Kailash Chandra Dash

Banikantha Nimai Charan Harichandan was born on 9th July 1901 in Kendrapada and lived a glorious life. He died on 20th July ,1983 on Bahuda Yatra day at his residence in Matimandap Sahi in Puri. A birthday tribute.

Nimai Charan Harichandan was a famous singer of Odisha, whose golden voice echoed in the hearts of Odias. Homesick men and women, residing outside the state, crowded around gramophones to listen to his songs. It brought  back memories of the lonely cart-man twisting the tails of his bullocks and bursting into melody, of the sometimes cruel sometimes beautiful river or stream by their backwards, of the surging waves of the restless sea, of a hoary past and  of splendid sages and plain-home truths.

Banikantha Nimai Harichandan was born on 9th July 1901 and was the son of Brundaban Chandra Harichandan, the fourth grandson of the illustrious landlord of Kendrapada – Radhashyam Narendra. Though he could not get proper education due to adverse situations, he was drawn to music by his uncle Gokul Srichandan who was a famous singer in Odisha in the 1920s.

Nimai also got training to be a singer from a music expert Arttabandhu Patra. With the support of Gokul, Srichandan Nimai came in contact with the specialist of Hindustani music Madho Rao who trained him to be an extra ordinary singer.

Nimai specialized in Jananas, those moving hymns to Sri Jagannath that reveal the endearing familiarity of Odias with the three deities. He sang in the rugged parlance of the countryside. Harichandan’s first song was Garajila Megha Barase nahin go(the clouds that roar bring no rain) composed by Nikunja Kishore Das and recorded in 1934. He had sung it first at the marriage of the Raja of Kanika. He also sang this at the condolence meeting of Madhusudan Das at the Town Hall. Banikantha started learning to sing at the Govind Temple of Kendrapada where regular Kirtans were held.In 1933 he was invited by the Raja of Athagarh to his court as singer.

His famous song Nilasindhu Tire Nila Achala was part of the 1950 Odia movie Sri Jagannatha. He sang this song in the beginning and at the end he sang Chakadola Kimpa Daka. Harichandan delivered an interesting discourse on music in the second annual session of Baripada Sahitya Samaj which proved his scholarly vision on Odia classical music. The Government of India awarded him Padmashree in 1976 in recognition of his talents.

Binakantha was very fond of the songs of Kabisurya Baladeva Ratha, Kabisamrat Upendra Bhanja, Dinakrishna and Salabeg. When the first Sarvodaya conference was held in Odisha about 900 people were spinning the wheels. As Nimai began singing Patitajanaku Uddhariba Payin (to redeem the unprivileged) the wheels came to a standstill.

He came to focus as a singer in 1933 when HMV Company recorded his song Bitalaku Alingana by Upendra Bhanja and thereafter his songs were recorded frequently by HMV. More than 121 songs of Banikantha had been recorded. Important songs having social relevance were recorded by the Public Relations Department of Odisha in 1962 to 1964.

Banikatha Nimai Harichandan was an important part of Odia cultural heritage.

His songs on the death of Madhusudan Das in 1934 and Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 have extraordinary appeal. He was recognized by many socio cultural institutions and the note of appreciation by Kaka Karlekar in 1954 and Dr. Harekrishna Mahatab in 1967 was a sign of his growing popularity as a singer.

(Kaliash Chandra Dash is a scholar and historian based in Bhubaneswar.)