Mumbai: Annapurna Devi, doyenne of Hindustani classical music, surbahar exponent and the first wife of Pandit Ravi Shankar, died at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai yesterday morning. She was 91. She was suffering from respiratory infection and other age-related problems.
Annapurna Devi was the daughter of classical music legend Ustad Allauddin Khan and the younger sister of Sarod wizard Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Born Roshanara Khan on April 23, 1927, Maihar town in Satna District of Madhya Pradesh. She was trained in vocal music, the surbahar (bass sitar) and the sitar by her father.
Roshanara took the name Annapurna and got married to Ravi Shankar, another student of her illustrious father, in 1941. After the wedding, the couple had moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) and had a brief concert career.
However, the marriage ran into rough weather shortly afterwards and Annapurna Devi withdrew herself from a concert career. The story of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan starring Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri is thought to be based on the marriage of Annapurna Devi and Ravi Shankar.
A puritan, Annapurna Devi was allegedly enraged when she came to know that Ravi Shankar was dating Kamala Shastri, the sister of his elder brother Rajendra Shankar’s wife Lakshmi Shankar.
However, what acted as the last straw leading to their break-up was when connoisseurs and music critics pitted Annapurna Devi against Ravi Shankar. The duo separated in the 1960.
Ravi Shankar entered into a live-in relationship with Kamala and moved to the US, although officially remaining married to Annapurna Devi who continued to live in Mumbai.
After decades of silence on why she withdrew from a concert career, Annapurna Devi said in an interview in 2014, that she was drawing more applause from connoisseurs and music critics whenever she and Ravi Shankar performed together and that this also contributed to marital discord.