Life of Bismillah Khan in school texts
Fate may not have allowed shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan to fulfil his last wish to hold a concert at the historic India Gate but his name will be enshrined in the minds of children as his life and art become part of the school curriculum for Class 9 students.
In its recently published Class 9 English book, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has devoted an entire chapter on the legendary musician who died at the age of 90 last year.
"From a small boy listening to the musical talent of his father and uncle to earn the highest civilian award in India, Bharat Ratna, the legendary musician has been an inspiration. We want students in India to learn about such achievers," said NCERT communication officer BC Patro.
"Bismillah was an epitome of Hindu-Muslim amity, the rich cultural heritage of the country and passion for the occupation. His love for India is unique and we are sure the chapter would help a new generation know about the legend and a genre of music," Patro told IANS.
Born on March 21, 1916, Bismillah belonged to the well-known family of musicians from Bihar and took to music at the age of three when his mother took him to his maternal uncle's house in Varanasi. Bismillah was fascinated watching his uncle practise the shehnai.
"Ustad Bismillah Khan's life is a prefect example of the rich cultural heritage of India, one that effortlessly accepts that a devout Muslim like him can very naturally play the shehnai every morning at the Kashi Viswanath temple," the book said.
He passed away on Aug 21, 2006.
The man who mesmerised generations of Indians with his mellifluous music had wished to give a performance at the historic India Gate. His wish remained unfulfilled after the concert scheduled Aug 9, 2006, was cancelled for security reasons.
"When India gained independence, Bismillah Khan was the first Indian to greet the nation with shehnai. He poured his heart out into raag Kafi from the Red Fort to an audience which included Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who later gave his famous 'Tryst with Destiny' speech," the book read.
Praising his love for music, the book has quoted his reaction after he received the Bharat Ratna award in 2001.
"All I would like to say is: teach your children music, this is Hindustan's richest tradition; even the West is coming to learn our music."