To me, going to Hubli-Dharwad meant looking for the places associated with music legend Dr. Gangubai Hangal. A little after she passed away I read a newspaper report saying that her house in Dharwad has been converted into a museum. And a Gurukul is being set up in her memory.
Legends of Dharwad
It was then that I wanted to visit these places and see how do places that groom and nurture maestros like Gangubai Hangal look like. Is there something in the air that lends the push or stars choose to send their chosen ones in a certain city. As I read more about Dharwad, I figured that Gangubai Hangal is not the only legend to come out of this city. Besides Gangubai Hangal, Dharwad stakes its claim on legends like Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Ramakant Joshi, Sawai Gandharva, Basavraj Rajguru. In fact, Kumar Gandharva too belonged to not too far Belgaum. A post by speaking tree puts light on how the environment of musical excellence was co-created by patrons and listeners who gave these musicians a platform to bloom and spread their fragrance far and wide.
I think Varanasi may be the only other city to boast of being the base for so many musicians. It reminded me of Leipzig in Germany – a town dedicated to its musical legacy.
In Dharwad, I was in Hosayallapur area where a giant Hanuman statue jetting out of a small temple standing at the crossroads was standing out. I walked towards the Line Bazaar famous for Babu Singh Thakur’s Pedha. Here I asked for directions to Gangubai Hangal’s place and was asked to walk till Gandhi Chowk and ask again. At Gandhi Chowk, I asked some young boys about her house. They said they have never heard of her. But a lady walking behind stopped and gave directions to her house. There are no boards or any directions anywhere. But thankfully people in India lead you to the right place sooner or later. Passing by many small lanes, crossing many big and small temples I reached her non-descript house.
Gangothri – The Birthplace of Dr. Gangubai Hangal
A board outside said Gangothri – the birthplace of Dr. Gangubai Hangal. In the small verandah, Kokam was being dried and the door was closed. A few knocks and a sleepy man opened the door and said come back at 5 PM. A bit of requesting and coaxing and he let me in and switched on all the lights for me. Through a narrow temple like a vestibule, that has life-size photos of Dr. Gangubai Hangal he took me to the main house. What must have been the main living area of the family is now a museum dedicated to its best-known child.
In the center, there is a portrait of singing on top of her musical instrument and all around there are pictures of her. On one wall are portraits of all her family members starting from her grandmother to her parents and to her husband and children. It is here that I discovered that her surname Hangal comes not from her husband and not from her father but from her maternal grandmother – indicating a matriarchal lineage. Is this a tradition in the community she came from or was this exception for some unknown family reasons – no one could answer that to me.
Two huge boards one in English and other in Kannada created the life sketch of Gangubai Hangal through the key milestones of her life. A sheer number of achievements gives you goosebumps especially when you realize you are standing at a place she was born.
Portraits of performance
In other 2-3 rooms, there are portraits of her singing at various places. There are photographs with many other known musicians and film personalities. Some family portraits but not too many. There are portraits of her at various stages of her life and you can see her grow from a young girl to be a maestro. I loved the two pictures of her placed side by side in the same pose with her Sitar – clicked roughly 50 years apart. I soaked in a bit of air where Gangubai Hangal had spent her childhood and said a silent goodbye to the place.
Dr. Gangubai Hangal Gurukul, Hubli
Next day I drove to Hubli where Dr. Gangubai Hangal lies in her Samadhi. And a gurukul has been set up in her name. Skirting around the Nriptunga Hill I entered the gates of this sprawling campus. All I could see was green lawns and buildings with lawns all around them. I walked to the admin block and requested for a tour of the campus. Padamshree, a young lady who looks after the administration of this gurukul took me around the campus. Showed me the classrooms, the accommodation for the faculty or the Gurus. She told me that there are 6 gurus and each of them has 6 Shishya’s or students under them. Gurukul trains them full time in Hindustani classical music to become performing artists.
Students only need to have 10th pass certificate to be eligible for auditions. They are expected to have some understanding of the music to be selected in an audition. Once selected, they are trained for 2-4 years. Every day they not only have to attend classes and do their practice but they also have to perform or do ‘Manch Pradarshan’. There is an open-air platform in the garden where they perform. I think this is a brilliant way to groom performers.
Gurukul is run by the Govt. of Karnataka and is totally free for the students accepted for discipleship. Both students and teachers live on this campus and provided boarding and lodging free of cost. Non-professionals students can also take non-residential classes here. The classrooms are designed very differently with a triangular window letting the light in and a slanting roof kind of concentrating the energy on the guru’s seat. An instrument room not only had instruments but also explained the various parts of instruments.
As I walked back to my car, thoughts of what legends leave behind crossed my mind. It is not just what they achieve with their pursuit of excellence but a whole legacy that they leave behind for others to follow.
Recommend you to read following Travel Blog on Places to visit in Hubli-Dharwad & nearby.