Country mourns death of its ‘Ratna’ Bhimsen Joshi

Last Updated: Monday, January 24, 2011 - 23:33

Pune: Indian singing legend Pandit Bhimsen Joshi died here Monday after nearly a month in hospital. As thousands queued up to pay their last respects to the 88-year-old music maestro, artists across the country described the loss as the sunset of Indian music.

Joshi, who was awarded the country`s highest civilian honour the Bharat Ratna in 2008, died at Pune`s Sahyadri Hospital at 8.05 a.m, his doctor Atul Joshi said.

Joshi, who would have turned a year older Feb 4, was rushed to the hospital Dec 31. He was suffering from old age related ailments, including kidney problems, and had been admitted to the intensive care unit.

He was on ventilator and underwent periodic dialysis in the past 25 days.

"However, since Saturday evening, his condition deteriorated and he started sinking despite all our efforts. He breathed his last at 8.05 a.m.," Atul Joshi said.

His close family and friends were by his bedside when he died.

Calling him a "doyen of Hindustani classical music", President Pratibha Patil said "the nation has lost one of the greatest and most popular classical vocalists".

A "deeply grieved" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "I join music lovers across the world in mourning the demise of this iconic vocalist. In his passing away, the nation and the music world has lost a towering musical genius and the most famous and accomplished exponent of the Kirana gharana."

"His rendering of the song "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" on the theme of national integration is etched in the popular consciousness."

A practitioner of the Kirana gharana, Joshi was known for his mellifluous `khayals` as well as for his popular renditions of devotional `abhangs` and `bhajans`.

As the crowds swelled at Kalashree, his home here, noted artists said his death was "an irreparable loss" but added that his music would live on to be celebrated by generations.

"Jab maine suna, laga ki subah subah surya ast ho gaya. Bharat ka sangeet ka suraj doob gaya hai (When I heard about his death, I felt that the sun has set in the morning...the sun has set on Indian classical music)," eminent Hindustani classical singer Pandit Jasraj said reacting to Joshi`s demise.

For 81-year-old Carnatic vocalist M. Balamuralikrishna, who had sung several `jugalbandis` with Joshi, the loss was personal.

Reminiscing about their `jugalbandis`, he said: "My experience when I was singing `jugalbandi` was unforgettable...When he started singing in Hindi, then I sang in a south Indian language. Then after some time, he forgot his words and sang my words."

Balamuralikrishna said: "His music and his contribution and his love for me, will be always be alive."

His disciple Basant Garud called Joshi the biggest figure in Indian music after Tansen, the legendary musician in Mughal Emperor Akbar`s court in the 16th century.

"He was thought as god. If we had a glimpse of him, then it seemed that we are blessed," Garud said.

Joshi`s last rites are expected to take place after 3 p.m. Monday, a family member said.

Maharashtra, which was home to Joshi, felt a deep sense of loss.

Expressing the deepest sense of grief, Governor K. Sankaranarayanan said Joshi, who moved to Mumbai in 1943 at the age of 22 and later made Pune his home, was a "celestial phenomenon" in the world of Hindustani classical music.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said in his message: "We have lost a legendary, unique personality."

Lata Mangeshkar, who said it was an honour to sing with him, said "a legend" had passed away.

Born to a Kannada Brahmin family in Gadag town in northern Karnataka, Joshi lost his mother early. He was initiated into classical music by legendary musician Sawai Gandharva -- but only after he left home at age 11 to find himself a guru.

His first wife was his cousin, Sunanda Katti. They had four children - two sons and two daughters. Sunanda died in 1992. Joshi then married Vatsala Mudholkar, with whom he had two sons and one daughter.

Joshi also lent his unforgettable voice to Bollywood. He playbacked for several Hindi movies like "Basant Bahar" (1956) with Manna Dey, "Birbal My Brother" (1973) and "Ankahee" (1985).

IANS



First Published: Monday, January 24, 2011 - 23:33

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