Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru: The Revered Maestro of Musical Innovation and Tradition

Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru, an illustrious luminary in the realm of Indian classical music, graced the Gwalior gharana as a court musician, composer, and revered teacher. His profound musical contributions elevated him to the status of the greatest musician of his time, leaving an indelible imprint on the annals of musical history.

Endowed with exceptional talent and unwavering dedication, Pandit Balabhau embarked on a transformative journey, creating new raags and transcending geographical boundaries by integrating rare South Indian raags into the tapestry of North Indian music. His pioneering spirit and boundless creativity captivated audiences, showcasing his unrivalled command over musical expression.

A stalwart in the art of composition, Pandit Balabhau’s divine compositions and bandishes illuminated the nuances of raags with remarkable virtuosity. His musical opus, “Raag Suman Mala,” published in 1938, was a masterpiece that earned him immense acclaim and reverence. Maharaja Jayajirao Sindhia of Gwalior bestowed upon this magnum opus the distinguished honor of a thousand rupees, for his invaluable artistic contribution. In 1989, his esteemed daughter, Sangeeta Kathale, meticulously re-edited and republished this opus, affirming its timeless significance. The book encompassed an array of musical forms, including the mesmerizing Sargam, evocative LakshanGeet, soul-stirring Bada and ChotaKhayal, enchanting Tarana, resplendent SurSagar, exuberant Hori, beautiful Tappa, and more. It showcased an eclectic collection of raags, both familiar and rare, such as the captivating Janaranjani, enchanting Chittamohini, divine Kaamboji, celestial DevRanjani, resplendent KamalManohari, mellifluous Manohari, ethereal GopiKamboji, and sublime Saraswati, among others. Late Pandit Balabhau’s sagacity even led him to introduce numerous Carnatic raags into the rich tapestry of Hindustani music, expanding the horizons of musical expression.

While late Pandit Balabhau’s artistry shone brilliantly, his dedication to nurturing the next generation of musicians was equally remarkable. As a revered guru, he played a pivotal role in shaping the future of Indian classical music. Besides founding his esteemed institution, ‘Chatur Sangeet Vidyalay,’ in 1927, he shared his profound wisdom as a visiting faculty and examiner at Nagpur University and Indira Kala Sangeet University, Khairagadh. In recognition of his exceptional contributions, he was honored with the title of “Sangeet Maharshi” by Kanpur Sangeet Samaj in 1941 and awarded the esteemed “Doctor of Music” degree by Indira Kala Sangeet University.

Late Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru’s legacy is an eternal flame that continues to inspire and illuminate the path for future generations of musicians. His virtuosity, innovative spirit, and dedication to preserving the rich traditions of Indian classical music have cemented his name in the annals of musical greatness, ensuring that his profound contributions resonate for generations to come.

Recently, the Madhya Pradesh Cultural Department and Allauddin Khan Sangeet Academy have undertaken a commendable initiative to republish the first part of “Raag Suman Mala” (edited by my father and guru Pandit Shriram Umdekar and sister Gitika Masurkar )and introduce the eagerly awaited second part. The second part encompasses a treasure trove of raags and bandishes composed by the legendary Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru, including mesmerizing compositions in Raag sarwngi, Raag Andhra, Rag Airawat, Raag Rakthans, Raag Manavi, Raag Bhushawali, Raag Snihrav, Raag Meghnad, Raag Amrutvahinni, Raag Ameshwari, Raag Chaapghantarav, Raag Vidarbhniti, Raag Malaymarut, Raag Saudamini, Raag Shokvarali, Raag Gumkambodhi, Raag Gojari, Raag Bhavsakh, Raag Sarparda, and many more.

As the granddaughter of Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru, I, Dr. Radhika Veenasadhika, consider myself immensely fortunate and blessed. Being closely connected to his musical legacy, Pandit Shriram Umdekar, my esteemed guru, has been a witness to the extraordinary contributions of his father, Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru, in the world of Indian classical music. His firsthand experiences have deeply influenced and shaped my musical journey, instilling in me a deep reverence for our rich cultural heritage.

The republishing of “Raag Suman Mala” by esteemed institutions is a testament to the timeless significance and enduring influence of Pandit Balabhau’s compositions. It ensures that his musical brilliance reaches a wider audience, allowing aspiring musicians and music enthusiasts to delve into the intricacies of these enchanting raags and immerse themselves in the beauty of his bandishes.

The legacy of Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru resonates through the ages, enriching the cultural tapestry of our nation. His pioneering spirit, unmatched virtuosity, and relentless dedication to the preservation and evolution of Indian classical music have left an indelible mark.

Today, on this solemn occasion of his revered death anniversary, I humbly offer our heartfelt pranams to the legendary Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru. As we reflect upon his extraordinary musical journey and the immense contributions he made to the world of Indian classical music, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude and admiration.

Pandit Balabhau’s departure from this mortal realm marked the end of an era, leaving behind a void that can never be filled. His virtuosity, profound knowledge, and unwavering dedication to his art continue to inspire countless musicians and music lovers worldwide.

I bow my head in reverence to his musical genius, which transcended boundaries and united souls through the language of melody. His compositions, meticulously crafted and brimming with emotion, have touched the hearts of generations, evoking a sense of wonder and deep introspection.

On this solemn day, let us remember the countless lives he touched, the students he nurtured, and the musical legacy he bestowed upon us. Let us honor his memory by immersing ourselves in the divine melodies he created, allowing the enchanting strains of his music to uplift our spirits and transport us to a realm of transcendent beauty.

I am Sharing the link of his books which can be purchased from Amazon India. Both Books Raag Sumanmala Pratham and Dwitiya are available

Dr.Radhika Veenasadhika

Granddaughter Pandit Balabhau Umdekar Kundalguru


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