Pandit Jasraj
Pandit Jasraj Performing at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal in Poonam-35 Program (2015)
Born(1930-01-28)28 January 1930
Died17 August 2020(2020-08-17) (aged 90)
Occupation(s)Singer, music teacher, tabla player
Madhura Shantaram
(m. 1962)
RelativesPandit Maniram (brother) Vasant Kumar Pandit (Cousin)
AwardsSee awards and honours
Musical career
GenresHindustani classical music
Instrument(s)singing, tabla
Years active1945–2020[3]

Pandit Jasraj (28 January 1930[4]  – 17 August 2020[5]) was an Indian classical vocalist, belonging to the Mewati gharana (musical apprenticeship lineage).[6] His musical career spanned 75 years resulting in national and international fame, respect and numerous major awards and accolades. His legacy includes memorable performances of classical and semi-classical vocal music, classical and devotional music, albums and film soundtracks, innovations in various genres including Haveli Sangeeth and popularizing the Mewati Gharana – a school of thought in Hindustani classical music. Pandit Jasraj taught music to amateur and professional students in India, Europe, Canada and the United States.

Early life

Jasraj was born on 28 January 1930[4] in Pili Mandori, a village in the then Hisar district (now in Fatehabad district) of Haryana,[note 1] in a middle-class Brahmin family to Pandit Motiram, a classical singer and Krishna Bai.[7][8] He was the youngest of three sons, in a family of classical singers. Motiram died in 1934 when Jasraj was four, on the day he was to be appointed as the state musician in the court of Mir Osman Ali Khan.[9][10][11] His eldest brother was vocalist Pandit Maniram, who instructed Jasraj after the death of their father. Jasraj's elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan, was also an accomplished musician and was the father of music composer duo Jatin–Lalit, singer-actress Sulakshana Pandit and actress Vijeta Pandit. Pandit Pratap Narayan taught Jasraj to play tabla starting at age 7, but Jasraj decided that he wanted to only sing by 14.[12][13]

Jasraj spent his youth in Hyderabad, and travelled often to Sanand in Gujarat to study music with musicians of the Mewati gharana.[14][15] Jasraj performed for Maharaj Jaywant Singh Waghela, the Thakur Sahib of Sanand, who was deeply dedicated to classical music,[16] and received training from him.[16][17]

In 1946, Jasraj moved to Calcutta, where he began singing classical music for radio.[15]

Personal life

Jasraj with his wife Madhura on the stage of Satsang Bhawan in Govind Dev Ji Temple, Jaipur (2011).

In 1962, Jasraj married Madhura Shantaram, the daughter of film director V. Shantaram, whom he had first met in 1960 in Bombay.[18] They initially lived in Calcutta, moving to Bombay in 1963.[19] They had two children, a son, Shaarang Dev Pandit, a daughter, Durga Jasraj, and four grandchildren.[13]

Madhura made a film, Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj in 2009[20] and directed her first Marathi film, Aai Tuza Ashirwad, in 2010, in which her husband and Lata Mangeshkar sang in Marathi.[21][22]


Jasraj at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya Poonam-35, Bhopal, in 2015


Jasraj was initiated into vocal music by his father, and later trained as a tabla accompanist under his elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan.[23] He would frequently accompany Maniram in his solo vocal performances.[7] He credits the vocalist, Begum Akhtar, as inspiring him to take up classical music.[18]

Jasraj began training as a vocalist at the age of 14, after renouncing tabla in reaction to how accompanists were treated at the time .[24][25] He would practice singing close to 14 hours a day. In 1952 when he was 22 he performed his first stage concert as a vocalist in the court of King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal in Kathmandu.[7][26][27] Before becoming a stage performer, Jasraj worked as a performing artist on radio for several years.[4]

He initially trained as a classical vocalist with Pandit Maniram, and later with Jaiwant Singh Waghela, a vocalist and beenkar,[15].

Technique and style

Jasraj in a concert at Bhubaneswar

Classical music

Although Jasraj belonged to the Mewati gharana, a school of music known for its traditional performances of khayals, Jasraj had sung khayals with some flexibility, adding elements of lighter styles, including the thumri.[4] During the initial stages of his career, he was criticised for incorporating elements from other schools of music, or gharanas, into his singing.[4] Musicologist S. Kalidas has noted, however, that this borrowing of elements across gharanas has now become more commonly accepted.[4]

Jasraj created a novel form of jugalbandi called Jasrangi that is styled on the ancient system of moorchhana, between a male and a female vocalist, who each sing different ragas at the same time.[7][9] He was also known for presenting a variety of rare ragas including Abiri Todi and Patdeepaki.[28]

Semi-classical and popular music

In addition to performing classical music, Jasraj had worked to popularise innovations in semi-classical musical styles, such as Haveli Sangeet, which involves semi-classical performances in temples.[29] He had also sung classical and semi-classical compositions for film soundtracks, such as the song, 'Vandana Karo', composed in the raga Ahir Bhairav by the composer Vasant Desai, for the film Ladki Sahyadri Ki (1966),[29] a duet with vocalist Bhimsen Joshi for the soundtrack of the film Birbal My Brother (1975),[30] and a ballad, Vaada Tumse Hai Vaada for a horror film titled 1920 (2008) directed by Vikram Bhatt.[29]

