Bhimsen Joshi

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Swarbhaskar Bhimsen Joshi
Joshi in 1971
Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi

(1922-02-04)4 February 1922
Died24 January 2011(2011-01-24) (aged 88)
Nationality (legal)Indian
OccupationHindustani Classical Vocalist
Years active1941–2000
Parent(s)Gururajrao Joshi (father)
Rama bai (mother)
Musical career
Genres (in the form of bhajans and abhangs)

Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi (/ˌbmsɛn ˈdʒʃɪ/ ; BHEEM-SAYN joe-SHEE; 4 February 1922 – 24 January 2011), also known by the honorific prefix Pandit, was one of the greatest Indian vocalists from Karnataka, in the Hindustani classical tradition. He is known for the khayal form of singing, as well as for his popular renditions of devotional music (bhajans and abhangs). Joshi belongs to the Kirana gharana tradition of Hindustani Classical Music. He is noted for his concerts, and between 1964 and 1982 Joshi toured Afghanistan, Italy, France, Canada and USA. He was the first musician from India whose concerts were advertised through posters in New York City.[1][2] Joshi was instrumental in organising the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival annually, as homage to his guru, Sawai Gandharva.[3]

In 1998, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour conferred by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama.[4] Subsequently, he received the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, in 2009.[5]

Early life[edit]

Bhimsen Joshi was born on 4 February 1922 in a Kannada[6] Deshastha Madhva Brahmin family[7] to Gururajrao Joshi and Godavaribai at Gadag in Dharwad district that was then in the Bombay Presidency of British India.[8][9] His father, Gururaj Joshi, was a school teacher. Bhimsen was the eldest among 16 siblings. He lost his mother at a young age.[10]

As a child, Joshi was fascinated with music and musical instruments like the harmonium and tanpura[11] and would often follow processions accompanied by music bands. This exercise often tired him and he would curl up somewhere and sleep, forcing his parents to go to the police after efforts to trace him failed. Fed up, his father Gururajacharya Joshi came up with the solution, writing "son of teacher Joshi" on Joshi's shirts. This worked and those who found the boy sleeping would safely deposit him back to his house.[12]

Musical training[edit]

His first music teacher was Channappa of Kurtakoti, who had trained with the veteran singer Inayat Khan. After learning Ragas Bhairav and Bhimpalasi, the one and only unique vigorous style of rendering he developed along with advanced trainings by other teachers is attributed to the basic training he received from Channappa.

Searching for a guru[edit]

Joshi heard a recording of Abdul Karim Khan's Thumri "Piya Bin Nahi Aavat Chain" in Raga Jhinjhoti when he was a child, which inspired him to become a musician. During this time, he also heard Pandit Sawai Gandharva at a performance in Kundgol. In 1933, the 11-year-old Joshi left Dharwad for Bijapur to find a master and learn music.[13][14] With the help of money lent by his co-passengers in the train, Joshi reached Dharwad first, briefly studying with Dharwad-native Pt. Gururao Deshpande, and later went to Pune. Later he moved to Gwalior and got into Madhava Music School, a school run by Maharajas of Gwalior, with the help of famous sarod player Hafiz Ali Khan. He traveled for three years around North India, including in Delhi, Kolkata, Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur, trying to find a good guru. He met Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan of Rampur Gharana and stayed for more than one year.[15] Eventually, his father succeeded in tracking him down in Jalandhar and brought young Joshi back home.[16]

Sawai Gandharva[edit]

In 1936, Sawai Gandharva, a native of Dharwad, agreed to be his guru. Joshi stayed at his house in the guru-shishya (teacher-student) tradition. Joshi continued his training with Sawai Gandharva.


