Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tribute! Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur

Pt. Mallikarjun Bheemarayappa Mansur had always led a simple life. He worshipped music and wanted to share its purity and joy with all his listeners. Worldly success meant little to him. Struck by lung cancer, the end came on Saturday September 12, 1992. In a Doordarshan interview telecast after his demise, he had expressed satisfaction at the vastly growing interest in classical music saying, `In the olden days we had so many veritable colossi in music of the highest calibre, but the audiences were small, exclusive and limited. Today, there are mammoth audiences, but sadly very very few musical giants left.` (Credits: Photograph: 

Sangeetacharya Mallikarjun Mansur was born on December 31, 1910 in a village in Dharwad district of Karnataka. He had four brothers and three sisters. His elder brother Baswaraj had his own theatre troupe. At the age of nine, Mallikarjun played a small part in a play. The experience fascinated him so much that he ran away from home and joined a touring drama troupe. Although his father brought him back home, the stage continued to fascinate him and he soon joined another touring theatrical company. Mansur was born in Dharwad, Karnataka. He had his initial training in Carnatic music under Appaya Swamy, and in Hindustani music under Nilkanth Bua Alurmath of Miraj who belonged to the Gwalior Gharana. However, the most important influences on his singing were his gurus Manji Khan and Bhurji KhanAlladiya Khan who were the sons of Alladiya Khan.


Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur sings Raag Bahaduri Todi, Vilambit Khyal

During a performance, Pandit Neelkantbuwa Jangam, a disciple of Pandit Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar, renowned exponent of the Gwalior gharana, recognized his potential. Young Mallikarjun was taken to Meeraj and put through a grueling schedule of gurukul training. For 6 years his training began at 4 a.m. and continued for several hours. When he emerged from his training he was 18 and ready to perform at any concert.

Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur sings Raga Jaunpuri (1)

The most memorable among his early concerts was the Ganesha Utsav concert in Mumbai, in which he sang for over six hours. In 1932, after a special audition by HMV, he cut his first gramophone record. But although he had made several discs for HMV when he was still in his early twenties, music did not become a paying profession to Mallikarjun until much later in life.

Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur sings Raga Jogiya Asavari

It was through the initiative of a friend that Ustad Manji Khan, son of Ustad Alladiya Khan of the Jaipur Gharana, noticed Mallikarjun. Already trained in the Gwalior style, Mallikarjun was able to absorb the rich Jaipur-Atrauli style.
The Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana::
(also known as the Jaipur Gharana, Atrauli-Jaipur Gharana, and Alladiyakhani Gharana) is a Khayal-based stylized singing family-hood (Gharana), founded by Utd. Alladiya Khan (1855–1946) in the late 19th century. An offshoot of the Agra Gharana, the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana acquired its name and status as a Gharana in the early half of the 20th century as a result of the growing popularity of stalwarts of this Gharana, like Smt. Kesarbai Kerkar, Smt. Mogubai Kurdikar and Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur.
The Gharana is unique in that it was the first Gharana to be founded in Khayal Gayaki, whereas other major Gharanas were previously founded as Dhrupad-Dhamar Gayakis and eventually adopted or revived into the Khayal Gayaki.
The founder of this gharana, Utd. Alladiya Khan initially developed the unique Gayaki of this Gharana following the loss of his voice which prompted him to develop an adjusted singing style to accommodate his ailment. This thrust Alladiya Khan to explore the various qualities which he chose fittingly to progress a new singing style in. As a result of his exploration, he raised the level of musical and vocal artistry to such heights that he was acclaimed as the 'High Priest of Khayal Gayaki.' Barrister Jayakar, a connoisseur of classical music, was moved to call him the 'Mount Everest of music'.
Signature and specialty Raags of this Gharana (some revived or created by Utd. Alladiya Khan) include Sampoorna Malkauns, Basanti Kedar, Basant Bahar, Kaunshi Kanada, and Nat Kamod among others.

Mallikarjum Mansur performing Raag Deshkar:
Unfortunately Ustad Manji Khan died prematurely in 1937. Ustad Alladiya Khan then asked his other son Ustad Bhurji Khan to continue Mallikarjun's training. Although Mallikarjun Mansur`s gayakee was a blend of both gharanas, the virtuosity of the Jaipur gharana was more evident in his style. He could cast a hypnotic spell on his audience with his astounding breath control, the absolute purity of his swaras and the wonderful way in which he employed various embellishments. He sang for more than sixty years and there was always a special intensity to his singing, a special urgency and earnestness in his treatment of melody.

Neend Na Aai - Neend Na Aai - 2004 - 7:47
Mero Piya - Mero Piya - 2004 - 20:41
Ye Pyari Pag Hole - Ye Pyari Pag Hole - 2004 - 24:10
Kalavati - Kalavati - 2004 - 24:12

Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur sings raga Gara Bageshri  1986 (From Television Interview)

He performed regularly on radio and television and participated in numerous music conferences. He was director of HMV for a few years. He later joined Dharwad Radio Station as Music Director. His musical excellence earned him the `Kalidas Samman`, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Padmashree in 1970, the Padmabhushan in 1976 and several other titles including the Padma Vibhushan in 1992.

Mallikarjun Mansur was married to Gangamma. He had seven daughters and a son Rajashekhar Mansur. Amongst Pt Mansur's children, Rajashekhar Mansur (son) and Neela Kodli (daughter) are vocalists.
Like Pt Mansur, Dharwad is home to other musicians like Bhimsen Joshi from Gadag, Gangubai Hangal from Hubli, and Basavaraj Rajguru from Yalival. "Mrutyunjaya", his home in Dharwad was converted into a memorial museum.

Mansur wrote an autobiographical book titled Nanna Rasayatre  in Kannada, which has been translated into English as a book titled My Journey in Music by his son, Rajshekhar Mansur.

"Mallikarjun Mansur : The Man and the Musician" (by H. Y. Sharada Prasad).
Mallikarjun Mansur is no more. The torrent has gone back into the magic mountain from where it used to flow...(



  1. His use of octaves are incredible. More than his voice it is style of composing attracted to the audiences. Thank you for sharing the videos

  2. He has tremendous energy flowing through his renderings. Perhaps the greatest Hindustani classical musician in the second half of 20th century.