It was the prestigious Savai Gandharva Music Festival of 1992 and it seemed that the singer was suffering from a sore throat on stage. His son and two students, who sat next to him to loudly support him, were concerned. And her feelings were shared by the large audience who were there especially to hear him. But Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki was a man of fighting spirit. He began his alap with “Anant Hari Narayan…” and slowly, note by note, as raga advanced, he regained control. “Nahin hi mo mein gun aiso aaj jo piya aave more mandirva” (I don’t have such a virtue in me today that would lure my beloved to my abode) – the Bandish in Raga Anand Bhairav expressed his sentiments aptly. He soon began to move effortlessly in all three octaves and began to wow audiences with complex taans and beautiful phrases. The stunned audience praised him as he sang the faster composition “Ae man moorakh jaan” in teen valley. After Anand Bhairav, he presented raga mala – a garland of up to 18 ragas. The listeners were captivated as if watching a rainbow of ragas. An alap in one raga and suddenly a taans in the other – the audience was definitely on a pleasure trip. He ended this memorable program with Kabir Bhajan– “Rahana Nahin Des Birana Hai” in Raga Bhairavi.
Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki was born in 1929 into a priestly family traditionally associated with Lord Shiva’s Mangeshi Shrine in Goa. Mastery of Sanskrit and Marathi came naturally to Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki. His father Balwantrao Abhisheki, who was himself a kirtan singer, taught him the basic principles of classical Hindu music. After graduating in Sanskrit literature, he came to Mumbai in 1954 and joined All India Radio (AIR). Although this was a brief association, it proved extremely fruitful. During this time he not only came into contact with several musicians but also expressed his talent by composing many pieces for radio programs. During the same period he received a government grant to study Hindustani classical music under Khansaheb Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan from Agra Gharana. He was also privileged to be trained by Pandit Jagannathbuwa Joshi of Gwalior Gharana, Ustad Azizuddin of Jaipur Gharana and Gulubhai Jasdanwala. But Panditji was no ordinary student and was able to absorb the best elements of these different schools of Indian classical music to create a singing style very close to his own. In 1969 he received a Homi Bhabha scholarship and went to the USA to teach at the music school of the renowned sitar master Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Pandit Abhisheki will always be remembered as one of the finest classical singers and a composer and music director of the highest caliber. His contribution to Marathi Natya Sangeet is unparalleled. He was responsible for the revival of Marathi theater music in the 1960’s. He composed vocal and background scores for many Marathi pieces and remained the most sought-after composer and music director for decades. For this contribution he was awarded Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1990), Balgandharva Puraskar (1995), Master Dinanath Smriti Puraskar (1996) and Balgandharva Puraskar (Natyaparishad) (1997).
Although Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki was equally fluent in presenting bhajans, thumri and other semi-classical forms of music, his repertoire of classical ragas was the richest. He came to every concert with something new, often composing in complex and unheard ragas. Be it Shivmat Bhairav, Amrit Varshini or the popular but very demanding Raga Marwa, he always felt comfortable. From the first note he captivated the audience with his meditative nom tom-style alap and developed the raga according to a fixed plan. But at the same time, he left just as much room for spontaneity to take his audience to unknown levels of bliss. Throughout his life his approach to music was that of a researcher. The Indian government awarded him the Padmashree in 1988 and the coveted Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1989. The maestro spent his final years teaching music in Pune, educating many students before passing away on November 7, 1998, in the same decade that Indian music lost two of its greatest singers – Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur and Pandit Kumar Gandharva.
Legacy of Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki
The special relationship between guru and shishya has always been central to the continuity of excellence in the field of Indian classical music. It is the lifeblood of a rich and vibrant musical culture built over hundreds of years based on the dedication of the knowledgeable guru combined with the unwavering devotion and devotion of the shishya or disciple. A true guru strives to nurture the student’s innate talent so that one day he or she may flourish and adorn the rich tapestry of Indian classical music. Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki was not only one of the most talented classical singers but also a great teacher. Aside from son Shounak Abhisheki, Abhisheki’s noted musical students include Asha Khadilkar, Devaki Pandit, Shubha Mudgal, Ajit Kadkade, Raja Kale, Prabhakar Karekar, Hemant Pendse, Dr. Mohankumar Darekar, Vijay Koparkar, Mahesh Kale, Makarand Hingne and Sudhakar Gopal Deoley.
Lately RagaRanga has released an audio CD entitled “Reverence – A Unique Tribute to Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki”. This recording contains a collection of great compositions performed by Devaki Pandit, Sanjeev Abhyankar and Shounak Abhisheki, each bringing their own inimitable style to this unique tribute to Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki. All Bandishes and Taranas are composed by Pt. Hemant Pendse, a student of Panditji. The album features tunes such as Ahir Bhairav, Parmeshwari, Ahir Lalit, Miyan Malhar, Malkuans, Kaushik Ranjani, Shiva Abhogi and Yaman. Kaushik Ranjani is a rarely heard but highly aesthetic raga that bears shades of more popular ragas such as Kaushi Canada and Chandrakauns. Parmeshwari is a contemporary creation by sitar genius Ravi Shankar, while Shiva Abhogi was conceived by CR Vyas, one of the most influential Mahahastra singers of the late 20th century.
Another disciple of Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki, Mahesh Kale is currently actively teaching music in the San Francisco Bay Area (USA). He has also sung the songs sung by the character “Sadashiv” (portrayed by Subodh Bhave) in the Marathi film “Katyar Kaljat Ghusali” which was released on November 12, 2015. for his song “Aruni Kirani Dharani Gagan Chamke” In the film, Mahesh won the 2015 National Film Award for Best Playback Singer (Male).
Thanks to Vinod Nayak | #Pandit #Jitendra #Abhisheki #unforgettable #Maestro