RTIwala Explains: Girija Devi (8 May 1929 – 24 October 2017) was an eminent classical singer and Padma Vibhushan awardee. She passed away at Kolkata’s BM Birla Heart Research Centre hospital on Tuesday following a cardiac arrest. She was 88 and survived by a daughter. She was much acclaimed Indian classical singer of the Seniya and Banaras gharanas. She performed classical and light classical music and helped elevate the profile of thumri. She died on 24 October 2017. Considered as the queen of Thumri and fondly called Appa ji, Girija Devi was put on life support, her family said.
The Queen of Indian Music
The Queen of thumri was born in Varanasi, on 8 May 1929, to Ramdeo Rai. Her father played the harmoniumand taught music. Devi took her lessons in singing khyal and tappa from vocalist and sarangi player Sarju Prasad Misra starting at the age of five. Thus the musical symphony existed in the atmosphere of her family. She starred in the movie “Yaad Rahe” aged nine. She continued her studies under Sri Chand Misra in a variety of styles.
Devi made her public debut in 1949 on All India Radio Allahabad. She got married to a businessman in circa 1946. She had to face opposition from her mother and grandmother because it was traditionally believed that no upper-class woman should perform publicly. She 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.
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Devi sang in the Banaras gharana and performed the purabi ang thumri style typical of the tradition, whose status she helped elevate. Her gamut included the semi-classical genres kajri, chaiti, and holi and she sang khyal, Indian folk music, and tappa. Devi is considered as Queen of Thumri. She was a pioneer of Purab gharana and Hindustani Classical and non-classical vocal music.
The Real Maestro
The Queen of Thumri won a number of accolades and awards. It was all due to her passion and dedication that brought her at this juncture. The list goes as follows:-
- Padma Shri(1972)
- Padma Bhushan(1989)
- Padma Vibhushan(2016)
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Award(1977)
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship(2010)
- Maha Sangeet Samman Award (2012)
- Sangeet Samman Award ( Dover Lane Music Conference)
- GiMA Awards 2012 (Lifetime Achievement)
- TanaRiri Puraskar
The Last Time
“Girija Devi’s condition was quite critical when she was brought to the hospital. She was admitted to the CCU and was under constant watch. But she passed away at around 8.45pm,” said the hospital spokesperson. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave condolences on her death. He said that the singer’s music appealed across generations and her pioneering efforts to popularise Indian classical music would always be remembered.
“Saddened by the demise of Girija Devi ji. Indian classical music has lost one of its most melodious voices. My thoughts are with her admirers,” he tweeted.
We, pray that may her soul rest in peace. Amen.
(Inputs by Gehna Kundra)