Ustad “Bismillah” khan offen refferd to by the title Ustad,was an Indian musiecian credited with popularizing the shehnai. Khan was born on 21 March 1916 into a family of traditional Muslim musicians in Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, Dumraon, in what is now the eastern Indian state of Bihar.He is the second son of Paigambar Bux Khan and Mitthan.His father was a court musician employed in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate in Bihar. His grandfather Ustad Salar Hussain Khan and grandfather Rasool Bux Khan were also musicians in the Dumraon palace. He was named Qamruddin at birth, to rhyme with his elder brother’s name Shamsuddin.Upon seeing the new born, his grandfather Rasool Baksh Khan, also a shehnai player, is said to have exclaimed “Bismillah”, or “In the name of Allah”, and thereafter he came to be known by this name.
At the age of six, he moved to Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh.to be apprenticed to his maternal uncle, Ali Bux ‘Vilayatu’ Khan, a shehnai player attached to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.At the age of 14 Bismillah accompanied his uncle to the Allahabad music conference.
In 1932, at the age of 16, he entered into an arranged marriage with a cousin.
Althoug he was a Shia muslim ,througout his long career he took issues with rigidly orthodox Islamic elders who felt that playing such music on his shehnai was haram. Instead Bismillah khan came to be seen as an example of successfull progracive culture that evolved out of the Hindu-Mushlim ancounter in india.
While the shehnai had long held importance as a folk instrument played primarly in traditional ceremonies,khan is credited with elevating its status and bringing it to the concert stage.
khan had a brief association with movies.he played the shehnai for superstar rajkumar’s role of Appanna in the Kannada movie Sanaadi Appanna which became a block buster.he acted in Jalsaghar,a movie by Satyagit Ray and provided sound of shehnai in Goong Uthi Shehnai in 1959.
khan attributed his skills to the blessings of Lord Vishwanath,and belived that there was little that he could teach his disciples.he thought that he would be able to share his knowledge it would not be useful as it would only give his student a little knowledge.
In 2001 Bismillah khan received Bharat Ratna which is the heighest award in the nation .he also got 3 medals in all india music confrance in calucutta in 1937,Sangit Natak Akadmi Aword in 1956,Padma Shri in 1961 ,Padma Bhusan in 1968 and Padma Vbhusha in 1980 .he recived Tansen award by government of Madhya Pradesh
Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from
- Banaras Hindu University,Varanasi
- Visvwa Bharti University,Santi Niketan
- Bismillah khan was invited by then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawahar lal Nehru to play shehnai on the first independence day 15th august 1947 in delhi’s red fort
- India post issued commemorative postage stamps of rupees five denomination on 21 Aaugust 2008.
- On 17th August 2006,Bismillah khan’s healths got affected and he was admitted to the Haritage Hospital,Varanasi for treatment.he wanted to pay tributes to the martyrs. Ustad’s last wish was to perform at India Gate could not be fullfield. he died after 4 days on 21 August 2006 because of a cardiacarrest.
- The Goverenment Of India declared a day of national mourning on his death.His body along with a sehnai was buried at Fattiman burial ground of old Varabasi under a neem tree with a 21-Gun salute from the Indain Army.