Born in 1907 in Banaras, Siddheshwari Devi was brought up by her aunt Rajeshwari Devi. Despite undergoing an arduous childhood and youth, Siddheshwari Devi studied music with several respected musicians. She learnt from Siyaji Maharaj, and later also trained with Rajab Ali Khan of Dewas and Inayat Khan of Lahore. Her music attained new heights with her tutelage under Bade Ramdas, from whom she studied at a stage when she was already an established artiste.
While Siddheshwari Devi also performed khayal, she was acknowledged as a perfect representative of the Poorab ang thumri, dadra, holi, chaiti, kajri and other allied forms. She had performed in most leading royal courts and cities of her time. Siddheshwari Devi also sang and acted in a few films produced in Mumbai, before the introduction of playback singing.
Towards the latter part of her life, Siddheshwari Devi moved from Banaras to Delhi, where she was appointed as a thumri teacher at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra. During this period, she performed in London, Rome, Kabul and Nepal.
Siddheshwari Devi was a recipient of many awards. The Sangeet Natak Akademi awarded her a Fellowship. In 1966, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. In 1973, she was decorated with an honorary D.Lit. degree by the Ravindra Bharati Vishwavidyalaya in Kolkata and was also awarded the Deshikottam degree by the Vishwa Bharati Vishwavidyalaya.
She died in 1976, but has left behind several commercial and archival recordings that stand witness to her consummate artistry.
Laxminarayan Garg, Hamaare sangeet ratna, (pratham bhaag), Sangit Karyalaya, Hathras, 1957.
Biographical note prepared by Aneesh Pradhan