Annapurna Devi- The Untold Story of A Reclusive Genius

Annapurna Devi- The Untold Story of A Reclusive Genius

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Book Specification

Item Code: UAO144
Author: Atul Merchant Jataayu
Publisher: Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9780670095339
Pages: 343 (B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 9.00 X 5.50 inch
Weight 580 gm

Book Description

About The Book

Legendary Musician Annapurna Devi's life is shrouded in mystery. Daughter of the unparalleled Ut. Allauddin Khan of Maihar sister of Swar Samrat Ut. Ali Akbar Khan and the estranged wife of Pt Ravi Shankar, she had conquered the summit of Indian classical music. However, following a failed attempt to save her marriage, she renounced public life and spent her days as a recluse.

Until the age of sixteen, Annapurna Devi was confined to her family home at Maihar, where her father was a court musician and guru to the maharaja. During these years, she devoted herself to the deepest study and sadhana of Indian classical music under the strict tutelage of her father. After her estrangement from Pt Ravi Shankar, Annapurna Devi went deeper into self imposed seclusion. The only people she met and communicated with were her disciples, who used to visit her for music lessons. They included some of the greatest musicians our era has seen-Pt Nikhil Banerjee, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ut. Bahadur Khan, Ut. Aashish Khan, Dhyanesh Khan, Nityanand Haldipur and Basant Kabra, to name a few.

Three years after she gently sailed into the night, curiosity still surrounds her life, the dramatis personae in it and her almost monastic pursuit of music. This collection uses first-hand testimonies to brush aside obscuring apocrypha and offers the reader glimpses of her life as it really was.

About the Author

ATUL MERCHANT JATAAYU, disciple of Annapurna Devi, writes fiction too. A retired jeweller, he has decided to devote the rest of his life to music and Vedanta. Sarod is the means of his sadhana.


Except for a brief few years after the birth of her son Shubho, Guru Ma (Annapurna Devi) spent her life as a recluse, confined within the four walls of her home. Until the age of sixteen, she was confined to Madina Bhavan, the family home at Maihar. During that time, she devoted herself exclusively to the deepest study and practice of Indian classical music, under the strict tutelage of her father, Baba Allauddin Khan. She rarely ventured outdoors.

By nature, Guru Ma was an extremely introverted person. Since the year of her estrangement from Panditji (Pt Ravi Shankar) that is, from 1956 onwards-Guru Ma went ever deeper into self imposed seclusion. Even while she was with Panditji in Mumbai and Delhi, she hardly left her house or socialized or interacted with others. Obviously, the life of a recluse like her is bound to be shrouded in mystery. Even for us, her disciples, she always remained an enigma, an unsolved riddle.

It was a ritual for us, the disciples of Annapurna Devi, to gather every Saturday evening at her residence in Akashganga building (Akashganga is the Indian name for the Milky Way. galaxy). We did this to be in her proximity and to experience her effortless grace. In Hindu mythology, Annapurna Devi is the goddess of food and nutrition. True to that name, Guru Ma had excellent culinary skills, and on Saturday evenings we would feast on her cooking. The other agendas of our gathering were to create a laughter riot, and listen to Ma's (Annapurna Devi) captivating stories and discover a thing or two about her, Baba (Acharya Allauddin Khan), Pannalal Ghosh, Ali Akbar Khansaheb, Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee, Timirbaran, Bahadur Khan, Aashish Khan, Sharan Rani, Hariprasad Chaurasia, etc. These stories and anecdotes were so fascinating, enlightening and precious for us that we decided to write them down. As the proverb says: "The faintest ink is better than the sharpest memory."


My first reaction when asked to write the foreword for a book on Guru Ma was: What would be a novel thing to say about an illuminated soul that has not already been said? Whatever one said would only come across as basking in one's own futility. Those of us who have experienced Guru Ma Annapurna Devi's spirit and soul in the time she gave us in our lives would have to take a deep breath and compose their thoughts meticulously in order to describe the layers of a complex phenomenon such as her.

I laud the efforts and rigour of the author, Shri Atul Merchant, and his 'gurubhais' to lace together such a well-researched series of chapters that evoke raw emotion, narrate unheard facets of her life, and throw light on the spiritual side of a decorated soul.

Maa was not just a mother, but a supreme mother, and an embodiment of knowledge, compassion and abundance. In Hindu mythology, Annapurna is the goddess of food and nourishment, and to a lot of struggling souls like me, she provided nourishment for the body and soul. She was the mother I never had. She gave me unconditional care and love in return for my sincerity and dedication to art. Just like the Annapurna massif in the Himalayas. the journey to seek my guru was steep and arduous, almost three years of my life, to convince her that I was worthy of being her student. My first step of initiation with my guru was to undo everything I had known and done until that point in time. It was to break my ego and surrender myself completely to an illuminated master.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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