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.
She was admitted to the hospital January 8. “My aunt was released January 24. But she had to be re-admitted on February 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 August 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.