Vishnu Digambar Paluskar
on August 18, 1872, in a small town in Maharashtra into a family of
religious Keertan singers, Paluskar severely damaged his eye sight when he
was a young boy in an accident. With academic studies cut off, he was placed
under the guidance of Balakrishna Bua lchalkaranjikar, to train as a
musician. He studied with Balakrishna Bua till about 1896, a hard and
strenuous discipleship. Subsequently, he travelled from place to place,
earning recognition and respect.
Finally he established a music school, Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, in Lahore,
which was to change the course of Hindustani Music. Anyone interested could
learn music here. It was the first school run by a middle class musician
without the direct patronage of rajas and maharajas. The vidyalaya (school)
was run by public support, donations from the richer classes and funds
raised by the concerts of Vishnu Digambar - it was truly a school of the
people for the people.
Here he brought together a set of pupils whom he trained not only in music,
but also inculcated in them a respect for the art and a missionary zeal.
This group of his early students became later some of the most distinguished
performers and teachers in North India. What was more important was the
atmosphere in the institution: while there was strict discipline in musical
training, there was stricter discipline in moral training. Even girls from
middle class families started learning music in his Vidyalaya. The usual
disapproval attached to the clan of musicians was thus removed and they
began to be treated with respect.
He finally shifted the Vidyalaya to Bombay and expanded it. Vishnu
Digambar's fame as teacher spread and hundreds of students began to pour
into his vidyalaya. But he could not raise enough money to keep it running
and creditors finally auctioned it off when he was on a concert tour, in
1924. This broke his heart, but by then he had trained enough students who
would carry on his crusade all over the country.
By the time he died in 1931, he had turned very religious. Paluskar's Ram
dhun, "Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram" sung at the head of the famous Dandi
March led by Gandhiji in 1930, was the latterís favourite bhajan. Paluskarís
son, Dattatreya, 11 at the time of his fatherís death, lived long enough to
become an excellent musician, but he too was snatched away in the prime of
his life. .