ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reflections on the Guru–Shishya Parampara

​Beyond a Culture of Debt

At the root of sexual harassment in the arts is an unquestioning culture of subservience.

On 2 September 2020, a student of Dhrupad Sansthan, Bhopal, accused Dhrupad musicians (late) Ramakant Gundecha and Akhilesh Gundecha of sexual harassment in a Facebook post. The post received an array of responses from the music community comprising classical musicians, patrons, listeners and students of music. While some expressed shock at these testimonies, others jumped to reprimand the woman (who had put up the post on behalf of her friends) for maligning the pristine image of their revered gurus. Many resorted to victim blaming by questioning the timing of the testimony. Some doting shishyas even tried to adjudicate the case in favour of their gurus through a social media trial in the comments section! What was consistent among these varied responses was the conspicuous lack of any semblance of unconditional solidarity with the survivors and of a clear condemnation of the Gundecha Brothers. Over the past month, as more testimonies have come out against all three brothers, including Umakant Gundecha, the music community has been pushed to think through what is being called a “crisis” in the world of Indian classical music.

One hears laments about the guru–shishya parampara losing its sacred essence, and that the “sanctity” of this relationship has been tarnished by the emergence of these testimonies and that students will “lose confidence in the guru” and stop respecting their “master.” Even the few who have extended solidarity and support for the survivors stress the importance of this tradition and the need to preserve it. However, we believe that this lament feeds into the conservative attitude of the responses mentioned above and serves to defend the acts of the Gundecha Brothers in the name of conserving the parampara. It is then essential for us, as students of music, to critically probe this relationship between “master” and the disciple through a close reading of the Indian music practice.

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Updated On : 10th Nov, 2020

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