Gulab Bai

Gulab Bai

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Category: Art

Gulab Bai Profile

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Gulab Bai Biography

Gulab Bai was a legendary Nautangi artist who lived in the 20th century. Nautanki is a popular folk version of drama which was the biggest entertainment medium in the villages and towns of northern India, before the advent of Bollywood film songs and music. It’s a form of storytelling in musical form with essence of humour. Gulab Bai is a doyen of Nautangi, and this stage performer was the first female artist of the traditional operatic drama. She founded and successfully ran her Nautanki company, Great Gulab Theatre Company. For her contributions towards the field of arts and music, Government of India honoured her with the fourth highest civilian honour - Padma Shri in 1990.


Gulab Bai was born in 1926 in Balpurva, Kannauj district, Uttar Pradesh. Her birthplace now belongs to Farrukhabad district. She learnt Hindustani music from Ustad Trimohan Lal of the Kanpur gharana and Ustad Mohammad Khan of the Hathras gharana. She started performing Nautanki in public at the age of 13. She joined Trimohan Lal's Nautanki troupe and thus became the first female performer of this art form, at a very young age.


Within a short interval of time, her popularity started increasing. When she established Great Gulab Theatre Company, her own Nautanki group, it was against the wish of Trimohan Lal. Her troupe established in this field. Later when she started getting old, she groomed her younger sister as her successor to perform Nautanki. She stopped performing in public by 1960s. Later her daughter Madhu also followed the same tradition. With the advance of films and television, slowly the popularity of Nautanki also witnessed a heavy fall, just like other live performances. Gulab Bai passed away in 1996 at the age of 70.

Published: February 07, 2019

Updated: February 07, 2019


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