Gauhar Jaan

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Gauhar Jaan

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


The sources of this page are:

i) Vikram Sampath, The romance of Gauhar Jaan, Fri, Apr 16 2010 Live Mint Write to

Mr Sampath has written the definitive biography of Gauhar Jaan and is the author of ‘My Name is Gauhar Jaan! The Life and Times of a Musician.’ (Rupa and Co.) The book comes with a CD of Gauhar Jaan’s soundtracks from original 78 rpms.

ii) Suresh Chandvankar My name is Gauhar Jan/ 'First dancing girl, Calcutta', 16.11.02

Mr Suresh Chandvankar is a very eminent musicologist. Contact details: Society of Indian Record Collectors, Mumbai - 400 005, India E-mail:

iii) David Courtney working tools, BIOGRAPHY OF GAUHAR JAN, David Courtney

Mr Courtney has been performing on the tabla since 1972. He is an artist with Young Audiences and also the percussionist in the fusion group Vani, and has several CDs to his credit. He has composed and performed some music for the film "Dancing in Twilight", recorded the film score for the film short "Ravennaside", "Finders Keepers", and "Cosmogenesis" and is the author of numerous books and articles on Indian music

iv) Additional details from: Savitha Gautam, Recording Gauhar Jaan, The Hindu

Claim to fame

Gauhar was not only the first Indian whose songs were recorded on gramophone disc, she was an immensely successful (and financially well off) singing star.

Gauhar’s biographer Vikram writes, “Gauhar Jaan was exceptional in more ways than one… She has recorded nearly 600 songs in 20 languages. To top it all, she composed several timeless thumris including the famous ‘Kaise yeh dhoom machayi.’”

Stunning looks and a sweet voice were Gauhar’s assets and she used both to her advantage to reach dizzying heights during her hey day. When recording expert Frederick Gaisberg spotted her and put her in front of a horn (which served as a mike), her thumris, dadras, ghazals and the high-pitched announcement ‘My Name is Gauhar Jaan’ at the end of the discs created music history.

She fought two bitter court battles (one where she had to prove her parentage!), which led to her downfall and penury. And ultimately the gifted artist died prematurely in 1930, aged 57, in Mysore.

Early life

Born Eileen Angelina Yeoward, an Armenian Christian (not Jewish as written by some historians) in Azamgarh, in what was then the United Provinces, in 1873, Gauhar was a woman of exceptional beauty, talent and grace. She seemed to symbolize the secular ethos that Indian classical music is known for—her grandmother was Hindu, grandfather British and father Armenian Christian. Her father worked as an engineer in a factory producing dry ice at Azamgadh

Angelina was their only child and was baptised in the Methodist Church in Azamgarh. Gauhar also had the nickname "Gaura".

The marriage of her parents ended in a bitter divorce in 1879 when she was barely six years old.(—From Vikram Sampath )

[Gauhar’s parents’] marriage did not last long due to Victoria’s love for dance and music and her relations with a Muslim friend named Khurshed. So after the divorce, she moved to Benares with Angelina and Khurshed, adopted Islam as her religion, and daughter and mother chose new names; Gauhar and {Badi} Malka respectively. (--From Suresh Chandvankar)

Malka Jaan was a poet in her own right and her Urdu verses are published as ‘Makhzan-e-ulfat-e-Mallika.’

Gauhar remained a devout Muslim all her life, though most of her compositions are replete with Krishna bhakti.

Angelina and her mother Victoria then moved to Benaras, where they converted to Islam and took on the names of Gauhar Jaan and Badi Malka Jaan, respectively.


In the culturally vibrant atmosphere of Benaras, Gauhar’s innate talents in music, dance and poetry blossomed. Fortunes turned for the mother and daughter as they moved to Calcutta and established themselves in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. They were counted as among the most famous baijis of Calcutta.

