Story behind the ‘Surbahar’ exponent..!

The legendary Hindustani Classical Musician, Annapurna Devi died at the age of 91 in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital yesterday (13/10/2018). She was suffering from the age related issues for the past few years. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was one of the first politicians to condole her death.

“Saddened at the passing away of Annapurna Devi, the founder of Maihar Gharana. My condolences to her family and admirers”, she said.

Full of struggle but complete devotion at the same time is what her life was. Devotion towards the classical notes and the medium, ‘Surbahar’..! Born to an already celebrated artist Allaudin Khan, she was naturally blessed with the set genre of classical music. The Surbahar also known as ‘bass sitar’ was the one instrument that shaped her life into a stunner.

Devi was a disciple of her father whose inestimable contribution to Indian music resulted in the Senia-Maihar gharana. Her training started early when she was around five years old and she graduated from the sitar to her chosen instrument. Later she got married to the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who was also her father’s disciple.

Giving public performances to showcase the talent was not actually her choice but she did it to save her marriage with Shankar. It anyway din’t workout as her talent challenged the musical patriarchy and was more appreciated as compared to Ravi Shankar. They got divorced in 1982 after which she ceased to perform in the public. This was honestly a gloomy part of her career. This is well described in the biography ‘An Unheard Melody: Annapurna Devi’ by Swapan Kumar Bondyopadhyay, Roli Books.

She intensely wanted to play her Baba’s style and expand the glory of Senia-Maihar gharana. Being in a great company around with the renowned artist like Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Bahadur Khan, she had had a good hold on guiding the disciples. Devi began teaching music and expanding the style of Maihar gharana. Some of her students named are flutist Hariprasad Chaurasiya, Sudhir Phadke, Chandrakant Sardeshmukh, Dr.Hemant Desai.

In her curriculum, she received prestigious awards like Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Deshikottam (doctorate degree) for her work. She also was a key figure to Acharya Alauddin Music Circle in Mumbai. Annapurna Devi’s demise is a loss to the music sector. President Ram Nath Kovind said that she was a rare talent and a generous teacher. Her life will always serve as a poignant inspiration for women artistes.

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