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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

An editorial on Gangubai Hanagal in Vartha Bharathi

Following is the translation of the editorial on Gangubai Hanagal pblished in Vartha Bharathi, a Kannada daily. M. Rashmi has translated it to English. The paper clipping was sent by Samvartha Acharya.


It was the time of communal riots in Hubli. Gangubai Hanagal, calling herself Bismilla Khan’s Sister had come to streets begging people to stop violence and bring peace. She is a great soul who persistently tried to conquer the pettiness around her through music. A great mother, whose heart tried to weave the broken minds in threads of music. The great mother has left this mortal world in search of her brother Bismilla Khan, orphaning the children who were to grow up under her nourishment.

The world of music did not give a cordial welcome to Gangubai Hanagal. Both life and music were never devoid of conflicts for her. She belonged to the community of fishermen. Her mother had lived her life with a Brahmin farmer in Ranibennur. The mastery her mother had on music made Gangubai to choose the same path. Her mother had mastery in Karnatak music but Gangubai took another path choosing Hindustani music. She had husky, gruff male voice but her music had that feminine grace and rhythm and this unique combination helped her to develop a style of her own.

Gangubai Hanagal spoke in many of her concerts with tearful eyes about the humiliation she suffered coming from a low caste and her effort to overcome it thorough her music. It was pre independent period, Gandhiji had come down to Belgaum to attend National Conference. Gangubai got the chance to sing before him. She sang in the concert but one thing gnawed her throughout her stay there, she was afraid of being segregated and made to sit separately from the upper caste people during lunch. Gangubai was relieved when her guru asked her to sit beside him. The caste discrimation that was meted out to her was defeated by her music. A family did not allow her into their home for her caste but the same family invited her again when she became a great musician. Gangubai could never forget such instances and always remembered them.

She erased caste and religious distinctions through her music. Bismilla Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Bhimsen Joshi were all of one family for her and she belonged to it. She chose music as her religion and loved Hubli all her life. She once in one of the felicitation gatherings said, “Though I was born in Dharwad, I grew up in Hubli, I learnt music here and earned fame here. Neither Hubli leaves me nor do I leave Hubli”. Her Hubli is now in the hands of corrupt politicians and communal forces which are tearing it apart into pieces. This is an insult to her music.

The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. Yediyurappa has promised to build a statue in her memory. It seems this has become a habitual weakness of the Chief Minister – building statues in memories of Sarvagna, Tiruvallar and now Gangubai Hanagal. If he goes on building statues like this, soon Karnataka will be full of statues and without human beings. If the Chief Minister really respects her music, he should strive to bring communal harmony in Hubli and in the whole of Karnataka. He should try to abolish untouchability that made her suffer humiliation throughout her life. Gangubai dreamt of harmonious relationship between Hindus and Muslims and that they should live together. The government should try to bring her dreams into reality. This can only be the perfect mourning in her name.

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