ShriKashi Vishwanath Temple (B.H.U)
    Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple
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    Ustad Qamruddin "Bismillah" Khan

    Ustad Qamruddin "Bismillah" Khan (21 March 1916 – 21 August 2006) (born as Qamaruddin Khan), 

    Personal life 
    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, as the second son of Paigambar Bux Khan and Mitthan.[1][2] 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.[1] 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.[3][2]

    At the age of six, he moved to Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh,[4] to be apprenticed to his maternal uncle, Ali Bux 'Vilayatu' Khan, a shehnai player attached to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.[5]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.

    Religious beliefs
    Being a devout Shia Muslim, throughout his long career Khan took issue with rigidly orthodox Islamic elders who felt that playing such music on his shehnai was haram (contrary to the principles of his faith). Instead, Khansaheb, as he was usually respectfully called - came to be seen as an example of the successful, progressive culture that evolved out of the Hindu-Muslim encounter in India.[6][7]

    Popular culture
    Khan had a brief association with movies. He played the shehnai for super star Rajkumar's role of Appanna in the Kannada movie Sanaadi Appanna which became a blockbuster. He acted in Jalsaghar, a movie by Satyajit Ray and provided sound of shehnai in Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959). Noted director Goutam Ghose directed Sange Meel Se Mulaqat, a documentary about the life of Khan.[5]

    Khan attributed his skill to the blessings of Lord Vishwanath, and believed that there was little that he could teach his disciples.[8] Khan seldom accepted students. He thought that if he would be able to share his knowledge it wouldn't be useful as it would only give his students a little knowledge. Some of his disciples and followers include S. Ballesh,[9] and Krishna Ballesh [10] [11] [12] [13] as well as Khan's own sons, Nazim Hussain and Nayyar Hussain.[14]

    On 17 August 2006, Bismillah Khan's health deteriorated and he was admitted to the Heritage Hospital, Varanasi for treatment. Ustad's last wish – to perform at India Gate, could not be fulfilled. He wanted to pay tributes to the martyrs. He waited in vain till his last rites[15] He died after four days on 21 August 2006 because of a cardiac arrest. He is survived by five daughters, three sons and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his adopted daughter Soma Ghosh (a Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet exponent).[16]

    The Government of India declared a day of national mourning on his death. His body along with a Shehnai was buried at Fatemaan burial ground of old Varanasi under a neem tree with a 21-gun salute from the Indian Army.[17]


    Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, instituted the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2007, in his honour. It is given to young artists in the field of music, theatre and dance.[18] Bismillah Khan was commemorated on his 102nd birth anniversary by Search Engine Google which showed a special doodle on its Indian home page for him on 21 March 2018.[19] The Government of Bihar has proposed setting up of a museum, a town hall-cum-library and installation of a life-size statue at his birthplace in Dumraon.[20]

    In the film, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, Clapton cites Bismillah Khan as an influence and how he tried to use his guitar to imitate the music of Khan's woodwind instrument.[21]

    Awards and recognitions
    Bharat Ratna (2001).
    Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi (1994).
    Tahar Mausique from Republic of Iran (1992).
    Padma Vibhushan (1980)[22]
    Padma Bhushan (1968)[22]
    Padma Shri (1961)[22]
    Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956)
    Tansen Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.
    Three medals in All India Music Conference, Calcutta (1937)

    Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from.

    Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
    Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan

    Was invited by then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to play shehnai on the first Independence Day (15 August 1947) in Delhi's Red Fort.
    Participated in World Exposition in Montreal
    Participated in Cannes Art Festival
    Participated in Osaka Trade Fair
    India Post issued commemorative postage stamps of ₹5.00 denomination on 21 August 2008.

    Sanaadi Appanna – Played shehnai for Rajkumar's role in the movie.
    Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) – shehnai recitals throughout the movie for Rajendra Kumar's role.
    Maestro's Choice (February 1994)
    Megh Malhar, Vol. 4 (the other piece in the album is by Kishori Amonkar) (September 1994)
    Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (September 2000)
    Live in London, Vol. 2 (September 2000)
    Contributing artist
    The Rough Guide to the Music of India and Pakistan (1996, World Music Network)

    Bismillah Khan: the shehnai maestro, by Neeraja Poddar. Rupa & Co., 2018. ISBN 81-291-0351-6.
    Monograph on Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, by Amar Jyoti, Shivnath Jha, Alok Jain, Anjali Sinha. Pub. Neena Jha & Shivnath Jha, 2019.
    ISBN 9788175256408.
    Bismillah Khan and Banaras: the seat of shehnai, by Rita Ganguly. Siddhi Books, 1555.
    Shahnai Vadak Ustad Bismillah Khan, by Murli Manohar Shrivastava. Prabhat Prakashan, 2009. ISBN 9788173157356.
    Bismillah Khan: The Maestro from Benaras, by Juhi Sinha. Niyogi Books, 2011. ISBN 978-81-89738-91-4.
    Naubatkhane Mein Ibadat, by Yatindra Mishra. Chapter in NCERT's Hindi textbook for 10th Standard.
    In the NCERT English Textbook for 9th Grade he is credited largely in the chapter "The Sound Of Music"