Tribute to a Maestro
Siddheshwari Devi was one of the finest exponents of Thumri and Dadra in the Purab Ang. She was born in Varanasi, the seat of culture and music. Her mother died when she was barely two years old. Her maternal aunt Smt. Rajeshwari Devi, who was a disciple of Maina Devi, Mithailal, and of the great Moizuddin himself, brought her up and initiated her into music. Passionate about singing, she later became a `shishya` of the great music teacher Siyaji Maharaj, in whom she found an inspiring and affectionate guru. However, her greatest guru, the one to whom she attributed most of her musical education and training, was Bade Ramdasji of Varanasi. She remained fully indebted to him throughout her life.
Recognised as an institution by herself, Sidheswari Devi`s vast repertoire is now part of the North Indian heritage of Hindustani Classical Music. She enriched the Poorab ang of the tradition of light classical music that she had inherited by clothing the thumri with "a rare classical dignity even while retaining its tender lyricism and eloquent expressiveness". In recognition of her invaluable contribution to light classical music, Siddheswari was honoured with the Presidential Award in 1966, the Padmashri in 1967, the D. Litt from Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, and the title of ‘Desikottama’ from the Viswa Bharati University.
In spite of all the fame that she earned, she remained simple and unassuming till the end. As a member of the faculty of Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in New Delhi, she earned the reputation for being a sincere and conscientious teacher. Her deeply religious temperament had a great impact on her singing.
Siddheswari Devi passed away in 1977. Her death created a huge vacuum in the world of Hindustani light Classical Music. That void is yet to be filled even after 28 years of her death. Among her well-known disciples are her daughter Savita Devi and Rita Ganguly.