The Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav (formerly known as Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav and simply Sawai) is an annual Indian classical music festival held in Pune since 1953. The festival is hosted by ‘Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal’. Started as an initiative by the renowned Pt. Bhimsen Joshi to commemorate the life and works of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s guru Pt. Sawai Gandharva, this small music conference grew up to become the largest and the most popular Indian classical music festival in the whole world! With an emphasis on ‘Hindustani classical khayal music’, instrumentalists, dancers, dhrupadiyas, bhakti musicians, ghazal musicians, qawwaliyas and carnatic musicians frequent the concert lineup. The performing artists receive personal invitations from Pt. Bhimsen Joshi to come and perform at the festival.
The festival is held at the New English School, Ramanbaug, Pune every year usually during the second week of December.
Historically, the festival played a key role in the development of Hindustani classical music in India’s post-independence cultural history. Before independence the musicians used to receive recognition by monarchs in their courts under patronage since the Mughal empire. The independent India resulted in an end to the patronage as a result of which the then musicians were forced to find ways of survival and more importantly, the survival of their precious art. Since then, the popularity for public performances rose and the Sawai Gandharva festival played a vital role in the establishment of an audience for the Indian classical music scene.
The festival started off on a small scale to showcase the talent of the Kirana Gharana. During the years, the popularity has grown immensely and it has become an event for music connoisseurs worldwide and reinforces the modernity of Indian classical music.
The festival was renamed from ‘Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav’ to ‘Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav’ after Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s demise in January 2011 to honor his memory.
The festival goes on for 3 days starting from early morning and ends before 10 pm in the night.
One must experience this huge festival at least once especially those who have a love for music. It’s a great chance to explore and recognize and honor our classical music tradition and a great platform for music connoisseurs from all over the world to meet.
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