Curtains come down on grand concert

MORTAL REMAINS: Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, Assembly Speaker Jagadish Shettar, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah, and Council Chairman Veeranna Mathikatti paying their last respects in Hubli on Tuesday. DH PHOTO

She had celebrated her 96th birthday recently and nobody expected that she would leave this world so soon. The urge to join her daughter had took birth in Gangajji about six years ago.

Gangajji, though old and infirm, was a source of many, and now she will only be a memory for the posterity. Gangubai Hangal Music Museum and Gangubai Hangal Sangeetha Vidyalaya will keep her alive in people's minds. A black and white photograph of smiling Gangajji welcomes the visitor to the museum, and the place showcases the glorious achievements of Gangubai.

Fondly called 'Akkavru,' Gangubai used to reply that she was well whenever asked about her health. She was always enthusiastic while talking to someone, albeit, tears evident whenever she remembered her daughter.

“Dattanna (Da Ra Bendre) was always saying that the music of Gangubai has reached the sky, and song of Krishna has reached the hearts. Her death broke my heart and I will keep silent, forgetting all songs,”Gangajji used to tell. Even though her health was fragile, people wanted her blessings and used to urge her grandson to bring her for inaugurating a music programme.

In her blood
Wherever she went, Gangubai asked people to promote music. “My mother Ambabai was a Carnatic vocalist, but she stopped singing after recognising my interest in Hindustani music. The cradle of music will never become orphan. Now, my granddaughter Madhavi sings well.  Music is never poor,” she used to say emotionally.

Gangubai Hangal was born at Shukravarapet in Dharwad (Now it is Gangothri museum) on March 5, 1913. Her mother Ambabai was her first Guru. Pioneer of Kirana Gharana Abdul Karim Khan also lauded her singing talent once, and encouraged her.
She practiced music under the tutelage of Pandit Sawai Gandharva. ‘Ganda Bhandan’ ceremony was held at Kundagol in 1932 and Gangubai presented Rs 1,000 as ‘Gurudakshina’ to her Guru, in addition to the monthly fee of Rs 40. Bhimsen Joshi and Firoz Dastur, younger to Gangubai, are also the disciples of Pandit Gandharva.

Gangubai was taught Meend, Gamak, Khatka, Murki, Boltan, by Pandit Gandharva. With her command over Yaman, Bhairavi, Puriya Dhanshree, Miya Malhar, Todi, Multani, Darabari Kanada, and Adhana Raagas, she drew attention of music aficionado through her radio programmes. Her cousin Sheshgiri Hangal always used to accompany her on tabla. Her prowess attracted accolades from all quarters. The representatives of HMV Gramophone Company had come to Hubli to enter into an agreement with Gangubai.

Life went on
Gangubai, though, was shocked with the death of her mother in 1932 and demise of Pandit Sawai Gandharva in 1952 and her husband Gururao Kaulagi in 1966, she continued the tradition of Kirana Gharana, unhindered.

The voice of Gangubai was soft and melodious earlier. After she underwent an operation to remove a tumour in her throat, her voice became hoarse. Once in Delhi, daughter of a host switched off the radio when the song of Gangubai was being broadcast, thinking that a man was singing. Later, Gangajji reportedly said, "I am that man.” Da Ra Bendre also used to tease by saying that a cursed angel was sitting in her throat. It was he who called her as 'Gayana Ganga'.

Gangubai was always eager to perform at the annual music festival at Kundgol. She was very happy when Bhimsen Joshi's concert was scheduled there, but Pandit Joshi could not attend the programme as he was not well.

In her biography, Gangubai said, "My life itself is like Jogiya, Todi, and Basanthbahar Raagas. I experience the feeling of that Raaga, while singing. Pain in my heart was in my song also and it used to bring pleasure for both myself and the audience". This book 'Nanna Badukina Haadu' written by N K Kulkarni, has been translated into English (The Song of My Life) by G N Hangal. There is a article about Gangubai in 'Karnatakada Hindustani Sangeethagararu', a book written by Sadanand Kanavalli.

Gangajji gave her last public performance at Thane in Maharashtra in 2002.  An incident in 2005 hurt her, and residents of the entire Hubli City were angry then. A felicitation to Gangubai by the then chief minister N Dharam Singh, on behalf of citizens, was organised at Sawai Gandharva Hall. But, Singh was in a hurry to leave for Bangalore and he did not even sit, and left the venue after speaking for a couple of minutes. It was an insult for Gangajji, recipient of reputed awards including Padmabhushan and Padma Vibhushan. The mistake was evident, though a clarification was issued.

 Cine actor Nana Patekar came to Hubli to meet his 'Aai'. The government sanctioned funds for 'Gangothri' in Dharwad and Gangubai Sangeetha Vidyalaya in Hubli. The name of Gangajji, who was suffering from cancer, took a rebirth. Her life acquired a new meaning. The most meaningful tribute we pay to her is to promote music, as she wished.

Honours and awards
1950 Sangeetha Shiromani, Allahabad;
1953 Bharathi Kanthi, Varanasi
1962 Karnataka Sangeeth, Nrutya academy
1971 Padmabhushan
1973 Central Sangeeth
1976 Sangeeth Saraswathi, Hubli-Dharwad Aathetheya Samithi
1976 Honorary Doctorate, Dharwad
1977 AkashVani, Suvarna Mahotsava, Mumbai; Sangeeth Ratna, Bangalore Gayana Samaj
1984 Tansen award, Madhya Pradesh govt
1986 Honorary Doctorate, Gulbarga University                        
1987 Roohe Ghazal award Gazal exponent Begam Akthar
1990 Boowalka award, West Bengal govt; Hafeez Alikhan, New Delhi
1992 Kanak-Purandara award
1993 Godavari Gourav, Nasik
1993 Sujan award, Mumbai
1994-95 Chowdiah memorial award; National award, Bangalore; Sangeeth Ratna, Bangalore
1995 Sapthagiri Sangeethavidvamani, Tirupati; Nadoj Hampi University
1996 Union govt fellowship, Govt of India
1997 Vadiraj Aadya memorial, Mumbai
1997 Gaanayogi Panchakshari, Bangalore; Aadhunika Sangeeth Shabari, Davangere
1998 Kannada Kula tilak, Yaksamba; Manikratna award,                Mumbai; Honorary Doctorate, Delhi University
1999 Gaana ratna award, Gangavathi
2000 S R Patil Prathisthana, Gulbarga
2000 Acharya Ramanarayan Prathisthan, Mumbai; Sangeeth Samagni
2002 Sangeeth Academy, Bangalore

Amjad Ali Khan, sarod maestro
Amjad Ali Khan, sarod maestroIt is indeed a very sad moment for the world of Indian classical music. I have shared some memorable moments with Gangubai Hangal during music festivals, right from the seventies. She carried with her an era of the old world charm of the music world, and the great legacy of Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan and Sawai Gandharva. May she continue to live forever, through her music and her disciples.

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