I am great believer of backyard travelling – which means exploring the places closer to you. So, one fine day I boarded a state transport bus and landed in Dharwad to explore the musical legacy of the twin towns of Hubballi-Dharwad in neighbouring Karnataka. Dharwad has the distinction of producing legendary musicians such as Gangubai Hangal, Pt Mallikarjun Mansur and even Pt Bhimsen Joshi who had his roots here.
Gangubai Hangal’s ancestral home where she was born, now named Gangothri, has been converted into a museum. It takes a lot of effort and walking around to reach this humble house that even till date, looks like just another house on the street. Gangubai Hangal’s house is a typical Karnataka house located in an area where most houses have beautiful wood carved doorjambs. Her house is devoid of any such architectural embellishments but the walls are now adorned with pictures that help re-create her musical and personal journey. I loved a picture frame that held two pictures of her standing with her Veena, 50 years apart. The next day I visited the Gangubai Hangal Gurukul in Hubballi, which has a beautifully designed campus where students are given free training to help them become performing artists along with free residential facilities. I was quite impressed by both the Gurukul and its campus. The Samadhi of Gangubai Hangal is located creating an impression of her overseeing the students learning music.
Close to the All India Radio tower of Dharwad in a narrow lane, stands a pristine white house – home of vocalist Pt Mallikarjun Mansur, which is a museum now as well. The garden houses a Samadhi of him with his wife. The house is now full of musical instruments, awards and a plethora of pictures on its white walls. His daughter lives next door and she very kindly sat down to chat with me and recalling how she and her siblings used to sing Sanskrit stotrams in the hall every day before dinner. She told me that white was Mansur ji’s favourite colour; he always wore white. I was delighted to learn that the house is not just a museum a music school as well and every evening music classes are conducted here.
If there are musicians, how far away could poets be? Bendre Bhavan, located opposite the lovely Sadhana Keri Lake celebrates the life and works of poet D R Bendre. A double storey structure showcases Bendre’s poetry illustrated with life size photographs that I thought was a unique way of presenting the poems. Thankfully they had the English and Hindi translations of the works on the walls as well. One hall below is used to sing his poetry and to hold an annual festival of his works. Where else does one see a literary figure kept alive like in India? How wonderful it would be to see every city celebrate its illustrious sons and daughters like Hubballi-Dharwad do?
Going beyond the layer of these modern wonders of Hubbali-Dharwad, I discovered two beautiful ancient temples built in a typical western Chalukyan style with exquisitely carved latticed windows. Standing here anywhere between 800-1000 years, these temples have managed to preserve glimpses of that era for us. The Banshankari temple dedicated to the goddess by the same name is located at Amargol village – midway between Hubballi and Dharwad. I drove through many narrow lanes to reach this small temple that is surrounded by the village houses on all sides. The mandapa in front of the main temple with sculpted pillars is worth admiring. Chandramouleshwara temple is located close to Unkal Lake in Hubballi and is relatively easier to locate. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has unique architecture that has space for not one but two Shivalingas. It takes a bit of effort to locate both these temples, but believe me when you look at their architecture, you will realise – they are worth this effort.
No story on Dharwad can be complete without the mention of the famous Dharwad pedha – a popular sweet from this town. The street on which the original shop is located is aptly called Line Bazaar because there used to be long queues outside this shop. The shop looks like a hole in the wall, but you should look at the way pedhas fly out of it. It is said, in its’ hey days, Dharwad pedha was sold in a rationed manner – no one could buy more than 500 gms. Now of course they have outlets across the city as well as the state and you can buy as much as you want. The pedhas are made on a wood fire, and the recipe behind this delicacy is a well kept secret family secret; the family members still do the final mixing of ingredients themselves each morning. No wonder the recipe still remains with them.
Eat – Jowar Thali at a local Khanavali in Dharwad
Shop – Kasuti embroidery products made by local NGOs