In memory of his father, Jasraj organised an annual musical festival called the Pandit Motiram Pandit Maniram Sangeet Samaroh in Hyderabad.[9][10] The festival has been held annually since 1972.[15]

A 2023 stamp of India featuring Jasraj (center)

On 28 January 2017, the production house Navrasa Duende celebrated Jasraj's 87th birthday and 80 years of his service to music with a classical music concert titled My Journey, an Intimate Evening with Pandit Jasraj at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. He received a standing ovation.[31]


See also: Pandit Jasraj Institute for Music, Research, Artistry and Appreciation

See also: Pandit Jasraj Institute of Music Toronto

Jasraj tutored several students who have gone on to perform as classical musicians, including Saptarshi Chakraborty,[12] Sanjeev Abhyankar,[32][26] violinist Kala Ramnath,[33][26] Sandeep Ranade,[34][35] shehnai player Lokesh Anand,[36] Tripti Mukherjee,[37] Suman Ghosh,[25] flautist Shashank Subramanyam,[38][26] Anuradha Paudwal,[12] Sadhana Sargam,[25] and Ramesh Narayan.[39][37]

He was also the founder of schools for Indian classical music in Atlanta, Tampa, Vancouver, Toronto, New York, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Mumbai, and Kerala. Jasraj would spend six months of each year in the United States and Canada at either his home in New Jersey, teaching, or touring.[13][40][41] At age 90, he was teaching some of his international students through Skype.[42][14][43]


Pandit Jasraj remained in the US when the country entered its COVID-19 lockdown.[44] He died at his home in New Jersey on 17 August 2020 at 5:15 am EST, due to cardiac arrest.[45][46] His body was later repatriated on an Air India flight to Mumbai[47] where it was cremated with state honours and 21-gun salute at Pawan Hans Crematorium in Vile Parle.[1][2] The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi said that his death "leaves a deep void in the Indian cultural sphere. Not only were his renditions outstanding, he also made a mark as an exceptional mentor to several other vocalists."[48]

On 27 December 2023, Modi released a commemorative postage stamp to mark 50 years of Jasraj's music festival.[49]

Awards and honours


Performances in film soundtracks


  1. ^ Pili Mandori is now within the Fatehabad district.


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Discography references

  1. ^ a b c d e f Romero, Angel (18 August 2018). "Artist Profiles: Pandit Jasraj". World Music Central. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Devotionally Yours – Pandit Jasraj". The Indian Express. OCLC 652343767. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  3. ^ The glory of dawn: morning ragas (in Hindi), Times Music, 2005, OCLC 881488955
  4. ^ Invocation. (in Sanskrit), Water Lily Acoustic, 1993, OCLC 31731043
  5. ^ "Kanha – Padma Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj Indian Classical Music / Hindustani Classical". Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  6. ^ In concert: Vancouver, BC-August 10/96, World Media, 2000, OCLC 50315127
  7. ^ Jasraj (2005), Malhar a downpour of music (in Nepali), Times Music, OCLC 881489066
  8. ^ The meditative music of Pandit Jasraj. (in Hindi), Oriental Records, OCLC 369698317
  9. ^ Parampara: the Mewati tradition : 75th birthday celebrations (in Hindi), Times Music, India, 2005, OCLC 819532237
  10. ^ Shri Krishna Anuraag, Adhishri Tradings : Sony Music, 2000, OCLC 704701864
  11. ^ The spiritual journey, Times Music, India, 2005, OCLC 86082899
  12. ^ Gopalka, Kushal (29 December 2007). "Music Review | On an old note". Mint. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  13. ^ Devi upasana, Virgin Records (India) Pvt Ltd. : Made available through hoopla, 2007, OCLC 1098875065
  14. ^ Miyan Tansen: as interpreted by Pandit Jasraj. (in Hindi), Times Music, 2006, OCLC 823747327
  15. ^ Tapasya. Volume 1 Volume 1, Navras, 2004, OCLC 662580006
  16. ^ Darbar (in Hindi), Sense World Music, 2003, OCLC 475643917
  17. ^ Maheshwara mantra., Oreade Music, 2002, OCLC 652433351
  18. ^ Soul Food: Live at the Saptak Festival, Sense World Music, 2002, OCLC 85891441
  19. ^ Haveli sangeet., Navras Records Ltd., 2001, OCLC 53891975
  20. ^ Inspiration, Navras Records, 2000, OCLC 45263860
  21. ^ Raga Triveni & Raga Multani. (in Sanskrit), Navras, 1994, OCLC 418882680
  22. ^ Ragas Bihagda & Gaud giri malhar live at the QEH August 18, 1993 (in Hindi), Navras, 18 August 1993, OCLC 873053602
  23. ^ Worship by music, Indische Tanzschule "Chhandra Dhara"., 1991, OCLC 27740578
  24. ^ Ornamental voice, (in Indic), Chhanda Dhara, 1989, OCLC 23685849
  25. ^ Mermelstein, David (3 December 2012). "OSCARS: 'Life Of Pi' Score". Deadline. OCLC 814673923. Retrieved 22 August 2019.

Further reading