No wonder then that in 1902, Frederick William Gaisberg, the Gramophone Company’s first India agent, chose Gauhar as the first Indian artiste whom he wanted to record. (—From Vikram Sampath )

In such an atmosphere Badi Malka Jan soon established herself, and within three years she purchased a building at 24 Chitpore Road for Rs.40,000. Little Gauhar, too, was fond of dance and music and took her initial lessons from her mother. She had a sharp memory, intelligence and learned very quickly, and so Malka appointed special teachers for teaching Gauhar languages, literature, and of course, dance and music. Kale Khan of Patiala, alias 'Kalu Ustad', and Ustad Vazir Khan of Rampur trained her in pure and light classical Hindustani vocal music, whereas Ali Baksh and Brindadin Maharaj taught her the Kathak form of dance. Srijanbai taught her dhrupad dhamar , and Charan Das trained her in Bengali Keertan . This was around 1883. (--From Mr Chandvankar)

She also learnt from her contemporaries, viz. Mojuddin Khan, Bhaiyya Ganpatrao and Peara Saheb. She sang Tagore songs even before the word Rabindra-Sangeet had been coined. She penned several compositions under the name ‘Hamdam’, and she also wrote, composed and recorded gazals . She could read, write and sing in several languages including Bengali, Hindustani, Gujrathi, Tamil, Marathi, Arabic, Persian, Pushto, French, Peshawari, and English. (--From Mr Chandvankar)

In 1887 Gauhar had her ranga pravesham (debute recital)at the court of the Maharaja of Darbhanga. She was only 14 years old. In spite of her young age, the Maharaja was sufficiently impressed by her performance to appoint the young Gauhar as a court musician / dancer. Gauhar Jan became a master of the kheyal, dhrupad, and the thumree. Her khayals were so noteworthy that Bhatkhande declared her to be the greatest female khayal singer in India. (--From David Courtney)

From 1896 she began to perform in Kolkata. . During her heydays at Calcutta it is said that her nazrana (fees for a sitting) were 1000-3000 rupees; this was an absolutely an outlandish sum in those days.

When recording technology came to India in the early decades of the 20th century, it was the women who accepted this very novel and unfamiliar medium and adapted to it. Disregarding several superstitions (recording on evil English instruments would displease the gods and make one lose one’s voice) that were floated by men, they went ahead and recorded. This not only helped democratize music and bring it out of the confines of the kothas (brothels) and courts, but also liberated these performing women from the clutches of their exploitative patrons.(—From Vikram Sampath )

The first audio recording in India

From Mr Chandvankar

November 14,1902: A very rudimentary and makeshift recording studio had been set up in two large rooms of a hotel in Kolkata by the Gramophone Company. Frederick William Gaisberg and his assistants had arrived just three weeks before from England on their first Far East recording expedition for the Gramophone Company, which had been founded in England in 1898. They had appointed a local agent for selecting and training artists for recording on gramophone discs. However, the agent selected Anglo-Indian artists and completely ignored local talent. Gaisberg then sought the help of the local Police Superintendent, visited several theaters, attended mehfils at wealthy Jamindars’ palaces, and thus found at least one promising artist to begin with. The artist was a very famous dancing girl, and her voice was very sweet; although not for European ears. She agreed to a recording session for the handsome fee of 3,000 rupees. Such an artist was necessary in order to build a firm business foundation on the Indian scene, especially when several other German, French and American recording companies were also planning to capture the Asian market in general and the Indian market in particular.

At around 9.00 a.m. a young lady entered the studio with all her paraphernalia, including accompanists and relatives. Loaded fully with very expensive ornaments and jewelry, this 30 year old, fair, medium-built lady went onto the stage prepared for the recordings. Sarangi, harmonium, and tabla players began to tune their instruments. Gaisberg personally checked the equipment. A thick wax master record was placed on the turntable rotating at 78 rpm. A huge recording horn was fitted on the wall behind her and close to her face, and she was asked to sing loudly into the horn. At the narrow end of the long horn a diaphragm fitted with a needle was connected to the recording machinery, with a needle placed on rotating disc for cutting the grooves. Gaisberg requested her to sing for three minutes and announce her name at the end of the recording. At the end of the trial recording she announced - "My name is Gauhar Jan". (sound clip - Bhairavi ) This announcement was necessary since the wax masters were sent to Hanover in Germany for pressing the records and the technicians would make proper labels and confirm the name by listening to these announcements at the end of the three minutes performance.

Gauhar’s contribution

Vikram Sampath writes:

To Gauhar goes the credit of devising a unique template of presenting something as expansive as Hindustani music in just 3 minutes [and twenty seconds: 200 seconds in all: Indpaedia], which was all that a single disc could record at the time. The end of a recording was usually marked by the high-pitched and sometimes flirtatious announcement “My name is Gauhar Jaan!”. This was of course a technical necessity because record masters were sent to Hanover in Germany for pressing, and these announcements helped the technician identify the singer. In her illustrious career, Gauhar recorded close to 600 records in over 10 languages. Her repertoire was vast and ranged from the weighty khayal and dhrupad to the supposedly lighter forms of thumri, dadra, kajri, hori, chaiti and bhajan.

