Post No. 10,626

Date uploaded in London – –    4 FEBRUARY   2022         

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I listen to his Abhangs everyday; he merges himself into ragas; he dissolves himself into music; with other musicians , EGO comes first; very visible; with Bhimsenji, only devotion is seen; it is like a saint singing the songs. So I decided to share this article from Tribune. Today 4th February 2022 is his Birth Centenary. My big salute to him)

On Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s birth centenary, doyens of music recall the magic of his voice



The powerful throw of the towering voice of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (1922-2011) shook the audiences. photo courtesy: Mukta Monish Mehta

Krishnaraj Iyengar (From Tribune Newspaper)

GOD, would you do this for us?” asks an emotional Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, pausing to clear his throat. “Make an exception,” he continues, “…a special provision for saints like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to return to the earthly realm every once in a while, spread their magic, enlighten us yet again and then you can take them back.” India is commemorating the birth centenary of the music legend who was born on February 4, 1922.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi visited Punjab in 1934 to learn from Dhrupad singer Pandit Mangatram.

Panditji’s rendering was beyond comparison. His ‘taans’ in Raag Miyan Malhar would recreate a monsoon storm sweeping across the ocean raging under a blanket of grey clouds; his early morning Raag Ahir Bhairav and Raag Ramkali would awaken the ‘chakras’ with meditative composure. His rendition of Raag Darbari Kanada resounded with gilt-edged grandeur; his passionate Marathi ‘abhanga’ renditions could transport the listener to the sanctorum of Pandharpur and the spiritual revelry of Maharashtra’s devout. This versatile colossus still drenches the souls of music lovers throughout the globe.

Beyond the powerful throw of his towering voice and the sheer volcano of cosmic energy that shook audiences with each ‘antara’ of his renditions of various ‘raags’, there lay a heart-melting gentleness at the very core of his ‘gayaki’, an unpretentious childlike innocence and yearning.

Bhim Anna to the Kannadigas, Panditji was born in Gadag in Karnataka’s Dharwad district. Named after his paternal grandfather, he would often chuckle about how he was aptly named ‘Bhimsen’ since even heftily built ladies would find the sturdy and unusually heavy infant difficult to lift!

As much a Maharashtrian as he was a Kannadiga, his music, India’s national classical treasure, is central to both states.

Dawn of a doyen

“My father was infatuated with music since his childhood. As a child, he would hang out at a local gramophone records shop that would often play recordings of great legends,” says Jayant Joshi, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s elder son.

It was here that he listened to an archival recording of the legendary Kirana Gharana’s doyen Khansaheb Abdul Karim Khan. “He was around eight or nine. It was Khansaheb’s rendition of the ethereal ‘thumri’ in Raag Jhinjhoti, ‘Piya bin nahin aavat chain’, that inspired him to become a singer,” he continues.

In his quest for a guru, he travelled far and wide across India and spent time learning from some of the leading stalwarts of the time. He would often joke about how while other youngsters ran away from home for ‘other reasons’, he ‘ran away’ in search of a guru!

Jayant says, “My father had a passion for assimilating diverse influences. When he was working at All India Radio, Lucknow, he would often travel to Benaras to listen to renowned ‘thumri’ singer Siddheshwari Devi.” Bhimsenji, according to him, created his own ‘rasaayan’, which became his uniquely individualistic style.

He finally found his guru right near him and his ‘taleem’ in the Kirana tradition began taking shape. Pandit Rambhau Kundgolkar, better known as Sawai Gandharva, incidentally a direct disciple of Khansaheb Abdul Karim Khan whom young Bhimsen idolised, resided in Kundgol, not far from his village. “Sawai Gandharva initially tested my father’s sincere resolve. Only then began his serious ‘taleem’ in the ‘gurukul’ system. My father lived with his guru, performed household chores and took care of his mentally challenged son,” Jayant shares.

I vividly remember my father’s concert at Mumbai’s famed classical venue

Parle Tilak Vidyalaya, where he sang a stunning Raag Vrindavani Sarang to a packed auditorium. After he finished, the audience that was in raptures actually forgot to applaud. There was silence after the concert until he mentioned that he had finished. Jayant Joshi, Pandit Bhimsen joshi’s son

A singer cannot be born without the indispensible stamp of Bhimsenji. Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, flute maestro

Passionate about driving, there was a time when Panditji would drive to his concerts across India. Once while traversing the Chambal valley, he was stopped by dacoits. When they got to know that he was a singer, they demanded that he sing like their favourite vocalist, Bhimsen Joshi. After an enthralling spontaneous performance, when they finally asked his name, the overjoyed dacoits, with utmost reverence, escorted him to safety. Pandit Nayan Ghosh, sitar and tabla maestro

Around 20 years ago, Panditji had a slip disc and was advised total rest. I was blessed to be sitting by his bedside and singing. When I began Ustad Abdul Karim Khansaheb’s famous Bhairavi thumri ‘Jamuna ke Teer’ with an unusual murki decoration, he almost jumped out of the bed and exclaimed, ‘Wah! Yeh baat hai!’ I can never forget that blessed moment. Pandit Jayteerth Mevundi, vocalist

Punjab connection

In Bhimsenji’s powerful voice, ‘Changey nainan waaliyan kudiyan Sadarang nu daindiyaan sainat’ in the serious morning Raag Todi sounded more prophetic than romantic. This Punjabi ‘bandish’, depicting composer Niamat Khan Sadarang’s infatuation with pretty-eyed damsels, was given to him by tabla maestro Ustad Allarakha. The ‘bandish’, an attempt at the language by the composer and the singer, both non-native speakers, is worth a hear. His connection with the region, however, goes beyond it. Bhimsenji’s Punjab visit in 1934 was the turning point of his life. Here, he took lessons from Dhrupad singer Pandit Mangatram and accompanied eminent singers on the tanpura during their concerts. “It was in Jalandhar during the famous Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan that Gwalior Gharana stalwart Pandit Vinayakrao Patwardhan suggested that the young Bhimsen, instead of travelling all the way to North India, return to his own hometown in Karnataka where his future mentor Sawai Gandharva lived,” smiles Jayant.

