Festival HistoryRambhau Kundgolkar popularly known as Sawai Gandharva was a noted Hindustani vocalist who passed away on September 12, 1952. A private concert was organized on the sixteenth day after his death where his noted disciples Smt Gangubai Hangal, Pandit Feroz Dastur and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi performed. To commemorate his first death anniversary, his disciples organized a music festival under the patronage of Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal. Witnessing the grand success, this festival became an annual ritual in Pune and it eventually grew exponentially. Today Sawai Gandharva Music festival is one of the important and prominent music festivals of India.
Initially performers only from the Kirana gharana would perform, but today artists from all gharanas take it as a pride and honor to perform in this festival. To perform on the stage of Sawai Gandharva festival signifies the ‘advent’ of an artist in the scene of Indian classical music. Not only famous musicians perform here but people who have attained masters in their chosen field of music also get a chance to display their talent.
The festival today is a hallmark in the annual cultural calendar of Pune. The Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal who started the festival also had the intention of reviving Arya Sangeet Vidyalaya which was founded by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan in 1910, but became inactive by 1947. The original founders of the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal were Nanasaheb Deshpande, Dattopant Deshpande, Shri BalasahebAtre, Abasaheb Mujumdar, Hirabai Badodekar, Kamlabai Badodekar, Saraswati Rane, Sureshbabu Mane, Shvrampant Divekar, Viththalrao Sardeshmukh, V.S. Sathe, D.V.Natu, Abasaheb Atre, Pandurangshastri Deshpande, Vamanrao Deshpande, Vasantrao Deshpande and Vamanrao Abhonkar.The festival is concluded by a grand performance of Pandi Bhimsen Joshi.
About Sawai GandharvaRambhau Kundgolkar known as Sawai Gandharva was born in 1886 in a town named Kundgol in Karnataka. Although he did not belong to a musical family, he showed deep interest in music from his early days and started training under Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. He was much impressed by the singing talent of the young boy and started the arduous task of teaching him the nuances of Indian classcial music. His long hours of training in voice culture made Rambhau a confident vocalist. Later he also learnt from other teachers like Bhaskarbuva Bakhale and Nasir Hussain Khan of Gwalior gharana. His intense training polished his voice further.
After his training, he got married and returned to his native twon where he joined a drama company. He became a popular singer in the company and earned the title of Sawai Gandharva. It was under him and another disciple of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Sureshbabu, that the Kirana gharana became popular. He started training several students who later on became notedmusicians like Bhimsen Joshi, Basavaraj Rajguru, Feroze Dastur and Gangubai Hangal. After his death, following a paralytic attack in 1952, his disciples led by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi started the famous Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav under the patronage of Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal