News & Notes

An ode to our guru Arvind Parikh

Arvind Parikh, inheritor of the Vilayatkhani baaj, stands as a venerable custodian of this tradition, faithfully upholding its heritage in terms of both artistic expression and substantive content. His unwavering passion as a committed teacher, coupled with his thorough and methodical pedagogy, has transmitted the core essence of this gharana to a multitude of students, spanning across domestic and international boundaries. Arvind Parikh is a staunch believer in the guru-sishya parampara and believes that this old style of teaching has meaning and purpose.

A majority of his disciples came from all over India and abroad to participate in their annual homecoming on the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima and offer their melodic tributes to the sitar legend Vilayat Khan, the Ustad of their guru.

After coming under Arvind Parikh’s wings, Varadraj Bhosale and his much senior gurubehen Jyothi Shyam had to start from scratch. Varad was a teen when he came to Mumbai from Kolhapur to learn. “Like a father, guruji took financial care apart from teaching me the basics according to gharana. The list is long, like the hand placement, the varied weights applied by the fingers, paltas based on ragas and their intrinsic emotions.” He continued, “Till today, he has never cancelled any teaching session. It’s the other way around.

Along with the sitar he encouraged me to learn the surbahar. He analyses the minutest difference between the two instruments. Guruji always warns me that technical prowess will not work unless I strive to bring taseer in my playing.

Jyothi had a different issue. She says, “Earlier, I was trained for about 25 years by N.V. Gopinath of Bengaluru. With immense apprehensions, I started learning from guru Arvind Parikh because I had to change my sitting posture and the style of right-hand strokes. I have come this far within six years without much stress only due to guruji’s patience and encouragement. His talim has enabled me to clearly see the raag roop at every stage of alap and gatkari.”

Like Jyothi, Gopal Krishan, Professor, Music Department, Delhi University, also came to Arvind Parikh much later.  Initiated early to sitar by his father, he trained with Parvatikar Veenavadak for quite some time but admired the style of Vilayat Khan, intently listened to his records, and tried to play like him. He said, “I met guru Arvind Parikh several times during important university events. One day, I realised I must learn the intrinsic details of this beautiful style’s aesthetics in its correct perspective. That urge brought me to Arvind Parikh. I am blessed that he accepted me. He loves teaching. He never gets tired of repeating the same advice or melodic patterns. After talim he makes us revise till it gets engraved on our minds.”


“To serve the cause of legacy, guru Arvind Parikh generously spends money and gives away his precious possessions,” added Ashwin Dalvi. Initially, he emerged as a renowned sitar exponent, served as a lecturer at Banasthali and Sayajirao Universities and rose to the level of a state minister of Rajasthan. “The day I saw guruji’s surbahar for the first time, I started playing it on an impulse. A feeling of completeness engulfed me. It did not escape his mind-reading eyes. He gave his precious instrument to me and advised me to leave the sitar. I was shocked by the sudden turn of events. But he made me understand the difference between the playing techniques of sitar and surbahar. Content-wise, the treatment of khayal anga on surbahar is very different from that of sitar. With his blessings and relentless guidance, he strives to keep this aspect of Vilayatkhani baaj alive. This passion of guruji inspired me to remain committed to surbahar now.”                 

There are several professionally qualified ladies as well who train with Arvind Parikh. This clan is led by Suvarnalata Rao, one of his senior-most disciples, who is the Head of the Indian Music Section, NCPA, Mumbai. Amruta Kulkarni is a qualified civil engineer, and Madhura Karambelkar is a chartered accountant and yoga therapist. Amruta says she enjoys the talim sessions, especially because Arvind Parikh always goes out of his way to make them comfortable. She says, “He keeps cracking jokes to cheer us up after an arduous lesson or a disappointing recital. He often says, ‘Jo hansa, vo basa’ (smile settles everything).”


Madhura echoed, “Guruji’s actions speak louder than his words. Apart from music, his most effective teaching is his disciplined lifestyle, unwavering patience and sharp wit. I have learnt a lot by observing him. I feel inspired to try and impart the life skills that have helped me become a better person, to balance my professional commitments and music, my passion.”


While commencing the celebration with a welcome speech, Suvarnalata Rao informed that Arvind Parikh has gone on record with digitally documented reference material that scientifically elaborates the correct posture, hand placement, stage demeanour and technique of playing the sitar as well as the content of treating a raga including 180 paltas, 400 gat compositions, the prescribed sequence of playing alaap and gats in a raga according to its persona and mood, self-composed poems to help remember several prakar or varieties of a raga and their melodic differences; e.g. Malhar / Todi / Sarang ke Prakar, the list is endless.


All this for a secure future of his Ustad’s style and gharana, which is immortal. It was heartening to come across such well-informed pundits to follow suit and preserve the core content of their gharana’s music before running after technical virtuosity. As the saying goes, Phoolon ko bhi hawa se dosti chahiye, chaman mein khushbu failane ki khatir (even flowers need to make friends with the breeze to spread their fragrance in the garden.