An ode to the creator of the Tricolour

Delhi’s calendar of Independence Day-related cultural events was recently marked open with ‘Tirangee Malhar’ – a musical tribute to Pingali Venkayya, thelong-forgotten freedom fighter and designer of the original Indian flag.

Organised by the Sursagar Society of Delhi Gharana, the best artistes in the Indian classical music traditions came together to pay homage to this unsung son of the land. Celebrated Hindustani vocalist Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan, sitarist Ustad Saeed Zafar Khan, sarangi player Ustad Kamal Sabri, tabla wizard Akbar Latif Khan and violinist Dr N Rajam, among others, feted Pingali Venkayya through their music.

At the same time, they also regaled the audience with different varieties of raag Malhar to mark the onset of monsoon. Music aficionados, certainly, went back enlightened on both our lesser-known natio-nal figures as well as the
nuances of Hindustani classical music from the evening at Kamani Auditorium.

Dilli Gharana, which evolved in the court of Shamsh-Ud-Din Iltutmish more than 10 centuries back, has served in the Khanqah of Hazrat Ameer Khusro, Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar, riyasats of Patiyala, Ballabhgarh and Hyderabad. For the last many years, they have been holding music festivals for the public to be able to appreciate our musical heritage.
 
This year, on the occasion of Independence Day, they decided to dedicate an evening to Pingali Venkayya. The general secretary, also referred to as the Khaleefa, of Dilli Gharana, Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan, explained, “In USA, Betsy Ross is advertised to first graders as the designer of the American flag. Even  Rabindranath Tagore is well-known as the author of our National Anthem, but how many of us know Pingali Venkayya, the architect of the tricolour?”


“Therefore, we decided to do our bit in bringing back this national hero to public consciousness. We are musicians; we can only play music and sing. So that’s what we thought of doing.”  
 
The event commenced with a tigalbandi by the violinist Dr N Rajam, vocalist Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Sitar maestro Ustad Saeed Zafar Khan. They presented a unique composition of Vande Mataram in three variations of raag Malhaar - Megh Malhaar, Miyan Ki Malhaar and Surdasi Malhaar. This presentation came in for much appreciation by the audience.


This was followed by their individual performances. Ustad Iqbal Khan rendered five varieties of raag Malhar of the 35 that exist. These were Surdasi, Gaud, Gaund, Gaund Malhaar and Ameer Khusro ka sawan in Mishra Tilak Kamod – each one distinct, soulful and evocative of the earthy rainy season.

Ustad Saeed Zafar Khan then gave a stupendous performance on sitar supported by Babar Lateef Khan on tabla and Suhail Saeed on sitar. Violin extraordinaire N Rajam closed the evening with a masterly concert with Akbar Latif Khan on tabla and
Abhishek Sinha on violin.


There was a thought-provoking photo exhibition as well, themed ‘Freedom of Expressions’, by the Photography and Films Club of IIT (Delhi) at the same venue.
 
A visibly impressed HRD Minister Smriti Zubin Irani, the chief guest of the evening, said, “I am really moved by this thought of dedicating an evening to Pingali Venkayya whose memory has indeed faded from our memory. I identify with this cause. On the request of the society, I’ll request CBSE to include a chapter on Venkayya’s life in school syllabi.”

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