Sunday, March 1, 2020


                               ( Annapurna Devi with  Pandit Ravi Shanker )
                                            ( Annapurna Devi with her father )
                                ( Baba teaching Ravi Shanker and ali Ajkbar Khan )
                                                           ( Baba Allauddin Khan )
                                                     ( Baba teaching  Annapurna )
                                                                ( Annapurna  Devi )
                                               ( Annapurna Devi with  Pandit Ravi Shanker )

(Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma condoling the death of Annapurna Devi. )
                                                 (Shubendra Shanker)
                                                             (      Annapurna Devi     )
                                  ( George Harrison and Pandit  Ravi Shankar )

(L to R ...Annapurna Devi, Krishna Debendra Shankar, Lakshmi Rajendra Shankar and Amala Uday Shankar in 1947)

                                                      ( Ali Akbar Khan )


Annapurna Devi was Baba Allauddin Khan’s daughter. Baba was the court musician of Maihar state in central India. And Baba taught music to some known musicians of the country. He trained them under Gurukul system. His students lived with Baba’s family. To Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee, Baba taught Sitar. To Robin Ghosh , Baba taught violin. And to Pannalal Ghosh, Baba taught the Bansuri or Flute . To his own son, Ali Akbar Khan, Baba taught Sarod and to his daughter Annapurna Devi, Baba taught Surbahar.
It was Maharaja Baij Nath Singh of Maihar state ( British India ) who named little Roshan Ara as Annapurna. Annapurna married Pandit Ravi Shanker in 1941. She was 14 and Pandit Ji 21. She performed with her husband many times. Quite often she received more accolades than Ravi  Shanker. Connoisseurs and music critics say that she was a gifted musician more talented than Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar. Many say that like her brother Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna had also inherited Baba’s musical genius. She could play many instruments including Sitar and Surbahar never compromising with the purity of the Raga. 
Ustad Amir Khan once said:
“Annapurna Devi is 80 per cent of Ustad Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar is 70 per cent and Ravi Shankar is about 40 per cent.”
Ravi Shankar and Annapurna were divorced in 1960. In an interview, she said:
“ Our marriage was not a love marriage. I was brought up by Ma and Baba in an ashram-like atmosphere at Maihar. There was no question of my getting attracted to Panditji. Ours was an arranged marriage. On May 15, 1941, we were married according to Hindu rites."
" I remember Panditji (Ravi Shankar) telling me before the performance that I should cater a little to the public taste. My response was that I would play only what I was taught. I think the audience enjoyed my playing." 
" Whenever I performed people appreciated my playing and I sensed that Panditji was not too happy with the response. I was not that fond of performing anyway so I stopped it and continued my Sadhana (practising music)."
" I have found out that it is much more peaceful not to meet people and this helps me to do things of my own. I have lived alone in my flat. I am not afraid of anything but sometimes I felt uncomfortable. Once Baba ( Baba Allauddin Khan ) appeared in my dream and taught me a mantra. He was a devotee of Kali and Krishna. I chant that mantra and I am fearless.”
Madan Lal Vyas, wrote this in ‘ The Navbharat Times ’ :
“After the concerts, people used to surround Annapurna Devi more than Ravi Shankar, which Pandit ji could not tolerate. He was no match for her. She was a genius. Even Baba, the unforgiving and uncompromising Guru called her the embodiment of Saraswati. "

After her divorce, Annapurna turned a recluse. She cooked her own food. Rarely allowed any person to record any music or interview. She never performed in public and moved to live permanently in an apartment in south Mumbai. She turned out AIR team once that came to record her music. She even avoided attending phone calls. Avoiding public glare, Annapurna started teaching music to some serious students like George Harrison , Nikhil Banerjee, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Aashish Khan ,Bahadur Khan , Sandhya Phadke, Sudhir Phadke ,Peter Klatt ( Sitar ), Swarsati Saha, Nityanand Haldipur, Basant Kabra, Jotin Battacharya, Amit Bhattacharya, and Amit Roy. 

