Jankibai of Allahabad alias ‘Chhapan Chhurivali’ (1880-1934)

Written by Suresh Chandvankar

Jankibai of Allahabad alias ‘Chhapan Chhurivali’ (1880-1934)

Jankibai was born in Banaras in 1880. Her father Shivbalakram was from ‘Ahir’ caste and he was a wrestler. Her mother’s name was Manaki. Her father abandoned both wife and daughter and left home. With the help of one woman in Banaras, Manaki sold her house and came to Allahabad where that lady sold both Manki and Janki to a brothel (kotha) owner. This was a rich and well known kotha (place for entertainment). When the old kothewali (owner) died, Manaki owned the kotha. Janki was fond of music and her mother had noticed her talent in early childhood. Hence she appointed Ustad Hassu Khan of Lucknow as a teacher. He was paid a salary of Rs. 2000 per month.


Jankibai was not so beautiful and attractive and had a dark complexion. But in that locality of tawaifs and goondas, she was attacked 56 (read as ‘Chhappan‘ in Hindi) times by ‘Churi’ (small knife) and hence was named as ‘Chhappan Chhurivali’. But her melodious voice compensated for her beauty. She was invited for performance by many princely states including the state of ‘Rewa’. She was contemporary to Gauhar Jan of Calcutta, both were good friends, sang together even in 1911, when King George V visited Allahabad. He was pleased with their performance and gave 100 guineas to them. She was also a lyricist and composed many songs. A collection of her songs has been published in a book ‘Diwan-e-Janki’ from Allahabad. She was truly a ‘Vaggeyakar’ - a person who writes, composes and sings songs. She became very famous and lived very rich and prosperous life in Allahabad throughout her career. She had appointed special teachers to learn Urdu, Persian, Sanskrit and even English. She was very religious and donated food and clothing and built many Dharmashala (resting houses) in Allahabad. Due to her popularity, Gramophone Company decided to record her songs on discs. During 1907 to 1929 she cut over 250 songs on 10” shellac discs revolving at 78 rpm. Initially, she recorded in ‘acoustic’ era and later she also recorded using ‘electrical’ equipment. These are songs in Hindustani and Urdu and contain mostly Ragas and light classical music like Dadra, Hori, Kajri, Chaiti, Bhajan, Gazal etc. She was paid Rs. 250 for twenty songs in the beginning of her recording career. Towards the end, she received Rs. 5000 for twenty songs. These recordings were taken at Allahabad, Lucknow, Delhi and in Calcutta. Roads around records shops in Allahabad used to get blocked by record buying public whenever new stock of her discs was on sale. Print order of her several records crossed 25,000 copies. Like Gauharjan, she also has announced her name at the end of the song as: ‘Mera Naam Jankibai of Ellahabad’. In many songs, she has sung this in the notes of the raga that she recorded. She died in 1934 and has left behind her voice in disc records. In 1994, some of her songs were reissued in ‘Chairman’s Choice’ series on audio-tape (CMC 882524).


One of her famous song, recorded in 1909 on P 1149 is:


Is Nagarike Das Darwaja,

Na Janu Kaunsi Khidki Khuli Thi,

Sainyya Nikas Gaye, Main Na Ladi Thi.


Saat Sakhi Mere Age Khadi Thi,

Inse Pucho Maine Kuch Na Kahi Thi,

Sainyya Nikas Gaye, Main Na Ladi Thi.


Suniyo Ri Mori Sangaki Saheli,

Taan Chundariya Akeli Padi Thi,

Sainyya Nikas Gaye, Main Na Ladi Thi.


Kahat Kamal Kabirka Balak,

Ina Byahise Kunwari Bhali Thi,

Sainyya Nikas Gaye, Main Na Ladi Thi.


Note: This article is the english translation of original Marathi article from the author's book Poorvsurinche Sur. It also appeared in the 2006 transactions of SIRC.


Here she can be heard singing in Raag Bhairavi:-


Here she can be heard rendering Raag Sohani:-


This is a ghazal, Ae Button Imaandaari Uth Gayi by her:-


Here she sings Lachakti Aawe:-


Here she sings a Noha, Ran Main Jab Banoy


Interestingly she sang in persian Also:-


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