Baij bust of Allauddin off display for 20 years

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  • Published 29.05.13
Ramkinkar Baij

May 28: A bust of Ustad Allauddin Khan sculpted by the legendary Ramkinkar Baij disappeared from display at the seat of institutional culture in the country’s capital over 20 years ago without anyone being any the wiser.

Not even the Sangeet Natak Akademi, where the sculpture was installed in 1952 after being brought from Santiniketan where it was made on the instruction of Rabindranath Tagore.

An Akademi official in the documentation department said: “It went missing just after the retirement of Akademi secretary Keshav Kothari in 1990. None of us knew why the bust was moved or where it was kept as the shifting happened secretly. We do not even know where it is located now,” he said, pointing at a pile of luggage trolleys and suitcases in a corner of the audio-visual library where the bust was once placed on a four-foot podium.

For nearly a quarter century, no one had enquired about the sculpture until The Telegraph asked the Akademi, which was reluctant to divulge its whereabouts but said it was in its possession.

The Akademi officer in charge of the museum of musical instruments, Jayant Raj Choudhary, said he did not know why the sculpture had gone off display.

“We were not at the helm of affairs when it was moved.”

Asked if the bust of the sarod maestro could now be put back where it was earlier, he said there was no space.

“It is one of the most valuable possessions of the Akademi. But we do not even have a proper round-the-clock surveillance system, such as a closed-circuit television camera, which can help us keep an eye on displayed objects. I do not think we can take the risk of putting it in public view.”

Ustad Allauddin Khan’s bust

Former Visva-Bharati professor and author of My Days with Ramkinkar Baij, Somendranath Bandyopadhyay, said it was a shame that the country’s most prestigious state-run performing arts body did not have the infrastructure to display the sculpture.

Baij had sculpted the bust when the Ustad went to Santiniketan to teach music at the Sangeet Bhavana as a guest professor at Tagore’s invitation in 1935. Tagore, who also conferred the title of acharya on the Ustad, had asked the painter Nandalal Bose to get a bust of Allauddin done by Baij.

Obviously, the bust was the property of Visva-Bharati but Tagore’s biographer Krishna Kripalani, who had also married his granddaughter Nandita, took it to Delhi with his friend Baij’s permission so that it could be made the jewel in the Akademi’s crown.

“What is the Akademi doing with it if it cannot make it available to the public for viewing? If it cannot do justice to the history associated with the artwork, it should at least consider giving it away to the Lalit Kala Akademi or the Kala Bhavana at Visva-Bharati,” Bandyopadhyay said.

Art historian and Kala Bhavana professor Raman Siva Kumar said Visva-Bharati would display the sculpture if it were returned. “The sculpture is very important in the history of Visva-Bharati as two grand figures — Ustad Allauddin Khan and Ramkinkar Baij — were associated with it. Moreover, Tagore and Nandalal Bose had a role behind its creation. It will be one of our most prized possessions if we get it back,” he said.