Pandit Shankar Pandit– ‘The Great Shaivite – Sufi Saint Musician’

Pandit Shankar Pandit ji (1856 – 1935), the veteran Shaivite – Sufi Saint Musician of Sopori – Sufiana Gharana of Sopore (Kashmir) imbibed the musicianship from his predecessors especially his father, the Great Saint Musician Pandit Suraj Pandit ji. He was known to be one of the greatest musicians of his time in the State of Jammu & Kashmir and combined in him both the styles i.e. Sufiana and Hindustani Gayaki with Santoor, Sitar and vocal as his forte. Additionally he was also a great composer and a writer having composed a number of Bandishes (vocal compositions), Tilanas (Taranas) and Bhajans in Sanskrit, Hindi and Kashmiri set to various Muqams and Ragas.

A scholar of Sanskrit, Kashmiri, Persian and Arabic with great command on Sharda Script and languages like Hindi and Urdu, Panditji pioneered the introduction of Indian classical musical patterns into the Sufiana Gayaki system. He introduced Gatkari (instrumental melodic patterns) and Laykari (rhythmic elements) into Sufiana music system and with his creativity and innovations set a new style of presentation called the ‘Sufi Baaj’, which was the first ever innovation in Sufiana music blending traditional Sufiana and Indian Classical music.

Pandit Shankar Pandit ji immersed his entire life into music and to its propagation in various parts of the region. A saintly person, Panditji was deeply associated with the Saints and Sufis of the valley namely Swami Lal Ji, Rahim Saib Sopore, Swami Nand Lal ji and others. His divine music was believed to have the power of healing in recognition of which he was given a large Jagir (land) in Sopore by the then Revenue Minister Hon’ble Chodhary Faizulla Sahib in the regime of Maharaja Pratap Singh. He would often hold Baithaks or Mehfils (musical gatherings) in his orchards or his residential compound at Sopore, which would also feature performances of Surnai players from Bhand tradition and Sufiana musicians. Musicians visiting the State of Jammu and Kashmir from Lahore and elsewhere would also perform at either of the places. He became so famous that his native place got associated with his name and it is here that the family acquired the name “Sopori”.