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Ustad Bismillah Khan passed away

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Varanasi (UNI): Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan died of cardiac failure early today. The 90-year-old Bharat Ratna awardee is survived by five sons, Mehtab Hussain being the eldest one(71), and three daughters. The administration at the Heritage Hospital here, where he was admitted on August 17 for treatment of elctrolyte imbalance, said Khan Sahib died at around 0245 hrs at the coronary care unit (CCU).Hospital Medical Superintendent Brigadier P S R Aiyar here said Khan Sahib, admitted to the private intensive care unit (ICU), complained of heaviness in chest and chest pain at 0145 hrs following which he was shifted to the CCU. At the CCU, he was put on a ventillator and artificial pacemaker, but he turned clinically dead at around 0245 hrs, he added.

The mortal remains of the music legend were taken to his residence in the Harha Sarai locality of the city, where relatives and well-wishers were pouring in large numbers.Meanwhile, District Magistrate Rajiv Aggrawal told UNI that the body of the shehnai exponent will lie in state at the Benia Bag park for 'Janata Darshan' after 1200 hrs and the burial was likely to take place after 1800 hrs at the Karbala in Fatman -- the place where Khan Sahib played soulful tunes on Moharram.

Mr Aggrawal also said Uttar Pradesh Governor T V Rajeswar was slated to visit Khan Sahib's residence to pay tributes to the music legend at 1030 hrs, while state power minister Shiv Pal Singh Yadav would be arriving here soon. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is also expected to pay a visit to Khan Sahib's residence today. Official sources from Lucknow told UNI that state mourning has been declared and all government offices and government-run colleges and schools will remain closed today. The maestro will be buried with full state honours.

The maestro was born on March 21, 1916 into a family of court musicians and later trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux 'Vilayatu,' a shehnai player at Varanasi's Vishwanath temple. In 2001, he became the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour. The music exponent, who poured his heart into Rag Kafi from Red Fort on the eve of the country's first Republic Day ceremony, brought out the best of the 'Ganga-Jamuni' (multi-cultural) fabric of Indian classical music. His early training in shehnai took place on the banks of the sacred Ganga river in Varanasi and the riverine Balaji temple, where he is claimed to have been blessed with the presence of Lord Balaji.

As a towering icon of the secular tradition, Khan Sahib not only regaled audiences in the country, but worldwide with live performances in Afghanistan, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Canada, West Africa, the US, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong and almost every capital city of the world. Accredited with transforming shehnai from a marriage ceremony instrument to a classical ''One'', Khan Sahib was conferred the honorary doctorate from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Shantiniketan. He was also bestowed with the Sangeet Natak Academi Award, the Tansen Award of the Madhya Pradesh government and also the prestigious Padma Vibhushan, before being awarded the highest civilian honour of the country, Bharat Ratna, on May 4, 2001.

During his last days, Khan Sahib strongly hit out against the commercialisation of music and deeply regretted the declining Guru Shishya tradition. The music maestro was hurt by the March 7 twin blasts in Varanasi and strongly condemned the act as ''inhuman'' and ''anti-national''. His demise in a Varanasi hospital fulfiled his desire of breathing his last in Kashi, said his secretary S Javed.

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