MUMBAI: On Sunday, Lata Mangeshkar, an Indian cultural icon and a vocalist who helped define music for generations of her countrymen, passed away at 92. Politicians and celebrities from around the country came together to pay their respects.
For much of three-quarters of India’s independent history, Mangeshkar’s voice has rung out on television sets, crackly airwaves, and cinema screens, earning her the title, “the Nightingale.”
PM Narendra Modi tweeted he was “anguished beyond words” at her death. In our country, “she leaves a gap that can never be replaced.”
Late on Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined mourners at a crowded open-air state funeral in Mumbai, where her body had been transported through the city’s streets on a truck decked with flowers.
Despite police building barricades and preventing public admission, thousands of people gathered outside Shivaji Park, where she was cremated, climbing walls and trees to catch a sight of the proceedings and offer their own condolences.
The Indian Home Ministry announced state flag will be lowered to half-mast until Monday.
Pratit Samdani, who was treating her at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, said Mangeshkar died of “multi-organ failure after over 28 days of hospitalisation following COVID-19”.
Her lovely voice had an unequalled power to mesmerise people, Modi said. “The following generations will remember her as a bastion of Indian culture.”
Others in Bollywood and in politics paid their respects as well. “The voice of a million centuries has left us,” Amitabh Bachchan, a famous Bollywood actor, stated.
Monday was proclaimed a public holiday in Maharashtra, the state where Mangeshkar grew up. Because of the holiday, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India has moved its meeting to Thursday for the policy announcement.
The state of West Bengal announced an official holiday to honour Lata Mangeshkar, and for 15 days, her songs are to be played at all of its major crossroads.
As the first of three one-day internationals between India and the West Indies got afoot, the Indian cricket team wore black armbands to pay their respects. Virat Kohli, India’s former captain, praised her songs, saying they had “touched” people all across the world. Sachin Tendulkar, another former captain, was also in attendance at the burial.
A GIFT FROM GOD
Mangeshkar began singing in her teens in pre-independence India, where she was born in 1929. Over the course of her 73-year career, she has sung over 15,000 songs in 36 languages.
She sang everything from patriotic anthems to love songs in films and albums, captivating the music-obsessed Indian public.
Mangeshkar began her career in Bollywood, where it was impossible to make a film without at least six songs and where everything from romance to sadness could be conveyed through a ballad.
Classically educated, Mangeshkar adapted her voice to suit the needs of singing for Bollywood movies.
During the conflicts with China and Pakistan, her songs inspired millions of Indians to pay their respects to the country’s armed services. Several of her songs have been utilised at temples, shrines, and schools as prayer.
“My voice is a gift from God,” she once said to an interviewer. “My voice taught me how to express myself better. Lullabies and romantic songs transformed me into someone else entirely.”
Mangeshkar and her younger sister Asha Bhosle ruled the Hindi music cinema business for over five decades until the early 2000s.
In 2001, Mangeshkar was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. She was also awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civilian honour, in 2009.
Amitabh Bachchan, a Bollywood actor, declared in 2019 that “music is incomplete without you voice” in honour of Mangeshkar’s 90th birthday.