During the second world war a Junior Officer in the Navy,Anatolia,ost both his legs. But instead of sorrowing over this loss, he trained to become a meteorologist and became a Chief Officer in the Navy and earned the respect of all the Soldiers and Officers. Like the lame Anatolia of the past,Ganayogi Panchakshara Buva and Dr. Puttaraj Gawaithe two great musicians and mystics of Gadag bravely found a meaningful life in spite of being blind. They are rightly called the sun and moon of the music horizon who light the flicker of many handicapped and poor students.
Ganayogi Panchakshara Gawai,a master of Hindustani and Carnatic music provided free shelter and food to hundreds of orphans of all castes and creeds and taught them music to decorate the field of music with jewels. Amongst them, the crown jewel” The Kohinoor” is Dr.Puttaraj Gawai,who successfully carried on the mission and tradition of his great teacher. Thousands of orphans have grown to the musicians of acclaim under the loving care and guidance of Dr.Puttaraj Gawai at ‘Veereshwara Punyashram’ in Gadag founded by his Guru Ganayogi Panchakshara Gawai.
It is a general belief that a singer can not be a poet and a poet cannot be a preacher,ie,many think that a single person cannot master more than one art. But Dr.Puttaraj Gawai is a shining example that belies this theory. He is a master of Hindustani and Carnatic Music who has given many memorable performances in both the styles and earned thousands of titles and awards. In the field of literature, he has mastered Kannada,Hindi and Sanskrit and authored over 75 “Grant has” which won him the recognition of State and Central Governments.
Scientists say that there are many wonders in the space. But it is quite clear that there are many more wonders right here on the earth. Comparing Mahatma Gandhi to one of them,Rabindranath Tagore said “Bharata,Rama,Krishna,Socrates,Plato,Christ,Budha etc. are the wonders of present”.Similarly,Thontadarya said ‘if we are to believe that there are wonders on the earth as in the heavens, then Dr.Puttaraj Gawai is one of them’. Many people may be interested unknowing about the birth and life of this awe-inspiring person.
It seems as though destiny had decided Putaraj’s course of life at the time of his birth.Because,it is certainly more than mere co-incidence that the birth year of this extra-ordinary child is same as the year in which Ganayogi Panchakshara Gawai established his mobile school”Sangeetha Sahitya Sachari Patashala”with the blessings of Hangal kumara Shivayogi in Nidagundi Koppa.
Sri Puttaraj was born on 3-3-1914 at Charanthimata,Hospet Village,Hangal Taluk of Dharwad District to a couple named Siddamma and Revanayya.The child was named Puttayya.When the infant was 6 months old,he suffered an eye infection.An ignorant village lady advised Siddamma to drop a worm in the infected eyes, which she said would eat away the infected layers.Siddamma trusted the lady ad followed her advice. But to her horror, the worm ate away the child’s eyeballs, leaving him totally blind. The child born with two healthy eyes lost his sight even before he had a good look at the world. Was it a result of the mother’s ignorance or was destiny preparing him for his future role; that of the guiding light of hundreds of blind orphans?
Puttayya lost his father at the age of 3 years.The helpless mother,Siddamma sought shelter in her brother’s house at Devagiri.Siddamma’s brother Chandrashekarayya took upon his self the responsibility of bringing up Puttayya and started his music lessons.Thus,Chandrashekarayya,a disciple of the famous musician,Ganayogi Panchakshara Buva,became Puttayya’s first music teacher. The talented young boy’s skill in playing the harmonium and singing were noticed by the time he was 8-10 years old.Chandrashekarayya requested Sri Panchakshara Gawai to train the child further in music and the Guru gladly accepted the disciple who the destiny and planned to be his successor.
The Ideal Disciple
Under the able guidance of Ganayogi Panchakshara Gawai,Sri Puttaraj attained mastery over Hindustani and Carnatic music. Pleased by the intelligence and perseverance of this disciple, the Guru engaged different Pandits to teach him Kannada,Hindi and Sanskrit. Soon Puttayya became well versed in all these three languages. By the age of 27-28, Puttayya was a well educated youth, who could play Harmonium,Veena,Violin,Tabla and Mridangam.
If Guru was ‘Himadri’, the disciple was ‘Vidyadri’.When Puttayya accompanied Sri Panchakshara Gawai’s vocal recitals on Harmonium, music flowed like twin rivers Ganga and Jamuna.This unique experience of enjoying such recitals was offered to thousands of music fans within and outside Karnataka,Puttayya continued to learn from his Guru and teach the younger pupils,thus devoting to serve music and shone as the brightest disciple of his Guru.
In 1933 H.M.V. recording Company invited Puttayya and his Guru to Bombay where they sang ‘Kanganava Mora’ in Raag Kedari,”Chaina Nahin Mere” in Bhageshri and two Kannada Padas-“Magana Toogiro” and”DhyanavaMadiro”.These records were well received all over Karnataka.
