Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan died at 2:20AM in Varnasi today.
He was 91.
The shehnai virtuoso was taken ill around 10 days ago and admitted to the Heritage Hospital in Varnasi on August 17.
Khan was among the very few Indians who had the distinction of receiving all the national awards – Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna that he got in 2001.
He is survived by five sons, three daughters and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
All government offices and schools in Uttar Pradesh were declared closed Monday as a mark of respect to Khan who the state government announced will be given a state funeral.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said Ustad was ‘a great son of India’ on whom the people of the country had showered their love and affection by remaining his ardent admirers for more than half a century of his performing life.
‘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, Manmohan Singh said, was the recipient of numerous honours that an artiste can aspire for. ‘In conferring our nation’s highest honour – the Bharat Ratna – the government of India merely echoed the sentiments of our people.’
He conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the maestro’s family, disciples and his admirers around the world, and said: ‘May his music continue to bring peace and harmony to our lives.’
Khan was born to a family of musicians on March 21, 1916, and performed in the court of then princely state of Dumraon, Bihar. He trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux Vilayatu, who played the shehnai at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.