Tagore Centre in Berlin honours India-lover Alain Danielou


Berlin : A predominantly European audience here was enthralled by a virtuoso performance by reputed Dhrupad exponents Gundecha Brothers on the occasion of the 100th birth anniversary of Alain Danielou, an India lover who is credited with bringing Indian music to the West.

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The music concert was held in the Bode Museum and included presentations by Amelia Cuni, an Italian exponent of Dhrupad, and Peter Pannke, a noted German scholar. The enthusiastic response of the audience ensured that the concert went on well past midnight even though it was scheduled to conclude at 10 p.m.

The recent concert was organised by the Ethno-musicology Museum, Berlin, and the Tagore Centre of the Indian Embassy here. Danielou, a French by birth, was active on the musical scene in India, Germany and Italy. Indian ambassador Meera Shankar opened the concert with a speech.

Danielou's contribution is less known in Europe and India, but he is credited with bringing many Indian musicians to perform in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. He wrote over 30 books on various Indian lifestyles.

He devoted himself to learning and research on Indian classical music and had a major role in promoting the understanding of Vedas, Indian religion, Indian philosophy and the arts of India to people in the West.

Indian embassy sources here say that Danielou was so overwhelmed with the richness of the Indian culture that he adopted the name 'Shiv Sharan' and proclaimed himself to be a 'Hindu' – not in the religious sense but in the philosophical sense of the term.

In his writings, he often discussed the wealth of knowledge in Indian scriptures.

In one of his lectures, Danielou said: "The Indian philosophy, realising that ultimate knowledge is beyond man's understanding, sees man as part of the whole, where trees, animals, men and spirits should live in harmony and mutual respect, and it asks every one to cooperate and not endanger the artwork of the creator."

Danielou joined the Benares Hindu University as a professor in 1949 and also served as director of the College of Indian Music in Varanasi and learned Rudra Veena. Later, he highlighted the scientific principles of sound and rhythm that govern Indian classical music since the Vedic period.

Danielou had said: "The ancient Hindus were familiar with the theory of sound (Gandharva Veda), its metaphysics and physics. The hymns of the Rig Veda contain the earliest examples of words set to music, and by the time of the Sama Veda, a complicated system of chanting had started. By the time of the Yajur Veda, many musical instruments and musicians had evolved."

Danielou brought several Indian musicians to the West, including Pandit Ravi Shankar and the Dagar Brothers. He went on to set up the International Institute for Traditional Music in Berlin through which even folk and temple music and musicians were promoted.