Gangubai Hangal Birth Anniversary: Five Facts About The Artist You May Not KnowOne of the most powerful women in Indian classical music was Gangubai Hangal. Belonging to the Kirana style of the Khyal genre of Carnatic music, she went against early 20th century conventions which did not look favourably upon women who chose a singing career. She passed away in 2009. On her 108th birth anniversary, we take a look at some lesser-known facts from Hangal’s life and career.
1. Name Change
Gangubai Hangal was not the maiden name of the singer. She was born Gandhari Hangal. As per her admission to musicologist Mohan Nadkarni, noted by Outlook India, a music recording company, early in her career, changed her name to Gangubai Hublikar. They thought that the popular name Gangubai combined with the better-known city Hubli in Karnataka would bring more public attention towards her. The name eventually evolved to Gangubai Hangal.
2. Musical Family
The singer’s mother Ambabai and grandmother Kamlabai were both vocalists in the Carnatic tradition of music. Ambabai also knew Hindustani music, which her famous daughter picked up on. Hangal’s daughter, Krishna-bai Hangal continued the musical tradition and supported her mother’s performance in concerts with her vocals.
3. Matriarchal tradition
The singer belonged to the Gangamat community. They are boatmen from the lower Shudra caste, who were considered untouchables. Women from such castes were not treated with respect and were often used by men of upper castes as mistresses. Women in her community retained the surname of their mother rather than their father. Hangal maintained the tradition after her marriage.
4. Family tragedies
Hangal was 16 when she settled down with Shri Gururao Kaulgi, a lawyer by education. He did not practise law and depended on her as his businesses failed. They had two sons and a daughter. Gururao died four years into their marriage. Her daughter Krishna died from cancer in 2004, five years before her passing.
5. Varsity tribute
The Karnataka State University for music and performing arts, situated in Mysore, was named after her by the Karnataka State Government. It is known as the Karnataka State Dr. Gangubhai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University.