The Google Doodle on Wednesday celebrated the 102nd birth anniversary of “one of India’s most beloved musicians” Bismillah Khan.
The shehnai maestro, popularly referred to by the title Ustad, or master, was born in Bihar’s Buxar district in 1916. “Born in Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, Bihar, to a family of court musicians, it is said that his grandfather exclaimed “Bismillah!” upon seeing his grandson, and the name stuck,” Google says in its blog.
He is the third classical musician who was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001. He has also received all the Padma awards – the Padma Shri in 1961, Padma Bhushan in 1968 and Padma Vibhushan in 1980.
“Both India’s declaration of independence from the ramparts of the Red Fort in 1947 and the creation of the Indian republic three years later in 1950 were heralded by Ustad Bismillah Khan’s shehnai.” Republic Day celebrations on January 26 are broadcast to the opening notes of his music even now.
Bismillah Khan started playing the shehnai when he was 14. However, his performance at the All India Music Conference at Kolkata in 1937, when he was 21, became a defining moment in his career, according to Google. “Three decades later when he performed at the Edinburgh Music Festival, the shehnai acquired a global audience, and in the minds of millions, became synonymous with its player,” Google says.
“Ustad was famously devoted to his art and often referred to his shehnai as his begum [wife],” the blog adds. “Despite the fame, Ustad Bismillah Khan remained a simple man, living his whole life in Varanasi and dreaming of a world unified by music.”
Quoting the musician, the blog adds: “Even if the world ends, the music will still survive...music has no caste.” The maestro died on August 21, 2006.
The Doodle was created by Chennai-based illustrator Vijay Krish. “It celebrates the shehnai maestro against the backdrop of a geometric style pattern with his instrument aloft, sending a festive tune out into the world,” Google said.