Sharan Rani Backliwal

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Sharan Rani Backliwal (Sharan Rani Mathur)

Birthdate: (78)
Death: April 8, 2008 (78)
Immediate Family:

Wife of Private
Mother of Radhika Backliwal Narain

Managed by: Radhika Backliwal Narain
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Sharan Rani Backliwal

Sharan Rani

'Music is the breath of my life'

                                -Sharan Rani

Legendary Sarod maestro, Guru (Smt.) Sharan Rani was amongst the few senior most and greatest musicians of our times. Born in Delhi, on 9th April, 1929, in a conservative, non-musician Hindu (Mathur) family of well known businessmen and educationists, Sharan Raniji became the first and foremost woman instrumentalist and woman Sarod player of India. Sarod has become synonymous with her name and she is popularly called “Sarod Rani” i.e, the Queen of Sarod.

A pioneer and a path maker, Guru Sharan Rani was the first woman to take up the difficult Sarod which was always known as a ‘man’s instrument’. India for many centuries had a tradition of great female vocalists but no renowned woman instrumentalist of Hindustani classical music on the concert stage. To Sharan Rani, goes the singular credit of opening the doors of Hindustani instrumental music not only for women, but also for women and men belonging to non musician families, by setting her own example. She took to classical music in the 1930’s when it was unheard of girls belonging to non musician families to take up music professionally. Sharan Rani belonged to the Maihar Senia Gharana of muisc.She was the resident disciple of 'Baba' Ustad Allauddin Khan, the greatest saint musician of India and his son sarod wizard Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

Called the ‘Cultural Ambassador of India’ by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sharan Rani actively performed on the concert stage for over seven

decades, receiving unprecedented critical acclaim in India and abroad. She was a recipient of many awards, honours and titles, including the Padma Bhushan (2000), Padma Shri (1968) central Sangeet Natak Academi Award (1986), Delhi state’s Sahitya Kala Parishad award (1974), 'Acharya' and ˜Tantri Vilas' (1979); Doctorates of Music (Honorarius) from India and USA; Rajiv Gandhi Vocational Excellence award(1993); National Excellence award (1999); Lifetime Achievement award (2000); Distinguished Alumni award announced at its Platinum Jubilee Celebrations by Delhi University (1997), Maharana Mewar Foundation award (2004); Kala Parishad award from Bhopal (2005) to name a few. In 2004, in a major decision, the Govt. of India decided to officially honour the few seniormost and greatest artists of India by conferring upon them the Title of ˜NATIONAL ARTISTE.. The legendary names selected by the Prasar Bharti Board for this great honour included, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Smt. M.S. Subbulaxmi and Smt. Sharan Rani. Prestigious titles such as ˜Sangeet Saraswati'; ˜Sarod Rani'; ˜Kala Murti'; ˜Abhinav Sangeet Sharda'; 'Kala Ratna'; 'Sarod Shri',˜Sangeet Ratna'; 'Bharat Gaurav' , have also been conferred upon her by eminent institutions and organizations. Sharan Rani has also received Doctorates in music (Honorarius) from India and USA. In 1968, an illustrated and comprehensive felicitation volume on the life and works of Smt. Sharan Rani was presented to her at a memorable felicitation function organised in her honour in New Delhi, presided over by Dr. Zakir Hussain, President of India. The felicitation volume was presented to her by Smt. Vijaya Laxmi Pandit. The Mayor of Delhi, Shri Hans Raj Gupta presented her with a special a 'Man Patra' (Scroll of honour), on behalf of the citizens of Delhi. Dr. A. N. Jha, Governor of Delhi, present to her, a Silver Plaque, engraved with the title of 'Sangeet Saraswati'. This is the first and the only felicitation volume of its kind, till date, made on the life and works of a musician, in India. Numerous felicitation functions have been organized in her honour in India and abroad which is a testimony of the abiding esteem she was held in around the world.

As an unparalleled contribution to promote and preserve our Indian musical heritage for future generations, Sharan Raniji spent many decades collecting rare musical instruments. She donated (in 1980 and again in 2002) nearly 450 old and rare Hindustani and Carnatic music instruments from the 15th cent. till the 20th cent.  from her  personal collection to the National Museum, New Delhi where they are permanently exhibited in the Sharan Rani Backliwal Gallery of Musical Instruments. This Gallery was inaugurated and dedicated to the nation in 1980 by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi who described it as ‘a collection of rare classical music instruments of national importance’. 

This is the first and the largest collection of its kind in the world, till date. In 1998 the Government of India’s postal department released the first ever set of four postage stamps (including on her first Sarod), along with a first day cover and brochure, on four Indian musical instruments, from the Sharan Rani Backliwal Gallery of Musical Instruments.

Dr. Sharan Rani was also the author of the widely acclaimed book, ‘The Divine Sarod, its origin, antiquity and development, in India, since 2nd cent. B.C. This was the first book ever to be written on the origin and development of the Sarod and was released in 1992 by Shri K.R. Narayanan, the then Vice President of India.this book was the result of her research of decades in a maiden field and through this book she firmly established that sarod is an instrument of Indian origin, widely prevalent all over India from circa 2nd centuary B.C.The second enlarged and revised edition of 'The Divine Sarod' was released on 11th April 2008 by Shri I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India.

Recently, Music Today launched a special Two CD pack with booklet of Sharan Rani live in concert. The CD is titled, 'Sharan Rani-The Legendary Queen of Sarod' followed by a special tribute album launched by Saregama HMV, featuring Sharan Rani's suberb recordings in the 1950's accompanied by Ustad Allarakha and Pt. Chaturlal on Tabla.

Guru Sharan Raniji taught her Indian and foreign students through the Guru-Shishya Parampara and did not take any fees or remuneration in any form her resident disciples or students. Many of her students have gained repute in India and abroad.

She was also the founder, President and Chairperson of prestigious cultural and educational institutions...

The musical genius of ‘Sangeet Saraswati’, Sharan Raniji was a brilliant combination of superb artistry and intense soul searching emotions. She played from within, as if in tune with the infinite, blissfully mesmerising her listeners to have a profoundly moving experience.

‘Bharat Gaurav’ Sharan Raniji has made extraordinary contributions to our Nation’s musical and cultural heritage. She is truly an inspiration to three generations of musicians and music lovers.As she used to say, 'Music was truely the breath of her life...

Music Legend Sharan Raniji went on her final journey on 8th April, 2008 in New Delhi, a day before she would have stepped into her 80th year.She is survived by her husband, Shri Sultan Singh Backliwal, renowned art scholar, connoisseur, collector and businessman and her daughter Radhika, who is well known in her own right.

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Sharan Rani Backliwal's Timeline

April 9, 1929
April 8, 2008
Age 78