Mansur was born on December 31, 1910 in a village in Dharwad
district of Karnataka. He had four brothers and three sisters. His
elder brother Baswaraj had his own theatre troupe. At the age of
nine, Mallikarjun played a small part in a play. The experience
fascinated him so much that he ran away from home and joined a
touring drama troupe. Although his father brought him back home, the
stage continued to fascinate him and he soon joined another touring
During a performance, Pandit Neelkantbuwa Jangam, a disciple of
Pandit Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar, renowned exponent of the
Gwalior gharana, recognized his potential. Young Mallikarjun was
taken to Meeraj and put through a grueling schedule of gurukul
training. For 6 years his training began at 4 a.m. and continued for
several hours. When he emerged from his training he was 18 and ready
to perform at any concert.
The most memorable among his early concerts was the Ganesha Utsav
concert in Mumbai, in which he sang for over six hours. In 1932,
after a special audition by HMV, he cut his first gramophone record.
But although he had made several discs for HMV when he was still in
his early twenties, music did not become a paying profession to
Mallikarjun until much later in life.
was through the initiative of a friend that Ustad Manji Khan, son of
Ustad Alladiya Khan of the Jaipur Gharana, noticed Mallikarjun.
Already trained in the Gwalior style, Mallikarjun was able to absorb
the rich Jaipur style. Unfortunately Ustad Manji Khan died
prematurely in 1937. Ustad Alladiya Khan then asked his other son
Ustad Bhurji Khan to continue Mallikarjun’s training. Although
Mallikarjun Mansur`s gayakee was a blend of both gharanas, the
virtuosity of the Jaipur gharana was more evident in his style. He
could cast a hypnotic spell on his audience with his astounding
breath control, the absolute purity of his swaras and the wonderful
way in which he employed various embellishments. He sang for more
than sixty years and there was always a special intensity to his
singing, a special urgency and earnestness in his treatment of
He performed regularly on radio and television and participated in
numerous music conferences. He was director of HMV for a few years.
He later joined Dharwad Radio Station as Music Director. His musical
excellence earned him the `Kalidas Samman`, the Sangeet Natak
Akademi Award, the Padmashree, the Padmabhushan and several other
Mallikarjun had always led a simple life. He worshipped music and
wanted to share its purity and joy with all his listeners. Worldly
success meant little to him. Struck by lung cancer, the end came on
Saturday September 12, 1992. In a Doordarshan interview telecast
after his demise, he had expressed satisfaction at the vastly
growing interest in classical music saying, `In the olden days we
had so many veritable colossi in music of the highest calibre, but
the audiences were small, exclusive and limited. Today, there are
mammoth audiences, but sadly very very few musical giants left.`
His son and musical heir is Pandit Rajshekhar Mansur.