Munna Master recently received the most honorable Padma Shri award as he has been singing bhajans for 30 years. He is the Muslim Bhajan singer who is referred as the epitome of India’s syncretic ethos who offers namaz, sings bhajans. He takes care of cows and also knows Sanskrit.
Munna Master is a 61-year-old Muslim Bhajan singer, who has spent his entire life in Bagru, which is the local gaushala (cow shelter). Born as Ramzan Khan, he changed his name as Munna Master on all official documents in 2007 for some astrological reasons. He hails from a traditional Muslim family of Bagaru in Jaipur district. He has been following the legacy of their family tradition of singing Ram-Krishna bhajans. He has written several Ram-Krishna bhajans and also penned a book ‘Shri Shyam Surabhi Vandana’ which became popular. Munna Master lives in a two-bedroom house in the village’s Muslim neighborhood with his wife, mother and six kids.
When he was working as an assistant professor at Banaras Hindu University, he was forced to resign from the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan because of the student protests. The students who believed that a Muslim could not teach them Hindu dharma and scriptures threatened to fast to death and made him resign. However, the university stood by him and he now teaches Sanskrit. “I have sung bhajans before thousands of people,” says Munna proudly. His own compositions are now available in Shri Shyam Surabhi Vandana, a book of bhajans.
On the other hand, Munna Master opened a cow shelter called Ramdev Gaushala in 2001. Every day, Munna Master visits the shelter once in the morning and again after lunch. “I am old and I have nothing to do. So, there is nothing better than gau seva,” says Munna with a big smile. He takes care of 850 cows along with people from the local community and the members of the Gau Seva Parivar Samiti.
Talking about receiving Padma Shri, he says that is a result of his devotion towards gau mata. “Now I can finally build a nice house in Bagru,” said Munna Master.