(Excerpted from the Sruti archives)
Bal Gandharva was a singing star who excelled in feminine roles on the Marathi stage in the first half of the twentieth century. He was hailed as “Nat Samrat” – the king of thespians.
Stamp on Bal Gandharva
The Department of Posts issued a commemorative postage stamp in honour of Bal Gandharva on 22 February 1988. The 60-paise stamp, perf. 13, was printed on indigenous un-watermarked PG Matt coated paper by photogravure process at India Security Press, Nashik.
The First Day Cover and the stamp depict a portrait of Bal Gandharva. The cancellation has a line drawing of one of his feminine roles in his musicals.
Narayan Sripad Rajhans was born in Pune on 26 June 1888 in a middle class brahmin family. As a child he evinced no interest in studies. Endowed with a musical voice, he showed a marked predilection for singing. He was therefore put under a teacher in Jalgaon for training in classical music. During a brief visit to Pune he had the chance to sing before Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who gave him the title ‘Bal Gandharva’, from which time he became famous by that name.
Narayan’s talent in music came to the notice of the ruling prince of Kolhapur, a patron of music and drama. He arranged for Narayan’s training in the Kirloskar Natak Mandali, then camping at Miraj. Kirloskar was the premier drama troupe of Maharashtra and the founder of the Marathi musical drama. In those days young and handsome men with skill in singing were trained to play female roles as women did not enter the dramatic profession for fear of social ostracism. Bal Gandharva received intensive training in the Mandali from Govind Deval, an eminent playwright and excellent teacher.
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