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Life History of Pt. Nilmadhab Sinha

Pt.Nilmadhab Sinha was born on 11th February, 1922 to Smt Madalei Devi and Sri Tailen Singha Choudhury, the Zamindar of Shingari & Norsingpur in Cachar District, Assam and Jiribham, now in Manipur. The third child amongst three brothers and a sister, he had always taken keen interest in the cultural gatherings that were an integral part of the Zamindar household.

The artiste in Nilmadhab is born:

It was a one-act play performed at a gathering at Tailen Choudhury’s malthep that left a deep impact on Nilmadhab, a boy of eight years then. At a similar gathering then aged nine, he himself got his first chance to perform as Bal-Krishna, in the Falaharini episode in the Udukhal. Overwhelmed with the act, he delivered such dialogues which were never taught to him in the rehearsals. The audience and vaishnavites predicted that evening that the boy would grow up to be a man of values. Once during a Bishnupriya Manipuri Mahasabha at Silchar wherein Sri Arun Chanda (Congress Leader & Educationist) was the Chief-Guest, Nilmadhab sang the welcome song. So impressed was the Chief Guest that he drew the boy into a warm embrace and blessed him. Another time during a programme to honour Sri Kunjalal Sinha, the boy then aged twelve sang ‘Naba Ghana Shyam’ to win over Kunjalal’s heart, who suggested to Madalei Devi that the boy be sent to Calcutta to learn Music.

The journey to Calcutta:

In the summer of 1935, then aged thirteen, Nilmadhab took a train to Calcutta along with a family friend. Once in Calcutta, he took refuge in the out house of Zamindar Sri Naren Basu Mallik. Guru Senarik Singha Rajkumar, who was also staying there, found the boy extremely talented and recommended him to Sushila Nangor, a singer who was engaged with Senola Recording Company. It was at Senola, during the rehearsal of an album of devotional songs, Nilmadhab was singing ‘Sukhe Radha Shyam’ which caught the attention of a close associate of Thakurbari of Jorasanko(Rabindranath Tagore’s Calcutta residence). He took him to Smt Rama Kar(a grand daughter of Tagore) and hearing the boy sing, she decided to teach him Rabindra Sangeet. It became a daily routine for Nilmadhab to visit Jorasanko Thakurbari and take music lessons.

The child artist is noticed by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore:

The year 1936, having returned from Kalimpong, Rabindranath was resting on his balcony at Jorasanko. The sweet strains of a young voice floated in with the cool evening breeze – ‘Bhenge Mor Ghorer Chabi Niye Jabi Ke Amare’. Tagore summoned daughter-in-law, Protima Devi and sent her to search the voice. It was Nilmadhab singing! She embraced him and told him how much Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had liked his singing- ‘Would he be interested in learning music at Shantiniketan?’ How could he say ‘No’. He was informed to be there at Jorasanko at 8:00 am the next morning to accompany Gurudev to Shantiniketan. Having arrived too early at 6:00 am on the appointed day, his friends took him to the terrace for games. Having lost count of time, when he came down from the terrace, he came to know that Protima Devi had looked around for him and left. The sobbing child was calmed down soon as Protima Devi had instructed the care-taker to send Nilmadhab by the next morning train to Bolpur (the nearest railway station for Shantiniketan). It was a journey which Nilmadhab will never forget. As instructed, when he reached Bolpur, he was received by Tagore’s driver and taken to the abode of Gurudev. What followed was like a dream, with Protima Devi to take care of him, to stay in Uttarayan, meeting such personalities as Nanda Lal Basu, Kshiti Mohan Shastry, Ramdhari Kinkar, Charles F Andrews, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru & Mahatma Gandhi (when they visited the Poet). To mention, Smt Indira Gandhi was his batch mate for some time, Satyajit Ray was persuing studies at Kalabhavan, Kanika Bandopadhyay & Suchitra Mitra were his class mates. Nilmadhab completed his matriculation in 1939.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was to leave an indelible impression on Nilmadhab:

Malati, then aged 13 years, the youngest daughter of Shri Gopal Singha and Shrimati Kundavali Singha of Dharam, Silchar, Assam was married to Shri Nilmadhab Sinha. It was still remembered that he had published a poem describing the beautiful Malati flower in Sri Samarjit Sinha's monthly newspaper that time.

-Rehearsals for Barsha-Mangal, 1940 were on. As Nilmadhab would sing, Tagore would smile. Later on he asked Protima Devi to find out as to why the Poet was smiling. Protima Devi got him the answer that Gurudev was wondering as to how this young fellow was putting so much of his soul into his compositions which may not be fully understood at his age. Impressed, Gurudev asked him to sing solo- ‘Esho Shyamala Sundaro’ during the function.