Flamboyant lifestyle

Gauhar was extremely wealthy. Some say that she was a crorepati (had property worth Rs.10 million or more) way back in 1910 or so. Along with a feisty nature she got known for a very flamboyant lifestyle.

Mr. F. W. Gaisberg of the Gramophone Company noted that whenever she came for recordings, she always wore fine gowns and the finest jewellery. Furthermore, he noted that she never seemed to wear the same jewels twice. She had a special penchant for cars and royal carriages. Her home was known for its opulence (--From David Courtney)

Perhaps her wealth was matched only by her ostentation. She became famous, (or infamous) in the manner in which she flaunted her wealth and power. One of the most noteworthy examples of this is that it is said that she squandered 1200 rupees to celebrate the marriage of her pet cat. On another occasion after she was persuaded to go to Datia to give a performance, she demanded her own train, in which her entire retinue of cook, cook's assistants, her private hakeem (physician), dhobi, (washerman), barber, and dozens of servants went along. (--From David Courtney)

She was among the few people in Calcutta who flouted government regulations and went around in a four-horse-driven buggy, for which she even paid a fine of Rs1,000 a day to the viceroy. (—From Vikram Sampath )

Gauhar Jan used to travel all over India, as a guest of patrons in the various Princely states. She also gave public performances, in which she would present ticketed programs, distributing an advance schedule of the items to be sung in her concert. She was fond of horse-racing and hence would visit Bombay during the racing season. She used to stay with Anjanibai Malpekar, spending the day at the Mahalakshmi racecourse, and the evenings and nights at concerts. She was a great admirer of Heerabai and offered to adopt her when Abdul Karim Khan’s family separated and the mother moved to Pune with her five children. She taught a number of bhajans and thumris to both Heerabai and Sunderabai, which they in their turn duly recorded on gramophone records. Because of Gauhar Jan the songs Radhe Krishna Bol Mukhase and Krishna Murari Binat Karat became popular bhajans and several singers used to sing them in concerts and on records. (--From Suresh Chandvankar)

Gauhar Jan lived a very wealthy life, and she also donated generously to a number of causes. Numerous legends are associated with her. In Calcutta, she used to ride in a baggi driven by four horses, threw a party spending 20,000 rupees when her cat produced a litter of kittens, and donated only half the promised amount to Gandhiji’s ‘Swaraj fund’ when he did not keep the promise of attending the ‘fund raising’ concert and deputed a representative instead. (--From Suresh Chandvankar)

At the Delhi Durbar

In December of 1911, at the famous Delhi Durbar, Emperor George V was crowned the paramount power of British India in the presence of Indian princes and aristocrats. While the announcement by the emperor that the capital of his Indian territories would be shifted to Delhi from Calcutta might have cast a pall of gloom in “the second city of the empire”, the durbar itself brought unprecedented glory to one Calcuttan—the legendary Hindustani vocalist Miss Gauhar Jaan.

At that glittering ceremony, in the presence of the emperor and his queen and all of India’s royalty, Gauhar Jaan, along with her contemporary Janaki Bai, were bestowed the rare privilege of presenting a song specially composed for the occasion Yeh jalsa taajposhi ka mubarak ho mubarak ho! They were escorted to the emperor after the concert and he praised them profusely for their talent and presented them with a hundred guineas as a token of his appreciation.

Such was the fame of the first Indian and woman to record on the gramophone, Gauhar Jaan. (—From Vikram Sampath )

Love life

In her personal life, she was deceived by her friends and relatives.

The zamindar Nimai Sen: The nature of his attachment to her is indicated by the inordinate level of material gifts that he bestowed upon her. (--From David Courtney)

She married her personal secretary and erstwhile tabla accompanist - Saiyyad Gulam Abbas - a young man from Peshawar. He was ten years younger than she, and when she discovered his relations with other women, she was bitterly disappointed in him, and this led to several court cases and unpleasant incidents. (--From Suresh Chandvankar)

Later, she stayed with Mr Amrut Vagal Nayak in Bombay - a handsome actor on the Gujrathi stage. This relation lasted for 3-4 years, and she learnt several songs composed by him including the famous Dadra Aan Ban Jiyamen Lagi. The sudden death of Amrut Nayak was a big jolt that left her mentally disturbed. Relatives persuaded her to return to Kolkata. But she did not stay there long. The machinations of selfish and cunning relatives forced her to stay in Darbhanga State for a while.

