Samālocana - Mṛdaṅga Vādyārṇava (A critique of the Book - An Ocean of Mṛdaṅga Beats) was first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol.7 issue 2 in 1895. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura reviews a book on mṛdaṅga lessons.
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
A small booklet with this name was printed in 1298. The honourable Śrīyukta Gokulānanda Mahānta Ṭhākura, a resident of Āgaḍadihi in Bardhaman district, is the author of this book. The author has given this śloka on the title page:
saṅgita-sat-kāvya guṇānabhijñaḥ khyātaḥ paśuḥ pucchaviṣāṇa-hīnaḥ
caratyasau kintu tṛṇaṁ na bhuṅkte paraṁ paśūnāṁ api bhāgya-hetoḥ
The meaning of the śloka is this – ‘those who do not know the quality of music and true poetry are almost like animals without a tail.’
In our opinion, the glories of music and true poetry are not properly described in this śloka. When music is played on a suitable instrument, the animals of the forest feel great appreciation. Śaṅgīta-śāstra (texts on musicology) are better than any other śāstra. Especially since the time of Śrīman Māhaprabhu, it is doubtful if there is anything more pleasurable to a jīva than the sound of the mṛdaṅga and the manoharsāhī-saṅgīta* which have become so prevalent. Those who do not understand tāla (rhythm), māna (tempo), rāga (main composition) or rāgiṇī (secondary composition) can also feel supreme ecstasy by listening to manoharsāhī kīrtanas. There are 51 pages in this book published by Mahānta Ṭhākura. This includes first hātuṭi (practicing simple rhythms on the mṛdaṅga) and lessons for the hands; Gradually, many beats such as matān (fast tempo), hātghāṅt (freehand) etc. are found. Ṭhākura Mahāśaya’s mṛdaṅga beats are very skillful. This book has been prepared in order to perpetuate the texts on mṛdaṅga beats. We wish that those that do business with mṛdaṅgas will, one by one, continually discuss this.
Śrī Narahari Sarkāra Ṭhākura Mahāśaya composed the following śloka in his Śrī Śacīnandanāṣtaka, which indicates the glories of the mṛdaṅga:
kṛṣṇo devaḥ kali-yuga-bhavaṁ lokam ālokya sarvaṁ
pāpāsaktaṁ samajani kṛpā-sindhu-caitanya-mūrtiḥ
tasmin yeṣāṁ na bhavati sadā kṛṣṇa-buddhir narāṇāṁ
dhik tān dhik tān dhig iti dhig iti vyāharet kiṁ mṛdaṅgaḥ
(“Kṛṣṇa saw that in Kali-yuga, everyone is attached to vice. Thus He appeared in the form of Śrī Caitanya, who is an ocean of mercy. The sound, dhik tān, dhik tān of the mṛdaṅga seems to say, “Fie on them, fie on those men who do not accept Him as Kṛṣṇa!” – Śrī Śacīnandanāṣtaka 9)
*Translators Note: For more information on the manoharsāhī style of kīrtana, please see the article, ‘Opposition to the Conclusions of Bhakti and Incompatible Rasa.’