Lalmani Misra

Lalmani Misra (11 August 1924 – 17 July 1979), M.A., PhD, D. Mus. (Veena), M.Mus. (Vocal), B.Mus. (Sitar, Tabla), (Sahitya Ratna) Dean & Head, Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, was an eminent Indian classical musician known as much for his art as for his scholarship.

Initiation into music

Lalmani learnt Dhruvapada (Dhrupad) Dhamar in the tradition of Pt. Shankar Bhatt and Munshi Bhrigunath Lal. He learnt Khayal singing with Ustad Mehndi Hussain Khan, a disciple of Ustad Vazir Khan of Rampur Seni Gharana. He received training in Dhruvpad, Bhajan and Tabla from Swami Pramodanand; in sitar from Shri Shukdev Roy. Under the tutelage of Ustad Amir Ali Khan he perfected several other musical instruments.

Lalmani was appointed on the post of assistant music director in Shehanshahi Recording Company, Calcutta at the age of twelve. He worked in several films for the next two years. His interaction with these two, kindled an interest for orchestration in Lalmani.

Making music work

Performing in Berlin, with a troupe, April 1932

He returned to Kanpur in 1940 after his father's death. A musical prodigy himself, he experimented with ways of imparting musical training to children, at a time and place where learning of music was shunned by the chaste and noble. He opened several "Bal Sangeet Vidyalaya" – music schools for children; modified the syllabus according to the need of learner, both formal and informal; started an orchestra society. He established the reputed institution of the region, "Bharatiya Sangeet Parishad", and a music college – "Gandhi Sangeet Mahavidyalaya". Excited by all things musical he persisted in experimenting and soon his innovations in technique, style, and orchestration brought him repute and regard.


The renowned dance maestro Pt. Uday Shankar offered him the position of music director in his troupe. Lalmani Misra travelled with the troupe composing scores for the innovative dance presentations and ballets on mythological and contemporary themes. The troupe covered several major towns and cities of India and covered Ceylone, France, England, Belgium, America and Canada between 1951 and 1955. Not only was he adept at playing several types of musical instruments, he also had a knack for orchestration that served the needs of an innovative Dance troupe.

The experience with the troupe made him try his hand on stage as well. He created Meera opera that was staged in 1956 at Kanpur. The audience were amazed by sudden disappearance of Meera from stage, apparently merging into the idol of Lord Krishna.

Music educationist

On his return Lalmani Misra was appointed as the Registrar of "Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mandal Mahavidyalaya, Bombay" – the prestigious most body for Indian Classical Music education. On the pressing invitation of citizens and city officials, he resigned to join the college (Gandhi Sangeet Mahavidyalaya) he had founded in his hometown Kanpur, as its Principal in 1956.

Meanwhile, the College of Music and Fine Arts had been established by Pandit Omkarnath Thakur at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi in 1950. By 1955–56 its teething troubles were over and department was ready for expansion. A scheme for its re-organization was prepared with inspiration and encouragement provided by the then Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer. On the insistence of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Lalmani Misra accepted appointment as Reader in the college and left his native Kanpur a third time for Varanasi in 1957.

Shaping higher education

Dr. Lalmani Misra followed stalwart predecessors like Omkarnath Thakur and Dr. B. R. Deodhar in the Department of Performing Arts at BHU. Under his able helmsman-ship, the college increased its reputation in imparting the best education in Hindustani classical music. A rigorous hands-on course in performance and composition culminating in doctoral degree (D.Mus.) was started which has earned faculty positions for almost all its graduates around the globe. He was visiting Professor to Music faculty at Penn University, Philadelphia from 1969 to 1978. Many students came to learn intricacies of music with him. Pandit Uday Shankar sent his son Ananda Shankar to Dr. Misra to learn the art of orchestration.