Panchakshara Gawai was providing free food and shelter to hundreds of lame and blind orphans and educating them as well. This meant a great financial stress and the debts were mounting.So,Puttayya suggested that they form a drama company which will not only contribute to the culture of theatre but also bring in some profits.Thus,”SriGuru Kumareshwara Krupa Poshita Natya Company “was established. The first play “Sri Sivayogi Sidharama”;written and directed by Puttayya and staged in Naragunda was well received and brought in some much needed profit. This was followed by many other successful productions through which the drama company became famous in the state, the debts were cleared. The theatrical ventures of this blind author were appreciated by several renowned theatre personalities of those times like Handiganoor Siddaramappa,Garuda Sadashiv Rao,Kandagalla Hanumanth Rao,Nalavadi Srikanta Shastri and others. Young Puttayya composed many “chees”in Hindustani style of music and was called the Milton of Kannada.
Puttayya Becomes Guru Puttaraj
Panchakshara Gawai continued to serve the blind, orphans selflessly and dedicated his life to their welfare. As he was advancing in age, his health was suffering and he became weak. Still he relentlessly carried on his daily routine of worship and teaching the students. When he became too ill, he handed over the responsibility of his foster students to Puttayya and blessed him saying” You will not face as many difficulties as I had. You will succeed in your task and become famous as Puttaraj”.After naming Puttayya as the guru of “Sree Veereshwara Punyashrama”,Panchakshara Gavai attained his heavenly abode on 11-6-1944 while he was performing the ‘Linga Pooja’.When the bright sun (Panchakshara Gavai) set on the music horizon the moon,Puttaraj shone,spreading the cool moon light of culture.
Heading the Veereshwara Punyashrama
With the blessings of his Guru,Puttaraj strove to fulfill his responsibilities as the patron of hundreds of blind orphans. He pursued his spiritual life with dedication to ‘Linga Pooja’ and devoting enough time to serve music, literature and theatre.As a result, his works ‘Sangeet Shastra Jnana’.”Tabla Shikshaka” and “GuruSudha” Part 1 & 2 on music were completed. In Sanskrit he wrote “Shrimat Kumara Geetha”,”Kumareshwara Kavya”,”Shri Linga Sooktha”,”Tatparya Sahit Sri Rudra” and “Panchakshara Suprabhata”.In Hindi, he wrote “Basava Purana” (President Award winner)”Siddha Linga Vijaya”,”Sidhantha Shikamani” etc.In Kannada his works include “Akkamahadevi Purana”,”Haveri ShivabasavaPurana”, “Ankalagi Adavi Siddeswara Purana”, “Huchala Guru Siddeshwara Purana”, “Purathanara Purana”,Kalikeri Guru Mahima Purana”, “Veerabhadreshwara Purana”, “Sharana Basaveshwara Purana” and many more.He was honored with more than 100 titles like “Ubhaya Gayana Vadanacharya”, “Ganayogi”, “Kavishiromani”, Thribhasha KaviRathna” etc.He won many National Awards and was honoured by Sangeetha Nataka Acadamy,Sahitya Nataka Academy,Dharwad Karnataka University(Hon. Doctorate) and recently in99 during the Dasara Festival,Karnataks Government conferred oh him the first ever “Rajya Sangeetha Vidwan” title.
Puttaraja’s dream of releasing a magazine devoted to music,literature,theatre and religion was realized when the monthly ‘Panchakshara Prakasha’ was published from “Veereshwara Punyashrama” in 1969 and reached all nooks and corners of the state, spreading the fame and message of his Guru. The magazine is now being published as “Panchakshara Vani”.
Striving to Spread Guru’s fame all over the World
A life so pure and full of sacrifice, inspiring and educating many a needy orphan is rare to fine in today’s materialistic world. It is a fact that Dr.Puttaraj’s devotion and dedication to art and culture has not found a befitting encouragement and the right opportunities, with which his greatness now known only in his state would have spread all over the world. This is the sincere wish and dream of many loyal students, who founded “Shri Guru Panchakshara Seva Samithi” Gadag in 1985.The Samithi organized many music festivals in Delhi, Varnasi (UP),Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Bangalore,Madras and Gadag with the help of Karnataka Government.
The students staged a play”Ganayogi Panchakshra Mahime” in Gadag through which they reached their Guru’s glory to hundreds of people. This organization, comprising poor artists with a single-minded desire of spreading their guru’s glory far and wide is non-commercial and non-profit making. They have no reserve funds and are totally dependent on their guru’s grace and blessings. Their venture is supported by the generosity of patrons, political leaders and cultural authorities and their gesture has made it possible to hold the Centenary Celebrations at a National leveling Delhi. The Samithi’s success in celebrating Sri Guru Panchakshara Gavai’s birth centenary (Bangalore) and Dr.Puttaraj Gavai’s 80th Birth Year on such a grand scale should be rightly attributed to the members and the people of Karnataka.