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Balwantrai Bhat 'Bhaaw Rang'
GharanaKhayal - GwaliorBalwantrai Bhat
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Omkarnath Thakur
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Pandit Balwantrai Bhatt alias BhaawRang was born in Bhavnagar, Gujarat in a music loving family of Mr. Gulabrai and Harkunwar Bhatt. Pt. Balwantrai Bhatt was a disciple of Pt. Omkarnath Thakur ‘Pranav Rang’ of Gwalior Gharana. Balwantrai Ji got training under Pt. Omkarnath Ji for almost 30 years, i.e. from 1938 to 1967. He was selected for prize of ‘Tansen’ in the Vishnu Digambar competition organized by All India Music Conference, Calcutta in 1949.

As a singer, he had extraordinary command on Raga, Taal and expression. He represented the Gayaki of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar and Omkarnath Ji. Balwant Rai ji started performing on radio at Bombay at the age of 12 years and besides vocal renditions, he also used to present chunks of JalTarang, Israj, Harmonium and Tabla. Eventually he became a top grade artiste of AIR. As a vocalist, he toured Afghanistan, Nepal, Canada, and United States of America. The last king of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah was so impressed with his songs that he invited Bhayyaji to his palace to present the songs.

In 1950, he moved to Varanasi and started teaching in music institution named Kala Sangeet Bharati at the Banaras Hindu University. He taught at the university for 31 years and got retired in 1981. Balwantrai Ji recorded 65 rare Raga-s at Pennsylvania University under the International Music Education Scheme. He edited volumes of Pt. Omkarnath Thakur’s book ‘Sangeetanjali’. He trained many in music, such as Damodar Hota, Chittaranjan Jyotshi, Veena Sahasrabuddhe, etc.

Pandit Balwantrai ji, informally called as 'Bhayyaji', is well known as an erudite composer. His compositions, more than 1500 in number, cover a wide range of genres such as Khayal, Tarana, Triwat, Chaturang, Dhrupad, Dhamar, Bhajan, etc. His Bandishes, with penname 'Bhaaw Rang', are brilliant in Swar - Laya - Pada and Bhaaw (notes, rhythm, poetry and emotions). His Bandishes contains flair of interestingly complicated rhythmic patterns. Beautifully complex Taranas, with intricately placed Tihais and cross-rhythmic patterns in Ada Chautaal is a notable contribution of Bhayyaji in the repertoire of Hindustani Art Music compositions. He reconstructed many song-forms (Prabandha) from ancient Indian musicological treatises. Being a scholar of Sanskrit language, his compositions possess rich poetic, philosophical and musical content. He also composed several Bandishes in Sanskrit, along with Braj Bhasha. Being a staunch nationalist, he penned many patriotic songs that were sung on All India Radio. His compositions are published in three volumes of book ‘Bhaaw Rang Lahari’ (first part published in 1964, second in 1974 and third in 1982). Many of his Bandishes were popularized on concert platform by Veena Sahasrabudhhe.

He was honored with several awards such as Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1978), Gujrat State Sangeet Nritya Natak Academy Award (1981), Padmashri conferred by Govt. of India by former president R. Venkataraman (1990), D.Lit. by Bhavnagar University (1992), Ratna-member of Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Academy (1999), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from former president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (2004). Bhayyaji was a noted poet also. His Gujrati poem "Atmadarshan" awarded in International Literary Competition by Jewish Braille Society, USA in 1958. He also contributed as Chairman of the Varanasi chapter of National Federation of Blind, for over twenty years. Bhayyaji’s daughter, Dr. Layaleena Bhatt has written an extensive account of Bhayyaji’s life and music in the book ‘Swara – Tala – Pada Ke Shilpi Padmashree Pt. Balwant Rai Bhatt ‘Bhavarang’ (Vyaktitva – Evam - Krititva)’.

He used to stay in Varanasi with his wife Vasundhara Devi. At the age of 95, Bhayyaji passed away in Varanasi on May 2, 2016 due to old age.
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