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Pandit Surendra Narayan Das: The Rise of the Voice in Classical Music

Updated on October 21, 2017
Pandit Surendra Narayan Das
Pandit Surendra Narayan Das | Source

Vision for wonder

A child-like curiosity and the ability to wonder at the marvels of creation often characterizes the truly extraordinary. Often, these very qualities catalyze such individuals into creating some of the world's most precious intellectual output. The child within must have been particularly strong in Panditji.

At the age of twelve, he was known to have stood transfixed outside a record store, listening to the music of Ustaad Bade Gulam Ali kha Shaheeb, on his way to school. The swan must have been born then, for, it led him on a journey across the region in search of a guru. His being directed to Pandit Sree Harihar Roy, a local music guru in Comilla region.

After basic music lessons from the local teacher, Suren left comilla in search of a proper guru and travelled to Kolkata,India during 1925. After a few days there, he started learning music from Ustaad Alauddin Kha Saheeb. Few years later taking advice from Kha shaheeb, Suren went to Acharya Sree Giriza Shankar Chakrobarty for learning. The then time. it was a little bit tough to become a disciple of Achraya Giriza Shankar. But because of Suren's solemn personality and cordialness, the guru accepted him as a disciple, even accommodated him occasionally. The disciple learnt a few ragas, and accompanied the guru on concert tours. This was roughly during 1929–34s. During that time, he enlisted himself in Kolkata Betar as an artist of classical music.

After 1935s, taking permission from Achraya, Suren decided to reside back in Comilla. But his desire to learn classical music was not finished yet.1935 onwards, Suren started learning classical music from king of Gouripur, Mymensingh H.E. Sree Brajenndra Kishore Roy Chowdhury. From maharaja, Suren collected many unconventional raagas

Pandit Suren Das receiving Gold Medal in 1977
Pandit Suren Das receiving Gold Medal in 1977 | Source

Towering Influence

Late 1940s, Suren started providing music tuition to the students at Comilla. After few years, Panditji planned to initiate a monthly music conference in Comilla Town Hall. The basic reason was to assemble a get together as well as to judge the learning of current students. Many notable personalities in Comilla were also invited on that conference regularly.

As a consequence of music conference in 1942, he established one of the renowned music school in Bangladesh "Sangeet Shikhharthee Sammilan". He acted as Principal of this institute till his last breath in 1986. From 1942 till present around 4500+ students trained from this institute. Many of them are and were well established in the music arena in Bangladesh.

Pandit Suren Das, by his shadow name "Sadananda" and " Sudas" wrote around 700+ bandish (songs) of various raagas. Beside this, Panditji wrote 60+ bhajan, kirtaan as well as Raag based songs. Side by side, he also used to sing in various classical music conference around the region and his magical voice started to travel right across the region. At that time, he had not yet established his credentials as a traditional classical singer, but his voice and his stylish singing later found its way into his classical delivery as well. That does not lessen his rigor, only increases its luster.

As he began the development of a raga he would try and keep the raw power of voice on a tight leash, merely exhibiting a quiet menace. And then as he moved into faster paced part of the raga he would let it rip, his voice bucking across octaves at tremendous pace. The transition of his voice from a filly to a stallion, in the course of an hour, blindsided listeners into submission. His voice was so powerful, and yet there was a simplicity with which his music spokes. This was direct communication at its best, arrows straight from his voice into the hearts of the listeners.

  • During 1950s, he acted as a Principal of a Music School established by Kumar SD Barman in Agartala, India. For this, he used to travel regularly in Agartala that was near border with Comilla.
  • From 1963-1977, Panditji was the Head Examiner in the course of Music both in Secondary & Higher Secondary level in Comilla board. Because of his sole hard work Comilla Board included Music as a subject in the syllabus in both these level.
  • From 1975-1978, Panditji acted as a Principal of "Nazrul Parishad- Comilla".

Voice of Pandit Suren Das, recorded during a music conference in 1953 at Comilla

Certification letter from Maharaja Brazendra Kishor Roy Chowdhury
Certification letter from Maharaja Brazendra Kishor Roy Chowdhury | Source

Honors and Achievement

  1. Impressed on Suren's research and devotion to classical music, In 1951, King of Gouripur, Mymensingh, H.E. Maharaja Brajendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury through a congratulation letter announced him as "Gayanacharya" and "Sangeet Ratna" and also noted him as a "Professor of Music".
  2. In 1977, Comilla foundation awarded Panditji by Gold Medal on behalf of Government.
  3. In June, 1984, SD Barman Sharak Samiti, Agartala honored him as a title of "Sangeetagyya".
  4. In 1992, after his death, Birchandra Nagar Milonayton kendra (Comilla Town Hall) authority honored Panditji by adding his name in the memory stand as an honorable person in front of Independence Memory Stand.

Notable Literature

Pandit Suren Das, during his music tenure wished to publish a book on classical music but due to some difficulties it was remain unpublished. But after 25 years from his death i,e in 2011, his successors published the book on classical music named "Raaga Manjusha" by the name of Pandit Suren Das. This book was edited by his daughter Alaka Das and son Manas Kumar Das.

Successors of Pandit Suren Das

Alaka Das in front row. Subrata Das, Manas Kumar Das & Tapas Kumar das at back.
Alaka Das in front row. Subrata Das, Manas Kumar Das & Tapas Kumar das at back. | Source

Personal Life

Panditji married Bela Das during 1935. Both had four daughters and five sons. Among them, Alaka Das is one of the finest singer of Classical music at present times in Bangladesh. She is also acting as a principal of Sangeet Shikhharthee Sammilan. Elder son Advocate Ram Prasad Das in a well known Tabla player, then Pranab Kumar Das is a retired government employee as well as an organizer.

