The Epitome of India’s Syncretic Ethos
Ramzan Khan, a 61-year-old Bhajan singer, is more commonly known as India’s Munna Master who has carried on the tradition set by his father Gaffar Khan. In 2007 Ramzan Khan changed his name on all of his legal and personal documents to Munna Master, due to astrological reasoning. ‘Munna’ is a namaz offering bhajan.
Munna Master spent his entire life in Bagru, a small village not too far away from Jaipur. He’s worked at a local gaushala (cow shelter) all his life and sings Ram Krishna bhajans in his free time. Munna Master, not only sings Ram Krishna Bhajans but also has a book in which he has penned out a set of his own bhajans called ‘Shri Sham Surabhi Vandana’.
Along with taking care of cows and singing bhajans, Munna Master had a passion for Sanskrit and wanted to teach Sanskrit to children. However, his family and the Muslim society that he was living in didn’t approve of his genuine passion and ended their relations with him. Despite this tragedy, Munna Master wasn’t demotivated by teaching Sanskrit. He taught his 4 children Sanskrit and ever since his eldest son, Feroze Khan, made a career out of Sanskrit. Along with this. Munna Master simultaneously taught them the Ram-Krishna bhajans.
Yet Sanskrit professors tried to demote both him and his children as they believed that just because he was a Muslim he has no right to teach the “sanctified” language of Hindu Brahmins. The entire Khan family felt like ‘Ganga-Jamuni tezeeb’, which is a fusion of Muslim and Hindu cultures, were completely overlooked about learning something as easy a language. When Munna master’s eldest son Feroze applied for a Sanskrit teaching position in a school, he was overlooked, although he had a stellar application, as the board wasn’t certain about Munna’s capabilities as a Sanskrit teacher. This resulted in many faculty members as the chief proctor and even the vice-chancellor of BHU (Banaras Hindu University) stood up for Feroze and his family. As soon as the information was leaked to the press, there were a series of protests standing up for Feroze and Munna Master. This was the first time Munna was mentioned in the news. After receiving a tremendous amount of support from BHU university and a part of the BJP, the rest of the Khan family restored their relationship with Munna Master and his sons.
In 2020, Munna Master was one of the 21 awardees for the Padma Shri award, which is the 4th highest civilian award in the republic of India. Munna was at his gaushala when he heard that he had received the award and proudly said, "I am very happy, I never thought I would be honored with this award. I would like to thank 'gaumata'&Champa Lal Ji who taught me this path of 'gauseva'. Gauseva hi rashtra ki sachhi seva hai.”
When Munna Master won the award, he was acknowledged as “The epitome of India’s Syncretic ethos, who offers namaz, sings, knows Sanskrit and takes care of cows”. Munna Master is not only an incredible and passionate singer but also a true inspiration to the Indian society as he has managed to take care of the various aspects of his life without lapsing in any. His entire family has faced a series of challenges related to their religion, which they have managed to overcome with grace, proving that not only does your religion define your beliefs but also to stand up. Munna Master and his entire family have been an important part in contributing to reform the racism that Muslims face in our country and has performed in many protests related to this, he has successfully created an impactful and significant awareness about the situation. From fatherhood to bhajans, Ramzan Khan has proved himself a master in everything he practices.