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Annapurna Devi
Annapurna Devi (sitar player).jpg
Roshanara Khan

Died13 October 2018(2018-10-13) (aged 90–91)

Annapurna Devi (1927 – 13 October 2018) was an Indian surbahar (bass sitar) player of Hindustani classical music. She was given the name 'Annapurna' by former Maharaja Brijnath Singh of the former Maihar Estate (M.P.), and it was by this name that she was popularly known. She was the daughter and disciple of royal court musician Allauddin Khan and Madina Bibi, and the first wife of the sitar player Ravi Shankar. After her separation from Ravi Shankar, she moved to Bombay and never performed again in public. She remained a private person, yet continued to teach music for free. Her students include many notable disciples including Hariprasad Chaurasia, Nityanand Haldipur and Nikhil Banerjee.[1]


Annapurna Devi, born Roshanara Khan, on 15 April 1927 [confirmed by Lajo ji] at Maihar, a small princely state of British India (now a part of Madhya Pradesh, India).[2][3][4][a] Her father Alauddin Khan was a royal court musician at the court of Maharaja Brijnath Singh (Maihar State), who named the newborn girl 'Annapurna'.[7]

Her father and guru Alauddin Khan, founder of the "Senia Maihar gharana" or "Senia Maihar School" of Hindustani classical music, was a noted musician and guru of Indian classical music. Her uncles, Fakir Aftabuddin Khan and Ayet Ali Khan, were noted musicians at their native place Shibpur, in the present-day Bangladesh. Her brother Ali Akbar Khan was a legendary Sarod maestro and was considered a "national living treasure" in India and the USA.[citation needed] Annapurna was initially instructed by her father in the sitar and vocals. She then switched to the surbahar which she played in the traditional style of a rudra veena. One of her earliest concerts of note was with the surbahar when she played in honour of the Raja of Maihar. She was rewarded with a large tract of land for her performance.[3]

On 15 May 1941, Annapurna Devi converted to Hinduism and married renowned sitarist, Ravi Shankar, in Almora.[2][8] Between 1946 and 1955, Annapurna appeared on stage with Shankar in a handful of sitar-surbahar duets in Delhi and Bombay (now Mumbai).[3] They had a son, Shubhendra Shankar (1942–1992), who was also a musician.[9][8] The couple got divorced in 1982.[2]

Annapurna married Rooshikumar Pandya in Bombay on 9 December 1982.[8] Rooshikumar Pandya, who was 42 years old at the time of their marriage, was a well known communication expert and a successful sitarist in the United States. Rooshikumar had been learning sitar from her since 1973 at the recommendation of her brother, Ali Akbar Khan, who was also his guru (as was Ravi Shankar). He died in 2013 suddenly of a cardiac arrest at the age of 73.[10][11] Annapurna Devi died of age related issues on 13 October 2018 in Mumbai.[12]


Annapurna Devi became a very accomplished surbahar (bass sitar) player of the Maihar gharana (school) within a few years of starting to take music lessons from her father Alauddin Khan. She started guiding many of her father's disciples, including Nikhil Banerjee and Bahadur Khan, in classical music as well as in the techniques and intricacies of instrumental performances. In 1941, age 14, she married one of her father's talented students, Ravi Shankar. She converted to Hinduism upon marriage.[13]

In the 1950s, Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi performed duets in Delhi and Calcutta, principally at the college of her brother, Ali Akbar Khan. But later, Shankar she decided not to reduce and finally stop performing in public. Her student Vinay Ram says that she was uncomfortable accepting payment for concerts, as it was her belief that it was akin to selling Saraswati (the Goddess of learning).[1]

Devi and Shankar's son, Shubhendra Shankar, (or "Subho", as he was popularly known) received rigorous training in sitar under her tutelage, until his father chose to interrupt his musical talim or training and took him to the United States. Shubhendra died at an early age, after a marriage and the birth of three children. Shubhendra did not have a solo career in classical music, but did for a period accompany his illustrious father Ravi Shankar in concerts in the USA and abroad. As per one of her students Vinay Ram, a conflict regarding the upbringing and musical teaching of Subho was the main reason for Devi and Shankar's separation, though they continued to remain in touch on amicable terms till the end.[1]


Annapurna Devi was an acclaimed instructor and one of the first women gurus of note in modern times. Her pupils were not restricted solely to sitar or surbahar players and encompassed various fields in Hindustani classical music.[b] They included the sitarists Debi Prasad Chatterji, Bahadur Khan (a cousin), Hiren Roy, Indranil Bhattacharya, Kartik Kumar, and Nikhil Banerji, the sarodists, Dhyanesh Khan and Ashis Khan (sons of Ali Akbar), Basant Kabra, Pradeep Barot and Suresh Vyas, the bansuri players, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Nityanand Haldipur, the dilruba artist Dakshina Mohan Tagore, and the violinist Satyadev Pawar.[3]

She was also the key figure of Acharya Alauddin Music Circle (an association in the memory of the late Alauddin Khan for promoting Indian classical music), in Mumbai.[citation needed]



  1. ^ There appears to be considerable confusion on her exact date of birth. In her authorised biography, the author notes that the circumstantial references point to Annapurna being born on the "Chaitra purnima day of the Bengali year of 1334 (1927)". But he finds no reliable accounts or documented evidence in support of this and chooses not to speculate.[4] Newspaper articles cited here choose to only mention her birth year. One source notes that she was born on 23 April 1927 but provides no basis for this.[5] According to the traditional Hindu calendar, Chaitra Purnima in 1927 fell on Sunday, 16 April 1927.[6]
  2. ^ Many of her students were also students of her brother Ali Akbar Khan and/or Ravi Shankar.


  1. ^ a b c Ram, Vinay Bharat (24 October 2018). "A transcendental music - what I learnt from Annapurna Devi". The Indian Express. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Massey, Reginald (22 October 2018). "Annapurna Devi obituary". The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b c d e OEMI.
  4. ^ a b Bondyopadhyay 2005, p. 22.
  5. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, p. 52.
  6. ^ "1927 Chaitra Purnima, Chaitra Pournami date for Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India". Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  7. ^ Shuansu Khurana (16 May 2010). "Notes from behind a locked door". The Indian Express.
  8. ^ a b c Bondyopadhyay 2005, Cast.
  9. ^ Lindgren 1992.
  10. ^ "Every Note Annapurna Devi Plays Is Like An Offering: Rooshikumar Pandya | Kolkata News - Times of India". The Times of India.
  11. ^ "Death of a Caregiver - Indian Express".
  12. ^ "Hindustani Classical Musician Annapurna Devi Passes Away at 91 - HeadLines Today". Retrieved 13 October 2018.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Unveiling the mystique of a reclusive artiste", The Hindu - 28 June 2005
  14. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Dalal 2017.