Bal Gandharva

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Bal Gandharva
Bal Gandharv.jpg
Bal Gandharva in female role
Background information
Birth nameNarayan Shripad Rajhans
Born(1888-06-26)26 June 1888
Nagthane Taluka Palus, District Sangli , Maharashtra, India
Died15 July 1967(1967-07-15) (aged 79)
GenresMusicals (Sangeet Natak)
Occupation(s)Singer and stage actor
Years active1905–1955

Narayan Shripad Rajhans, popularly known as Bal Gandharva, (26 June 1888 – 15 July 1967) was a famous Marathi singer and a stage actor. He was known for his roles in female characters in Marathi plays, since women were not allowed to act on stage during his time.[1][2]

Bal Gandharva got his name after a singing performance in Pune. Lokmanya Tilak, a social reformer and a freedom fighter of Indian independence movement was in the audience, and after the performance, reportedly patted Rajhans on the back and said that Narayan was a "Bal Gandharva" (lit. Young Gandharva).[3]

Personal life[edit]

Narayan Shripad Rajhans (Bal Gandharva)

Narayan Shripad Rajhans was born into a Deshastha Brahmin family to Shripad Rajhans and his wife Annapurnabai Rajhans.[4] He was born in Nagthane village of Palus taluka of Sangli district in what is now the state of Maharashtra.

Bal Gandharva married twice. At a very young age, he was married to Lakshmibai, a lady of his own Deshastha Brahmin community and hailing from a respectable family of similar background, in a match arranged by their parents in the usual Indian tradition. The marriage, which was entirely harmonious and conventional, lasted until the death of Lakshmibai in 1940, after more than thirty-five years of marriage. Eleven years later, in 1951, Bal Gandharva married Gauharbai Karnataki (perhaps better known simply as Gohar Bai, and not to be confused with Gauhar Jaan), sister of the famous singer-actress Amirbai Karnataki. Gauharbai hailed from a family of singers and dancers, and was a Muslim. She had made a career for herself as a stage actress with singing skills, and had worked with Narayanrao in theatrical productions, which is how they had fallen in love with each other. The marriage of a woman of her background and religion with a Brahmin gentleman was deeply unacceptable in society. Gauharbai was never received into polite society or acknowledged by any member of Narayanrao's family. The marriage remained childless, and Goharbai died in 1964, three years before Bal Gandharva.[5]

Theatre career[edit]

Bal Gandharva in the role of Sindhu in Ekach Pyala

Narayan Rajhans was born in an ordinary family. He started his singing career at a very young age singing bhajans. Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur noticed his talent and was important in getting young Narayanrao's theatre career off the ground. Shahu Maharaj helped him to get treatment on hearing problems at the Miraj Hospital. Shahu Maharaj also introduced him to Kirloskar Mandali, the premier Marathi Musical theatre company of that era.[6]

He started his career with Kirloskar Natak Mandali in 1905.[3] The company was run by Mujumdar and Nanasaheb Joglekar. After Joglekar's death in 1911, there was discontent about Mujumdar's dictatorial and manipulative style.[7] Bal Gandharva, Ganesh Govind ('Ganpatrao') Bodas and Govindrao Tembe left the company in 1913 to form Gandharva Sangeet Mandali.[8] Bal Gandharva became the sole owner of the debt ridden company in 1921.[9] The debt was paid off in seven years' time. However, Narayanrao, dissolved the company when it again accumulated debt over the next 6–7 years.[10] Bal Gandharva signed a contract with Prabhat Film Company to make six films. However, the contract came to an end after just one film Dharmatma (1935). The film was a major departure for Bal Gandharva in the sense that he played the main role of Sant Eknath.[11]

Bal Gandharva revived his drama company in 1937. With Narayanrao increasingly ill at ease in female roles owing to his advancing years, the company looked for an actress to play female roles and found Gohar Karnataki in April 1938. Bal Gandharva soon formed an intimate relationship with Gohar Karnataki, also known as Gauhar Bai, that scandalized traditional Maharashtrian society at that time.[9] His brother Bapurao Rajhans left the company to protest against Gohar's entry in Gandharva Sangeet Mandali and Bal Gandharva's life, when it became clear that Gohar would have a major say in the company's stewardship.[12]

