The Bishnupur Gharana of Bengal has a prestigious past, the history of which has little been revealed. ‘Bishnupur’, the town of Lord Vishnu, is at present a Sub-division town of Bankura district in West Bengal is Mallabhum. Though not vast in area, the region holds a singnificant position in matters as political vigor, civilization and culture. Historians suggest that ‘Mallabhum’ had once been the cultural centre of Eastern India. Among its cultural achievements, music had the highest honour.
In the later part of the eighteenth century and towards the early and mid-nineteenth century, when music of different ‘Gharanas’ were gradually having their assimilation in the city-centre of Calcutta, the Dhrupad’ style flourished among the musicians of Bishnupur. To recapitulate history, the Maharaja of Bishnupur was a contemporary of Emperor Aurangzeb. The Seni Gharana was then in full bloom. Its reputation spread throghtout India. Its influence on the music of Bishnupur was enormous. It was around this time that the famous Dhrupad Singer Bahadur Khan of the Senia Gharana, descendant of Tansen, came at Bishnupur and made his Gharana popular. The next Maharaja of Bishnupur, Raghunath Singh Deo II, steered his attention towards popularising Bahadur Khan. At this time, the Ustad expressed his desire to settle down in Bishnupur and the Maharaja made all arrangements to honour him as his court singer. The Maharaja also announced that anyone having a sweet voice and interested in music could learn from Bahadur Khan without any fees. He also bore the financial liability for the poor students. In time, a good number of students became the disciples of Bahadur Khan.
Among the disciples of Bahadur Khan, the name of Gadadhar Chakravorty is noteworthy. Bahadur Khan was not only a vocalist but could also efficiently play on such instruments as the Veena, the Rabaab, the surashringaar. Gadadhar Ghakravorty learnt from his master both vocal and instrumental music. Among his worthy disciples were such talents as Ram Shankar Bhattacharya and Jadu Bhatta, whose name spread throughout India.
Most of the exponents of Bishnupur learnt Dhrupad song and instrumental music simultaneously. Bishnupur was at that time the cultural capital of India.
Shree Anantalal Banerjee of Bishnupur was an illustrious musician who had his tranining from Shri Ramshankar Bhattacharya in both vocal and instumental music. Anantalal’s sons, Sri Ramprasanna Banerjee, Sri Gopeswar Banerjee, Sri Surendranath Banerjee were prodigies of this gharana. Sri Radhika Prosad Goswami, disciple of Anantalal Banerjee, earned great fame as a Dhrupad singer. Among the students of Sri Radhikaprased were Sri Girijashankar Chakraborty, Jogendra Nath Banerjee and Bhirendre Nath Bhattacha¬rya who won their acclamation in the early conferences of Calcutta. Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty, Jamini Gangu Ii, Salien Banerjee and many others learned from Girijashankar Chakravorty. Our great Poet, Rabindra Nath Tagore had his tranings in the Dhrupad style from Radhika Prosad Goswami and Jadu Bhakti of Bishnupur. The Dhrupad style of Bishnupur had a good deal of influence on many of the songs composed by Tagore.
Sri Ramprasanna Banerjee also received his training from Sajjad Muhammed, Son of Gulam Muhammed. Sajjad Muhammed Was then staying at Jorasanko Rajbati of Raja Sourendra Mohan Tagore of Calcutta. During that time Sri Nilmadhab Chakraborty, the granson of Gadadhar Chakraborty was teaching Raja jitendra Mohan Tagor. Ustad Alauddin khan of Maihar took his lessons in Surbahar from Sri Nilmadhab Chakraborty. Sri Ganendra Prasad Goswami, the nephew of Radhika Prasad Goswami was a very famous musician. He recorded many songs in the Gramophone Company of India.
Sri Gopeswar Banerjee, a great Pioneer of the music of Bishnupur, Was the court musician of the Maharaja of Burdwan Narajoi and Mayurbhanj. He wrote a number of books on musicology as Sanget Chandrika, GeetDarpn, Geetpraveshika Sangeet Lahari and Others. Sri K C Dey, the uncle of Manna Dey, the Popular light music singer of Bengal, also learned Dhrupad from Sri Gopeswar Banerjee. Kshetramohan Goswamj another maestro in this area, Was a disciple of Ramshankar Bhattacharya. It Was he who invented the ‘Dandamatrik System of notation in Bengal.
Until a few years ago the name of Late Satyakinkar Banerjee was well known among the music lovers of Calcutta. Besides vocal music, he was adept in Surbahar and Sitar. Late Shri Nikhil Banerjee has listened to his Playing in his house at Calcutta. His Sons, Sri Amiya Ranjan Banerjee, ex-professor of Rabindra Bharati University, Sri Nihar Ranjan Banerjee Professor of Rabindra Bharati University and Sri Manoranjan Banerjee and Pdt. Mani Lal Nag are now representing the Bishnupur Gharana, almost in its twilight days, bearing just a few glimpses from its age-old tradition.