Well, I know Mallikarjun Mansur is no more and one cannot meet him in person. Thankfully he has chosen to lie in the garden of the house he lived in, right by the side of his wife. He probably registers the visitors who come searching for him in his pristine house, in a narrow lane opposite the All India Radio station in Dharwad.
Mallikarjun Mansur Museum in Dharwad
When I was planning my trip to Dharwad, I thought of the great musician. But then I was told that his house is in his village of Mansur, which is some distance away from Dharwad. It was when I reached Bendre Museum in Dharwad that the granddaughter of D R Bendre told me about his house that has also been converted into a museum by Govt of Karnataka. Incidentally, not many people in Dharwad know about it.
Though the place is very much alive with regular music classes that are held in the house every evening. I reached the house and the first thing that struck me was its pristine white color with a red border and three letters vertically written on it – MBM. I know MM stands for Mallikarjun Mansur but wondered what B stands for. Soon learned that it was his middle name Bheemarayappa, the name that he got from his father’s first name.
Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan & Padma Vibhushan
Caretaker Sandhya opened the house for me. The Mansur’s Tambura is a glass case and was the first one to greet. On top, the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan decorations smiled and rendered dollops of awe. His white bust stood in a corner wearing sandalwood around his neck. I stepped into the hall and two attached rooms and admired his photographs on display while performing, with family, students, and with fellow musicians.
I asked a few questions to Sandhya and she said ‘Would you like to meet his daughter, she lives next door?’ Could I say No, and within a few minutes a very simple Akka Mahadevi Ji, daughter of Mallikarjun Mansur walked in? She was so simple that I kept looking at her and then she broke the ice by asking me where I have come from and what I do.
Akka Mahadevi Ji
Over a Jaljeera drink that she very kindly offered me, I asked her to share some memories of her father. That is when she told me about her growing up in this very house. She spoke about how her father used to get up at 4 AM and do his ‘Abhyaas’ or Singing practice. She said he could sing at any hour and once he was singing the world ceased to exist for him. And then she recalled how she and her siblings were supposed to sing Sanskrit shlokas every evening at least for an hour before dinner.
When I asked her which ones, she sang a bit of Siddhalingam Stotra for me. It was overwhelming to hear her sing only for me.
I was curious if the house was always white and she said – yes, this was the favorite color of my father and he always wore white. I am sure I have seen some white houses before but somehow the white color at his house oozed out an aura of purity. She pointed me to the pictures of him eating at home and performing a pooja.
Life Incidents of the Musician
Akka Mahadevi Ji told me about a couple of incidents from his life. The first one is how Mansur used to act in his brother’s Natak Company when he was 6 years old. Once after a performance at Alur Math, the Swamiji came and asked his brother to hand over Mansur to him and blessed him. This is where his journey as a musician started.
Second, she told an anecdote about the Tambura that is kept in the entrance room. She said once Mansur performed at a Math. And the Swamiji asked him to have food and then leave. Since there was still time for the food to be served, Mansur packed his Tambura and left the place. But as soon as he took the first turn on the road his Tambura fell down and broke – not a good omen for a musician. So, he went back and had food at the math as directed by the Swamiji. And then got the new tambura made at Miraj. The same tambura is displayed at the museum.
All this while he was singing in the background. I really wanted to pick up some of his music there and then. Incidentally, the only literature available was in Kannada – a language that I cannot read. Govt of Karnataka is doing a great job in maintaining these museums in Dharwad. I hope they also keep literature and music at the venue so that visitors can pick them up and the knowledge about our great maestros travels far and wide.
It is an experience to be in the space where an art form was nurtured, where a great musician did his daily practice, and to top it all hear it all from his daughter.
I left the museum, happy & content. I hope this blog post sends some more visitors to the Museum in Dharwad.
Recommend you to read the following Travel Blog on Places to Visit in Hubli-Dharwad and nearby places.