Bal Gandharva acted in 27 classic Marathi plays and played a big part in making Sangeet Natak (musicals) and Natya Sangeet (the music in those musicals) popular among common masses. He was a disciple of Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale.[13] Bakhale scored music for his drama Swayamwar. Govindrao Tembe scored music for Manapman.[14] In later years, Bal Gandharva's composer of choice was Master Krishnarao (Krishnarao Phulambrikar).[15]

The songs rendered by him are regarded as classics of Marathi Natya Sangeet and his singing style is greatly appreciated by Marathi critics and audiences.[16] Marathi stage was facing difficult times after the death of Bhaurao Kolhatkar in 1901. Bal Gandharva revived it. His famous contemporaries include Keshavrao Bhosale (known as "Sangeet-Surya") and Deenanath Mangeshkar.[17]

He acted in plays written by Annasaheb Kirloskar, Govind Ballal Deval, Shripad Krushna Kolhatkar, Krushnaji Prabhakar Khadilkar, Ram Ganesh Gadkari, Vasant Shantaram Desai.

Bal Gandharva died on 15 July 1967.


  • Bal Gandharva Ranga Mandir, a theatre auditorium in the city of Pune was named in his honour. It was built by Pune Corporation in 1968 with initiative of the famous Marathi author and a Balgandharva fan, Pu. La. Deshpande. It was inaugurated by Acharya Pralhad Keshav Atre. The foundation of this play theatre was started with very own hands of Balgandharva, while he was alive.
  • The movie Balgandharva portraying the life-journey of Balgandharva was released by Chandrakant Productions in May 2011.


His famous roles include :

  • Bhamini in Manapman(1911)
  • Rukmini in Swayamwar(1916)
  • Sindhu in Ekach Pyala(1920)
  • Sharada in Sangeet Sharada(1909)
  • Vasantsena in Mruchchakatika



Also read[edit]


  1. ^ Janaki Bakhle. Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition. Oxford University Press. p. 239. Retrieved 20 October 2005.
  2. ^ Balgandharva is awkwardly paced, unevenly executed DNA 6 May 2011
  3. ^ a b Hansen, Kathryn (29 August 1998). "Stri Bhumika Female Impersonators and Actresses on the Parsi Stage". Economic and Political Weekly. 33 (35): 2295 – via EPW.(subscription required)
  4. ^ Aruṇa Ṭikekara (1992). The Kincaids, two generations of a British family in the Indian civil service. Promilla & Co. p. 237. Bal Gandharva alias Narayanrao Rajhans was a Deshastha Brahmin and not a Chitpavan.
  5. ^ Meera Kosambi. Gender, Culture, and Performance: Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence. Routledge. p. 272. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  6. ^ Mohan Nadkarni (1988). Bal Gandharva, the nonpareil thespian. National Book Trust. p. 10.
  7. ^ Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni (1988). Balgandharva and the Marathi Theatre. Roopak Books. p. 47.
  8. ^ Mohan Nadkarni (1988). Bal Gandharva, the nonpareil thespian. National Book Trust. p. 52.
  9. ^ a b Sangeet Natak, Issues 83-86. Sangeet Natak Akademi. 1987. p. 67.
  10. ^ Mohan Nadkarni (1988). Bal Gandharva, the nonpareil thespian. National Book Trust. p. 77.
  11. ^ Rachel Dwyer. Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. Routledge. p. 76. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  12. ^ Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni (1988). Balgandharva and the Marathi Theatre. Roopak Books. p. 127.
  13. ^ Babanarāva Haḷadaṇakara (2001). Aesthetics of Agra and Jaipur Traditions. Popular Prakashan. p. 18.
  14. ^ Maharashtra, Land and Its People. Government of Maharashtra. 2009. p. 393.
  15. ^ Ashish Rajadhyaksha; Paul Willemen. Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Routledge. p. 52. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  16. ^ Lokrajya, Volume 36. Directorate-General of Information and Public Relations. 1980. p. 61.
  17. ^ Sisir Kumar Das (2005). History of Indian Literature: 1911-1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and tragedy. Sahitya Akademi. p. 160.
  18. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.

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