-During Halo-Karshan Utsav, 1941, Gurudev suddenly asks Nilmadhab to dance. Inspired and enthused, he breaks into an impromptu Manipuri dance which enchants Gurudev who wants the boy to dance a similar one during the Poet’s Birthday celebrations to follow soon. Coming from the lips of Gurudev was a big honour but the boy replied-‘No he wouldn’t dance any more’ Tagore was enraged and expressed his feelings to Sri Shailajaranjan Majumdar. Shailaja confronted the boy and the reason he conveyed to the poet: Nilmadhab feared that dancing would affect his vocal chords and would disturb his main goal of life – to learn music. Gurudev could not control his laughter at the boy’s misconcepts.

-Rabindranath Tagore’s last birthday celebrations in 1941 which the poet was to witness.
Shailajaranjan coaxed the boy into getting ready for the dance that momentous day. When Nilmadhab, adorned with garlands of white flowers danced to the accompaniment of Dhak played by Guru Atomba Singh, Kabiguru was overjoyed and blessed him-“You will go a long way in your excellence in the field of music.” The Poet’s deteriorating health made him shift to Jorasanko and three months later, on 7th August1941, he breathed his last. In the condolence meeting when Nilmadhab sang-‘Tui Fele Esechis Mon, Mon Re Amar’ Abanindranath Thakur was overwhelmed and embraced the boy who was nicknamed – Manipuri Beta by Rabindranath Tagore.

Nilmadhab is chosen the ambassador for spreading Rabindra Culture:

Pt Nilmadhav Sinha seated on right hand side of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Ex-Prime Minister of India, during rendition of songs directed by him at an Annual event at Rama Krishna Mission, New Delhi, 1962

He was a scholar in receipt of scholarship from Bengal Govt in the period 1939-1942.He completed his Diploma Course from Shantiniketan and was given to teach Rabindra Sangeet at Shantiniketan. Later he was sent by Protima Devi outside Bengal to spread Rabindra Culture.

-On invitation at Banga Sahitya Sammelan Benares when Nilmadhab sang to the accompaniment of veena played by the then Raja of Maimensingh, the Chief-Guest
Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was mesmerized.

-On invitation from Rajshahi Vishwavidyalay(now in Bangladesh)in 1942, he was sent by Vishwabharati University to teach Rabindra Sangeet .

-1940s saw the importance of Rabindra Culture to spread outside Bengal. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru spearheaded this project and Nilmadhab Sinha was deputed to Lucknow for the same. Dibyendu Basu, the son of the then Justice of Lucknow Court, asked him to stay in his father’s home at 1, A P Sen Road, an important place for all the stalwarts of Lucknow to conglomerate. An association which grew into Nilmadhab being known as the youngest son of the Basu household. As he taught Rabindra Sangeet at Lucknow, on the insistence of Prof Siddhanta, the then Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University, he enrolled himself with the Bhatkhande University, Lucknow and went on to complete his B.A & M.A in Hindustani Classical Music. He was fortunate enough to get trained under Pt S N Ratanjhankar. Thereafter he taught at Marris Music College, Bhatkhande Univ. from 1946-1949.

-1950, he received a letter from Protima Devi that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime-Minister of India and the Chancellor of Vishva Bharati, Shantiniketan wanted to spread Rabindra Culture in the Capital. Nilmadhab Sinha was deputed for the same. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s father, Sri Ashutosh Sen was posted in Delhi that time. He personally helped Nilmadhab Sinha settle down in Delhi. Lady Irwin Education Society, Delhi, provided him with a job and he set out to complete the mission handed out to him.

- Delhi University celebrated the 1st International Sanskrit Day, staging Buddha Charita,directed by him.

- The instrumental rendition of the national anthem on the 15th of August, that had long been the prerogative of the Army Band, gave way to the voices of Delhi’s children, taught by Nilmadhab Sinha, to sing Jana Gana Mana at Red Fort from 1951 onwards when the Prime Minister hoisted the flag.

- Vande Mataram as tuned by Rabindranath Tagore was sung for the first time on Teacher’s Day in presence of Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and there on he popularised it
by rendering it at many an important function. Later on in conjunction with Mr Anil Biswas of AIR, it was simplified for public singing.

- Starting 1952, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru had him present cultural events every year on 14th November. In one of such events, he had 1000 girls doing a Manipuri dance item at National Stadium which was highly acclaimed by the Press and Raj Kapoor’s film, ‘Ab Dilli Door Nahin’ captured it.

