Celebrated musician Ustad Bismillah Khan can be credited as the face of the very popular musical instrument – Shehnai. March 21, 2021 marks the 105th birth anniversary of the great Ustad. Born in a small village in 1916 in Dumraon, Bihar, he always had the musical bug in him. His father, Paighamber Bux Khan, could be credited for inspiring in Bismillah the love for music as he himself was a court musician for the king of Bhojpur. Both his grandfathers were also musicians. After creating music for more than seven decades, he breathed his last on August 21, 2006 at Varanasi, where he’d spent the majority of his life.
On his birth anniversary, here are six lesser-known facts about the Shehnai Maestro:
1. His last wish remained unfulfilled
His dream of performing at the India Gate and paying tribute to the brave martyrs of the land was his dying wish. Sadly, it would remain a dream as he never got a chance to do that.
2. His real name was Qamaruddin Khan
It is said that his grandfather, delighted at the birth of his grandson, thanked Allah and said Bismillah as a prayer. As a result, his selected birth name was replaced with Bismillah (meaning: in the name of God).
3. He was a part of India’s independence
He was invited by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to play the Shehnai in celebration as he hoisted the flag of Independent India for the very first time at Red Fort.
He also played during the India’s first Republic day, and his music is still played today.
4. Film connection
His talents were not limited to the world of classical music. He played in several Bollywood and Kannada films like Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) and Sanaadi Appanna (1977). He also participated in Cannes Film Festival.
5. No religious boundaries
Bismillah was a known devotee of Goddess Saraswati who is believed to be the Goddess of arts and knowledge. He also played multiple raagas devoted to Hindu deities.
6. Two wives
Ustad Khan was married at a young age of 16 to his wife. But he was so in love with his instrument that he was known to refer to as a ‘wife.’