The house of the late shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan in Benia Bagh area of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, is being demolished to make way for a three-story building.
Bismillah Khan had played shehnai at the Red Fort in Delhi August 15, 1947 — the day India became Independent. The legendary musician, who passed away in 2006, was conferred the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 2001.
The house had been purchased in 1936 and it was here that Bismillah Khan lived all his life. He even turned down offers made by his disciples to settle in the United States.
The house is now owned by the maestro’s grandsons — sons of the late Mehtab Hussain, one of Khan Saheb’s five sons.
One of the grandsons, Sufi, said that the decision to raze the house had been taken due to financial considerations.
“A three-story commercial apartment will be constructed and we will have a museum of Bismillah Khan in one part of the building. We will keep all his personal belongings, awards, commendations, etc, in this museum,” he said.
Khan’s disciple and foster daughter, singer Soma Ghosh, said she was “shocked” to know of the demolition of the house.
“I was shocked to know the room of Baba [Khan] was demolished and his belongings thrown away. It was not just a room, but a place of worship for music-lovers. It is a heritage, and I appeal to all to preserve it,” she said.
Incidentally, the demolition has begun just days ahead of the 14th death anniversary of Bismillah Khan, August 21.
In January 2017, his grandson had stolen his four shehnais, including three made of silver, and sold them to local jewelers for Rs 17,000 ($227 at current rate).
An Uttar Pradesh police special task force had arrested his grandson and two jewelers and recovered the melted silver. The three silver shehnais had been gifted to Khan by former Indian prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad and Congress party leader Kapil Sibal.