Gandhari Hangal, popularly known as Gangubai Hangal was born on March 5, 1913, in Dharwad, Karnataka. In her era, professional musicians were frowned upon by the society.
Gangubai left her school after fifth grade as the legendary singer faced untouchability and insults from her high caste people. Gangubai learnt singing from her mother, she polished her art by training under musicians and vocalists like Shri Krishnacharya Hulgur, Shri Dattopant Desai and Pt. Rambhau Kundgolkar.
Gangubai got the first chance to impress the world with her singing when she was just 11 years old. She was selected to sing the invocatory song at the Indian National Congress session in Belgaum, Karnataka in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi.
The powerful vocalist sang bhajan and thumri on All India Radio for a long time. Gangubai went on to perform at the annual All India Music Conferences, with musical maestros like Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Firoz Dastur Omkarnath, Kesarbai, Bismillah Khan, Allauddin Khan, Siddeshwari Devi and numerous others.
Gangubai popularized Indian Classical Music around the world through her performances in France, West Germany, Canada and the United States. She was honored with Karnataka Sangeet Nritya Academy Award in 1962.
Gangubai went on to receive the Padma Bhushan in 1971 followed by Sangeet Nataka Akademi award just two years later. Then followed the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1996. Finally, in 2002 she was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
Gangubai would always be remembered for her empowering vocals and for raising through the ranks in a society which was plagued by caste system and gender discrimination. The legendary singer breathed her last on 21st July, 2009.