Listen: Mourning ‘Queen of Thumri’ Girija Devi’s Demise

Girija Devi, one of the foundational figures of Banaras and Senia gharana died on Tuesday in Kolkata after a cardiac arrest.

Girija Devi. Credit: Twitter

Eminent classical singer and Padma Vibhushan awardee Girija Devi passed away at a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday following a cardiac arrest, hospital sources said.

She was 88 and is survived by a daughter.

Considered as the queen of Thumri and fondly called Appa ji, Girija Devi was taken to the city’s BM Birla Heart Research Centre on Tuesday afternoon with cardiovascular ailments. She was put on life support, her family sources said.

“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 8:45 pm,” hospital spokesperson told PTI.

A legendary singer of the ‘Benaras gharana‘, she was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972, the Padma Bhushan in 1989 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2016.

Born in a zamindar family at a village near Banaras on May 8, 1929, music was a part of Girija Devi’s life from an early age.

She took lessons in Khayal and Tappa from vocalist and sarangi player Sarju Prasad Misra at the age of five.

She worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled her death, saying the singer’s music appealed across generations and her pioneering efforts to popularise Indian classical music would always be remembered.

The demise of noted vocalist Girija Devi will create a deep void in Indian classical music, her associates and admirers said.

Singer Lata Mangeshkar posted a picture of herself with Girija Devi and tweeted, “Mahan shastriya aur thumri gayika Girija Devi ji hamare bich nahi rahi ye sunke mujhe bahut dukh hua. Hamare unke bahut acche sambandh the.”

Classical instrumentalist Pt Debojyoti Bose, who was a close to her, said, “Seniormost artist of Benaras Gharanas Bidushi Girija Devi is no more. All the artist of Indian classical music will miss her”.

Describing the death of Girija Devi as a “great loss to the music world”, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her grief.

“Girija Devi’s death is a great loss to the music world. We were honoured to confer her with Banga Bibhushan in 2015,” Banerjee wrote on Twitter.

Ustad Rashid Khan recalled his association with Girija Devi who was the legendary exponent of Thumri and other forms of Hindustan classical music.

Khan said he had accompanied the artist during tours in the country as well as abroad. “I knew her since my childhood days and she was a mother figure to me,” he said.

Governor of West Bengal Keshari Nath Tripathi also expressed his condolences at the sudden demise of Devi.

(With inputs from PTI)

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