Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1913, in a Bihari Dalit Muslim family in Dumrao, Bihar. His ancestors have been the court musicians. They used to play in Naqqar-khana in the princely states of Bhojpur. His father was also a shehnai player. The government of India awarded him with Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan titles.
Life of Bismillah Khan:
Bismillah Khan moved to Varanasi at the age of 6. He received training in Shehnai under Ali Baksh "Vilayatu" attached to the Varanasi Vishwanath Temple. Bismillah Khan was a devotee of Goddess Saraswati. He often played at Hindu temples including the Varanasi Vishwanath Temple on the banks of the river Ganga.
During his ailing years, the Ustad turned down the requests of the state and the central government for treatment elsewhere as he could not leave his favorite Banaras. He had a great love for his country. Unlike his peers he would not go abroad for making money and fame.
Career of Bismillah Khan:
The Ustad was responsible for making the Shehnai a famous classical instrument. With his enormous talent the Ustad lifted the Shehnai to the pinnacle of glory. With his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937 he brought the Shehnai at the centre stage of the music of India. He is the best example of the Hindu-Muslim unity in India. He had played the Shehnai in India and all across the world. He was very much devoted to the instrument used to refer it as his “Begum”.
He performed raag kafi on the Red Fort on the eve of India’s first Republic Day Ceremony on January 26, 1950. His recital had become a cultural part of India’s Independence Day celebration. The same telecast on Doordarshan is presented every year on August 15 after the Prime Minister’s speech from Lal Quila.
He participated in the World Exposition in Montrel, Cannes Art Festival, Osaka Trade Fair. His 80th birthday was celebrated by World Music Institute in New York. He stayed in Banaras because of the fond memories of his childhood. Bismillah Khan played the Shehnai in the Kannada movie “Sanaadi Appanna”. He acted in the Satyajit Ray film "Jalsaghar". He provided sound of Shehnai in “Goonj Uthi Shehnai”. In the film “Swades” he played Shehnai in “Yeh jo desh hai tera”.
He died on August 21, 2006, following a cardiac arrest at the age of 93 years. The government of India declared a day of national mourning on his death. After his death his Shehnai was buried with him as an honour to the instrument which he so loved and referred to it as his wife.
Awards and Recognition of Bismillah Khan:
The Government of India awarded him with the Bharat Ratna in 2001. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Academi Award in 1956. He was the recipient of the Tansen Award by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1961. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1968. The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Vibhushan in 1980. The Sangeet Natak Academi instituted the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2007 in his honour.
On the eve of the Independence Day in 1947 he performed at the Red Fort in Delhi, a rare honour of the Shehnai maestro. The legacy he left behind by the Ustad remains unparalleled in the annals of Indian classical music.
Words and Wishes:
Many celebs and renowned personalities expressed their grief on social media. Some of the condolences are:
"The sound of his Shehnai mesmerized the world! Tributes to Bharat Ratna Bismillah Khan on his birth anniversary."
Late Shri APJ Abdul Kalam
"Ustad Bismillah Khan's passing away indeed marks the end of an era in shehnai music. He was a rare jewel and a musician who comes only once in a life time"
Children: Zamin Hussain Khan, Nazim Hussain, Mehtab Hussai, Soma Ghosh
(FAN OF Ustad BISMILLAH KHAN)
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