A lot has been heard about the world’s oldest and reputable event dedicated to Indian classical music, Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan. After perusing its history, many interesting facts came forward. One of them is that great legends in the field of classical music have performed on this august stage before becoming world famous.
According to Rakesh Dada, treasurer, Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, Pt Bhim Sen Joshi, a great Indian vocalist, first learnt music in the city only.
“He ran away from home and came here at a very young age and Pt Mangat Ram, who would perform at the sammelan, became his guru,” said Dada, who is writing a book on the history of the samellan.
Bhimsen Joshi would sit behind the singers with Tanpura in his hands and would say that this would help him learn music. He stayed in the city for many years.
Dada said that Pt Tolo Ram, a devoted disciple of Baba Harivallabh, did not allow Bhim Sen Joshi to sing despite his requests as he said that his voice was not prepared enough to sing at the sammelan. He would instead sit at the samadhi of Baba Harivallabh and sing there.
After that, Joshi became a frequent performer in the sammelan and his voice became unparalleled. His bhajan ‘Jo bhaje Hari ko sada’ became a huge hit with the audience.
DV Paluskar, a music genius, and son of Pandit Vishnu Digambar, also gave his maiden performance on the stage at the age of 14.
Dada said that Amjad Ali Khan, a famous Sarod player, first performed here in around 1964-65 and achieved international fame.
Vocalists Azakat Ali Khan and Salamat Ali Khan were also among the legends, who gave their life’s first performances here.
Jagjit Singh, a ghazal maestro, had a dream of performing at the world’s oldest music festival, which never came true,” said late Jagjit Singh’s close associate and famous writer Suresh Seth while recalling his close aide.
How it started
Baba Harivallabh started it in the memory of his guru, Swami Tulsagiri. He ran the event for 10 years till his death in 1885, after which it was renamed after him.
When Digambar first visited the city, he urged Pt Tolo Ram to let him perform at the event. It is believed that the public admired his voice so much and were so happy that they honoured him by making him ride on an elephant in the entire city.
Pandit Vishnu Digambar performed on this stage and refused to accept the fee of `250 from the organisers. Instead, he added `5 to it and offered it at the memorial of Baba Harivallabh.