Kadri will miss its favourite son

A view of the Kadri Manjunatha Temple

A view of the Kadri Manjunatha Temple   | Photo Credit:

Saxophone exponent Kadri Gopalnath, who passed away recently, maintained a close link with the town

On the day saxophone maestro Kadri Gopalnath was laid to rest, the sprawling locality that lent the prefix to his name was more silent than usual. The clouds hung low over the Kadri Hills, and the rain fell, after a thunder-and-lightning spectacle in the sky. It was near these hills, amid the thick vegetation that Gopalnath would head to, to practise and make an instrument so unused to Carnatic notes, yield to his music.

Gopalnath, who spent his initial years in Sajipa Mooda in Bantwal taluk, shifted to Mangalore when he was 13 (some versions say 15). He came from a home that was steeped in poverty, and in Kadri, lived with his aunt Gowri, popularly called ‘Kaajida Gowriakka’ as she sold bangles for a living. Kadri was a slightly bigger village than their native Sajipa Mooda, and full of fields and huts, and life revolved round the sprawling temple whose main deity is Manjunatha.

“It is said that some neighbours minded his practising the saxophone at all hours, and so he shifted to the temple and play in front of the Devi shrine and its surroundings,” says Chandrakala Deepak Rao, one of the temple trustees.

Gopalnath’s son, music director Manikanth Kadri, remembers hearing that his father would play the instrument by the famous temple tanks of Kadri, and drink the cool, sweet water flowing in front of the Gomukha Ganapathy temple, adjacent to the tanks, to quench his thirst and hunger. The water flows from a natural spring behind the temple, and it is believed that it is linked to the Bhagirati in Varanasi.

“Lord Manjunatha and the Jogi Mutt were very special to my father, an integral part of his life,” recalls Manikanth. Gopalnath popularised Kadri internationally; even among those who did not know where or what it was.

Kadri will miss its favourite son

After some years of poverty and struggle, Gopalnath found opportunities to play at weddings, and he would also offer his music to the Sri Mahalingeshwara temple in Pandeshwar, besides Kadri. Sometimes, he would just receive Rs 100 or some rice and coconut as prasad from the temple. But all that mattered to Gopalnath was that he got to perform in front of God.

This was when he got introduced to Gopalakrishna Iyer, who ran an institution in Kodialbail; he played, taught and practised there. Iyer introduced him to Tamil Nadu. Slowly, Gopalnath moved up the ladder of popularity. He shifted base to Chennai, where he was celebrated. To many, Duet, directed by K. Balachander with music by A.R. Rahman was their introduction to the genius of Gopalnath.

Amidst all this, one thing never changed. Gopalnath visited Kadri often, and performed in front of Lord Manjunatha during the nine-day annual temple festival in January. He would sit in front of the sanctum sanctorum, to the left of the entrance, with his troupe, and pay musical tribute to a deity close to his heart. He last performed in Kadri, despite ill-health, in May, during the Brahmakalasha that takes place once in 12 years. When not performing, he would visit the temple with his wife, as a regular devotee.

The Jogi Mutt is at a height from the Kadri temple, surrounded by greenery, and the two are closely linked by history and tradition.

One important link in that chain was Kadri Gopalnath, the man who dared to dream. In 2020, the temple festival at Kadri will miss its favourite son.

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2020 11:42:32 AM |

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