Floral tribute to late Ustad Bismillah Khan at India Gate

Floral tribute paid to late Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan at India Gate premises where the ustad was to play 'Tune India' on July 15, 2006 to fulfill his ‘last wish’ and to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of World War-I, for the global peace and harmony


NEW DELHI, July 15, 2007: Hundreds of people, including visiting foreign national, women and children this evening paid a rich floral tributes to shehnai maestro late Ustad Bismillah Khan and maintained and two minutes silence for the departed soul at August Kranti park at historical India Gate in the national capital.

Ustad Bismillah Khan who had enthralled audiences with a sterling performance from the ramparts of the Red Fort in the wee hours on August 15, 1947, was to perform “Tune India” concert to fulfill his lifetime wish on July 15 last year under the aegis of Bismillah:The Beginning Foundation. But fate did not allow the shehnai maestro to fulfil his last wish. The ustad died on August 21 last year at the age of 91.

Hundreds of people including the visiting foreign national assembled at August Kranti Park of India Gate where Neena Jha and Shivnath Jha under the aegis of “Andolan Ek Pustak Se’ of Bismillah:The Beginning Foundation had displayed several memorable pictures of the Ustad.
George Methello, a US national, who visited India several times during the past two decades while paying his tribute to the ustad said: “I met Ustad Bismillah Khan in Benaras in early 1990s along with my wife. He was an institution in himself. The God did not allow him to fulfill his last wish.”

Five years ago, when the Ustad did not have money and resources to meet the cost of his needs, the then government arranged for his performance at Parliament Annexe, where Khan had to virtually give a charity show for his own benefit. It was then that Delhi-based couple Neena and Shivnath, who had launched a movement “Andolan Ek Pustak Se” to protect musicians, academicians and artists who brought pride and laurels to the nation, brought out a monograph on the life and art of the Ustad to extend financial support to him.

Their movement gained a victory of sorts after the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India allowed the couple to invite the Ustad to play 'Tune India' from the India Gate to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of World War-I and for the global peace and security.
Khan was born on 21 March, 1916. His ancestors were court musicians in the princely state of Dumraon in Bihar and he was trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux 'Vilayatu', a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath Temple. In 2001, Khan became the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.

The 91-year-old Bharat Ratna awardee, said to be single-handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument and who mesmerised generations of Indians with his mellifluous music wanted to make the India Gate performance a memorable one.

On July 4 last, their movement gained a victory of sorts after the Union Minister for Railway and Union Minister for Corporate Affairs Prem Chand Gupta granted employment to Pragati and Tripti, daughters of Vinayak Rao Tope, the third generation of the frontline leader of the First War of Independence 1857 Tatya Tope.

Seeking support of the people, especially of younger generation, the couple, who had arranged the function said: “We are doing our best to promote the secular philosophy of the late Ustad Bismillah Khan. Bismillah who had once said that music is an ocean and he had barely reached its shores even after 91 years.”

Life for Khan was far from easy. Hardpressed for money and after repeated pleas to the central government for financial assistance, Vajpayee granted him 'delayed aid' of Rs 5 lakh. On August 3 last year (barely a fortnight before his death), he was given a cheque of Rs 2.51 lakh on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Varanasi after a series of hue and cry by the foundation.

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