| Illalla Khan (second from left) performs outside the Budhanath temple in Bhagalpur on Tuesday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Homemaker Ruma Roy was in for a surprise this Navratri when tunes of shehnai reached her ears early on Tuesday morning.
This would be the first puja outside Bengal for Ruma. Till Dussehra, she would be able to enjoy shehnai performance twice a day, courtesy the Budhanath temple in the silk city.
Bhagalpur-based artiste Illalla Khan (47) has been regaling residents living in a 2-km radius of the temple to shehnai performances for the past 30 years. He is from the Benaras gharana.
Kamal Jaiswal, additional marketing officer in the Bhagalpur district administration, said: “Illalla has been performing during Navratri for the last 30 years without interruption. It indicates the strong cultural spirit in the town.”
In the morning from 5 to 7, Illalla and his team perform different ragas, including Bhairav, Lalit, Ahir Bhairav, Gunkali and Ramkali, at the Budhanath temple on the banks of the Ganga. The idol of Goddess Durga at the complex of the centuries-old temple is believed to be the deity of Karna, the ancient king of Anga Pradesh.
From 5-7pm, the artiste again performs ragas such as Shivranjani, Madhuvanti, Multani and Shyam Kalyan. Illalla is accompanied by his guru, Ahmad Hussain (63), and cousin Jamu Hussain (50) on the shehnai. Another cousin, Rajakal Ali (42), plays on the tabla.
Illalla said: “I believe in universal brotherhood and always pray before Baba Budhanath and Ma Durga to provide all of us good sense.”
The residents are excited about the annual cultural performance. “Bhagalpur was once the hub of cultural activities but has lost its grandeur today. Illalla’s shehnai performance during Navratri is perhaps the only example of the town’s golden history,” said Chandan Kumar, a resident of Budhanath Mohulla.
Illalla said: “In spite of my schedule, I manage time to perform at the Budhanath temple during Navratri. It provides me immense pleasure and I cannot express it in words.”
Originally from Varanasi, Illalla’s ancestors migrated to the Parvatti locality in Bhagalpur long ago.
Illalla said: “My ancestors used to play shehnai at the temple of Lord Baidhyanath in Deoghar. In 1983, MD Singh, who was the Budhanath temple trust secretary then, entrusted me with the responsibility to play shehnai at the temple during Navratri.”
Shankar Jha, a priest at the temple, said: “We are proud of Illalla for his devotion to perform during Navratri. We pay him very little but in spite of that, he has set an example in reviving the town’s cultural glory.”