Gandhi and Nehru’s Favorite Bhajan Singer Juthika Roy is dead

Kolkata: Legendary bhajan singer Juthika Roy, who enthralled the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru with her enchanting voice, died at a city hospital following multiple ailments, a family member said Thursday. She was 93.

Juthika Roy

Juthika Roy

Roy, a spinster, breathed her last at the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan around 11.30 p.m. Wednesday, her nephew Chandan Roy told IANS.

She was admitted to the hospital Jan 8. “My aunt was released Jan 24. But she had to be re-admitted Feb 2 after she had a cerebral attack and put on ventilator support at the Intensive Therapy Unit,” said Roy.

Born April 20, 1920 at Amta in then undivided Bengal’s Howrah district, Roy recorded her first album in 1932 when she was only 12 years old.

Roy’s talent was soon noticed by poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and composer Kamal Das Gupta, both of whom mentored her. In the 1940s and 1950s, she was among the country’s leading singers, enjoying soaring popularity, and was affectionately called “Adhunik Meera”.

Roy, who immortalized bhajans like “Ghunghat ka pat khol” and “Pag ghungharu bandh Meera nachi” was conferred the Padma Shri in 1972.

On Aug 15, 1947, she was requested by none other than Nehru to continue singing on the radio as he unfurled the tricolour on India’s first Independence Day.

“The prime minister had sent in a request that I was to keep singing till he reached Red Fort and hoisted the tricolour. I went back to the AIR station… sang some seven-eight songs,” the legendary singer recalled in an interview.

Even Gandhi was a great admirer of Roy, and often started his prayer meetings playing her records.

“Mahatma Gandhi used to listen to my songs everyday when he was jailed in Pune. He used to start his prayer meeting every morning playing discs that played my bhajans,” Roy said in an article.

Roy lent her melodious voice in two Bengali films “Dhuli” and “Ratnadeep”.

Her mortal remains were consigned to flames at the Ratanbabur Ghat in Baranagar.