Ustad Bismillah Khan at Concert in 1964
|Born||March 21, 1916(1916-03-21)|
|Died||August 21, 2006 (aged 90)|
|Genre(s)||Indian classical music|
 Early life
Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1916 at Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, in Dumraon, Bihar as the second son of Paigambar Khan and Mitthan. He was named as Qamaruddin 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. 
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.
 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 the arts, and often played at Hindu temples, including the famous Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, on the banks of the river Ganga. He also performed for Prem Rawat.
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.
His concept of music was very beautiful and his vision, superb. He once said, "Even if the world ends, the music will still survive" and he often said, "Music has no caste".
His shehnai was so close to him that after the demise of his wife he began to refer to it as his begum, or wife. After his death, his shehnai was buried with him.
 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 15th. 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.
 Awards and recognitions
- Bharat Ratna (2001)
- Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi (1994).
- Talar Mausiquee from Republic of Iran (1992).
- Padma Vibhushan (1980)
- Padma Bhushan (1968)
- Padma Shri (1961)
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956)
- Tansen Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.
- Three medals in All India Music Conference, Calcutta (1937)
- "Best Performer" in All India Music Conference, Allahabad (1930)
Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from
- Was invited by the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to play shehnai on the first Independence Day (August 15, 1947) in Delhi's Red Fort.
- Participated in World Exposition in Montreal
- Participated in Cannes Art Festival
- Participated in Osaka Trade Fair
- His 80th birthday was celebrated by World Music Institute in New York
Ustad Bismillah Khan rarely accepted students, but 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.
 Khan in films
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. Noted director Goutam Ghose directed Sange Meel Se Mulaqat, a documentary about the life of Khan.
 Personal life
On August 17, 2006, Khan was taken ill and admitted to the Heritage Hospital, Varanasi for treatment. He died after four days on August 21, 2006 due to a cardiac arrest. He was ninety years old. He is survived by five sons, three daughters and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Government of India declared one day of national mourning on his death. His body along with Shehnai was buried at Fatemain burial ground of old Varanasi under a neem tree with 21-gun salute from Indian Army.
Here is a list of selected works by Ustad Bismilla Khan.
- Sanaadi Appanna - Played shehnai for Dr.Rajkumar's role in the movie.
- Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) - Provided shehnai
- 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)