Joshi first performed live in 1941 at the age of 19. His debut album, containing a few devotional songs in Marathi and Hindi, was released by HMV the next year in 1942. Later Joshi moved to Mumbai in 1943 and worked as a radio artist. His performance at a concert in 1946 to celebrate his guru Sawai Gandharva's 60th birthday won him accolades both from the audience and his guru.[17] In 1984, he received his 1st Platinum Disc, being the first Hindustani Vocalist to receive the award.[18]

Hindustani classical music[edit]

Joshi's performances have been acknowledged by music critics such as S. N. Chandrashekhar of the Deccan Herald to be marked by spontaneity, accurate notes, dizzyingly-paced taans which make use of his exceptional voice training, and a mastery over rhythm.[19] In his especially mid singing career (i.e. the 60s & 70s) Joshi's most iconic and noticeable trait was his use of swift and long aakar taans, exemplifying tremendous and almost unrivalled breath-control, although he rarely used sargam taans. The Hindu, in an article written after he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, said: Bhimsen Joshi was ever the wanderer, engendering brilliant phrases and tans more intuitively than through deliberation.[20] Joshi occasionally employed the use of sargam and tihai, and often sang traditional compositions of the Kirana gharana. His music often injected surprising and sudden turns of phrase, for example through the unexpected use of boltaans. Over the years, his repertoire tended to favour a relatively small number of complex and serious ragas; however, he remained one of the most prolific exponents of Hindustani classical music. Some of Joshi's more popular ragas include Shuddha Kalyan, Miyan Ki Todi, Puriya Dhanashri, Multani, Bhimpalasi, Darbari, Malkauns, Abhogi, Lalit, Yaman, Asavari Todi, Miyan ki malhar and Ramkali. He was a purist who has not dabbled in experimental forms of music, except for a series of Jugalbandi recordings with the Carnatic singer M. Balamuralikrishna.[citation needed]

Joshi's singing has been influenced by many musicians, including Smt. Kesarbai Kerkar, Begum Akhtar and as aforementioned, Ustad Amir Khan. Joshi assimilated into his own singing various elements that he liked in different musical styles and Gharanas.[19] He along with Smt. Gangubai Hangal along with others took Kirana gharana to heights and are proudly referred as worthy son and daughter of kirana gharana. Both were from Old Dharwad district.

Pandit Purshottam Walawalkar used to accompany Pandit Bhimsen Joshi on the harmonium.[21] Also Pandit Tulsidas Borkar used to accompany Panditji on the harmonium.

Devotional music[edit]

In devotional music, Joshi was most acclaimed for his Hindi and Marathi and Kannada Bhajan singing. He has recorded bhakti songs in Marathi,Santavani, Kannada Dasavani.[19] ..

Patriotic music[edit]

Joshi was widely recognised in India due to his performance in the Mile Sur Mera Tumhara music video (1988), which begins with him and which was composed originally by him when he was asked to do so by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The video was created for the purpose of national integration in India, and highlights the diversity of Indian culture. Joshi was also a part of Jana Gana Mana produced by A. R. Rahman on the occasion of the 50th year of Indian Republic.[22]

Playback singing[edit]

Joshi sang for several films, including Basant Bahar (1956) with Manna Dey, in Marathi movie "Swayamvar zale Siteche" (1964) for famous song "Ramya Hi Swargahun lanka", in Kannada movie Sandhya Raga (1966) where he has sung extensively. It includes a song "e pariya sobagu" rendered in both Hindustani and Carnatic (Karnataka shastriya sangeetha) styles along with M. Balamuralikrishna. He sang Birbal My Brother (1973) with Pandit Jasraj. He also sang for the Bengali film Tansen (1958) and Bollywood Movie Ankahee (1985) which later fetched him National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer.[23] His song 'Bhagyadalakshmi baaramma', a Purandara Dasa composition, was used by Anant Nag and Shankar Nag in the Kannada film Nodi Swami Naavu Irodhu Heege.[19] He also sang as a playback singer for the Marathi film Gulacha Ganapati, produced and directed by P. L. Deshpande[24]

Then President of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam meeting Joshi in 2007

Sawai Gandharva Music Festival[edit]

Joshi and his friend Nanasaheb Deshpande organised the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival as a homage to his guru, Sawai Gandharva, along with the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal in 1953, marking Gandharva's first death anniversary. The festival has been held ever since, typically on the second weekend of December in Pune, Maharashtra also in kundagol Dharwad district and has become not only a cultural event for the city, but an annual pilgrimage for Hindustani Classical music lovers all over the world. Joshi conducted the festival annually since 1953, until his retirement in 2002.[citation needed]


