“This is an extremely sad day for us. It has created a vacuum that cannot be filled. We have lost a father figure”

The death of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi on Monday plunged the entire classical music community in sorrow.

Prabha Atre, an exponent of the Kirana Gharana, called Joshi an extraordinary man, “who was not just Bharat ratna but ‘vishwa' ratna. With his demise, the entire Indian classical music community feels orphaned. It is now a big responsibility on us, to continue the rich tradition left behind by him,” a tearful Ms. Atre said.

Ms. Atre's sentiment was echoed by Upendra Bhat, his disciple, “This is an extremely sad day for us. It has created a vacuum that cannot be filled. We have lost a father figure,” he said.

For many like his disciple, Madhav Gudi, he was more than a teacher. “I can't decide which words to choose. He was my role model. I came from Dharwad to learn music from him, but he taught me much more than just that. There can be nobody else like him,” he said.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's foundation to the lifelong connection to the city of Pune was laid when he first performed in the city in 1941. Thereafter, he performed in 1946, on the occasion of the 60th birth anniversary of his guru, Rambhau Kundgolkar, known as Sawai Gandharva.

The reason why the maestro chose Pune perhaps lies in the love of music ingrained in its people. “He perhaps needed a canvas bigger than Dharwad, which he found in Pune,” remarks music critic Deepak Raja.

“The patronage that he got in Pune was unmatched anywhere else at that time,” says Ramakant Joshi, Bhimsen Joshi's cousin.

Belonging to Gadag in Karnataka's Dharwad district, Bhimsen Joshi shared his guru Rambhau Kundgolkar with another legend, Gangubai Hangal. Gangubai's grandson, Manoj Hangal, who was in Pune, told The Hindu: “He came to Pune looking for a culturally rich life, and a city that would understand and respect his art.”

Raising another issue, Mr. Hangal said: “Both Gangubai and Bhimsen have proven that music grows beyond borders. Even during the troubled times of the Belgaum dispute and much hostility between the two States, their music brought people together.”

Commenting about the fluid nature of music, he asked, “How else can you explain the son of Karnataka being honoured in Maharashtra?”

Eventually, it was in Pune that the legendary singer decided to organise the ‘Sawai Gandharva Festival' annually, which draws connoisseurs of Hindustani classical music.

Full state honours

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, was given full state honours, at the Vaikunth crematorium here. Among those from the government who paid their tributes were Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavana and Union External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

“Karnataka is in mourning for a day. He took Karnataka to international heights with his rendition of the Daswani. In his memory, the State government will sponsor a scheme for Rs. 10 crore in his hometown, Gadag. Karnataka government will do its best to keep the maestro's music and memories alive,” Mr Yeddyurappa said.

“He may have received many awards but the love of the people is the biggest honour he has got. His voice will remain with us forever,” Mr. Chavan said.

“It is a sad day for the entire country and the world of music. His was the extraordinary era of improvisation. I offer my salutations on behalf of the Government of India to the greatest musician we have seen,” Mr. Krishna said.

A letter from President Pratibha Patil to Panditji's son Shrinivas Joshi was read out. The condolence message said: “It is a great loss to the country. He was the ‘Swarsamrat,' the king of Hindustani classical music in India.”

Hundreds of Punekars watched as three rounds were fired in the air to honour the man who enriched not just their lives but also the collective treasure of the city's cultural conscience.