Priyanka Dasgupta,1 Sep, 2006TIMES NEWS NETWORK
KOLKATA: Aasish Khan, the son of sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, has embraced Hinduism, sparking off a raging debate and heartache to the 84-year-old father who has told TOI his son was besmirching his illustrious family’s name.
Aasish, who has already changed his surname to Debsharma through affidavit on August 19, claims his family was never really Muslim. "We were originally Brahmins and used the surname Debsharma. My great-grandfather Sadananda Debsharma took the title of Khan, which is not a surname and is used by Hindus and Christians… due to compulsions. We never converted to Islam."
His dad is distraught. In an email to TOI from the US, where Ali Akbar has settled down, he said: "I do not support his (Aasish’s) choice. Unfortunately, many statements made by my son in the newspaper regarding the history of my family are incorrect. My family has been Muslims for many generations, and we will remain Muslims. It is a shame that he is trying to reinvent the history of our family and in turn hurting the past generation of our family."
Aasish's 'reinvention' is that his ancestors were Hindus. He claims his family even prayed to goddesses Kali and Saraswati. He said he was never asked to follow Islamic rituals or offer namaz and his grandfather had given Hindu names to him and his siblings — Dhyanesh, Pranesh and Amaresh.
"Staunch Muslims have opposed my decision," he said. "They did not realise we were never converted to Islam. I would like to make it clear that the only religion our family believes in is music," said the 60-something Aasish.
Ali Akbar Khan, who juggles his classes at Ali Akbar College of Music and three dialysis sessions a week with his rare concerts across the world, is hurt and the music fraternity stunned by Aasish’s claim.
The Ali Akbar family is not an ordinary family — his father Allaudin Khan is the founder of the Maihar gharana and his disciples, including Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee and Ali Akbar, have dominated the Hindustani classical music world for years.