Subrata Das is a well known artist of Nazrul Sangeet. Manas Kumar Das is considered as one of the finest artist of Nazrul Sangeet ever in the history of Bangladesh and then Tapas Kumar Das is also a well known artist of Nazrul Sangeet.

All of them are enlisted in state owned Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Radio since their early music career.

Sudhin Das

 A renowned disciple of Pandit Suren Das
A renowned disciple of Pandit Suren Das

Renowned Disciples

Some renowned disciples of Pandit Surendra Narayan Das are:

  1. Late Mina Banarjee ( She stood 3rd in All India Music Conference in 1936, later recorded four Nazrul Sangeets in HMV Gramophone under direct supervision of the legend Kamal Dasgupta).
  2. Late Ratna Datta ( Gold Medalist in 1942).
  3. Late Mira Dasgupta ( was enlisted in Kolkata Betar, India as music artist).
  4. Late Chitra Datta ( Gold Medalist & 1st Class from Music Dept, in Kolkata University in 1943)
  5. Late Rani Datta ( was enlisted in Kolkata Betar).
  6. Late Ranu Roy ( was enlisted in Dhaka Betar, Bangladesh as music artist).
  7. Late Md. Hossain Khan ( was enlisted as a Tabla Player in Dhaka Betar).
  8. Late Sudhin Das ( Legendary artist of Nazrul Sangeet, Awarded by Ekushe Award (highest civilian award in Bangladesh), Sharolipikar of Nazrul Sangeet, Music Composer).
  9. Nilema Das (Renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet, Rewarded by Nazrul Padak, Awarded lifetime honor by Channel i).
  10. Late Sudhir Brahma ( was enlisted in Kolkata Betar, India).
  11. Late Ajay Sinha Roy (renowned classical musician).
  12. Late Nani Brahma.
  13. Late Ashu Battacahrya ( Renowned tabla player).
  14. Bashori Vadra ( enlisted in Chittagong Betar, Bangladesh as music artist).
  15. Kaniz Zobaida ( enlisted in Chittagong Betar as music artist).
  16. Beethi Vadra ( Gold Medalist in Music from Govt. of Pakistan).
  17. Rehana Ashikur Rahman ( renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet).
  18. Joyontee Lala (enlisted. in Chittagong Betar as music artist).
  19. Late Anjali Das.
  20. Principal Alaka Das (Active in the field of Classical music in Bangladesh for more than 50 years).
  21. Advocate Ram Prasad Das.
  22. Subrata Das (enlisted in Bangladesh Television and Dhaka Betar as music artist).
  23. Manas Kumar Das (renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet and Classical Music).
  24. Tapas Kumar Das (enlisted in Television and Dhaka Betar as music artist).
  25. Abhijeet Saha Pinak ( Renowned artist of Nazrul Sangeet).

Manas Kumar Das telling about his father Pandit Suren Das in a popular Tv station in Bangladesh

Concluding Remarks

Music seemed to require him to use every part of his body. From a slow, mesmerized, almost motionless start his eyes would roll upwards, foreshadowing the ascent of the notes that emerged from his distended, gaping mouth. His hands flailed, as though reaching for some imagined object just out of his grasp.

Perhaps Pandit Suren Das was trying to bring back to earth a soaring note from one of his magnificent taans, the series of rapid melodic passages with which great classical singers in the Hindustani tradition of northern India demonstrate how skilled they are. Panditji's music has characterized the cultural landscape of our country for nearly 70 years. To most of us, he was the quintessential Bangladeshi classical musician, iconic and supreme.

Voice of Panditji, recorded in a music conference of Sangeet Shikhharthee Sammilan in Comilla during 1964

© 2017 Joyonto


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      Zunayed Siyam 7 weeks ago

      A prolific performer. He spent his whole life for the betterment of Classical Music. May the soul of Pandit Suren Das reach its appointed destination and come under the protection of his religious forefathers.

      His years of devotional singing, relentless riyaaz and pure life have surely secured for Panditji that vision and unity with God which he yearned for!

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      Abdul Mannan 5 months ago

      From Mumbai, India, A lot of respect to the maestro.

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      Anjan Mitra 6 months ago

      My cordial respect to Pt. Surendra Narayan das Sangeet Ratna.

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      Tamal 6 months ago

      Well written. Choice of word is very matured. I am wonder to see the name of disciples. I have heard some name of this list and today got to know the name of their teacher. Thank you again.

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      Ruma Deb 6 months ago

      The people of Comilla City feels honor for Pandit Surendra Narayan Das Sangeet ratna. He is our proud. Thanks to Hub page for this nice hub.

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      Monty Roy 6 months ago

      A true devoted artist of Classical music. May God keep his soul in peace.

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      Cristina 6 months ago

      Nice write-up.

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      Joyonto 6 months ago from Bangladesh

      Thank you all for the comments.

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      Sudoy Krishna 6 months ago from India

      My respect to Ustaadji. During his time, he put his best efforts to preach Khayal and Thumri in Comilla. My respect to his family member also. This family has an unlimited contribution in spreading music at Comilla. God Bless all of them.

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      Shirin Hussain 6 months ago

      Panditji is a proud of Bengal.

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      Sumon 6 months ago

      Nice Article.

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      Rony 6 months ago

      I really amazed to see this article. I heard about Pandit Suren Das from my mother. She was a disciple of Pandit Sir during 1970s in comilla. Thank you hub page for this article.