Vithabai was born in Pandharpur. Pandharpur is situated in Solapur district of Maharashtra. Her father’s name was Bhau Mang Narayangaonkar. Her Grandfather Narayan Khude had set up a dance troupe. He belonged to Kavathe Yamai situated in Shirur talkua of Pune District. This family had a family dance troupe named Bhau-Bapu Mang Narayangaonkar that was run by her father and uncle. Vithabai from a very young age performed effortlessly on stage though she had not taken any formal training, she had knowledge of various forms of songs like Lavanya, Gavlan, Bhedik, etc. Growing up in such surroundings Vithabai learnt tamasha since her childhood and performed all over Maharashtra, Delhi, and even abroad.
Vithabai’s very famous baithakichi lavni “nesali pitambar jari…” to even exponents of classical music. The noted film-maker Raj Kapoor who is also known as ‘the greatest showman of Indian cinema’had offered a role to Vithabai in his film, but the spirited lady turned down the offer. Her dance troup had received the most prestigious President’s award in the Tamasha genre of art. Vithabai was highly appricaiated and honoured the president’s medal for her contribution to Indian folk art. The state government of Maharashtra conferred upon her the title of ‘tamasha samradni’.
After her father’s death in 1957, she established her own troupe under her name, which travelled all over Maharashtra performing her famous vags. Some of the names can be mentioned as Mumbaichi kelewali i.e. ‘Banana Seller of Mumbai’, Raigadchi rani or ‘Rani of Raigad’, Chincholicha deshmukh or ‘Deshmukh of Chincholi’, Raktat nahali kurhad or “Axe Drenched in Blood”, and Maratha sardar. She has also released cassettes of the songs in these shows.
All her life Vithabai had fought for the welfare and benefits of Tamasha Artists. Vithabai Narayangaonkar died in 2002 She passes away due to a Paralytic attack. At the time of her death, her relatives did not have enough money to clear her hospital bills and to take her body to their native for the last rituals. At that time congress worker Dhananjay Thorat, The Marathi Natya Parishad and a few others raised the funds and settled the bill.
Soon we will see actress Urmila Kothare, playing the main role of Vithabai Narayangonkar in the film titled ‘Vitha’. This movie is based on the life of the ‘Tamasha Empress’ Vithabai Narayangonkar.