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Posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for Girija Devi

The prestigious Sumitra Charat Ram Award for Lifetime Achievement for 2017 will be posthumously conferred on thumri maestro Girija Devi on November 17.

The award, that was instituted six years ago to honour the memory of Delhi's well-known art patron, Sumitra Charat Ram, will be presented at the Kamani Auditorium by Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri and accepted by the late singer's daughter, Sudha Datta. In previous years, the award has been given to leading artists like Pt Birju Maharaj, Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Jasraj and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, among others.
Shobha Deepak Singh, Sumitra Charat Ram's daughter and director of Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK), who initiated the award, said, "It is with a heavy heart that we are presenting this award posthumously. She sang at the Kendra's Shriram Shankarlal Music Festival only in March this year and little did one know that her words at that time would be prophetic. She had said, 'I don't know for how long I'll sing, but singing at SBKK is always like homecoming. I have been part of the SBKK family since 1952 when I sang at the Constitution Club when the Kendra was founded'".
The event will also witness an audio visual presentation on Girija Devi, and will conclude with a musical tribute by her disciples.
A recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, Girija Devi, known famously as the thumri queen, was a celebrated classical singer of the Seniya and Benaras gharanas. She performed classical and light classical music and helped elevate the profile of thumri. Her repertoire included the semi-classical genres kajri, chaiti, and holi and she sang in the khayal, Indian folk music and tappa styles. She passed away on October 24, 2017.
The Sumitra Charat Ram Award is given to those individuals who have greatly contributed to the field of Indian classical music and dance or other disciplines of Indian art and culture, including theatre during the last 15 years and who have had a significant impact in promoting a particular art form.
Sumitra Charat Ram belonged to the illustrious Shri Ram family and played a key role in the revival of the performing arts traditions, specially kathak and Hindustani music in north India. She was also the founder of Shiram Bharatiya Kala Kendra.
Girija Devi, one of the foundational figures of Banaras and Senia gharana, who brought thumri from the courts and kothas onto the proscenium stage, died after a cardiac arrest. She was rushed to BM Birla Hospital in Kolkata but died hours after being on ventilator. Minutes before she concluded the Wajid Ali Shah thumri in Bhairavi, she was bringing alive musical flirtations and the pain of unrequited love in the more sensuous thumris.
The Purabiya lilt in place, the laughter in tow. Shekhar Sen, chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi, sat alongside her to accompany her on the vocals. Girija Devi, while introducing him, asked gently, "Ye Shekhar hain, Beta kya karte ho tum?" Everyone laughed. She was unfazed and asked again. Sen eventually managed, "Kuch nahi, Appa ji,"
Girija Devi laughed along, then let the laughter die down before taking a paan out of her silver paandaan. After putting it in her mouth, she began to sing 'Humse najariya kaahe pheri re balma'. As the audience let their appreciation show, Girija Devi responded with a smile and a glance. The diamond nosepin flashed, playing havoc with the hearts of those present.
Girija Devi was born to Ramdeo Rai, a zamindar, and grew up in Banaras, singing shaadi ke geet for her doll's wedding. Her father taught her, after which she trained under Sarju Prasad Misra and Chand Mishra.
Not allowed to sing for Nawabs of the time by her husband in Varanasi and Kolkata, as it wasn't appreciated if upper-class women sang in public, she began singing for radio and at conferences where she was much appreciated. Her musical journey found Dr Radhakrishnan, Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the audiences in the 1960s and 70s.
She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1989 and Padma Vibhushan in 2016.ians

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