The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan

Short Answer Type Questions

Why did Aurangzeb ban the playing of the pungi?
Because of the shrill and unpleasant sound Aurangzeb banned the playing of musical instrument pungi.

How is a Shehnai different from a pungi?

Shehnai is made of a pipe with a natural hollow stem that is longer and broader than the pungi. It has seven holes on the body of the pipe. It has better tonal quality when it is played on, closing and opening some of these holes.

Where was the Shehnai played traditionally? How did Bismillah Khan change this?
Traditionally, the Shehnai was played in royal courts, temples and weddings. Ustad Bismillah khan, an undisputed monarch of Shehnai brought this instrument onto the classical stage.

When and how did Bismillah Khan get his big break?
In 1938 Bismillah khan got his big break. Bismillah Khan was invited to play Shehnai at the inaugural unction of All India Radio in Lucknow. He soon became an often heard player on radio. He became the first Indian to greet the nation with his Shehnai from the Red Fort on 15 August, 1947.

Where did Bismillah Khan play the Shehnai on 15 August 1947? Why was the event historic?
On 15 August 1947, Bismillah Khan played the Raag Kaafi on his Shehnai from the Red Fort. The event was historical because it was on the occasion of India’s Independence from British Rule.

Why did Bismillah Khan refuse to start a Shehnai school in the U.S.A.?
Bismillah Khan refused to start a school in USA because he could not live away from Hindustan, specifically, from Banaras, the River Ganga and Dumraon.

Find at least two instances in the text which tell you that Bismillah Khan loves India and Banaras.
The first, he turned down his student’s offer to start a Shehnai school in U.S.A. The second instance is when Khansaab was asked by Shekhar Gupta about moving to Pakistan during the partition, he said that he would never leave Banaras.

Why this musical instrument was named Shehnai?

Ans. This musical instrument was named Shehnai because it was first played in the Shah’s chamber by a ‘nai’. So this instrument was named Shehnai.

Describe Bismillah Khan as a boy in Dumraon.

Ans. Bismillah Khan enjoyed his early life in Dumraon. He played gilli-danda near a pond at Dumraon. He used to go to Bihariji temple and sang Bhojpuri ‘Chaita’. At the end of which he would earn a big laddu weighing 1.25 kg, a prize given by the local Maharaja.

Why was Bismillah Khan so attached to the Ganga?

Ans. Bismillah Khan was greatly attached to the Ganga because he had spent his childhood playing and practising Shehnai on the blanks of the Ganga. He got inspiration from the Ganga. He could not imagine his life happy if he was away from her. He loved the Ganga very much.

Which family did the barber belong to?

Ans. He belonged to a family of professional musicians.

Who invented `Shehnai’?

Ans. A barber in Aurangzeb’s court invented Shehnai.

Which highest civilian award in India was conferred on Bismillah Khan?

Ans. Bismillah Khan was conferred with the highest civilian award “The Bharat Ratna” in 2001.

Who revived the pungi and what shape did it take?

Ans. Having pungi completely banned by Aurangzeb  the royal residence, a barber who belonged to a family of professional musicians revived it by taking a wider and longer hollow stem and making seven holes in it. The improved pungi produced soft and sweet sounds.

How did the ‘Shehnai’ get its name?

Ans. It is believed that the barber (nai) who improved the pungi played his instrument in the chamber of the emperor (shah). The combination of the two words ‘shah’ and ‘nai’ formed the name ‘Shehnai’.

Why was the Shehnai played in temples and weddings?

Ans. The melodious and soft sound of the Shehnai was believed to be auspicious. Therefore, in the holy temples and on the happy auspicious occasions of weddings, the Shehnai was played.

What kind of family did Bismillah Khan belong to?

Ans. Bismillah Khan belonged from a family of musicians in Bihar. His grandfather Rasool Bux Khan was the Shehnai player in the royal court of the king of Bhojpur. His father Paigambar Bux and many paternal and maternal uncles were also Shehnai players.

Who was Ali Bux? What was his influence on Bismillah Khan?

Ans. Ali Bux was the maternal uncle of Bismillah Khan. He had taught Bismillah Khan to play Shehnai. He was a great Shehnai player and was employed to play the Shehnai in the Vishnu temple of Banaras. At a very young age, Bismillah Khan started accompanying him and got lessons in playing the Shehnai from him. The young boy would sit for hours listening to his uncle and later practise throughout the day.

Why did Bismillah Khan love practising Shehnai on the bank of the Ganga?

Ans. The temple of Balaji and Mangala Maiya as well as the banks of the Ganga were young Bismillah Khan’s favourite place where he could practice his music in solitude. The flowing waters of Ganga inspired him to improvise and invent ragas which were earlier considered beyond the range of the Shehnai.

Where did Bismillah Khan go on his first foreign trip? How was he honoured there?

Ans. Bismillah Khan’s first foreign trip was to Afghanistan where King Zahir Shah was so impressed with the maestro’s Shehnai recital that he honoured him with gifts of priceless Persian carpets and other souvenirs.

Why did the film director Vijay Bhatt name his film “Gunj Uthi Shehnai“?

Ans. The film Director Vijay Bhatt was so fascinated by the performance of Bismillah that he decided to name his next film after the instrument and called it “Gun Uthi Shehnai

Which films did Bismillah Khan provide music for? Why did he discontinue playing the Shehnai for films?

Ans. Bismillah Khan provided his music to “Gunj Uthi Shehnai”. He also played in a Kannada film – “Sanadhi Apanna“. Though he was very successful, he gave up the film world because his tastes did not tune well with the artificiality and glamour of filmdom.

How was Bismillah Khan’s music appreciated and recognised on the international level?

Ans. Bismillah Khan’s music was well appreciated worldwide. He became the first Indian to be invited to perform in the prestigious Lincoln Central Hall, USA. He was participated in the World Exposition in Montreal, the Cannes Art Festival and the Osaka Trade Fair. In Teheran, an auditorium is named after him.

How did India honour and reward the great musician, Bismillah Khan?

Ans. India did not forget to give credit to Bismillah Khan for hi sincere work. He was conferred with the greatest national awards – the Padamshri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. He was also awarded the Bharat Rama in 2001, the highest civilian award in India.

Why did Bismillah Khan want that the children in India should be taught music?

Ans. Bismillah Khan had a great regard for Indian music and considered the Hindustani music to be its richest heritage. He requests the people to encourage their children to learn Indian music as it will lead to respect the culture and tradition.

Why does the author believe that Bismillah Khan’s life is “a perfect example of the rich, cultural heritage of India”?

Ans. India has always shown regards to all religion and communities. Bismillah Khan’s life perfectly represents this blend. Although a devout Muslim, Khansaab played the Shehnai in the Kashi Vishwanath temple every morning. He also sang Chaita at Balaji temple. He practised on the bank of the Ganga.