“Are you coming?…If yes, get ready in ten minutes…Take your sweater with you, it’s like everything is freezing outside…We may come late night…!”
Shivering cold of December end is never a hurdle for them…Hectic day is never an obstacle for them…as they all are true music lovers…and more specifically when they are going to attend Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Music Festival.
The city of Pune is distinguished to be the cultural capital of Maharashtra. The City’s warm weather has sheltered artists, authors, poets, singers etc. for the centuries bygone. The city plays the role of an eyewitness to various artistic movements. In them, since 1953, the Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav (the Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav formerly), is being organized as an annual Indian Classical music festival by Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal (ASPM). For the lovers of Indian Classical Music, it’s the most famous music festival. Since the beginning, the festival has become the most important cultural gathering for the City’s musical enthusiasts.
In 1953, it was Pt. Bhimsen Joshi who initiated and named it so to honor his guru, Pt. Sawai Gandharva (alias Rambhau Kundgolkar, celebrated Hindustani Classical singer of the Kirana Gharana). He launched the festival to observe the first death anniversary of Pt. Sawai Gandharva. It initially was kicked off to give platform to the performers of the Kirana Gharana. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi had gratitude and admiration for various styles of performances of Indian Classical music and so started inviting musicians from a range of musical backgrounds to the festival. Therefore, the festival is now renowned as a supreme image of the Indian Classical music and a once a year feast for the global music lovers. As it was in his guru’s honour, Pt. Joshi used to send personal invitations to the performing artists (Indian Classical singers, Carnatic musicians) to attend the festival. If an artist performs at the festival, it suggests his introduction.
After our independence, the festival has played a key role in the growth of Indian Classical music. Consequently, classical musicians came forward for their public performances.
It usually goes on in the second weekend of every December for three days, at New English School Ramanbaug, Pune (Maharashtra, India). The festival begins with the performance of a Shehnai player honoring Pt. Sawai Gandharva. For the first two days, performances start in the afternoon and end at night. On the final third day, the show is split into two sessions. The first is in the early morning until the noon and the second begins in the evening and ends at night.
Until Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s retirement in 2004, he traditionally used to conclude the festival. Now Vidushi Prabha Atre senior Kirana Gharana member end the festival. Formally it winds up by the Thumri in Raag Bhairavi recording “Jamuna Ke Teer” by Sawai Gandharva.
As Pt. Bhimsen Joshi had a lion’s share in popularizing this music festival, after his passing away, the festival is renamed and now is known as ‘Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav’.
Now, some video and audio recordings of this festival are commercially available.