Pt Nanku Maharaj (1920-1994)
The legendary tabla maestro and most esteemed musical-ambassador of Fardi Gharana (Banaras), Pandit Sitaram Mishra (popularly known as Pt. Nanku Maharaj) was born in 1920 at Kabirchura in Banaras. This singular brand-ambassador of classical music is highly acclaimed in India and abroad as the legendary musician for his mastery and superlative command on tabla.
Only at the age of four Nanku Maharaj started learning tabla under the tutelage of his father Shiv Prasadji. But by the irony of fate his study of music with his father did not last long, as his father passed away very soon when he was only eight. Then his cousin, Ganesh Das took the initiative to teach him in this field. His artistic brilliance, rich repertoire and magnificence of tabla came to the spotlight when he was only twelve. Nanku Maharaj first appeared before the public at Ajmer Conference as the tabla accompanist of the Great Kathak maestro, Pandit Shambhu Maharaj.

As his quest had been to explore the true essence and sole inheritance of Indian music, he started contemplating on evolving distinctive style bol and bani in tabla, staying at Mymensingh under the patronage of the then Zamoinder (earl) of Maymensingh, Shri Sitansu Kanta Acharya Bahadur. He stayed here from fourteen to twenty-one till he came to Kolkata to flood the city with his enchanting music. His ability to develop variations and distinctive styles without diluting the sanctity of tradition helped him captivate the audience and stand out of the crowd.
After that he did not have to look back. He passed the millstones of success one after another till he touched the zenith of success. To raise bar of excellence in classical music, over the years he has accompanied great dance-stalwarts like Acchan Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj, Hanuman Lal, Birju Maharaj, Sitara Devi, Damayanti Joshi, Bela Arnab and Gopi Krishna.

As he married the elder daughter of Pt. Kanthe Maharaj, he got Pt. Kanthe Maharajji and Pt. Kisan Maharajji as his father-in-law and brother-in-law respectively. Pt. Nanku Maharaj got Late Pt. Prakash Maharaj, Pt. Bikash Maharaj and Subhas Maharaj as his three sons. Pt. Prakash Maharaj, a renowned tabla player, accompanied his father in many programmes all over India and most of these programmes stand as the hallmarks of his performances. As name and fame of Pt. Prakash Maharaj reached to the foreign and offshore countries, crossing the interface of India, he got invitation and performed there competently and peerlessly. Pt. Bikash Maharaj, though started his career as a trainee table player under the supervision of his father, but he established himself as the superlative sarod player. He is now a global giant figure of Sarod. Youngest son of Maharajji, Subhas Maharaj is a sitarist. Late Urmila, Pramila and Sharmila are the three daughters of Pt. Nanku Maharaj.

He was not only a veteran musician to enrich Indian classical music but a great creator, too. Appreciating his artistry and alluring power on tabla, the Queen of Posta gave Nanku Maharajji a warm welcome to Kolkata. Accepting this invitation Maharajji came to Kolkata in 1970's.and stated staying here permanently since then. Thereafter with his loaded love and blessings, he has created approximately 3000 disciples only in Kolkata. Most of them shine like starts under his limelight. Most remarkable among them are famous tabla maestro Pt. Sandip Kumar Deb (the grand-grandson of Latubabu and Chatubabu), great harmonium player Pt. Sohanlal Sharma and Sangeet-Ratna as well as versatile genius Arabinda Roy (Anup). Legendary Kathak maestro like Guru Bandana Sen, Amita Dutta, Manjula Polley and many other Veteran katthak dancers have taken training under him. Pt. Nanku Maharaj has been loaded with love, blessings and gratitude. Out of her gratitude, Guru Bandana Sen used to call Maharajji "Bhaiya". For his immortal contribution to Indian classical music, he is called as “Bengal Tiger”. This legendary tabla maestro left this world on October 14, 1994 at his own residence in Benaras. But our musical tribute and ever bowed gratitude will keep him alive in the core of our hearts. His name will be inscribed as the greatest in the lexicon of all times’ greats whoever played and will be playing tabla.