Allauddin Khan

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Allauddin Khan
Ustad Alauddin Khan Full 1.jpg
Background information
Born ca. 1862
Brahmanbaria, Bengal Presidency (current Bangladesh)
Died 6 September 1972
Genres Hindustani classical music
Occupation(s) composer, sarodiya
Instruments Shehnai, Sarod

Allauddin Khan (Bengali: ওস্তাদ আলাউদ্দীন খ়ান, also known as Baba Allauddin Khan) (ca. 1862 – 6 September 1972)[1] was a Bengali shorodi and multi-instrumentalist, composer and one of the most renowned music teachers of the 20th century in Indian classical music.[2][3][4]

In 1935, he toured Europe, along with Uday Shankar's ballet troupe, and later also worked at his institute, 'Uday Shankar India Culture Centre' at Almora for a while.[5] During his lifetime, he composed several ragas and laid the foundation of a modern Maihar gharana. Amongst his recordings which are rare, the most important ones are those he recorded with the All India Radio in 1959–60.[5]

He was the father of sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi, and the uncle of Raja Hossain Khan, as well as the guru of Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee, Vasant Rai, Pannalal Ghosh, Bahadur Khan, Sharan Rani, Jotin Bhattacharya and other influential musicians. He himself was a disciple of many great musicians, including Gopal Chandra Banerjee, Lobo, Munne Khan, and most importantly after a lot of struggle managed to become a shagird (disciple) of the legendary Veena player, Wazir Khan.[5]

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1958 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1971, India's third and second highest civilian honours,[6] and prior to that in 1954, the Sangeet Natak Akademi awarded him with its highest honour, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime contribution to Indian music.[7]

Early life and background[edit]

Allauddin Khan (Alam) was born in Shibpur, in Tripura District, East Bengal, (presently in Nabinagar Upazila, Brahmanbaria). He was son of Sadhu Khan (Sadananda Debasharma) and Harasundari (Khatun). His brothers and sisters were Chamiruddin Khan, Aftabuddin Khan, Nayeb Ali Khan, Ayet Ali Khan, Madhumalati Khatun and Fadar Khatun. Allauddin's elder brother, Fakir Aftabuddin, first taught him the basics of music at home.

At the age of eight, Allauddin ran away from home to join a jatra band, a traditional Bengali form of theatre. This experience exposed him to the rich folk tradition of Bengal. After some time, he went to Kolkata, where he went to one of the most famous Bengali singers of the day, Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya, alias Nulo Gopal, a very devout and orthodox Hindu. Baba instinctively thought it might be better if he said he was a Hindu himself when he approached this singer, so he took a Hindu name, Tara Prasanna Sinha and was accepted as a student by the singer. Allauddin committed to a 12-year practice program; However, Nulo Gopal died of plague after the seventh year. Khan then became a disciple of Amritalal Dutt, a close relative of Swami Vivekananda and music director at Kolkata's Star Theatre, with the goal of becoming an instrumentalist. At this time, he also took lessons in European classical violin from Lobo, a bandmaster from Goa.

Sarod career[edit]

Khan became interested in the sarod after a concert at Jagat Kishore Acharya's, zamindar of Muktagachha, where he listened to Ahmed Ali Khan, a student of Asghar Ali Khan (Amjad Ali Khan's granduncle). Alauddin became his student, and studied the sarod under him for five years. His next step was to go to Rampur for lessons from Wazir Khan Beenkar, chief musician of the Nawab there, and one of the last direct descendants of the legendary Tansen. Through him, Alauddin was given access to the Senia gharana (Tansen school of music). He later became the court musician of Brijnath Singh Maharaja of Maihar Estate in Central Province.

Maihar gharana[edit]

Main article: Maihar gharana

During his time as a court musician, Khan completely reshaped the Maihar gharana of Indian classical music. The Maihar gharana was established in the 19th Century, but Khan's contribution was so fundamental that he is often thought to be its creator. This was a period of rapid change for Hindustani instrumental music, thanks not least to Khan, who infused the beenbaj and dhrupad ang, previously known from the been, surbahar (bass sitar) and sur-sringar (bass sarod), into the playing of many classical instruments.

For though he gave concerts on the sarod, Allauddin played many instruments, something that shaped his pedagogy. He put together an orchestra with Indian instruments, the String Band now known as Maihar Band, and while his son, Ali Akbar Khan, was taught the sarod, his daughter Annapurna Devi (Roshanara Khan) learned the surbahar, students such as Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee played the Sitar, Jotin Bhattacharya played the sarod, Rabin Ghosh played on violin and Baijnath Singh and Pannalal Ghosh the bansuri bamboo flute. Baijnath Singh was first and Vasant Rai was Allauddin Khans last student. Of course Ravi and Ali Akbar Khan were to be very famous and spread this gharana over the world – something that Allauddin himself had started when, in 1935–1936, he went on an international tour with Uday Shankar's dance troupe.

