Bismillah Khan Reads: 274

Bismillah Khan

Born: March 21, 1916
Died: August 21, 2006 

Achievement: Brought shehnai to the center stage of Indian classical music; Became the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.

The legendary shehnai player, Ustad Bismillah Khan was one of India's most celebrated classical musicians. Bismillah Khan has been credited with taking the shehnai from the marriage mandap to the concert hall. 

Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1916 at Dumraon, Bihar. His ancestors were court musicians in the princely state of Dumraon in Bihar. Ustad Bismillah Khan was trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux `Vilayatu', a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath Temple. 

Ustad Bismillah Khan brought Shehnai to the center stage of Indian classical music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. He had the honor of performing at Delhi's Red Fort on the occasion of India's Independence on August 15, 1947. Bismillah Khan mesmerized everyone with his heart-touching rendering of Raga Kafi from the Red Fort on the eve of India's first Republic Day ceremony, on January 26, 1950.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was an icon of the composite culture of India. He was a worshipper of both Allah and Saraswati. Ustad Bismillah was greatly attached to the city of Varanasi and the river Ganga. Once, a rich American university invited Bismillah to be their musician-in-residence, and asked him to state his terms. Bismillah Khan replied, he would only come if he could bring his beloved Ganga with him. Ustad Bismillah Khan performed in various parts of the world. He performed in Afghanistan, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Canada, West Africa, USA, USSR, Japan, Hong Kong and almost every capital city across the world.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was a recipient of many honors and awards. These include: Padma Vibhushan (1980), Padma Bhushan (1968), Padma Shri (1961), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956), and Tansen Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh. In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan became the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.

Ustad Bismillah Khan died on August 21, 2006 due to cardiac arrest.