The Benazir bai incident

Benazir bai was a well-known bai (tawaif) who later became an accomplished singer-dancer. It seems that Benazirbai was at a mehfil (i.e., gathering) giving a performance before the great Gauhar. Benazirbai was decked out in all her opulent jewellery. After giving a respectable performance, Gauhar approached the young tawaif and sarcastically said "Benazir!, Your ornaments may shine in bed but in a mehfil it is only your art that will shine." Whereupon Gauhar Jan gave a spectacular public performance. The young Benazir was humbled and when she returned to Bombay she presented all her jewellery as an offering to her teacher, who took her and taught her more classical "taleem" (material). After ten years of serious study, it is said that Banazirbai again had the opportunity to perform in front of Gauhar. This time it is said that Gauhar comes up to Benazir and graciously says, "God bless you, now your diamonds are really flashing". (--From David Courtney. Mr Suresh Chandvankar has recounted the same story on The Record News


Mr Chandvankar writes: Gauhar Jan recorded prolifically, a total of over 600 songs over the period from 1902 to 1920, and she sang in more than ten languages. From 1903, her records began to appear on the Indian market, and were always in great demand. Thousands of copies were imported after being pressed at Hanover, and they were best-sellers throughout India. In 1908, a record-pressing factory was built at Sealdah (close to the present Sealdah railway station), Gaisberg was invited for this occasion and recorded a few more songs of Gauhar Jan, for which the announcement of her name at the end was not required.

Through the wide circulation of her records, she became popular throughout India and received invitations in several prestigious music conferences. Thus in 1911, she was invited to participate in the Prayag Sangeet Samiti , for which she was paid 1000 rupees.

In her lifetime, Gauhar attained a celebrity status that few women of her era could even dream of. Her photograph appeared on picture postcards and matchboxes during her time (—From Vikram Sampath )

Later career

In her later years she moved around a bit. She served as court singer in the court of Dharbhanga, She moved to Rampur and became a court singer there. She left Rampur and moved to Bombay for a short period.

Despite all the fame and adulation, Gauhar pined for true love all her life. Sadly the courtship [of Abbas and Gauhar] ended in a bitter legal tangle after she realized that Abbas was embezzling her money. She won the case but lost all her money in the process of funding her high-profile lawyers and was reduced to a state of near beggary. That was when she was invited to Mysore. But by then Gauhar had lost the will to fight (—From Vikram Sampath )

Finally she moved to the royal court at Mysore at the invitation of Maharaja Nalvadi Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV. There she was appointed court musician in on August 1, 1928. However this appointment only lasted 18 months. She died on January 17, 1930.

Her last days at Mysore could not be described as happy days. She was virtually alone. The legal harassment of her ex-husband, as well as the conniving relatives, had long since reduced the great wealth that she had once enjoyed. She was 58 years old, and in failing health. At the age of 60 she died nearly penniless—and alone. (--From David Courtney)

Gauhar Jaan on YouTube

There are several ‘videos’ on YouTube that feature her songs in the background. The biggest playlist of her songs has 56 ‘videos’ (i.e. audios with a static picture in the background).

However, the following may be kept in mind while going through these videos and playlists:

i) Sometimes the label of the disc shown does not match the song being sung, because the label is in Urdu and the person uploading the audio did not know Urdu. For example, the label reads ‘Chalee gulzar-e-aalam main havaa-e-fazl-e-rehmani’ while the song being sung is ‘Ras ke bhare tere nain’

ii) Many of videos on YouTube feature the same song several times, either posted by the same name or slightly differently: E.g. << Phnaaki Diye Praner Pakhi (Puratani Gaan)--Gauhar Jaan>> as well as <<Gauhar Jaan phnaaki diye...>>. ‘Ras ke bhare tere nain’ has been posted many times,

iii) Malka Jan of Agra is not the same as Gauhar’s mother, Badi Malka Jan of Azamgarh.

Titles of Gauhar Jaan Videos on YouTube

The following is a fairly complete list of the 19 unique/ distinct Gauhar Jaan videos available on YouTube. The titles given are as they appear on YouTube:

Gauhar jaan

Gauhar Jaan Mere Husraat ne Madeene mein manayi Holi...