Allauddin stayed at Maihar from 1918 to his death. In 1955, he established a Maihar College of Music. He was given the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1952, and the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan – India's third and second highest civilian decorations – in 1958 and 1971, respectively.

Personal life[edit]

Anecdotes about Khan range from throwing a tabla tuning hammer at the Maharaja himself to taking care of disabled beggars. (Nikhil Banerjee said that the tough image was "deliberately projected in order not to allow any liberty to the disciple. He was always worried that soft treatment on his part would only spoil them".[8])

A few years before the turn of the century, he married Madanmanjari Devi (1888–?). He had one son and sarod heir, Ali Akbar Khan, and three daughters, Sharija, Jehanara and Annapurna who grew up as Roshanara Khan. Sharija died an early death suffering from diseases in her childhood and when Jahanara got married and a jealous mother-in-law burnt her Tanpura, a shocked Alauddin Khan decided not to train his only remaining daughter. One day, however, he came home to discover Annapurna teaching her brother Ali Akbar Khan, and her talent made the emotional father change his mind. Annapurna learned classical vocal music, Sitar, and Surbahar from her father. She later married and divorced Ravi Shankar.

Ragas created by Allauddin Khan[edit]

Khan was fond of sankeerna (complex) ragas, and created many ragas of his own, including Arjun, Bhagabati, Bhim, Bhuvaneshvari, Chandika, Dhabalashri, Dhankosh, Dipika, Durgeshvari, Gandhi, Gandhi Bilawal, Haimanti, Hem-Behag, Hemant, Hemant Bhairav, Imni Manjh, Jaunpuri Todi, Kedar Manjh, Komal Bhimpalasi, Komal Marwa, Madanmanjari, Madhabsri, Madhavgiri, Malaya, Manjh Khamaj, Meghbahar, Muhammed, Nat-Khamaj, Prabhakali, Raj Bijoy, Rajeshri, Shobhavati, Subhabati, Sugandha and Surasati. Many of these have not become common Maihar repertoire; Manjh Khamaj is perhaps the best known. Some of Allauddin's recordings have been released on CD, on the Great Garanas: Maihar compilation in RPG/EMI's Chairman's Choice series


Further reading[edit]

  • Ustad Allauddin Khan and his music, by Pandit Jotin Bhattacharya. Published by B. S. Shah Prakashan, 1979.
  • Ustad Allauddin Khan: the legend of music, by Anuradha Ghosh. Published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1990.
  • Baba Allauddin Khan, by Ashish Khokar. Published by Roli Books, 1996. ISBN 81-7436-021-2.
  • Ustad Allauddin Khan, by Rajendra Shankar. Published by Kinnara School of Music (in Association with Bharat Sangeet Sabha).
  • The Great Master of Hindustani Classical Music: Dr (Baba) Allauddin Khan (1881–1972), by Dr Sarita McKenzie-McHarg (Sitarist, Vocalist and Academic) – available at


  1. ^ Clayton, Martin (2001). "Khan, Allauddin". In Sadie, Stanley. The New Grove dictionary of music and musicians 13 (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers. p. 563. ISBN 0-333-60800-3. He is believed by some to have lived to the age of 110, although the conjectural birth date of 1881 is more likely 
  2. ^ Ustad Allauddin Khan The dawn of Indian music in the West: Bhairavi, by Peter Lavezzoli. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 0-8264-1815-5. Page 67- 70.
  3. ^ Ustad Ali Akbar Khan The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, by Alison Arnold. Published by Taylor & Francis, 2000. ISBN 0-8240-4946-2. Page 203-204.
  4. ^ Allauddin Khan World Music: The Rough Guide, by Frederick Dorian, Simon Broughton, Mark Ellingham, James McConnachie, Richard Trillo, Orla Duane. Published by Rough Guides, 2000. ISBN 1-85828-636-0. Page 77.
  5. ^ a b c Allauddin Khan The music of India, by Reginald Massey. Abhinav Publications, 1996. ISBN 81-7017-332-9. Page 142-143.
  6. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  7. ^ "List of Akademi Fellows",
  8. ^ "One day I heard him speaking out rather candidly, 'Don't you see that I am a grandsire? Don't I feel like taking them (meaning his grandsons) in my arms – patting and loving them? But I am afraid it may spoil them.' Here was the inner voice which could be heard seldom or never. Beneath the veil of toughness was the soft and tender soul bubbling with humanity." (My Maestro As I Saw Him, essay by Banerjee printed in the booklet to Afternoon Ragas, Raga Records Raga-211)
  9. ^ "The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata) | Graphiti | Breaking new ground". Calcutta, India: 27 July 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 

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