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Baijnath Mishra, better known as Baiju Bawra ("Baiju the Crazy"), was a dhrupad musician from medieval India. Nearly all the information on Baiju Bawra comes from legends, and lacks historical authenticity. According to the most popular legends, he lived in the Mughal period during the 15th and 16th centuries. He was one of the court musicians of Raja Mansingh Tomar of Gwalher (now Gwalior).
According to another legend, mentioned by Susheela Misra in Some immortals of Hindustani music, Baiju Bawra was born as Baijnath Mishra in a poor Brahmin family in Champaner, Gujarat Sultanate. After his father's death, his mother, a devotee of Krishna, went to Vrindavan. There, Baiju met his teacher Swami Haridas, and was trained in a gurukula. He also adopted an orphan named Gopal, and trained him to be a musician.
Gradually, Baiju became famous, and was invited to the court of the Raja of Chanderi. In Chanderi, Baiju's adopted son Gopal also became famous. Gopal married his disciple Prabha, and the couple had a daughter named Meera. Around this time, Raja Man Singh invited him to Gwalior, where he reached the height of his fame. The queen of Gwalior, Rani Mriganayani, also became his disciple.
Once, while Baiju was away, Gopal left Chanderi permanently, lured by some Kashmiri merchants who wanted him to serve their king. When Baiju returned home, he was shocked to find his entirely family gone. He became a mendicant, and wandered from place to place, looking for his beloved adopted grandchild Meera. People thought of him as an insane person, and thus, he came to be known as "bawra". (Alternative legends say that he came to be known as "Bawra", because he was obsessed with classical music.)
Tansen, another famous disciple of Swami Haridas, had heard Baiju's praise from his teacher. He asked his own patron Raja Ramachandra Baghela of Rewa to organize a musical contest, in hope that Baiju would come to this contest to salvage his reputation. Baiju came to the contest, and performed extraordinary feats such as hypnotizing deer through his rendering of Raja Mrgaranjini and melting a stone slab through Raga Malkauns. Tansen recognized him and embraced him.
The legends in the books preserved in Jai Vilas Mahal in Gwalior state that Baiju Bawra could light oil lamps by singing Raga Deepak; make it rain by singing the ragas Megh, Megh Malhar, or Gaud Malhar; and bloom flowers by singing raga Bahar.
Baiju Bawra died in Chanderi after suffering from typhoid on Vasant Panchami day in 1610. A purported samadhi of Baiju Bawra is located in Chanderi.
Baiju Bawra is a 1952 Hindi film directed by Vijay Bhatt. Produced by Prakash Pictures, with story by Ramchandra Thakur and dialogues by Zia Sarhadi, Baiju Bawra was a musical "megahit". Bhatt's decision to make a film based on classical music was met with scepticism by the Indian film industry due to its "lack of mass appeal", but the film and music turned out be an "overwhelming success". The film's music director was Naushad, who had become popular giving folk-based music in films like Rattan, Anmol Ghadi, Shahjehan (1946) and Deedar (1951). With Bhatt's Baiju Bawra, Naushad introduced classical component in Hindi film songs.