Writing music

Multi-faceted Dr. Misra, apart from secretly perfecting the technique of Vichitra Veena after having heard a performance by Abdul Aziz Khan of Patiala, had carried out research on history and development of Indian musical instruments. His thesis published by Bharatiya Jnanpith, New Delhi in 1973 (second edition 2002, reprinted 2004; fifth edition 2012) under the title Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya dispelled the existing myths about the origin of Indian instruments and serves to this day as the primary reference work for identification, authentication and classification of Indian musical instruments. He wrote several other books. The first part of a four-part treatise on techniques of strings was published as Tantri Nad. After his death in 1979 his son Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra, internationally renowned Vichitra Veena artiste and professor, Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, BHU, Varanasi was working on the remaining volumes, aided by hand-written notes by Lalmani Misra when on 13 August 1999 he succumbed to heart-attack at a five-day function organised in memory of his father at Bhopal. A book on essays written by Dr. Misra – Sangeet Aur Samaj (Music and Society) were edited by his daughter Dr. Ragini Trivedi and published by Madhukali Prakashan, Bhopal in 2000. His biographical sketches and writings have been printed in several books and journals. Dr. Ragini Trivedi is working on books planned by Dr. Misra which could not be published during his lifetime. First collection of featuring some of his compositions has been published as Rag Vibodh: Misrabani by Hindi Madhyam Karyanvaya Nideshalaya, Delhi. Another set of compositions has been presented in a symbol-based notation system, Ome Swarlipi. second volume of Rag Vibodh: Misrabani was released in February 2013 by Hindi Madhyam Karyanvaya Nideshalaya, Delhi.

Researcher and inventor

Carrying out research in the music of Vedic age, he unravelled the mystery of Samic scale. To re-establish the lost notes of that period he created a Raga Sameshwari. Dr. Misra also first made it possible in history of mankind, the twenty-two Shruti-s (not to be confused with śruti, the genre of Vedic literature) to be distinctly heard on a single Veena. The invention and key to its function has been explained in “Shruti Veena” published on 11 February 1964 by Vikram Singh, Narendra Printing Works, Varanasi.

He had created several other Raga-s like Shyam Bihag, Jog Todi, Madhukali, Madhu-Bhairav, Baleshwari etc., all in strict adherence with rigid classical norms for creation of new Raga-s. Unesco released a compact disc of his Vichitra Veena entitled The Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra in 1996.

True inventions are seldom noticeable. Early on, Dr. Misra found use of Teen Tal in slow and medium compositions ubiquitous. He realised that it was the possibility of Chhand-s that made this Tal a favourite of most instrumentalists. He experimented and created equally alluring Chhand-s in other Tal-s. Legendary percussionists were enamored by his compositions because of their complex, oblique rhythm pattern and called it 'Koot ki Taan'. Later this style came to be known as Misrabani.

  1. .Nada Rupa, Sharma, Dr. (Miss) Premlata, Ed. College of Fine Arts, B.H.U., Varanasi: 1961. Special Issue with Supplement, Vol I, No. 1, January 1961
  2. . Sangeetendu Pandit Lalmani Ji Misra: Ek Pratibhavan Sangeetagya, Tewari, Laxmi Ganesh. Swar Sadhana, California, 1996.
  3. . Shruti Aur Smriti:Mahan Sangeetagya Pandit Lalmani Misra, Chourasiya, Omprakash, Ed. Madhukali Prakashan, Bhopal, August 1999.
  4. . Sangeetendu Acharya Lalmani Misra. Vidushi Premlata Sharma
  5. . Ethnomusicologist Dr. Laxmi Ganesh Tewari
  6. . Sindura on Vichitra Veena, a short movie clip on Online Music Education
  7. . Celestial Music of Pandit Lalmani Misra. DVD. Santa Rosa, California: Svar Sadhana, 2007.
  8. . Raga-Rupanjali. Ratna Publications: Varanasi. 2007. A collection of Compositions of Sangeetendu Dr. Lalmani Misra by Dr. Pushpa Basu.
  9. . Raga Vibodh: Misrabani. Dr. Ragini Trivedi. Hindi Madhyam Karyanvaya Nideshalaya: Delhi. 2010.
  10. . Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi. Dr. Ragini Trivedi. 2010.
  11. . Links to musical pieces
  12. . Madhukali – Organization in memory of Sangeetendu Dr. Lalmani Misra
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