LEGENDARY SHEHNAI maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan died of cardiac arrest in the wee hours today at a hospital in this temple town.
The 90-year-old Bharat Ratna, who was admitted to the hospital with age-related health problems on Thursday last, passed away at 2.20 am, doctors attending on him said.
Born on March 21, 1916 into a family of court musicians in the former princely state of Dhumraon in Bihar, he was trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux ‘Vilayatu,’ a shehnai player attached to Varanasi’s Vishwanath temple.
The third classical musician after Pandit Ravi Shankar and M S Subbulakshmi to be awarded Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, Khan strove to defy prejudice and convention in regard to shehnai and fought to win a place of dignity and honour for the instrument he loved.
The maestro, a staunch devotee of Goddess Saraswati, is survived by five sons, three daughters and several grandchildren.
News of his death sent shockwaves throughout the country. All academic institutions were closed in the city as well as in the State as a mark of respect.
President APJ Abdul Kalam, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock and grief at the demise of the shehnai' maestro describing him as a symbol of India's composite culture.
Governor TV Rajeswar, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, State’s Agriculture Minister Shiv Pal Yadav and UP ministers -- Narad Rai and Virendra Singh -- visited the ancestral home of the departed maestro at Harha Sarai and paid floral tributes to him. They also consoled the bereaved family members.
Union Minister of State for Home Sri Prakash Jaiswal, Ambika Soni, Mohsina Kidwai, local MP Dr Rajesh Mishra and Rajesh Pati Tripath, son of late veteran Congress leader Lokpati Tripathi, also paid floral tributes to the maestro.
Later in the evening, the mortal remains of Ustad, were buried in the Fatman graveyard here with full state honours.
His funeral procession started from the historical ground of Beniabagh and reached Fatman via Lallapura. Lakhs of people queued up on both sides of roads en route to the graveyard and paid their rich tributes to the departed maestro.
It may be noted that Khan Saheb used to play Shehnai on the last day of Moharram on the premises of same graveyard every year where he was buried today. Maulvi Ahmad Hasan Saheb recited ‘Majlis’ before the ‘janaza’ of Khan Saheb.