Lata Mangeshkar, a legendary Indian singer with a prolific, ground-breaking catalogue and a voice recognised by a billion people in south Asia, has died aged 92.
The singer died of multiple organ failure at Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai, Dr Pratit Samdani told reporters.
She was admitted to hospital on January 11 after contracting Covid-19. She was taken off the ventilator after her condition improved in late January but her health deteriorated on Saturday and she was put back on life support.
Mangeshkar received a state funeral and Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in from New Delhi to pay his respects.
Modi laid a wreath next to Mangeshkar’s body, wrapped in the Indian flag, as thousands, including Bollywood stars and politicians, thronged Mumbai’s Shivaji Park where she was cremated amid the chanting of vedic hymns and a gun salute.
India’s public broadcaster transmitted live scenes of the cremation to a grieving nation while Mangeshkar’s songs played in the background.
India declared two days of national mourning and lowered the country’s flags until Monday.
Condolence messages poured in immediately after Mangeshkar’s death was announced.
“I am anguished beyond words,” Modi said in a tweet. “She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled. The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerise people.”
I consider it my honour that I have always received immense affection from Lata Didi. My interactions with her will remain unforgettable. I grieve with my fellow Indians on the passing away of Lata Didi. Spoke to her family and expressed condolences. Om Shanti.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 6, 2022
Over the course of nearly eight decades, Mangeshkar was a major presence as a playback singer, singing songs that were later lip-synced by actors in India’s lavish Bollywood musicals. She was also fondly revered as the “Melody Queen” and “Nightingale of India”.
Mangeshkar’s songs, always filled with emotion, were often sad and mostly dealt with unrequited love, but others involved national pride and were used to motivate Indians and the country’s defence forces during times of wars with neighbouring Pakistan and China.
Born in Maharashtra on September 28, 1929, Mangeshkar first sang at religious gatherings with her father, who was also a trained singer.
After she moved to Mumbai, India’s film industry capital, she became a star with immensely popular appeal, enchanting audiences with her smooth but sharp voice and immortalising Hindi music for decades to come.
In 2001, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. The government of France conferred on her its highest civilian award, Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, in 2007.
In December, Mangeshkar commemorated eight decades since her debut on radio.
She wrote on Twitter in Hindi: “On 16 December 1941, I sang two songs for the first time in the studio for radio after seeking the blessings of my parents. It has been 80 years today.
“In these 80 years, I have got immense love and blessings from the people. I believe that I will always keep getting your love and blessings.”
Mangeshkar never married. She is survived by four siblings, all accomplished singers and musicians.