A classicist by training and temperament, Joshi was renowned for having evolved an approach that sought to achieve a balance between what may be termed as "traditional values and mass-culture tastes" and as such he went on to have supposedly the largest commercially recorded repertoire in Hindustani vocal music. Pt. Joshi's iconic status in the music world has earned him a whole generation of suni shagirds who by merely listening to him have picked up his style and not through any formal tutelage. His greatest endeavour in perpetuating his legacy could be the Sawai Gandharva Festival held at Pune annually since the year 1953 which seeks to promote a certain music culture.[25]

Madhav Gudi, Prof Baldev Singh Bali, Narayan Deshpande, Shrikant Deshpande, Shrinivas Joshi, Anand Bhate and others are some of his more well-known disciples.[13]

In September 2014, a postage stamp featuring Joshi was released by India Post commemorating his contributions to Hindustani music.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Joshi married twice. His first wife was Sunanda Katti, the daughter of his maternal uncle, whom he married in 1944. He had four children from Sunanda; Raghavendra, Usha, Sumangala, and Anand.[27] In 1951, he married Vatsala Mudholkar, his co-actor in the Kannada play Bhagya-Shree. Bigamous marriages among Hindus were prohibited by law in the Bombay Presidency; so he took up residency in Nagpur (capital of Central Province and Berar in 1951) where bigamy was allowed and married there for the second time. He did not divorce or separate from Sunanda. With Vatsala, he had three children; Jayant, Shubhada, and Shrinivas Joshi.[13] Initially, both his wives and families lived together, but when this did not work out, his first wife moved out with the family to live in a house in Limayewadi in Sadashiv Peth, Pune, where Joshi continued to visit them.[25][28]

Joshi struggled with alcoholism, which he overcame by the late 1970s.[29]

Outside of music, Joshi was passionate about cars and had a deep knowledge of auto mechanics.[30]


Joshi was admitted to Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital on 31 December 2010 with gastrointestinal bleeding and bilateral pneumonia. Due to difficulty in breathing, he was put on ventilator support. He suffered convulsions and was put on dialysis too during his stay in hospital. Though he recovered briefly for three days when he was taken off the ventilator, his condition deteriorated thereafter. He died on 24 January 2011 .[31] He was cremated at Vaikunth Crematorium in Pune with full state honours.[32]


Album Year Type
Pt. Bhimsen Joshi (Miyan Malhar + Puriya Kalyan)[33] 1960 LP
Raga Lalit / Raga Shudh-Kalyan[34] 1961 LP
Pt. Bhimsen Joshi Sings Raga Malkauns / Marubihag 1962 LP
Miya Ki Todi / Puriya Dhanashri / M. Gara Thumri 1963 LP
Ragas Yaman-Kalyan, Multani 1967 LP
Chhaya / Chhaya-Malhar / Darbari / Suha-Kanada 1968 LP
Raga Komal Rishabh Asawari/ Raga Marwa 1968 LP
Raga Lalit-Bhatiyar / Raga Kalashree 1971 LP
Raga Pooriya / Raga Durga 1973 LP
Raga Brindavani Sarang / Raga Gaud Sarang 1973 LP
Enchanting Melodies (6 melodies from 45 rpm releases) 1974 LP
Raga Soor Malhar / Raga Shuddha Kedar 1980s LP

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Joshi being conferred Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 2009