Performer par excellence

“After legends like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is considered India’s most iconic vocalist who enjoyed tremendous popularity among masses and music connoisseurs alike. He successfully propagated Indian music worldwide, and even in India’s remotest areas. My father, Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, actively supported Bhimsenji during the latter’s early struggling years,” says sitar and tabla maestro Pandit Nayan Ghosh.

Pandit Ghosh says that Bhimsenji had developed his own individualistic style and brought a unique dimension to the Kirana ‘gayaki’ with his robust and highly tuneful voice. “Panditji studied under several masters, including sarod maestro Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, Rampur Seheswan stalwart Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan, to name a few, and several masters in Kolkata. His singing was a melting pot of diverse influences, yet distinctly individualistic. Today, a whole generation follows his style, be it ‘khayal’, ‘thumri’, ‘abhanga’ or ‘santvaani’,” he adds.

Many maestros reminisce about his powerful stage presence and inexhaustible energy. “I have witnessed him singing for nearly five hours continuously,” Pandit Ghosh remembers. Veteran flautist Pandit Nityanand Haldipur agrees: “Bhimsenji was a giant of a musician, a product of tremendous ‘sadhana’ and stamina. He never seemed to tire and it reflected in his energetic performances.” Jayant adds, “When he took to stage, an inexplicable ‘tej’ overtook him.”

Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, a renowned vocalist and Bhimsenji’s ardent follower, is still surprised at how even during his early recordings, the master would encompass an entire ‘avartan’ cycle in a slow-paced ‘bada khayal’ with speedy ‘taans’ alone, truly a superhuman feat!

While his moving Raag Shuddha Kalyan is etched in the hearts of millions, his hallmark icons include Raag Miyan Malhar, Raag Todi, Raag Multani, Raag Abhogi, Raag Darbari Kanada, Raag Puriya and Raag Bhairavi… the list is endless. ‘Riyaaz’, he believed, was the way for a singer to rectify the flaws of his throat. It’s different from mere singing which is to present what you already know best to the audience.

Speaking about his own style, Pandit Bhimsen would admit, “I have never been choosy about imbibing from various traditions. I have heard countless performances of numerous great artistes of all ‘gharanas’ throughout my life. One never knows how and where whose influence can sink in and show up while you perform. Some of these concerts seem to me like they happened just yesterday.”

His first overseas trip was to Kabul at King Zahir Shah’s palace. It is believed that Pakistani ‘ghazal’ stars Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali would perform in Pune only on the condition that Bhimsenji honoured them with his presence.

His on-stage spontaneity and histrionics, admirers believe, were literally his soul in action. He would be in a trance. “He never indulged in deliberate gimmicks like catchy ‘taans’ for mass appeal. When he sang, he was lost in his own world,” recalls Pandit Nityanand, who has heard him over five decades.

“Jab woh gaate the, aisa lagta tha ki bhagwan ki awaaz hai,” says Pandit Chaurasia. When India conferred Bhimsenji with the Bharat Ratna in 2008, it was his wife’s dream come true. “Previously, singers were hardly honoured. When he received the news, he was unwell, but overjoyed. His biggest award, however, was the love and respect of peers and admirers,” Jayant recounts.


“A singer cannot be born without the indispensible stamp of Bhimsenji,” gushes Pandit Chaurasia. Panditji’s monumental style made a mark on a dynamic generation of India’s classical vocalists, including his younger son Pandit Shrinivas Joshi and celebrated vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan.

Eminent disciple Pandit Anand Bhate calls Bhimsenji’s teaching style ‘sarvaangi paddhat’, a system of all-round imbibing. It included traditional Kirana Gharana facets, the dos and don’ts of stage performance and offering audiences fulfilling recitals within limited time slots. “Guruji would say, ‘sing in your own voice rather than imitating mine’,” says Pandit Bhate. He says that his style could well be called Bhimseni Gayaki, a bouquet of various styles over a Kirana base.

When vocalist Jayteerth Mevundi sings, he often leaves the audiences tearful. With his astounding ‘tayyari’ and subtle nuances imbibed from the maestro, he reminds them of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Having studied under Pandit Arjun Sanakod and Pandit Shripati Padegar, the latter a disciple of Bhimsenji, he was blessed to be encouraged by the master himself by being offered a chance to perform at Pune’s prestigious Sawai Gandharva music festival. “Panditji himself tuned my tanpura before the programme,” he recalls.

“He would become the ‘raag’. It would haunt listeners for days,” he says, remembering Bhimsenji’s ingenious combinations like Raag Kalashree (Kalavati and Rageshree), Lalit-Bhatiyar and Marwa-Shree wherein he masterfully ascended with Marwa’s re Ga Ma Dha and descended to Shree’s Pa re.

“Like Bheem was to the Pandavas, Panditji was the Bheem of Indian music, ” says a tearful Pandit Venkatesh Kumar. The simplicity and grandeur of his music were, according to him, a personification of his nature and personality. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s philosophy was sublimely simple — “Real singing happens when you cannot forget it even if you want to. ‘Swapnyaat suddha te yeta’ (It even haunts you in your dreams).”


tags- Bhimsen Joshi, Bharat ratna, Birth Centenary, Musician

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