Banikantha was born in the Royal Narendra family of Kendrapara, the abode of Lord Sri Baladev Jew, on 9th July, 1901.Whose forefather belong to Royal Family Jodhpur, Rajasthan. His father Brundabana Chandra Harichandan was the grandson of late Radhesyama Narendra, famous Zamindar of Kendrapara, who at his time was being called as the Indra (king of heaven) of Earth, for his popularity, and his mother, Indramani Devi was also from a very wealthy family. Besides all facilities, Nimain had to end up his study at a very tender age of ten to accompany his mentally-retired father commuting one hospital to other for better treatment.
In 1916, Nimain began learning music by playing Mrudanga and Harmonium, before his family god Shri Shri Radhagovinda Jew. Looking to the interest of Nimain his famous musician paternal-uncle, Guru Gokul Chandra Srichandan started teaching of music to him. It is pertinent to note here that, late Gokula Chandra was the Guru of some of the renowned musicians of Odisha, like late Sangeeta Sudhakara Balakrushna Das & Mohan Sundar Dev Goswami. Another Uncle Giridhari Jana was also a well-known Mrudanga and Harmonium player. Hence, music was in the blood of Nimain. He also started learning music from Artabandhu Patra of Kendrapara and tabla from Jagabandhu Nayak of Cuttack. In 1922, Nimain learnt Hindustani Vocal from Ustad Madho Rao of Cuttack, Who modulated his voice and his tone become melodious, whom he never forgot in his life time.
At the age of Sixteen, Nimain started his musician career by joining the Raasa Dala of Sri Gobind Sura Deo(Who happens to his Brother in law). In 1923, he again joined the famous Raasa Dala of Mohan Sundar Dev Goswami. Then he came across with famous Baisnab Sadhu named Babaji Ram Dash, who later took Nimain to Kolkatta, where he got in touch with some of the famous musicians of that time. In the year 1924, he married to the princes of Athagarh(Cuttack Dist.) Royal Family, late Laxmipriya Devi. At that time his family was undergoing with some financial crises. To come over this situation, Nimain started doing business as a bus service provider along with a cousin, there he learnt driving and became the driver of his own bus. From 1931 to 1932, he taught Odissi music to daughter of notable person of Cuttack, as Dr. Pranakrushna Parija, Dr. Artaballav Mohanty, Dr. Nityananda Kanungo and Sri Chakradhar Mishra.
But fate had even bigger things in store for Nimain Harichandan. On the year 1933, he recorded his first song, “Bitalaku Alingana…” for HMV, with the help of his Uncle Gokula Chandra and the distributor of HMV, Cuttack , Mastan Babu. The song was an over-night sensation. As per the ‘Dainika Assa’ odiya news paper, dt.11.09.1935, first he had recorded 8 number of song and per song company had remunerated @ Rs.20/- and till the publication of news, it had sold more than 400 pieces. Its popularity was so phenomenal and unrivalled that, after a few months of its recording Nimain got an invitation to sing for the All India Radio, Kolkatta in 1934. In that same year Utkal Sahitya Samaaja had organized a Chhanda Music Competition, where Nimain was awarded the first prize the “Gajapati Maharaja Gold Medal”. In 1934, he bagged the Gold Medal for Odissi Music from Utkal Sangeet Samaaja. Nimain Harichandan was the true ‘Sadhaka’ (worshiper) of Odisha’s very own culturally enriched traditional musical forms, as he was never deviated from the singing limitations of Odissi, Chaanda, Champoo, Janaana (prayer songs) and Palligita (folk).
His soprano voice of compelling range made him so popular that, this genius aptly titled “Banikantha” in 1943, by HMV, since, Nimain holds the highest record as a regional artist, all best-sellers. He was also appointed as the Court Singer of the then Princely State of Athagarh and started staying there in a large double storied house(Old Palace) along with 100 acres of landed property and a monthly salary of thirty rupees, gifted to him by the King ,Late Radhanath Dev Burman. The All India Radio, Cuttack was inaugurated on 28th Jan, 1948 and Nimain had opened the program with his song, “Sri Radha Baatuli Prema Ratna Tuli…” written by the famous poet, Abhimanyu Samanta Singhaar. Who also happens to be relative of Nimain. Till his death, he was regular high grade artist of AIR .It is also his claim that, he had never cancelled a single program of AIR in his life.
His voice had a quality and distinct from others. His name and fame had already preceded him and people in the film industry were already aware of this talented singer and soon, he was flooded with offers. But, he preferred to render his voice only for the film “Sri Jagannath” (1949), as this was about his beloved god Lord Jagannath, where the songs, “Nila Sindhu Tire” and “Chakadolaa Kimpaa Dakaa” were smash-hit and ensured the box office successes of the movie. He has rendered his voice in more than 100 records for HMV till 1977. He himself was the music composer of most of his songs. Banikantha become so famous and achieved the climax of popularity due to his god gifted voice, which was very clear, melodious and voluminous .He was able to sing 20 to 30 songs at a time, without any rest and that to without looking to any note book. He has quality/capacity to control /spellbound the large number of noisy mob through his song.
Last Life :
In the year 1969, he shifted to Srikhetra Puri, along with his wife, to permanently stay there, leaving behind the worldly attachment, and worship his beloved god Lord Jagannath. Gajapati Maharaja of Puri, observing his dedication of life, towards Lord Jagannath and devotional song, grant the ‘Chaamara Seva’, to serve his Lord Sri Jagannath, which he was performing sincerely till his death. During his stay at Puri, he used to visit the temple at 4 AM every day and sang Bhajan and Janana at Soochana Kendra, Singhadwara, before opening of the main door of the Sri Jagannath Temple. After opening of Singhadwara , he went inside the temple and have the darsan of god. Then standing before the Lord Jagannath, behind the Garuda Sthamba, he performed the Chaamara Seva, simultaneously singing bhajana and janana. His great faith on Sri Jagannath, influence him to name his house at Matimandap Sahi, Puri as ‘Sri Jagannath Dham’. Throughout the life, he was vegetarian and did not take even onion and garlic. Every day he performed puja by reading one chapter from holy Ramayana, volume eleven of Srimad Bhagabat (Ekadasa Skandha Bhagabata) and Bhagbat Geeta.
On 19th July, 1983, Tuesday’ at the age of 82, he passed away at the Lotus Feet of ‘Mahaprabhu’ symbolically during ‘Baahudaa Jatra’ the return Car Festival of Puri. It is so astonishing that, on 12th July, just seven days before his death, he had sung a song “Baahudei Nebu Mote Baahuda dibase” in a Bhajana Samaaroha, organized in Saradahabali. And see the coincidence; it was his last song, which, he had sung in front of the Car-ridden Lord Jagannath. Such was the power of his devotion.