Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar

Born 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. .