India’s legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, who defined music for generations of Indians, has been given a state funeral amid an outpouring of tribute.

Mangeshkar, who gave voice to thousands of songs for Bollywood films, died at the age of 92 in the financial hub of Mumbai.

Her voice has rung out on television sets, on crackly airwaves and from movie theatres for most of independent India’s three-quarters of a century, earning her the name “the Nightingale”.

Prime Minister Narendra 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 special gun salute.

India’s public broadcaster, Doordarshan, transmitted live scenes of the cremation to a grieving nation while Mangeshkar’s songs played in the background.

“I am anguished beyond words,” Modi wrote on Twitter. “She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled.”

The government will observe state mourning with the flag at half-mast through Monday, the Home Ministry said.

Mangeshkar died of “multi-organ failure after more than 28 days of hospitalisation post COVID-19”, said Pratit Samdani, who was treating her at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, according to Reuters TV partner ANI.

Other Bollywood personalities and politicians also paid their tributes.

“The voice of a million centuries has left us,” veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan said.

Maharashtra, Mangeshkar’s home state, declared a public holiday on Monday. India’s central bank rescheduled its monetary policy committee meeting by a day to February 8-10 due to the holiday.

Former cricket captain and legend Sachin Tendulkar, who was at the funeral, said he was “fortunate” to have been part of Mangeshkar’s life.

“She always showered me with her love and blessings. With her passing away, a part of me feels lost too. She’ll always continue to live in our hearts through her music,” he tweeted.

Illustrious career

Born in 1929 in pre-independence India, Mangeshkar began singing in her teens and, in a career spanning 73 years, sang more than an estimated 15,000 songs in 36 languages.

She enthralled music-mad Indians with her lilting voice and sheer range, singing everything from patriotic songs to romantic numbers, both in films and albums.

Classically trained, Mangeshkar moulded her voice to the demands of singing for Bollywood movies, even voicing songs in her 60s for an actress in her 20s.

The only songs she refused to sing were cabaret numbers and songs that had bawdy or racy lyrics, saying those did not fit with her personal values.

Mangeshkar, nevertheless, dominated the Hindi film industry for almost five decades until the 2000s, along with her younger sister Asha Bhosle.

Known for soft-spoken nature and wearing a saree, her hair in two schoolgirl-like braids, Mangeshkar received India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001. She was awarded France’s highest civilian honour, the Legion of Honour, in 2009.


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