Kumar Gandharva's ancestral house is now an eatery

His sublime singing may have food for the soul, but today the ancestral house of legendary musician Kumar Gandharva is a small eatery. The modest house, where one of the greatest vocalists of Hindustani classical music was born, is now a place where people drop in for tea and uppittu (a tiffin also known as upma).The late musician, whose real name was Shivaputra Siddharamayya Komkali and who evolved his distinct style when he lost a lung to tuberculosis, was born in Sulebhavi village in Belgaum taluk on October 8, 1924. He moved to Mumbai and subsequently to Dewas in Madhya Pradesh, where he died on January 12, 1992.

During his career, Kumar Gandharva, who was described by well-known music critic Mohan Nadkarni as “a musician with the feeling of a poet,” was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan, and the Kalidas Samman.

Around 1945, the Komkali family sold their house to Malleshappa Nagnur, says Nagnur's son Rudrappa. The Nagnur family, which lives in the rear portion, has converted the drawing room into a tea stall.

All that remains of the Komkalis is a Shivalinga and a Nandi atop a small platform with a tulsi plant, a large, clay water pot, and a mirror. The Nagnurs still offer prayers to the linga and the Nandi.

After moving to Mumbai, Kumar Gandharva occasionally visited the village to pray at the Mahalakshmi Devi temple, performing for free at the shrine's annual festival. Mr. Rudrappa remembers that a few Komkalis visited Sulebhavi a few years ago, and took photographs of the house.

The residents of the village have constructed a small community hall in the music maestro's memory. But for the house, there is little else to indicate Kumar Gandharva's time in the village, which is more famous for its power looms, manufacturing the popular Shahpur or Belgaum saris.

Sadly, there is a general apathy within the community, the district administration and the State government on preserving the house as a heritage structure.

Quite a contrast to the public outrage over the move to demolish R.K. Narayan's house in Mysore.

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