Kalyan Mukherjea

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Dr. Kalyan Mukherjea
Birth name Kalyan Kumar Mukherjea
Born 1943
Origin Calcutta, East Bengal, India
Died 2010
Genres Hindustani classical music
Occupation(s) Composer, Sarod player
Instruments Sarod
Years active 1956–1995
Labels India Archive Music
Notable instruments

Kalyan Kumar Mukherjea (1943–2010) was an authority on Indian classical music, particularly the Senia Shahjahanpur Gharana (school) of Sarod. He was also a mathematician.

Early life[edit]

Mukherjea was born in Calcutta in 1943. His father, A K Mukherjea, was a successful barrister who rose to become a judge of the Supreme Court of India.[1] Justice Mukherjea was also a scholar of Indian philosophy, and had made significant contributions to Navya-Nyāya literature.[2] Kalyan thus grew up in a milieu that placed considerable significance on erudition and culture.

Justice Mukherjea's close friends included musicians like the sarod maestro Radhika Mohan Maitra. Young Kalyan began training under Maitra in 1956. He also studied with the sitarist, vocalist and composer, Prof D T Joshi.

Mukherjea's musical education continued uninterrupted throughout his performing career, but there were periods during which he was not under the direct tutelage of a master (1962–1965 and 1967–1976). These years spent in relative isolation from the Indian music scene, Mukherjea believes, contributed as much to his growth as a musician as did his formal training. Mukherjea has had a unique experience, doubling as a mathematician and an uncompromising classicist on the sarod.

As a mathematician[edit]

Mukherjea obtained his undergraduate degree from Cambridge University, followed by a doctorate in mathematics from Cornell. In 1968, he joined the mathematics faculty of UCLA. He remained at UCLA until 1976, when he returned to India to take up a professorship at the Indian Statistical Institutes in Delhi and Calcutta.

His research interests primarily concerned topology. He had to his credit authoritative publications in Fredholm manifolds[3] and coincidence theory.[4] In collaboration with his erstwhile research student Rajendra Bhatia, he had also contributed to matrix analysis.[5]

His work had spawned a significant body of further research, by his erstwhile students as well as colleagues and contemporaries.[6][7] He had also mentored several significant contributors to the field,[8] including Rajendra Bhatia, Basudeb Datta, Siddhartha Gadgil, Amritanshu Prasad, Mahan Mitra, and Kingshook Biswas.

As a musician[edit]

Mukherjea's contribution to music is considerable if unconventional.[citation needed] He has been recognised as a pedagogue, theorist and performer of merit. This recognition, however, has been sporadic in coming, although his own involvement with music remained fairly consistent across different stages of his life.

While at UCLA, Mukherjea served as an instructor of Hindustani instrumental music in the newly formed ethnomusicology department, and collaborated closely with Nazir Jairazbhoy in the early days of the program. His students include Dr. Peter Manuel, Professor of Music at Hunter College, CUNY, who has acknowledged his debt to Mukherjea in several publications.[9][10]

Mukherjea performances have been limited. His 25-year span as a performing artist saw him play about fifty concerts in all. It was entirely by chance that he encountered Lyle Wachovsky of India Archive Music, New York, who gave his music a global audience by publishing a full-length CD of Ragas Shuddha Kalyan and Shukla Bilawal. Most of Mukherjea's concerts have been recorded, and if one manages to get past the often poor recording quality, he has much to offer to the connoisseur of Indian raga music. Additionally, from 1983 to 1990, Mukherjea was a regular broadcaster on All India Radio, Delhi.

While Kalyan was living in Los Angeles, his friend Jeffrey Pawlan made a high quality recording of Kalyan playing Piloo alap on the sarod on 22 September 1974. It is 10.5 minutes long. This recording has now been digitised and will be available soon from the Rajan Parrikar Music Archive.

Mukherjea's music is difficult to categorise under usual taxonomic classifications. While rooted in tradition, it does not rigidly adhere to convention. His approach values logic and aesthetic sensitivity above other considerations. A good example of this is his approach to interpreting the controversial Raga Shuddha Kalyan, which finds mention in an article by Deepak Raja on the issue.[11]

Paralytic stroke and other problems[edit]

In May 1995, Mukherjea's musical career came to a sudden end, as he suffered a paralytic stroke, and lost mobility of the left side of his body. Research in topology continued for a number of years, but waned eventually as Kalyan's eyesight, already a matter of concern at the time of his stroke, began to deteriorate very rapidly into near blindness.

In the last phase of his life, Mukherjea led an active life for a person of his physical limitations. He was deeply involved in the community of visually impaired computer users, and had assisted several such individuals in setting up the "Audio Desktop" of Emacspeak. Additionally, he continued to play an inspirational role in the lives of a number of young mathematicians.

On the musical front, other than providing occasional guidance to other disciples of Radhika Mohan Maitra's gharana (e.g. Sanjoy Bandopadhyay, Prattyush Banerjee, Jon Barlow etc.), he nurtured a number of his own pupils, including Anirvan DuttaGupta and Arnab Chakrabarty.

