Akhtaribai Faizabadi

Born in the Gulab Bari area of Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh to Mushtari Bai (courtesan) and Asghar Ali (civil judge). Was lovingly called Bibbi at home.


Begins her formal training in music from her first guru Ustad Imdad Khan of Patna, a famous Sarangi player. Later moves to Gaya with her mother, Mushtari Bai. Continues her music lessons under Ustad Ghulam Mohammed Khan.


Shifts back to Faizabad. Gets formally inducted as a disciple of Ustad Ata Mohammed Khan of the Patiala gharana.


Moves to Calcutta with her mother and Ustad Ata Mohammed Khan. She lived with her mother in a small room on Ripon Street, Calcutta.


First recording for HMV, a mix of dadra and ghazals. The most popular track was “Woh asir-e daaman-e bala hoon main jise saans tak bhi na aa sake…” (Mir Taqi Mir)


She does her first film called Ek Din Ki Badshahat, followed by Nal Damayanti (1933), Nach Rang (1933), Mumtaz Begum (1934), Ameena (1934), Jawani Ka Nasha (1935), Naseeb Ka Chakkar (1935), Roti (1942) and Jalsaghar (1958). She also acted in stage productions of famed theatre companies like Corinthian, where she acted in mythological plays like Sita and Nal Damyanati with stars like Master Fida Husain. Her first theatrical performance was Nai Dulhan.


First formal concert at Alfred Theatre, Calcutta at a music conference organized to collect funds for the earthquake victims of Patna.


She moves to Cheena Bazaar, Lucknow. Her new mentor was Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, a formidable exponent of the Kirana gharana. He invigorated Akhtari’s purab-ang gayaki, a mellifluous style characteristic of the Lucknow and Benares regions, with the robust energy of the Punjab-ang. She was groomed as a classical khayal singer and came to be known as Akhtaribai Faizabadi.


Invited by the son of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Moazzam Jah and later by the Nawab of Rampur, Raza Ali Khan. She was also under the patronage of the Maharaja of Kashmir and the Maharaja of Darbhanga for brief periods.

Begum Akhtar

Marries Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, a taluqdar of Kakori, and a reputed barrister of Lucknow. Gives up public concerts for a short while. Akhtari was now Begum Abbasi and music was restricted to ghar mehfils.


Returns briefly to public singing with the recording of three ghazals and a dadra at All India Radio, Lucknow.


Mushtari Bai, her mother, passes away. She falls in deep depression and doctors suggest to her to return to music.


Her first major performance after a seven year sabbatical takes place at the Shankar Lal Festival in Delhi. Here, for the first time the publicity board mentions her name as ‘Begum Akhtar’.


Playback singing for the movie Dana Pani [Music Director: Mohan Junior (a.k.a. Madan Mohan); Lyricist: Kaif Irani].


Playback singing for the movie Ehsaan (Music Director: Madan Mohan; Lyricist: Kaif Irani).


Performs in public concerts in Delhi, Calcutta, Ahmedabad and elsewhere across the country.


Performs at the All Bengal Music Conference which, according to many, has been noted as Begum Akhtar’s most memorable performance in Calcutta. During the same year, she has a successful tour of Pakistan for concerts organized by the Indian Embassy. The piece that drew repeated applause was her famous dadraHamri atariya pe aao sanwariya, saara jhagda khatam hui jaaye…


Concert tour of Afghanistan as a member of a cultural delegation.


Concert tour of USSR as a member of a cultural delegation.


Awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.


She releases a long-playing record of the ghazals of Mirza Ghalib on the occasion of the Ghalib Centenary Celebrations.


Recording of the iconic ghazal “Mere hamnafas mere hamnawa…”(Shakeel Badayuni) under His Master’s Voice (HMV) label as an LP.


Conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest Indian recognition given to performing artists.


Her last performance on stage in Ahmedabad where she performed her iconic “Aye mohabbat tere anjaam pe rona aaya…” (Shakeel Badayuni) She collapsed after the performance. She passed away four days later on 30th October and is buried at Pasand Bagh, Lucknow next to her mother.


Awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India, posthumously.