At an elevation of 750 meters above the sea, nestled in the Malenadu region at the edge of western ghats, the hilly and picturesque city of Dharwad is an important place known for education, literature and music.
Wow that was a long sentence. So what makes Dharwad so special that I have to write about it before any other place? Well, let’s just say that’s where my journey began.
Till the time I stayed there, I never appreciated the place. Now that I get to visit Dharwad once a month or lesser, I have begun to like the small, seemingly insignificant things about the place. I am sure, that’s the case with most of you who are from Dharwad but stay away somewhere else,like me.
Consider its location. It is connected by the National Highway 43 with Bengaluru and Pune. These major cities are spaced equally (about 420 km) on either side of Dharwad. A lot of youngsters choose these cities for work. It is just an overnight journey for them back home. But that’s about work. How about this –
- GOA and Karwar beaches are within a few hours journey by road;
- Dandeli forests and Kali river are right there;
- Hills of the Western Ghats like Amboli are within a couple of hours reach;
- Couple of hours drive and you get to places of worship – Kolhapur, Savadatti, Hebballi, Gokarna etc.
- Hubli and Belgaum, the major shopping and commercial centers are less than an hour away.
The list goes on. So for a population of less than 10 lakhs (Hubli included – Census 2011), Dharwad becomes an ideal place to stay with all other fun and commercial activities within short reach.
Culturally varied states of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka have a major influence on the food culture of Dharwad. Belgaum, Dharwad and Hubli have for a long time been considered as the gateway to South India. So a lot of travelers from up north have settled in these cities. Along with people from different parts of the country, their cuisine has also come to Dharwad. But it’s not just that, the local flavors are plenty. Let me mention a few –
- Rotti oota (Jowar roti with superb dishes like usli and yengai to accompany) – try this at – Basappa Khanavali, Prabhu Khanavali and many more.
- Girmit and mirchi bhaji – try this at – LEA canteen and many other small shops along the streets. Enjoy with tea.
- Egg rice – a favorite among college going students, this is available on all food carts across Dharwad
- Non-vegetarian meals – a must try at various Savaji Khanavalis across the city.
- Honey cake, dilpasand, dilkhush, veg puffs and other bakery items
There is more to this list. Not to forget, the famous Dharwad Pedha, which has been burdened with maintaining the reputation of Dharwad for decades now. The moment I mention Dharwad to someone, I hear back -“Dharwad Pedha?”
I sure am proud of the fact that this sweet confectionery is what Dharwad is most popular for. But I sometimes do feel there is so much more that people should know about Dharwad. Nevertheless, it feels great to see the Mishra’s take their business to a pan India level being headquartered in Dharwad.
From the time I know, Dharwad has always been known for its centers of learning, with many famous schools, colleges and universities.
Not very sure about this, but the first regular school in Dharwad was opened in 1826. This was a Marathi medium school and later a Kannada medium school opened in 1831. 1845 was when the first English medium school opened in Dharwad. Later, a number of renowned institutions have come up. Being part of the erstwhile Bombay province, Dharwad’s official language was Marathi for some time. People learned to write Kannada in Devanagari script. I have seen a few family members write Kannada in Devanagari.
Again, due to the location, a lot of scholars from Maharasthra and further north spent time in Dharwad while traveling to Mysore. Probably, a few of them stayed back in Dharwad and promoted education, music and other arts. I am not very certain of this, but that is how a major theater and music trend started in Dharwad. This culture of promoting education has remained. Many success stories we hear about in the modern world were initiated here. Here is a list of notable people from Dharwad.
To this day, Dharwad has remained as an education hub for the state of Karnataka and has students from across India and abroad studying in it’s many schools and universities.
How did Dharwad produce so many stars of Hindustani Music? My theory is that both the geo-location and focus on education helped in the advent of Hindustani music in Dharwad. Way back during the 19th century (probably in the second half), many schools and even training colleges for boys and girls were started in Dharwad. This must have attracted a large number of talented people from various regions of Bombay and Mysore regions to come and teach.
In the reverse trend, the educated younger generation moved to bigger cities for higher education and employment. They got introduced to the rich culture of music, drama and literature. They would have in turn enriched the local music and literature too.
Today, Dharwad is known all over the world to have produced some of the greatest vocalists and musicians.
From Wikipedia –
Dharwad is an unlikely outpost of the Kirana gharana. Ustad Abdul Karim Khan was a frequent visitor to Mysore Darbar, where he had been conferred the title of Sangeet Ratna. On the way to Mysore, he used to stay with his brother in Dharwad, where he taught his most famous disciple, Sawai Gandharva. Sawai Gandharva in turn was the guru to Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi and Basavaraj Rajaguru.
The close association of these artistes with Dharwad laid the foundation for Hindustani music there. They inculcated interest in Hindustani music among the local and encouraged the younger generation by not only teaching them music, but also by bringing in other musicians of the time to guide. It is their untiring effort that sowed the seeds of Hindustani music in North Karnataka.
Arts & Literature:
You can hardly talk about Dharwad without mentioning the great poets from Kumara Vyasa, Kanakadasa and Sarvajna down to Shishunala Sharief and Bendre.
It was here that Aalur Venkata Rao convened the first writers conference in Karnataka. In the field of literature, it was here that the friends circle which developed around Bendre was formed and nurtured.
Jnanpith Award winners V. K. Gokak and Girish Karnad trace their origins to Dharwad. Kannada writer and critic, Kirtinath Kurtakoti winner of Sahitya Akademi, also lived in dharwad for a good part of his life.
One of the greatest Marathi writers, Sahitya Akademi Award winner G. A. Kulkarni also lived most of his life here in Dharwad.