23 September, 2020

The Piper Of Banaras

Khan Sahib's religion was his shehnai's sweet swaras, his truest namaaz

T. Narayan
The Piper Of Banaras
As India moves into her 60th year, the shashtiabdapoorti of her independence, the man who ushered in the new-born nation is no more. For it was Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib, and the strains of his auspicious shehnai in the notes of Raga Kafi, that heralded that dawn of freedom. It was his shehnai that rang out, as the tricolour unfurled, that served as a purvarang to Jawaharlal Nehru's tryst with destiny speech.

How appropriate that it should have been this man. For in many ways he epitomised the India that we dreamt of then, and towards which we still aspire. Khan Sahib was truly a man of music, and truly an Indian. A devout Shia, he was an ardent devotee of Saraswati, and would recall with deep faith and emotion a vision he once had as a young boy, of Balaji. He spoke of swara as the unblemished mirror in which one saw one's self and the world. He knew no religion other than music's sweet swaras; they were his truest namaaz. And for him, the name of Allah was the sweeter if it was sung in the notes of an austere...


To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

Latest Magazine

September 28, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section