An enigma of In­dian clas­si­cal mu­sic who struck a spir­i­tual tone

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - ( The writer is a vet­eran mu­sic jour­nal­ist)

Devi stopped per­form­ing in pub­lic, liv­ing as a recluse, and teach­ing only a few stu­dents in whose tal­ents she had con­fi­dence. The ma­jor­ity of them play the sarod: Ba­hadur Khan, her nephew Aashish Khan, Amit Bhat­tacharya, Jotin Bhat­tacharya, Pradeep Barot, Saswati Sa­had and Suresh Vyas, to name a few.

Her flautist dis­ci­ples in­clude Hariprasad Chaura­sia and Nityanand Haldipur. Sitar mae­stro, the late Nikhil Ban­er­jee, also stud­ied un­der her. In an ear­lier in­ter­view to this writer, Chaura­sia had said she “is pas­sion­ate about teach­ing” and be­sides the tech­nique of var­i­ous ra­gas, she “fo­cuses on how to bring in a spir­i­tual el­e­ment”.

Devi fol­lowed the Mai­harSe­nia gha­rana started by her fa­ther. Though they be­longed to a Mus­lim fam­ily, they wor­shipped Hindu deities too. “Her en­tire ap­proach was based on de­vo­tion,” Chaura­sia had said.

The sur­ba­har player later mar­ried man­age­ment con­sul­tant Rooshiku­mar Pandya, and con­tin­ued to teach at her Bhu­la­b­hai De­sai Road res­i­dence. How­ever, for quite some time, she was be­lieved to have dis­tanced her­self from the pub­lic sphere.

As a jour­nal­ist, I tried for many years to in­ter­view her, but with no suc­cess. Hence, there are no per­sonal anec­dotes to talk about. The book ‘An Un­heard Melody’ by Swa­pan Ku­mar Bondy­opad­hyaya was pub­lished as her au­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy. It sold well and got good re­views, but those close to her felt it was based only on short meet­ings and quotes. Devi never recorded com­mer­cially. But pri­vate cap­tures of her ra­gas Maanjh Khamaj and Kaushiki are avail­able on Youtube, apart from her Ya­man Kalyan duet with Ravi Shankar.

The older gen­er­a­tion was lucky to see her in con­cert. For many of us to­day, she re­mains a mys­tery, an enigma. But the one thing we all know is she was one of the bright­est stars in the In­dian mu­si­cal fir­ma­ment.

HT AR­CHIVE

An­na­purna Devi tarted learn­ing sitar at the age of five.

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