As a teacher, Annapurna Devi chose her students carefully. She was strict , disciplinarian and had her own ways in imparting Taalim. 
 Hariprasad Chaurasia once said:

‘If I closed the door of the apartment incorrectly upon entering or departing, she would not see me for weeks' 

And then their talented son and sitar player Shubhendra Shankar died in the US. Shubendra had studied graphic Art at J J School of Art in Mumbai. Shubendra had married Linda, a talented American girl. Once, he played with his father Ravi Shankar at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. Shubendra had two children from this marriage. Suddenly, Shubendra developed a distaste for Sitar. He started facing financial difficulties. He worked as a clerk in a liquor store to support his family He died in 1992 at a young age after suddenly contracting Pneumonia. Pandit Ji and Annapurna called their only child as Shubho . 
About relations with Subho’s wife and children, Annapurna once said :

“Unfortunately, I stay far away. I am not in direct touch with them. But I used to help them. I sent them some money out of the sale proceeds of the land in Maihar. They used to write to me. But again, for some unknown reason, all that stopped.”
Ravi Shanker had many affairs. These affairs were also a cause of the misunderstanding and marital discord in Annapurna’s life. Then came the management Guru RK Pandya in Annapurna's life. R K Pandya had learnt Sitar from Ali Akbar Khan while studying management under a scholarship in the US. He moved to Canada later and served in that country . in 1980, he came to India for a brief visit to learn Sitar from Annapurna Devi. Annapurna found a trusted student, a confidante and a reliable caretaker in Pandya.In 1984. on Pandya's proposal, Annapurna decided to marry. R.K Pandya ( 1940-2013 ) finally settled in Mumbai leaving a lucrative job in Canada . He died in 2013 of cardiac arrest. Annapurna was once more a lonely woman but three decades of marriage with Pandya seemed to have settled her, and healed long-held scars. Pandya created Annapurna foundation and also did some investments that earned steady income for Annapurna . 
                                                            ( R K Pandya )
The Indian Express newspaper of April29, 2013 writes :
" The reclusive sitar player, who had shut herself away from people and distraction after her failed first marriage and her son's death, would have faded away without Pandya's selfless devotion. Consequently, Pandya's contribution is not to be measured by his musical credentials — music lovers thank him for keeping Annapurna alive and healthy for more than 50 years, during which she taught a range of up-and-coming musicians."
This is what R K Pandya has written about Annapurna Devi's music:
"In Annapurna Devi’s music, every note is like an offering. She has a completely different sound. Pandit Ravi Shankarji and Ustad Ali Akbar Khansahib might have modified a part of what they learnt from Baba Allauddin Khansahib in order to reach out to a larger audience. But her music is completely what she learnt from her father, and she insightfully preserved it in seclusion. So, there is a definite quality about that, which is very rare. The tonal quality of her music is also completely different."
Nityanand Haldipur ,the well-known flute player , who learnt music from Annapurna Devi says :
"Once I was very tired and did not want to come for my lesson but duty compelled me to. In my mind, I prayed that Guru Ma would notice my fatigue and ask me to go back home. But she did nothing of the sort. After I played my flute for five minutes, she remarked that I looked tired, and sitting down taught me the Aaroh (ascending) and Avroh (descending) musical scale of Raag Maaj Khamaj, a raga invented by her father. Guru Ma made me play for nothing less than two and a half hours, after which she asked how I was feeling. It was unbelievable, but I felt totally rejuvenated and energised. She smiled and shared with me that though the raga was meant for relaxing, it is only when there is purity of intent that the effect comes. Ma fed pigeons and crows. She recognised each bird and described their idiosyncrasies. Towards the end, I took to feeding the crows. Once, she called out and asked, ‘Did you feed that crow less food?’ I responded, ‘Yes, a bit less’. She said, ‘He is outside my window complaining!’
Like her legendry father Baba Allauddin Khan , Annapurna could play Flute , Sitar , Sarod , Surbahaar and many more instruments . She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1977 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1991. The Sangeet Natak Akademi appointed her as the prestigious ‘Ratna’ fellow in 2004.
Aalif Surti writes this in May 2000 issue of Man's World Magazine:
"Unfortunately, her music is lost to the world. There are very few people who remember watching her in concert. There is only one recording of her playing in existence: a rare, private recording from one of their Jugalbandi performances which was made from the speaker placed outside the door when the auditorium was filled. Apart from Ravi Shankar, and her current husband, Rooshi Pandya, the only person who has heard her play since she withdrew from public life is the Beatle George Harrison. The story goes that when he was here in the 1970s with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked them if she could do anything. Menuhin said he wanted to ask for something impossible — could Mrs Gandhi get Annapurna Devi to play for him? After much persuasion, a reluctant Annapurna Devi agreed, not to a special performance, but to allow them to sit in on her daily riyaz. On the appointed day, however, Menuhin had to rush back home on account of an illness in the family. Harrison thus became the lucky one to see her play.'
In 2018, she died of age related problems . She had developed Parkinson's disease in 2014.Contrary to Sitar Maestro,  Pandit Ravi Shanker , she led a fiercely private life. She did not allow herself to be photographed. Even the Padma Bhushan was delivered to her home.
(Avtar Mota)

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