One of Kalyan's friends in Los Angeles was Jeffrey Pawlan. After Kalyan moved back to India in 1976, they lost track of each other. Jeffrey reconnected via email and phone in January 2009. Here is additional information from an email that Kalyan wrote to Jeffrey on 25 January 2009:

A lot of things have changed since '76, when I left L A.

In 1980 my marriage floundered and in May '81 I got an ex parte divorce from Deepa. In '84 I married a Telugu poetess who also played the Carnatic Veena. We had a son in '85, who is now in his penultimate year at the National Law School in Bangalore. Sadly, my wife, Lalita, died last August from esophygial cancer.

As for other news: I had a retinal detachment in my right eye and lost all vision in that eye. I am now completely blind: the left eye has stopped functioning through a combination of cataract and glaucoma. My sarode playing days ended in May '95 when I suffered a massive stroke which has left my left side completely paralysed. However since my left brain was unaffected, I continued to teach till I retired in October of 2005. I had visited the US for about 3 months in '90 to lecture in Hawaii, UCLA and MIT. I spent most of my time in New Jersey with my sister-in-law. While there I recorded some music for India Archives Music of New York. They released a CD based on these recordings in 2003. You probably saw these mentioned when you googled me. In 2003 I also published a graduate level textbook of maths, the second edition of which I revised last year. Needless to say, I operate my computer using a (linux based) text to speech synthesizer and a wonderful "Audio Desktop" written by an Indian-born engineer who now works for google. With best regards, Kalyan


Prof. Mukherjea died on 31 March 2010, after suffering a massive heart attack a few weeks before.[12]


Journal articles: mathematics[edit]

Bhatia, Rajendra; Mukherjea, Kalyan K (1994), "Variation of the Unitary Part of a Matrix", SIAM Journal on Matrix Analysis and Applications, 15 (3): 1007–14, doi:10.1137/S0895479892243237 

Mukherjea, Kalyan K (1970), "The Homotopy Type of Fredholm Manifolds", Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, 149 (2): 653–663, JSTOR 1995419, doi:10.2307/1995419 

Mukherjea, Kalyan K (1972), "New Methods in Coincidence Theory", Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 34 (2): 615–20, JSTOR 2038417, doi:10.2307/2038417 

Mukherjea, Kalyan K; Sankaran, Parameswaran (1996), "Invariant points of maps between Grassmannians" (PDF), Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 124 (2): 649–53, doi:10.1090/S0002-9939-96-03152-8 

Books: mathematics[edit]

1. Mukherjea, Kalyan:Differential Calculus In Normed Linear Spaces, American Mathematical Society, 2003 (ISBN 8185931437, Hardcover)

Writings: music[edit]

Radhika Mohan Maitra – His Life and Times

Discography: music[edit]

Raga Shuddha Kalyan, India Archive Music, 2003

Similar artists[edit]


In 2010, The National Law School of India University named the Best Speaker trophy at the National Law School Debate, South Asia's largest Asians Parliamentary debate, after him.


  1. ^ List of Judges of the Supreme Court of India, Ministry of Law, Government of India, retrieved 22 May 2008 
  2. ^ Mukherjea, A K (1976), "The Definition of Pervasion (Vyāpti) in Navya-Nyāya", Journal of Indian Philosophy, 4 (1–2): 1–50, doi:10.1007/BF00211106 
  3. ^ Mukherjea, Kalyan K (1970), "The Homotopy Type of Fredholm Manifolds", Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, 149 (2): 653–663, JSTOR 1995419, doi:10.2307/1995419 
  4. ^ Mukherjea, Kalyan K (1972), "New Methods in Coincidence Theory", Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 34 (2): 615–20, JSTOR 2038417, doi:10.2307/2038417 
  5. ^ Bhatia, Rajendra; Mukherjea, Kalyan K (1994), "Variation of the Unitary Part of a Matrix", SIAM Journal on Matrix Analysis and Applications, 15 (3): 1007–14, doi:10.1137/S0895479892243237 
  6. ^ Harris, Gary; Martin, Clyde (1988), "Large Roots Yield Large Coefficients: An Addendum to 'The Roots of a Polynomial Vary Continuously as a Function of the Coefficients'", Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 102 (4): 993–94, JSTOR 2047347, doi:10.2307/2047347 
  7. ^ Sankaran, Parameswaran (2003), "A Coincidence Theorem for Holomorphic Maps to G/P", Canadian Mathematical Bulletin, 46 (2): 291–98, doi:10.4153/CMB-2003-029-4 
  8. ^ Mathematics Genealogy Project: Kalyan Kumar Mukherjea, American Mathematical Society, retrieved 22 May 2008 
  9. ^ Manuel, Peter (1989), Ṭhumrī in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives, Varanasi: Motilal Banarsidass, pp. vii, 176, ISBN 81-208-0673-5 
  10. ^ Manuel, Peter (1999), Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (published 1993), p. xviii, ISBN 0-226-50401-8 
  11. ^ Raja, Deepak, Raga Shuddha Kalyan: How and why it is changing, retrieved 24 May 2008 
  12. ^ Chakarbarty, Arnab, My Mentor, retrieved 1 March 2011 

External links[edit]

An All India Radio Recording (1984)