For Sri Kuldeep Pai, based in Chennai, his life’s dedication revolves around discovering profound joy through the divine expression of music. His contribution to “Vande Guru Paramparaam (VGP)” using YouTube as a medium has garnered over a billion views, uniting Bharat musically and spiritually.
Born to a Konkani-speaking family deeply rooted in Bhakti, young Kuldeep was introduced to the music by incredibly supportive parents when he was four years old. For him, whether it was the railway station announcements, flowing water from a pipe, or the honking of a vehicle, every sound effortlessly transformed into a Swara within him at that tender age itself.
Initially, Carnatic musical training was imparted by Antony Master, later by Shamsudheen Master, and senior level under Vidwan Sri NP Ramaswamy.
Kuldeep enthusiastically engaged in musical competitions throughout his school days, consistently achieving success, but there was an intense urge to do something outside of academics and to realise the purpose of life which got fructified only through VGP at the age of 33.
The Musical foundation
At 20 years old, Kuldeep settled in Chennai, marking the beginning of his musical odyssey. His stint in playing the harmonium led him to collaborate with prominent vocalists such as OS Arun, S. Janaki, and Vani Jayaram. Then he started giving Carnatic vocal concerts, singing on major stages nationwide and abroad. Vocal performances for dance presentations initiated his understanding of emotional depth (“Bhava”) within musical creations, a fundamental groundwork that later became the cornerstone for “Vande Guru Paramparaam.”
The journey with Vande Guru Paramparaam (VGP)
Motivated by the profound Rishi Parampara of Bharat and the guidance of his spiritual guru, Sri Nochur Venkataraman (now known as Swami Ramanacharana Teertha following Sanyasa initiation), Kuldeep deliberately sought a platform that assured both musical and creative autonomy. The dependency factor in the concert arena, as well as the commercial intrusions when one works for other music companies, suffocated him. The profound desire to utilise art for a higher calling and to spread joy through music drove the inception of VGP.
The first video, “Ganesha Pancharatnam”, marked the beginning of the journey alongside Kum Sooryagayathri, subsequently, the “Ayigiri Nandini” video featuring Navadurgas gained immense popularity, reaching 194 million views, notably displayed in numerous temples during Navaratri celebrations.
As the journey progressed, notable talents such as Sri Rahul Vellal, Raghuram, Bhavya, Paavani, Sooryanarayanan, and Ishaan Pai joined, contributing their flawless renditions. Particularly, Ishaan Pai’s rendition of the Vishnu Sahasranama has gained widespread acclaim for its impeccable pronunciation and is steadily rising in popularity.
Later, compositions of Sri Adishankaracharya, Sadashiva Brahmendra, Bhadrachala Ramadasa, Appayya Dikshitar, Kabir, Surdas, Marathi Abhang, Purandara Dasa, modern-day composers like Balamurali Krishna, Bhajans, and others, in languages of Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, Awadhi, Gujarathi, English and Bengali have been brought out in the 92 tracks done so far.
The “Learn Bhagavad Gita” series comprises over a hundred episodes, adopting a Gurukul-style approach to teaching its verses. On the other hand, the “Sanatana Vidya” series delves into Upanishadic teachings and diverse topics, offering practical explanations to children.
Noted Sanskrit scholar Dr. Baldevanand Sagar observes that VGP is an effective way of promoting Vedic Sanatan traditions and Indian music, and through children, it is a unique attempt.
Power of intuition
“For the past 8 years, all our productions have been guided purely by intuition after engaging in Japa and spiritual contemplation, often involving readings from Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita”, shares Kuldeep. Whether it is selecting songs, crafting melodies, or choosing the children for each piece, intuitive feelings have driven these decisions.
Kuldeep affirms, “Uninterrupted solitude in my life has been pivotal in all our productions. Every moment and every expression within Vande Guru Paramparaam has been a devoted offering to higher realms.” Drawing a comparison, he parallels this intuitive process to that of the renowned mathematician Ramanujan, who attributed his intuitive ideas to the guidance of goddess Namagiri.
He reminisces about a moment when he was pondering a release, and coincidentally, a pop-up notification on his computer regarding Kabir Jayanti appeared. This prompted an immediate inspiration, and he swiftly conceived “Nar Tum Jhoote” in Raag “Mishra Kamaj”. At that moment, the distinctive voice of Baby Niranjana flashed in his mind’s ear, and the music composition was done within a few minutes.
“The divine swallows me in those moments, where even this ‘Kuldeep’ ceases to exist,” he recalls. For him, the process involved in every release is like a garbhadharana (pregnancy), and the divine release extends unparalleled joy to the listeners, carrying the nectar of the bhava of the saintly composers.
The pillars of the journey
Gifted senior musician Sri Ganapathi has been assisting with percussions and melody arrangements for all the videos. The secret behind the musical aspects lies in the enduring and special musical rapport that Kuldeep has fostered over time with him.
Dr. Sheela Unnikrishnan, a dance teacher by profession and a spiritual seeker, helps in the shooting and video production process with her creative inputs.
Residing in Ireland, Smt Sharanya Bharathwaj takes charge of the videos’ lyrics, translations, and creative components. She stresses the extensive research and consultations essential for compiling lyrics of diverse languages, from various sources, through guidance from various scholars. Her efforts result in comprehensive video notes presenting details about composers and lyrics in native languages.
Timing of release
No specific targets are set, but videos are typically released during festive occasions such as Shivaratri and Navaratri. For instance, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” penned by Brahmashri Sadashivan, was launched in alignment with the theme of the G20 summit.A video release was timed for the inauguration of Ayodhya temple”.
The videos are meticulously crafted to enhance the aesthetic appeal. This is achieved by selecting various settings: from Himalayan locations captured with drones overlooking the Ganga, to Gurukul-style houses and rural landscapes, as seen in the “Vishamakara Kannan” Video.
Bhakti and Samarpanam
For Dr Kannan, a Sanskrit scholar, and a proponent of bhakti in his compositions, the efforts through VGP are an enriching effort towards bhakti tradition. This intense bhakti was manifested during the shooting of the “Sarvam Brahmamayam” video in Thiruvannamalai. “At the end of the solo singing by Kuldeep, the sky above opened with thunder and started showering, which was captured in the video” recalls Dr Sheela.
Sri Om Swami Sheshadri summarises the divinity of these efforts, “the series is a perennial nectar of spiritual joy overflowing to bless humanity.”
“Vande Guru Paramparaam” is an incessant Sadhana and Tapas, not just for the team involved but also for the millions of hearts across the globe.