The Full Wiki

Bismillah Khan: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan at Concert in 1964
Background information
Birth name Qamaruddin Khan
Born March 21, 1916(1916-03-21)
Origin India
Died August 21, 2006 (aged 90)
Genres Indian classical music
Occupations Musician
Instruments Shehnai

Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib (March 21, 1916 – August 21, 2006) was an Indian shehnai maestro. He was the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna (in 2001), the highest civilian honour in India and gained worldwide acclaim for playing the shehnai for more than eight decades [1].


Early life and background

Bismillah Khan was born at Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, in Dumraon, Bihar as the second son of Paigambar Khan and Mitthan. He was named as Qamaruddin[2] to rhyme with Shamsuddin, their first son. His grandfather, Rasool Baksh Khan uttered "Bismillah" (the basmala) after looking at the newborn, thus he was named Bismillah Khan.[3]

His ancestors were court musicians and used to play in Naqqar khana in the princely states of Bhojpur, now in Bihar. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate, Bihar.

At the age of six, he moved to his maternal house, located close to the Ganges at Varanasi[1]. He received his training under his uncle, the late Ali Baksh 'Vilayatu', a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath Temple.[2]


Religious beliefs

Though a pious Shi'ite Muslim, he was also, like many Indian musicians, regardless of religion, a devotee of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of wisdom and arts,[4] and often played at Hindu temples, including the famous Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, on the banks of the river Ganga.[5] He also performed for spiritual master Prem Rawat.[6]


Bismillah Khan was perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument. He brought the shehnai to the center stage of Indian music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai are almost synonyms.

Khan is one of the finest musicians in post-independent Indian Classical music and one of the best examples of Hindu-Muslim unity in India and had played shenai to audience across the world.He was known to be devoted to his art form that he referred to shehnai as his begum, wife in Urdu, after his wife died. On his death, as an honour, his shehnai was also buried along with him.He was known for his vision of spreading peace and love through music.

Even if the world ends, the music will still survive
Music has no caste


Performances at Red Fort

Khan had the rare honor of performing at Delhi's Red Fort on the eve of India's Independence in 1947. He also performed Raga Kafi from the Red Fort on the eve of India’s first Republic Day ceremony, on January 26, 1950. His recital had become a cultural part of India's Independence Day Celebrations, telecast on Doordarshan every year on August 15. After the Prime Minister's speech from Lal Qila (the Red Fort,) in Old Delhi, Doordarshan would broadcast a live performance by the shehnai maestro. This tradition dated from the days of Pandit Nehru.

Popular culture

Khan had a brief association with movies. He played the shehnai for Dr.Rajkumar's role of Appanna in the movie Sanaadi Appanna. 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.[2]


Khan seldom accepted students. In 1985 he had a meeting with Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji (the present master of the Namdhari Sikhs), where he saw a talented young boy called Baljit Singh Namdhari playing the tarshenai, and welcomed him as a student. Ustad Bismillah Khan & Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji had great mutual respect for each other. In 1999 he adopted two more tarshenai students, named Kirpal Singh and Gurbaksh Singh Namdhari.

Personal life

On August 17, 2006, Khan was taken ill and admitted to the Heritage Hospital, Varanasi for treatment.[7] He died after four days on August 21, 2006 due to a cardiac arrest. He is survived by five sons, three daughters and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.[8]

The Government of India declared a day of national mourning on his death. His body along with a Shehnai was buried at Fatemain burial ground of old Varanasi under a neem tree with 21-gun salute from Indian Army.[9]


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 [10].

Awards and recognitions



Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from

Others include[11]


Live in London


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib (March 21, 1916August 21, 2006) was a legendary Shehnai maestro from India.



  • The applause that I get from children when I sing the bhajan Raghupati Raghav Rajaram gives me the greatest fulfillment
    • Said in 2004 while performing at a cultural programme in New Delhi to mark Gandhi Jayanti.
  • Music has no caste. I have received love and affection all over the world. The government has given me all the four highest civilian awards in the past five decades
  • Even if the world ends, the music will still survive.
    • His confident reply when he was asked in a television interview "After your lifetime, who would continue the music?"

Quotes by others for Bismillah Khah

On his death

  • A true symbol of our composite culture, Khan Sahib, through his mellifluous rendering of the shehnai, showed us that while God may manifest himself in many forms, piety finds its true expression through music.
Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib was a great son of India.
-Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, on Death of Ustad on 21st August 2006
  • As far as the shehnai is concerned no one will be able to bring out of it the magic of music the way Bismillah Khan had. None had been able to before he came, there will be none, now that he has gone.
- Gautam Ghose, Filmmaker, who made a documentry on Ustad Bismillah Khan

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address