Pandit Gudai Maharaja, also popularly known as Pandit Samta Prasad, was a celebrated and eminent Indian classical musician and tabla player. He belonged to the Benares Gharana of the Varanasi. The acclaimed Indian Tabla Samrat was born on 20 July 1921 at Kabir Chaura, Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh. He died in May 1994 at his Kabir Chaura residence.
His family was also associated with Indian classical music. This included his father, Pandit Hari Sundar ( also known as Bacha Mishra ), grandfather Pandit Jagannath Mishra and his forefather, Pandit Pratap Maharaj. He became proficient in traditional tabla playing and pakhawaj of the Benaras Gharana from his father and grandfather. His father passed when he was seven years old, and then he became the disciple of Pandit Bikku Maharaj ( disciple of Pandit Baldev Sahai ).
The career of Pandit Gudai Maharaj
In the year 1942, he had played for the first time on stage. Other musicians present there were dazzled with his splendid performance. Following his first show, he soon became well known as a musician and a soloist. Therefore, he got various opportunities to show his prowess by performing in different cities of India like Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow and countries abroad like France, Edinburgh, Russia, etc.
He had the good fortune to perform and demonstrate his mastery in Hindi films like Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje in 1955, Basant Bahar in 1956, Asamapta in 1956, Meri Surat Teri Ankhen in 1963, Sholay in 1975 and many more. Rahul Dev Burman, music composer in films, was one of his disciples. It is believed that music director S.D. Burman delayed the song ‘nache mora manwa Magan tikta dhighi dhighi’ sung by Mohammed Rafi in Meri Surat Teri Aakhen film until Pandit Samta Prasad reached there from Varanasi.
Before his demise, he led a coaching seminar planned by Naad Roop in Pune. He had an eternal impact on the hearts of the people who attended the workshop. Shashanka Bakshi, Pandit Bhola Prasad Singh, Naba Kumar Panda, Gurmit Singh Virdee, Patna, Satyanarayan Bashisht, Partha Sarathi Mukherjee, Rahul Dev Burman (well known as R.D.Burman), Nitin Chatterjee and Pandit Kumar Lal Mishra are some of his Tabla player disciples.
He devoted himself to the art of playing the Tabla and discovered many unique beats with the Tali and Khali. He lived a modest life and spent most of his life away from Varanasi because he travelled a lot for his shows. He was very fond of Banarasi Boli and cherished homemade food. People widely regard him as the Benaras King as he was the Banarasi instrument Tabla prodigy.
Awards and Recognitions
Pandit Gudai Maharaj was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in the year 1979 by Sangeet Natak Akademi.
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972 and was honoured with the President Scholarship in 1987.
The Indian government granted him the third highest civilian honour award (Padma Bhushan) in 1991.