- 1950-1960, he was engaged with the Government assignments. Among those whom India welcomed with Nilmadhab Sinha’s songs were Russian Premier Bulganin, Queen Elizabeth II, Saudi King Saud, Russian President Kruschev, First Lady of the US Jacqueline Kennedy, Maharaja Mahendra of Nepal and so on.

- He gave music to poems written by eminent national poets like Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Suryakant Tripathi etc. While singing Kavi Nirala’s poem ‘Varde Varde Veenavadini Varde’ at Ramlila Maidan, he was conferred upon with Acharya title in the presence of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Justice Das of Supreme Court.

- 1937-1942, he was an AIR-Calcutta artist. He was the first Bishnupriya Manipuri to broadcast Rabindra Sangeet.

- 1948-1949, he broadcasted Rabindra Sangeet from Dhaka Radio.

- 1942-1949 he broadcasted the weekly Rabindra Sageet programme from AIR Lucknow.

- 1950-1966, he was an AIR artist broadcasting Rabindra Sangeet from Delhi, Imphal, Kohima and Gauhati radio stations. He lent his voice for the in-house production of the English translated version of Gitanjali aired by AIR.

- 1961, Rabindranath Tagore’s Birth Centenary programme arranged by the Govt. of India saw Acharya Nilmadhab Sinha presenting the opening and the closing items.

- 1960-1966, he took lessons on Dhrupad Gayaki form of Hindustani Classical Music from Ustad Nasir Moin-ud-din Dagar and became a singer of the Dagar Gharana.

- 1982, at the World Medical Congress held in Delhi, he was given to sing the inaugural Sanskrit Shlokas where upon the Chief Guest Dr Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, the then President of India could not help appreciating his renditions.

- 1982, Acharya Nilmadhab Sinha was awarded by Vishwa Bharati University and Govt. of West Bengal for his lifetime contributions in popularizing Rabindra Sangeet.

- 1990, at Dhrupad Samaroh held at Jaipur, Dagar family invited him to open the event with his classical recital.

- 1991-1992, he headed the Department of Music at Gandharva Ved Vishwavidyapeeth and was conferred upon the title of Pandit Nilmadhab Sinha. In 1993, he was chosen by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi Trust as an ambassador to popularize Indian Music at several foreign destinations but an untimely illness which immediately required hospitalization, prevented him from completing this mission.

Pt Nilmadhab Sinha being felicitated on 24th February, 2007 by Dr. Sunil Guha, Ex- Director - International Labour Organisation.

- 2007,February, music lovers from all over India felicitated him at a glittering function held in the Millennium City, Gurgaon wherein the Ex-Director of International Labour Organisation, Dr Sunil Guha honoured him on the occasion.

To some known as Acharya, to some as Mastermoshai or Pandit Nilmadhab, he has devoted his life to Music which he imbibed from Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Prof.S N Ratanjhankar and Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar. Many students under his tutelage have got Ph.D in Music, receiving scholarship from Delhi University and Sangeet Natak Academy. Being the first Bishnupriya Manipuri to settle down in Delhi, he eagerly helped many Bishnupriya Manipuris to find job opportunities in the capital who later on established themselves in Delhi. Today as he leads a life devoted to Hari Naam and Dhyanam, he can be contacted on Mobile No: +919818482160

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  1. Till Nov 02 ,2008 Acharya Pt. Nilmadhav Sinha , was like a name of a biography of the greatest of legends we have in our community. I have been listening the success story of Great Acharya form my parents and also from Pt. Matilal Sinha , who also happend to be the younger brother of Shri Kunjolal Sinha whose name is mentioned in Shree Nilmadhav's biography... It was indeed one of the memorable day in my life when I happen to meet Acharya Pt. Nilmadav on the blessed day of Sree Sree Bhubaneswar Sadhuthakur Abhirbhab Thithi observed on 2nd Nov 2008 in New Delhi..It was also a sense of pride for me to have Sree Nilmadav as the Chief Guest...

    Great regards, respects, and wishes for good health and long life to Acharya Pt. Nilmadav Sinha...

  2. Informative, constructive, inspiring article.

  3. We have almost lost hope of reading
    the life history of Pt.Nilmadhab
    sinha,as one of our B.M gentleman from Guwahati happened to be in his house and promised him of getting it published in leading news papers of Assam and Delhi including our language magazines for which the gentleman took a fat commission.Neither he returned the money nor has he kept the promise.
    Now Rishi has done a superb job by accommodating it in his blog.I am quite happy that ultimately the biography has seen the light of the day.I would like to thank Rishi

  4. Never heard before that we have a personality like him, glad to know about him and wish him a peaceful and healthy life at this stage.


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