Shehnai maestro Ustaad Bismillah Khan, one of India’s most beloved musicians, passed away on August 21, 2006. Born in 1916, in a family of court musicians in Bihar, Khan was so in love with his music that he often referred to his shehnai as his wife. He was a recipient of all four highest civilian award, including the Bharat Ratna, awarded to only a few musicians.
First Indian to greet the nation with his Shehnai
On 15th August 1947, when India gained its Independence, Ustaad Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to greet the nation with his Shehnai. Having the rare honour of performing at the historic event, he had poured his heart into the Raag Kaafi in front of an audience, which included Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He not only performed during the first Independence Day celebration in 1947, but his music was also part of the first Republic Day celebration in 1950, which continues to this day.
Personal secretary of the maestro, Javed Ahmed in an interview had said, "Bismillah Khan would render shehnai at the India Gate in New Delhi on July 25, 2006 at a function being organised in the memory of martyrs of the World War-I."
However, the long cherished desire of Bharat Ratna awardee of playing at the India Gate remained unfulfilled.
The man who mesmerized generations of Indians with his mellifluous music wanted to make the performance a memorable one. But the concert at the venue was cancelled due to security reasons.
The 91-year-old Bharat Ratna awardee, said to be single- handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument, had earlier alleged he had been denied the opportunity to play at India Gate because he was a Muslim.
(With inputs from PTI)