Allauddin Khan

Allauddin Khan

Allauddin Khan (Bangla: ওস্তাদ আলাউদ্দীন খান, also known as Baba Allauddin Khan) (1862 – 1972), [Harris, Craig. [ "Allauddin Khan Biography"] . "Allmusic".] was a Bengali sarod player and multi-instrumentalist and one of the greatest music teachers of the 20th Century, father of Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi and guru to Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee, Vasant Rai, Pannalal Ghosh, and other influential musicians. He himself was a disciple of many great musicians, most importantly the legendary Wazir Khan.

Early life & musical education

Allauddin Khan was born in Shibpur village in Brahmanbaria, in Bangladesh, the son of Sabdar Hossain Khan, also known as Sadhu Khan. Alluddin's elder brother, Fakir Aftabuddin, first taught him some music in the home.

At the age of ten, Allauddin ran away from home to join a jatra band, a traditional Bengali form of theater. This experience exposed him to the rich folk tradition of Bengal. After some time, he went to Kolkata, and was accepted as a student by singer Gopal Krishna Bhattacharya, alias Nulo Gopal. Allauddin committed to a 12-year practice program; However, Nulo Gopal died of plague after the seventh year. Khan then became a disciple of Amritalal Dutt, a close relative of Swami Vivekananda and music director at Kolkata's Star Theatre, with the goal of becoming an instrumentalist. At this time, he also took lessons in European classical violin from a Mr Lobo, a bandmaster from Goa.

The sarod

Alauddin Khan got interested in sarod after a concert at Jagat Kishore Acharya's, zamindar of Muktagachha, where he listened to Ahmed Ali Khan, a student of Asghar Ali Khan (Amjad Ali Khan's grand-uncle). Alauddin became his student, and studied the sarod under him for five years. His next step was to go to Rampur for lessons from Wazir Khan Beenkar, court musician of the Nawab there, and one of the last direct descendants of the legendary Tansen. Through him, Alauddin was given access to the "Senia gharana" (Tansen school of music), arguably north India's most coveted body of musical knowledge. He later became the court musician of Brijnath Singh Maharaja of Maihar Estate in Central Province.

Maihar Gharana

During his time as a court musician, Khan completely reshaped the Maihar gharana of Indian classical music. The Maihar gharana was established in the 19th Century, but Khan's contribution was so fundamental that he is often thought to be its creator. This was a period of rapid change for Hindustani instrumental music, thanks not least to Khan, who infused the "beenbaj" and "dhrupad ang", previously known from the been, surbahar (bass sitar) and sur-sringar (bass sarod), into the playing of many classical instruments.

For though he gave concerts on the sarod, Allauddin played many instruments, something that shaped his pedagogy. He put together an orchestra with Indian instruments, the String Band now known as Maihar Band, and while his son, Ali Akbar Khan, was taught the sarod, his daughter Annapurna Devi(Roshanara Khan) his most talented and brilliant student learned the surbahar, students such as Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee played the sitar Rabin Ghosh on violin and Pannalal Ghosh the bansuri bamboo flute. Of course Ravi and Ali Akbar Khan were to be very famous and spread this gharana over the world – something that Allauddin himself had started when, in 1935–1936, he went on an international tour with Uday Shankar's dance troupe.

Allauddin stayed at Maihar from 1918 to his death. In 1955, he established a Maihar College of Music. He was given the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1952, and the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan – India's third and second highest civilian decorations – in 1958 and 1971, respectively.

Personal life

When many people hear the name Khan, they think of a grumpy old man (after all, he lived to 110) with a hot temper but a heart of gold – anecdotes about him range from throwing a tabla tuning hammer at the Maharaja himself to taking care of disabled beggars. (Nikhil Banerjee said that the tough image was "deliberately projected in order not to allow any liberty to the disciple. He always had the tension that soft treatment on his part would only spoil them". ["One day I heard him speaking out rather candidly, 'Don't you see that I am a grandsire? Don't I feel like taking them (meaning his grandsons) in my arms – patting and loving them? But I am afraid it may spoil them.' Here was the inner voice which could be heard seldom or never. Beneath the veil of toughness was the soft and tender soul bubbling with humanity." ( [ "My Maestro As I Saw Him"] , essay by Banerjee printed in the booklet to "Afternoon Ragas", Raga Records Raga-211)] )

Allauddin was a very religious man, and though Muslim by name, was strongly devoted to the goddess Saraswati, in the form of Sarada Devi, to whom there stands an old and famous temple atop a hill in Maihar. This is why Allauddin, despite more lucrative offers from other courts, never left Maihar, refusing to move away even for hospital treatment – he would rather die near Sarada Devi than live someplace else.

A few years before the turn of the century, he married Madanmanjari Devi (1888–?). He had one son and sarod heir, Ali Akbar Khan, and three daughters, Sharija, Jehanara and Annapurna Devi. After Jehanara got married, and her jealous mother-in-law burnt her tanpura, Allauddin decided not to train his other daughters, but Annapurna Devi proved so talented he changed his mind. She later married and divorced Ravi Shankar.

Baba never left Maihar. From the window of his room he had a clear view of the hillock where temple of goddess Sharada is situated. His son and disciples often visit the town to pay homage.

The great supercentenarian died in 1972.

Ragas created by Allauddin Khan

Khan was fond of "sankeerna" (compound) ragas, and created many ragas of his own, including Arjun, Bhagabati, Bhim, Bhuvaneshvari, Chandika, Dhabalashri, Dhankosh, Dipika, Durgeshvari, Gandhi, Gandhi Bilawal, Haimanti, Hem-Behag, Hemant, Hemant Bhairav, Imni Manjh, Jaunpuri Todi, Kedar Manjh, Komal Bhimpalasi, Komal Marwa, Madanmanjari, Madhabsri, Madhavgiri, Malaya, Manjh Khamaj, Meghbahar, Muhammed, Nat-Khamaj, Prabhakali, Raj Bijoy, Rajeshri, Shobhavati, Subhabati, Sugandha and Surasati. Many of these have not become common Maihar repertoire; Manjh Khamaj is perhaps the best known. Some of Allauddin's recordings have been released on CD, on the "Great Garanas: Maihar" compilation in RPG/EMI's "Chairman's Choice" series.


*"Raga" (1971). Directed by Howard Worth.


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