Gauhar Jaan phnaaki diye...

Gauhar Jaan, Hai Gokul Ghar ke Chhora, Khayal, Raag Multani

Gauhar Jaan, Itna joban da maan na koriye..Khayal Bhopali

Gauhar Jaan, the very first Indian recording (1904)

Gauhar Jaan: Aan baan jiya mein laagi...Dadra, Raag Ghara

Gauhar Jaan: Alwar ke Kanhaiya...Raag Sindh Kafi, Hori

Gauhar Jaan: Maike piya bina... Raag Sohini, Thumri

Gauhar Jan _ Raga_Sohini _ Maika Piya Bina

Gauhar Jan_ Bhupali


GC13869;E2601h;GAUHARJAN-hai saiyon paron mein tori paiyan-zilaInsync remembers Gauhar Jaan on her 141st Birth Anniversary...

Phnaaki Diye Praner Pakhi (Puratani Gaan)--Gauhar Jaan [Probably the same as another song in this list]

Raag Pilu: Saanwariya man bhaayo re bhaako yaar (Gauhar Jaan)

Raga Bhairavi - Gauhar Jan

Raga Khamaj Jogiya - Gauhar Jan

Thumari By Gauhar Jaan Recordrd in 1905...

Thumari--Gauhar Jaan (1905)

Cover versions

Then there are some cover versions of Gauhar’s songs on YouTube, e.g.

Debojyoti Mishra presents Aditi Chatterjee for singing Kajri of Gauhar Jaan in Mishra Tilak Kamod

Aditi Chatterjee is performing "Dadra" of Gauhar Jaan in Raag Bhupali

A transliteration of Urdu titles on YouTube

Taa nee dhoom taa naa dey

ray naa!!!

۔۔۔!!! تا نی دھوم تا نا دے رے

Jamuna tatt Ram chaley


    جمنا تت رام چلے ہو ری۔۔۔!!!۔

Saaqi husn

    ساقی حسن

Maaro pichkari arey Kanha!!!

    مارو پچکاری ارے کنھیا۔۔۔!!!۔

Man har liyo!!!

    من ہر لئیو۔۔۔!!!۔


A very partial discography

Sources include: <><> Kirwani<> David Courtney



The following is a very partial list of tracks by Gauhar Jaan that are probably still available on disc or online.






Rasili Matwaliyon... 


Bhairavi thumri 

Mora nahak laye gavanava, jabse gaye mori sud huna live


Bhairavi thumri












Gara thumri 




Jo Piya Aaye Mose... 


Khamaj jogia



Pahari Jhinjhoti

Manwa Lubhao... 



Savariyan Man Bayo... 


Sindh Kafi

Naino Se Naina Mila 



Hari Bole Dhak Rasana



Jodi Nimaser Dekha



Nimisher Dekha Jadi


Kajri Gauhar Jan



Bhairobi tumri [sic]/ Gara tumri [sic]



Bhairavi Thumri

Ras  ke bhare tere nain (on YouTube)



Aaney De Maika Suno 



Gore Gore Galo Pe


Bhairavi Dadra



Bhairavi Gazal Dadra












Des Thumri           



Gara Thumri            









Jhinjhoti Thumri     



Khamaj Dadra



Khamaj Jogia



Khamaj Thumri 












Pahadi Jhinjhoti



Pahadi Jhinjhoti



Pahadi Jhinjhoti



Pahadi Jhinjhoti Dadra















Tilak Kamod Kajri



Zila Dadra               



Dhun Kalyan

Chalee gulzar-e-aalam main havaa-e-fazl-e-rehmani



Saregama’s website yielded information as below about Gauhar Jan’s albums available with them:

Year of release

Title of Album

No. of tracks

Dec, 1965


Gauhar Jan and Malka Jan 2



Dec, 1907


Gauhar Jan and Malka Jan 2


Sep, 1994


Gauhar Jan and Malka Jan 1


Dec, 1953






Some of her best known songs

Hum se na bolo raja

Jiya mein lage an ban

Maika piya bin kaccchu na suhave

Piya chal hat tori banawati baat na mane ri

Ras ke bhare tore nain

Tan man dhan ja saanwaria

Tan man ki sudh an-ban jiya mein lage

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