India is in mourning after the beloved singer Lata Mangeshkar died in hospital aged 92, having tested positive for Covid-19 last month.
She was admitted to Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital on 8 January, and her condition later deteriorated after she was diagnosed with pneumonia, according to local media reports.
The cultural icon, fondly referred to as Didi (elder sister), later died due to multiple organ failure, the doctor treating her said.
“Lata Didi died at 8.12am due to multi-organ failure after over 28 days of Covid-19 diagnosis,” Dr Pratit Samdani told reporters outside the hospital.
Known as the “Nightingale of India” and with a career spanning seven decades, Mangeshkar was credited with voicing 30,000 songs in different languages and was the voice behind some of Bollywood’s best-known hits.
Tributes to the singer were led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who recalled “unforgettable” meetings with the star and expressed his condolences to the family. “I grieve with my fellow Indians on the passing away of Lata Didi [sister],” he wrote on Twitter.
President Ram Nath Kovind said the news was “heart-breaking for me, as it is for millions the world over” and added that in her songs “generations found expression of their inner-most emotions”.
The Indian government has ordered two days of national mourning for the late singer. The national flag will be flown at half-mast from Sunday through Monday, India’s home ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
Government functions will be suspended until after the period of mourning. “There will be no official entertainment,” the ministry added.
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Mangeshkar will also be given a state funeral, according to national broadcaster Doordarshan. Her cremation will take place in Mumbai on Sunday evening and will be attended by Mr Modi.
Many actors, cricketers and celebrities took to social media to express grief at her passing.
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted that Mangeshkar’s voice was “immortal” and would “continue to echo in the hearts of her fans”.
Indian transport minister Nitin Gadkari, a politician from Maharashtra state who was one of the first to arrive at the hospital following her death, tweeted saying: “Lata didi will always remain an inspiration for all of us. May god give peace to her soul.”
“How can one forget such a voice! Deeply saddened by the passing away of Lata Mangeshkar ji, my sincere condolences and prayers,” wrote actor Akshay Kumar on Twitter.
The Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar also traveled to the Breach Candy Hospital to pay their respects.
Mangeshkar was what’s known as a playback artist, with her pre-recorded songs being dubbed over lip-syncing actors in India’s musical films.
Actor Hema Malini said she was “lucky” to have performed to several songs sung by Mangeshkar.
“No one can sing like her, she was very special. Her passing away is very saddening,” she told news agency ANI.
Born in 1929 in the central Indian city of Indore, Mangeshkar was the eldest of five siblings in a prominent musical family. Two of her sisters have also been noted playback artists in the Indian film industry.
She started singing at the age of 13 with songs in her mother tongue Marathi. Her talent soon took her to the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai where she slowed her voice to generations of film actresses from the sixties to 2000s.
Known for her soft voice, Mangeshkar’s exceptional understanding of Indian classical chords made her a household name and she was often regarded as the best female playback singer of her era.
One of her most famous songs is the patriotic ballad “Ae mere watan ke logon” (Oh, people of my country), a rendition of which is said to have once moved India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to tears. The song is still played on India’s Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations.
She has been the recipient of some of the highest honors in India, including the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, and several national film awards. Mangeshkar was the first Indian to perform at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1974.
Mangeshkar never married and is survived by her four siblings.