Girija Devi was born in Varanasi, on May 8, 1929, to Ramdeo Rai, a Bhumihar Brahmin zamindar. Her father played the harmonium and taught music, and had Devi take lessons in singing khyal and tappa from vocalist and sarangi player Sarju Prasad Misra starting at the age of five. She starred in the movie Yaad rahe aged nine and continued her studies under Sri Chand Misra in a variety of styles.
Girija Devi Performing at Bharat BhavanBhopal in July 2015 in a program - Uttar Pradesh Mahotsav
Devi made her public debut 1949 on All India RadioAllahabad, after getting married to a businessman circa 1946, but faced opposition from her mother and grandmother, because it was traditionally believed that no upper class woman should perform publicly. Devi agreed not to perform privately for others, but gave her first public concert in Bihar in 1951. She studied with Sri Chand Misra until he died in the early 1960s, worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s, and taught several students to preserve her musical heritage. Devi often toured and continues to perform in 2009.
Devi sings in the Banaras gharana and performs the purabi angthumri style typical of the tradition, whose status she helped elevate. Her repertoire includes the semi-classical genres kajri, chaiti, and holi and she sings khyal, Indian folk music, and tappa.The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians states that her semi-classical singing combines her classical training with the regional characteristics of the songs of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Devi is considered as "Queen Of Thumri" She is known to have been the teacher of the founder of The Alankar School of Music, Mrs. Mamta Bhargava whose Indian Classical music school has attracted students from hundreds of miles away.