this correspondent that it was a quite afternoon and a group of about 20 people visited the temple. They brought their own priest, who solemnised the wedding of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Sukanya. They did not make any offering, but prayed the Lord. "The entire event lasted about two hours. The bride was young," said Srinivasaraghavachary, who turned 99 three days ago.

His grandson and temple priest S Rangarajan said the marriage ceremony was quite simple. "I was in early 20s and remember a few Bengali people accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar. The temple was not famous those days. Hardly 20 people used to visit the temple weekly. I could have recorded the marriage ceremony. But I did not realise the importance then," Rangajan pointed out.

Mohan Hemmady, who served as the tour manager of Pandit Ravi Shankar, recalled that the maestro wanted to marry at Tirupati. "I told him Tirupati is a busy place and Chilkur Balaji temple will be ideal location for a quiet marriage ceremony. I took video of Chikur village and the temple surroundings and showed it to him. He liked the place and agreed for the marriage ceremony there. The marriage was performed on Monday (January 24, 1989) and a day before, I took him to the place". Since it was his second marriage, everything was kept a secret.

The Pandit loved Hyderabad and he promoted Hindustani music in the city. Mohan Hemmady, who now heads Surmandal, said Ravi Shankar used to perform free for Surmandal to keep alive the tradition of Hindustani music.

Incidentally the marriage was solemnised a day after Ravi Shankar celebrated in Hyderabad the completion of his 50 years of stage performance. His disciples Daya Shankar and Abhimaan played shehnai and table welcoming him at the temple. After the marriage it was announced that Anoushka, born in 1981, was the issue of Ravi Shankar and Sukanya. 

His last visit to Hyderabad was on January 11, 2009. He gave a musical concert with his daughter Anoushka for the first time in the city. The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, which organised a cultural festival, had invited him. The event in 2009 came after a 20 year lull. Music lovers recall that it was a memorable event with the father-daughter duo enthralling the audience with their soulful music.

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