Fashion inspiration: Gauhar Jaan

Performer Extraordinaire Tantrum Thrower Heat Throb


Performer extraordinaire. Tantrum thrower. Heart throb. Sensational star. My fashion inspiration.
She was born a 100 years before even I was born but she is, by far, the most vivacious personality I have had the pleasure of being acquainted with – the classical singer – Gauhar Jaan. Born to Armenian parents, Gauhar pursued Hindustani classical singing with such dedication that she inspired a generation of singers.
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Gruelling Training In Hindustani Classical Singing


Gauhar was born Eileen Angelina Yeoward to a multicultural foreign lineage but made Calcutta her home. She underwent gruelling training in Hindustani classical singing, classical dance – Kathak and singing Tagore songs even before these were termed as Rabindra Sangeet.
She wrote gazals and could read, write and sing in 11 languages including Persian, French and Bengali.
Here, the merry musicians on the Deepika Govind sari give young Gauhar Jaan company. (The presence of lovely Ana as the model is courtesy of Facecraft.)

Gauhar Jaan was Invited To The Royal Courts Of Durbhanga


Gauhar Jaan was invited to the Royal courts of Durbhanga, Bihar in 1887 to give a solo performance. The performance was so enthralling that she was appointed the Court Musician, a high honour for any artist let alone a 14 year old girl.
Though born into Christianity, she led her life as a devout and practicing Muslim and sang heart rendering songs of Krishna Bhakti. Till the very end, she remained a perfection seeking artist who refused to be typecast.
Asmita Marwah woven sari and top keep Gauhar comfortable during her long hours of Riyaaz.

An Ultimate Diva


In 1896 Gauhar moved to Calcutta, where the artist in her morphed into an ultimate Diva. She accumulated immense wealth thanks to her admiring patrons. The anecdotes of her lavish lifestyle captured the imagination of the public and she assumed the status of a star.
Tales of her spending Rs. 3000 on a party to celebrate the marriage of her pet cat and a princely sum of Rs.20,000 on the happy occasion of her cat having a litter, were abound. In those days only high ranking officials were allowed four horse driven carriages which, obviously, didn’t deter Gauhar one bit. She roamed the city in her opulent buggy and promptly sent a Rs1000 fine to the Viceroy at the end of the day.
Here, Gauhar’s performance sparkles in a sari by Asmita Marwah.

Blessed With Her Music


In 1902, the Gramophone Company chose Gauhar Jaan’s voice as the very first Indian voice to be immortalised on a record. Mr. Gaisberg, an employee of the company noted that she always wore fabulous clothes and never repeated anything, not even her precious jewellery. The consummate artist reworked her singing format to record Khayal singing in 3 min, a time requirement for the gramophone recording.
The far reach of the gramophone rendered her a sensation. She appeared on picture post cards and matchboxes much like the football or cricket stars of today! Only, her personal life was filled with broken relationships and greedy, deceitful suitors. But she was blessed with her music as it was always there to sustain and support her.
Gauhar’s handwoven, one of a kind sari is from Upasana.
Gauhar’s intricate blouse is by Deepika Govind.

Sing At Glittering Delhi Durbar


In 1911, Gauhar Jaan was invited to sing at the glittering Delhi Durbar for the coronation ceremony of King George the V and from what is known, the audience was spellbound. Gauhar’s love for the hi life was legendary. She loved cars and royal carriages and made it a point to frequent Bombay during racing season to bet on her favourites.
When requested to go to Durbhanga, Bihar to give a performance, she demanded an exclusive train in which her extensive retinue of staff comprising musicians, cooks, physician, washer men, barber and over a dozen personal servants could travel. This artist always arrived with the same pomp and show as a King.
Gauhar’s handwoven, one of a kind sari is from Upasana.