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Pt. Bhimsen Joshi
Bhimsen Joshi
Background singer
Birth name Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi
Alias Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
Born February 4, 1922 (1922-02-04) (age 87)
Origin Gadag, Karnataka, India
Instrument vocals
Residence Pune, Maharashtra, India
Genre Indian classical music
Years active 1941–present

Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi (Kannada: ಪಂಡಿತ ಭೀಮಸೇನ ಗುರುರಾಜ ಜೋಷಿ, Marathi: पंडित भीमसेन गुरुराज जोशी, born February 4, 1922) is an Indian vocalist in the Hindustani classical tradition. A member of the Kirana Gharana (school), he is renowned for the khayal form of singing, as well as for his popular renditions of devotional music (bhajans and abhangs). In 2008, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.[1]


Early life

Born in a Kannadiga family in the town of Gadag in northern part of Karnataka state[2][3]. His father, Guracharya Joshi, was a school teacher. Bhimsen was the eldest in a family of 16 siblings. Some of the siblings still live in their ancestral home in Gadag[4]. Bhimsen lost his mother when he was young, and his step mother raised him.


Until the first half of the 20th century, Khyal was principally taught in the Guru Shishya (master-disciple) tradition. Bhimsen's guru Sawai Gandharva was the chief disciple of Abdul Karim Khan, who along with his cousin Abdul Waheed Khan was the founder of the Kirana Gharana school of Hindustani music.

Joshi heard a recording of Abdul Karim Khan when he was a child, and was inspired to become a musician. In 1933, the 11-year-old Bhimsen left from home to find a master and learn music.[3] With the help of money lent by his co-passengers in the train Bhimsen reached Dharwar first and later went to Pune. Later he moved to Gwalior and got into Madhava Music School, a school run by Maharajas of Gwalior, with the help of famous Sarod player Hafiz Ali Khan. He travelled for 3 years in North India, including in Delhi, Kolkata, Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur, trying to find a good guru.[5] Eventually, his father succeeded in tracking him down in Jalandar and brought young Bhimsen back home.[3]

In 1936, Rambhau Kundgolkar, a native of Dharwad, popularly known as Sawai Gandharva, agreed to be his guru. Bhimsen Joshi stayed at his house in the traditional guru-shishya (teacher-student) tradition, gleaning knowledge of music from his master as and when he could, while performing odd-jobs in his house. Another renowned vocalist from the Kirana Gharana, Gangubai Hangal, was a co-student of Bhimsen during this time. Joshi continued his training with Sawai Gandharva till 1940.

Joshi moved to Mumbai in 1943 and worked as a Radio Artist. He first performed live at the age 19. His debut album, containing a few devotional songs in Kannada and Hindi, was released by HMV when he was 22.

Bhimsen's music has been hailed by both the critics and the masses. His performances have been marked by spontaneity, accurate notes, dizzyingly-paced taans which make use of his exceptional voice training, and a mastery over rhythm. He was ever the wanderer, engendering brilliant phrases and taans more intuitively than through deliberation. Never the one to be controlled by the rigours of theory, he sailed high, sometimes floundering, nevertheless reaching out to the stars.[6] He makes occasional use of sargam and tihaais, and favours traditional compositions of the Kirana gharana. Over the years he has specialized in a few ragas, which he usually performs. Some of the ragas he likes and is known for are Shuddha Kalyan, Mian ki Todi, Puriya Dhanashree, Multani, Bhimpalasi, Darbari and Ramkali. Besides Abdul Karim Khan, Bhimsen has been influenced by musicians such as Kesarbai Kerkar, Begum Akhtar and Ustad Amir Khan. Bhimsen's own style emerged over the years after assimilating and juxtaposing what he liked most from different styles.[7]

Joshi has also sung for films like Basant Bahar (with Manna Dey), 'Birbal My Brother' (with Pandit Jasraj) and Nodi Swami Naavu Irodhu Heege. He also sung for films 'Tansen'(Released in 1958) and 'Ankahee'( Released in 1985).

In devotional music, he is most well known for his Kannada Bhajans, especially the album Dasavani, and Marathi abhangs. He is also universally recognized in India for opening the famous Mile Sur Mera Tumhara music video on national integration.

Joshi conducts an annual classical musical festival called the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in the memory of his guru. This festival is held in Pune every December.

Personal life

Bhimsen's family arranged his marriage at his early age to a girl named Sunanda Katti; she was his cousin. She had two sons, Raghavendra and Anand. Both of them are light classical vocalists. She died in 1992. Later Bhimsen married Vatsala Mudholkar. She died in 2004. With Vatsala, Bhimsen fathered two sons and a daughter. One of them, Shrinivas, is a vocalist and composer, and has issued a few commercial recordings.

Awards and recognitions


Further reading

  • Nadkarni, Mohan (1983). Bhimsen Joshi: the man and his music. Prism Communications.  
  • Nadkarni, Mohan (1994). Bhimsen Joshi: a biography. Indus, New Delhi. ISBN 8172231261.  
  • Majumdar, Abhik (2004). Bhimsen Joshi: A Passion for Music. Rupa & Co. ISBN 8129103540.  

External links



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