On the auspicious Saraswati Puja Day, 25 October 2020, Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence launched the ‘Bachelor of Arts in Music & Dance’. Highlighting the importance of fine arts, Sadguru Sri Madhusudhan Sai mentioned, “The theory of rasa (essential flavor of vocal music, instrumental music, and dramatic art) has been gifted to the world by our (Indian) scriptures and our (Indian) culture. But rasa is not just entertainment, our (Indian) music is about enlightenment, it’s not just entertainment, it is said in our Upanishads, raso vai saha, the divine is the rasa. The essence, the ultimate feeling of oneness, that rasa is divinity and that is possible through our (Indian) music, is what our ancients (Indian musicians) have proven to us. With the passage of time, it has deteriorated to an unrecognisable version of what it was originally. Now it is our time to work hard to renovate it, to bring it back to its original pristine glory and that responsibility is what has come upon our shoulders and I am sure that our children, staff, teachers, everybody will rise to the occasion and do their best in order to bring back that glory to Indian music, dance and fine arts in times to come.”

In continued pursuit of this ideal, another significant step was taken on 18 March 2021 by the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence, along with the Dr Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University.

The momentous evening at Premamrutham unfolded with Veda and bhajans. Whilst the bhajans were in full swing, Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai arrived along with the distinguished guest, Dr Nagesh V Bettakote, Vice-Chancellor, Karnataka State Dr. Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University, Mysore followed by Sri B N Narasimha Murthy, Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence, Dr. T Venugopal, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Dr. Hanumanth Rao Naidu, Registrar of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence and they occupied their seats on the dais.

Dr Sai Lakshmi introduced the distinguished members who had gathered for the Exchange of MoU for the promotion of Indian music and performing arts between Karnataka State Dr Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University and Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence. A warm welcome was extended to Sadguru and the esteemed dignitaries. The staff and students of the Music and Performing Arts University were also welcomed.

The evening programme commenced with Vedic invocation by first year girl students of the university. They chanted the Nasadeeya Suktam with utmost devotion.

Dr Sai Lakshmi further mentioned that Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, while extolling the greatness of Bharat in His Telegu poem, had said, “Sangeethas sahitya vidyalannu dhee shakti choopina divya bhoomi.”

This translates to mean that music, poetry and all other art forms were a gift to the world from the sacred and divine land of India.  Music was known to be the first language of Bharat and Bharathiyas. Hence, music has been a medium to instruct, remind and reiterate divinity. Music is a facet of our rich culture which has to be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence had, during the Navaratri festival of 2020, collaborated with Dr Gangubai Hangal University to launch the bachelor’s and diploma programmes in the performing arts.

The Karnataka State Dr. Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University was established by the Karnataka State Government in 2008 to promote classical music and performing arts like dance, theatre, folklore, and other related areas.

The collaboration between the two universities is expected to enable knowledge sharing through training and exchange programs, joint performances, celebration of music festivals and much more.

In his talk, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy elaborated on the importance of music in Indian culture. “Music is said to form a bridge between spiritual and worldly knowledge,” he said, quoting Aldous Huxley, Beethoven, Kuvempu and the Upanishads. He believed that worldly knowledge would give one a way of life whereas spiritual knowledge would give one a reason to lead a meaningful life. “Spiritual knowledge helps one realise that the sole purpose of life is to realise God,” said Sri Narasimha Murthy. Saint Tyagaraja had said that one need not sacrifice home and family for salvation. Amalgamation of bhakti with naada is all that is necessary to experience brahmananda. He also explained that in India, music was perceived as a synonym to bhakti. “It is as a mark to the importance of music that the Karnataka State Government established a university in the name of Dr. Gangubai Hangal, a renowned Hindustani musician,” explained Sri Narasimha Murthy. Expressing gratitude on behalf of Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence for the opportunity to join hands with Karnataka State Dr. Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University, he concluded his introductory remarks.

Following this, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy and Dr Nagesh V Bettakote exchanged the Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities. The document was briefly explained to the audience as well.

Dr Nagesh V Bettakote then addressed the gathering. He began by expressing his gratitude to be a part of the celebrations that evening. He explained the genesis of the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, classical music and theatre which could be credited to Bharatmuni. “Music is often referred to as the fifth veda,” he said. He shared his first impressions of Sadguru who he initially thought to be a social and educational leader, but later understood him to be a cultural and spiritual leader as well. He concluded by expressing his desire to showcase our culture and heritage on international platforms.

Thereafter, Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai delivered the divine discourse.

While emphasising that veda and naada were the lifelines of Indian culture, Sadguru said, “Veda was not taught to everyone and hence naada came to the rescue of those who couldn’t learn veda. Bharatmuni had said in his natyashastra that wherever there was gita and vadya, negativity would be obliterated from such a place and it would become auspicious. It is said that music is the shortest route to divinity. The Fine Arts are required for spiritual development of a person.”

Sadguru went on to express His heartfelt joy and gratitude towards Dr Nagesh who had put immense efforts in making this collaboration possible. “Indians connect with each other through music. It has helped people spread messages and unite during crises like colonialism.” Sadguru also mentioned the importance of bhava, especially bhakti bhava in music. He compared it to sugar in a pudding without which a pudding cannot be called one.  He concluded the discourse with a story of Tansen, one of the nine gems in the Moghul Emperor Akbar’s court.

“One day, Emperor Akbar and Tansen were walking through a forest and happened to hear someone singing. Impressed with the mellifluous voice, Emperor Akbar and Tansen followed the sound in search of the source. They were pleased to see a man singing the glory of the Lord with utmost devotion. Emperor Akbar, being respectful, waited near the door until the man was done with his song. Upon enquiry, Tansen revealed that the man was none other than his guru, Haridas. When Akbar further questioned Tansen how his guru’s music was much better than his own even though he was taught by this great one. Tansen replied that while he performed for the King, his guru sang for the Lord alone.”

In conclusion, Sadguru said, “Music should not only be for entertainment, it should lead to enlightenment.” He then requested the students to make good use of the opportunity provided to them. Blessing everyone profusely, Sadguru ended His divine discourse.

The staff and students of both universities then presented an impressive cultural ensemble that left the audience spellbound. The group presented renditions in both Hindustani and Carnatic ragas with a percussion piece and devotional songs. The staff and students of Dr. Gangubai Hangal University presented Hindustani renditions while the staff and students of Sathya Sai University presented Carnatic renditions. The programme concluded with everyone’s favourite, the Apasthamba Sutram.

The evening came to a close with Mangala Arati being offered to beloved Sadguru.