  1. ^ Darpan, Pratiyogita (January 2009). Pratiyogita Darpan. p. 11. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  2. ^ Margalit Fox. "Pandit Bhimsen Joshi dies at 88; Indian Classical Singer". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav renamed – Mumbai – DNA". 19 November 2011. Archived from the original on 26 January 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  4. ^ "SNA: List of Sangeet Natak Academi Ratna Puraskarwinners (Akademi Fellows)". Official website. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Bharat Ratna for Vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi". Rediff. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
  6. ^ "Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi". Outlook India. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2008. Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi was born in a Kannadiga Brahmin family on February 4, 1922 in Gadag, an idyllic village in Dharwad district of Karnataka.
  7. ^ Kasturi Paigude Rane (2021). Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Publications Division Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. p. 13. ISBN 9789354092619. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 11 January 2022. Eldest of 16 siblings, Bhimsen Joshi is born to a family that belonged to a Marathi Deshastha Madhva Brahmin lineage.
  8. ^ "Bhimsen Joshi passes away". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012.
  9. ^ Fox, Margalit (5 February 2011). "Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Dies at 88; Indian Classical Singer". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  10. ^ Nadkarni, Mohan (1994). Bhimsen Joshi : A Biography. Indus Publishing. ISBN 8172231261. Archived from the original on 12 June 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  11. ^ "Biography – Bhimsen Joshi". Hindi Lyrics. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  12. ^ Pattanashetti, Girish (25 January 2011). "Ron was his home and his heart". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  13. ^ a b c Nadkarni, Mohan (1994). Bhimsen Joshi, A biography. ISBN 9788172231262. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  14. ^ "Relentless riyaz- Bhimsen Joshis recipe for success". Deccan Herald. 5 November 2008. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2008.
  15. ^ "A class apart". Mumbai Mirror. 6 November 2008. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
  16. ^ Anu Kumar (15 April 2019). Wonderkids: 100 Children Who grew Up to Be Champions of Change. Hachette UK. p. 73. ISBN 978-9388322089. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  17. ^ Chatterji, Shoma A. (7 December 2008). "A living legend". The Sunday Tribune. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Profile of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi | Pune News - Times of India". The Times of India. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  19. ^ a b c d "Haunting melodic grace of Pandit Bhimsen Joshiji". Deccan Herald. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 28 December 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Seeking the stars". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 7 November 2008. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011.
  21. ^ "About Panditji's performing career". 5 December 2017. Archived from the original on 21 March 2023. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  22. ^ "Pandit Bhimsen Joshi & Indian cinema". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  23. ^ "Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi passes away in Pune". IBN Live. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 25 January 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  24. ^ Nadkarni, Mohan (1994). Bhimsen Joshi, A biography. ISBN 9788172231262. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  25. ^ a b "Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the glory of Indian music". NDTV. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 17 June 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  26. ^ Govind, Ranjani (3 September 2014). "Four of eight commemorative stamps feature musical legends from State". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 22 December 2022. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  27. ^ Jamkhandi, Gururaj (11 November 2013). "We want recognition as Pandit Bhimsen's legitimate family". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 4 October 2023. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  28. ^ Jamkhandi, Gururaj (11 November 2013). "'We want recognition as Pandit Bhimsen's legitimate family – Interview". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  29. ^ "Bhimsen Joshi". The Economist. 3 February 2011. ISSN 0013-0613. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  30. ^ Mukerji, Ranojoy (25 January 2011). "Bhimsen Joshi loved his Mercedes". India Today. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  31. ^ "Pandit Bhimsen Joshi passes away". The Times of India. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  32. ^ "Pt Bhimsen Joshi's funeral held with all state honours". One India. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  33. ^ "Bhimsen Joshi - First LP Record of Bhimsen Joshi". Discogs. 2005. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  34. ^ "Bhimsen Joshi". Discogs. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  35. ^ a b c d e "Pandit Bhimsen Joshi: A Profile". ZEE News. 5 November 2008. Archived from the original on 12 February 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  36. ^ "Bhimsen Joshi: Living legend in Indian classical music". DNA India. 10 February 2009. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  37. ^ "Entertainment News: Latest Bollywood & Hollywood News, Today's Entertainment News Headlines". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009.
  38. ^ Times Of India Article
  39. ^ "Award presented to Bhimsen Joshi". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 2 December 2003. Archived from the original on 4 December 2003.
  40. ^ "Bhimsen Joshi conferred upon 'Karnataka Rathna'". Zee News. 30 September 2005. Archived from the original on 23 June 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  41. ^ "". Archived from the original on 28 July 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  42. ^ Bhimsen happy about Delhi govt award

Further reading[edit]

  • Nadkarni, Mohan (1983). Bhimsen Joshi: the man and his music. Prism Communications.
  • Nadkarni, Mohan (1994). Bhimsen Joshi: a biography. Indus, New Delhi. ISBN 81-7223-126-1.
  • Majumdar, Abhik (2004). Bhimsen Joshi: A Passion for Music. Rupa & Co. ISBN 81-291-0354-0.
  • Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, a biography by Dr Sadanand Kanavalli in Kannada

External links[edit]