Annapurna Devi

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Not to be confused with Hindu goddess, Annapoorna devi.
Annapurna Devi
Birth name Roshanara Khan
Born (1927-04-16) 16 April 1927 (age 89)
Maihar, India
Genres Hindustani classical music
Instruments Surbahar
Associated acts Alauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar

Annapurna Devi (born Roshanara Khan on 16 April 1927),[1] is an Indian surbahar (bass sitar) player of Hindustani Classical Music. She is the daughter and disciple of Allauddin Khan, the founder of Maihar gharana, and from 1941 to 1962 was married to sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, also one of her father's disciples. After her divorce, she never performed again in public. She moved to Mumbai, became a recluse and started teaching. Over the years she has had notable disciples: Hariprasad Chaurasia, Nikhil Banerjee, Amit Bhattacharya, Pradeep Barot and Saswatti Saha (Sitar).[2]

Early life and family[edit]

Annapurna Devi was born on the occasion of chaiti purnima, 16 April 1927[3] at Maihar, a small princely state of British India (now a part of Madhya Pradesh state of India), where her father Alauddin Khan was a royal court musician at the court of Maharaja Brijnath Singh, who named the newborn girl 'Annapurna'.[4]

Devi's father 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. Her former husband, virtuoso Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, was perhaps the most famous Indian classical musician internationally.[citation needed] Their son, Shubhendra Shankar, also performed as a musician.

In 1982 she married her student Rooshikumar Pandya. He died in 2013.


Annapurna Devi became a very accomplished Surbahar player of the Maihar gharana (school) within a few years of starting to take music lessons from her father. She started guiding many of her father's disciples, Nikhil Banerjee and Bahadur Khan, in classical music as well as in the techniques and intricacies of instrumental performances. Meanwhile, Alauddin Khan's Sitar student Ravi Shankar married Annapurna. (There is no documentary evidence, based on Pandit Jotin Bhattacharya's two vol. Bengali book, Ustad Allauddin Khan o Aamraa. The marriage took place because of the eagerness and proposal of Uday Shankar.). The marriage between Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi took place when Ravi was 21 years and Annapurna was 14 years old. She converted to Hinduism upon marriage.[5] The marriage lasted more than two decades, and she gave birth to a son, Shubhendra Shankar (1942–1992), whom she trained in Sitar. Shubhendra Shankar (or "Subho", as he was popularly known) had rigorous training in Sitar under the tutelage of his mother. 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.

In the 1950s, both Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi performed duets in Delhi and Calcutta, principally at the college of her brother, Ali Akbar Khan. But later, Shankar started getting insecure, since she used to be applauded in concerts more than he was, and she thereafter decided not to perform publicly.[6]


Notable mentions among her students would be her nephew Sarod maestro Aashish Khan Debsharma; Biren Banerjee of Howrah also received training from her; renowned flautists Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Nityanand Haldipur;[7] Sitarists Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and Saswatti Saha received training from her, Chandrakant Sardeshmukh, Sudhir Phadke from Pune (not to be confused with the late composer Sudhir Phadke), Dr. Hemant Desai, and Professor Rooshikumar Pandya; and Sarodists Pradeep Barot, Amit Bhattacharya and Basant Kabra. The list of other occasional students includes Shyamal Sen (Sarode), Sandhya Apte (Sitar), Leenata Vaze (Sitar), Amit Hiren Roy (Sitar), Stuti Dey (Sarode), Uma Guha (Sarode), Milind Sheorey (Flute), and Kokila Rai, wife of the late Vasant Rai (Surbahar). All of them carry on the legacies of Annapurna Devi's, and thus Alauddin Khan's, music through their recitals.[citation needed]

She is 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]


Though she refrained from taking music as her profession, Devi was highly respected in Indian classical music especially for her wide repertoire in Indian classical music, and her traditional "dhrupadi" approach to music.[citation needed]

She has not recorded any music albums. Some of her performances are reported to have been secretly taped. In spite of Devi's avoidance of media-limelight, she continues to be thought of as a classical instrumentalist of the highest calibre in India.[9]


  1. ^ ""Chaiti Poornima of 1927 April 16th"". 
  2. ^ Kumar, Ranee (18 August 2011). "Rich legacy remembered". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 
  3. ^ Lavezzoli, Peter (2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 52. ISBN 0-8264-1815-5. 
  4. ^ Shuansu Khurana (16 May 2010). "Notes from behind a locked door". Indian Express. 
  5. ^ "Unveiling the mystique of a reclusive artiste", The Hindu - 28 June 2005
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ray Chowdhury, Tathagata (January 26, 2015). "Bansuri innovator ignored in city". The Times of India. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  9. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)

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