Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival

Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival
Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav
Sawai Gandharva Music Festival Logo.jpg
Location(s) New English School Ramanbaug,
Pune, Maharashtra, India
Years active 1953 - Present
Founded by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi,
Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal
Date(s) Traditionally the second weekend of December
Website Official site

The Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav (formerly the Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav; informally known as Sawai Gandharva or simply Sawai) is amongst the largest and popular musical festival of Indian Classical music in India.

Held annually in the city of Pune, Maharashtra, the festival was founded by the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi in 1953 as a tribute to commemorate the life, legacy, and achievements of Pt. Sawai Gandharva, a legendary Indian Classical vocalist who passed away the year before.

Pt. Joshi led and organized the festival each year until 2002, after which Pt. Joshi's son, Shrinivas Joshi, and disciple, Shrikant Deshpande succeeded for organizing the event.[1] The festival commemorates the life, legacy, and achievements of Hindustani Classical vocalist Pt. Sawai Gandharva Since Deshpande's death in 2011, Shrinivas Joshi and Anand Deshmukh have organized the festival.[2]

After Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's death in January 2011, the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal decided to rechristen the name of the festival to the "Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav" in honor of the legendary vocalist.[3]

Artists are invited from various parts of India to present their music at the festival. This festival is the debut platform for many upcoming artists. An artist's debut performance at the festival connotes their "arrival" to the Classical music scene of India. Over the last five decades, generations of Pune's musical connoisseurs have grown up with and savor the unforgettable performances at the festival by great musical maestros.



The festival was started in 1953 on a small scale, to commemorate the first death anniversary of Pt. Sawai Gandharva, the acclaimed Hindustani Classical vocalist of the Kirana Gharana.

The festival played a key role in the development of Hindustani Classical music in India's post-independence cultural history. Prior to Indian Independence, Hindustani Classical musicians were supported by monarchs under patronage as court musicians since the beginning of the Mughal Empire. After independence, the political division between India and Pakistan culturally alienated many Hindustani musicians. The newfound Indian Republic resulted in an end to the patronage of musicians. Classical musicians were forced to find new methods of sustaining themselves and their art. Public performances of Classical musicians rose as a result, where the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival played an integral role in establishing a regional audience for Indian Classical music. Within the first several decades following Indian Independence, a great number of music festivals or music conferences were founded in order to provide a platform for Classical musicians to perform.

Festival Expansion

The festival was initiated specifically to showcase performers of the Kirana Gharana and started on a small scale. Gharana-specific music festivals were popular at the time because musicians wanted to commercialize their Gharana style and artists.

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi was instrumental in inviting musicians from varying backgrounds to the festival because of his own appreciation and reverence for diverse approaches to presenting Indian Classical music. By the late 1970s, the festival established itself as a festival that had the fullest representation of the Classical music temperament in India.

As a result, the festival has become an annual event for music connoisseurs worldwide and reinforces the modernity of Indian Classical Music.

Recent Criticism

Much criticism has been recently attributed to the Music Festival organizers for decreasing the number of invited musicians and inviting less popular musicians to the festival.

59th Festival (December 2011)

List of Festivals and Performances

The Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal takes the task of recording details of the festival each year. The festival has been recorded in picture, video and audio, some of which is commercially available. Festivals are listed counter-chronologically.

Recent Years


Many festival regulars have complained about the festival's growing commercial success causing a drop in the quality of music at the festival. Many attribute this to Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's retirement from organizing the festival in 2002.

H1N1 Scare and Festival postponement (2009)

The 2009 Festival was postponed to January 2010 due to an H1N1 scare in Pune. This was the first instance in fesitval history of any kind of postponement.[55][56]


The Sawai Gandharva Music Festival is conducted every year in the first two weeks of December over three days. Traditionally, each festival is inaugurated with a tribute honoring Pt. Sawai Gandharva, with a Shehnai musician performing first, in the early morning. During the first two days, programs begin in the late-afternoon and are supposed to officially end by 10 p.m. On the third and final day (previously a Saturday, now usually a Sunday), the programme is conducted in two sessions, the first beginning in the early morning continuing until the early afternoon, the second session begins in the early evening and ends at 10 p.m.

Annual Festival Conclusions

It has been tradition that the last, finale performance is presented by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. Since Pt. Joshi's retirement in 2004, other ranking members of the Kirana Gharana have concluded the festival, including Pt. Sangmeshwar Gurav in 2005, leading disciples of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi in 2006. Dr. Prabha Atre has concluded every festival since 2007.

The festival officially concludes with the entire audience and remaining performers listening to the Thumri in Raag Bhairavi recording "Jamuna Ke Teer" by Pt. Sawai Gandharva, a tune made famous by and signature of his guru, Utd. Abdul Karim Khan.

Performing Artists

The following musicians have performed at the Sawai Gandharva festival (listed by seniority). Featured musicians


  • Pt. Appasaheb Jalgaonkar (b. 1922): 1952-2009
  • Pt. Arawind Thatte (b. 1958): 1990–Present
  • Pt. Purushottam Walawalkar


  1. ^ Sawai Gandharva music fest to start from Dec 11 - The Times of India
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ The Times Of India. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Deshpande, A. P. (2002), Swarayadnya: Sawai Gandharva Music Festival's Fifty Years, Rajhans Prakashan, pp. 78–79, ISBN 978-81-7434-242-3 
  6. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  7. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  8. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  9. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  10. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  11. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  12. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  13. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  14. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  15. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  16. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  17. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  18. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  19. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  20. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  21. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  22. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  23. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  24. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  25. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  26. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  27. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  28. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  29. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  30. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  31. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  32. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2010
  33. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1989
  34. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1990
  35. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1991
  36. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1992
  37. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1993
  38. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1994
  39. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1995
  40. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1996
  41. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1996
  42. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1998
  43. ^ Sawai Gandharva 1999
  44. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2000
  45. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2001-02
  46. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2002
  47. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2003
  48. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2004
  49. ^ Sawai Gandharva 2005
  50. ^[dead link]
  51. ^[dead link]
  52. ^[dead link]
  53. ^[dead link]
  54. ^ The Times Of India. 
  55. ^ "Sawai Gandharva festival postponed". The Times of India. 25 October 2009. 
  56. ^ Sawai Gandharva Festival to be held from January Indian Express.

External links

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