New Delhi: Santoor maestro and music composer Pandit Bhajan Sopori, hailed as the ‘Saint of Santoor’ and ‘King of Strings’ for his mastery over the instrument, passed away on June 2 at a Gurugram hospital at the age of 73.
On Sunday, a memorial prayer meet was organized at the India International Center in Delhi to pay tributes to the departed soul, which saw people from different walks of life paying their homage to the musical great.
Politicians Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and DS Rana; Musicians Shanno Khurana, Pt. Vijay Shanker Mishra, Shameem Azad, Malini Awasthi, Pt. Chetan Joshi, Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar, Ustad Akram Khan, Pt. Madhup Mudgal, Ustad Rafiuddin Sabri, Ragini Rainu, Ustad Saeed Zafar Khan, Asghar Hussain; Poet Agnishekhar, Nancy Dhar, Ranjana Narayan and Dayanand Vats, along with disciples and hundreds of fans and family friends of Bhajan Sopori, including Aparna Sopori, Sohrab and Abhay Rustum Sopori (sons) and Soumil and Soham Sopori (grandchildren) attended the prayer meet to pay their tributes, and also shared their memories of Sopori.
Farood Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, recited a bhajan ‘Ram More Ram Kis Gali Gayo More Ram’ while paying his tribute to the late music legend.
He said, “I am sad and deeply pained by Pt. Bhajan Sopori’s death. Apart from being a great musician, he was human par excellence who had love for all, be it any religion, culture or individual. He was a saint, a sufi, a rishi. I was shocked when I got to know of his demise. I wish God had given him more time to spread the love for humanity to the entire world. I pray to God to give strength to his family.”
Sopori used his santoor and his compositions to highlight the concept of oneness and foster unity enshrining the idea of national integration, humanism and peace amongst the common man and the youth in particular.
Another former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that Sopori was like family to him and his wife was a disciple of the musician.
“I must say he was a living saint in true sense with much energy, love and care for one and all. He was someone who never believed in any one religion but in one identity of God, whoever it was. He believed in humanism. Sopori always used to say that the only prime truth is that we are human beings and everything comes after that. Losing such a divine soul is a huge loss to the entire world,” he said.
Musicians Shanno Khurana, Malini Awasthi and Chetan Joshi, writer Agnishekhar and many others shared their thoughts on the occasion.
‘Dharam gurus’ of all four religions prayed for his soul’s peace at the ceremony.
Sopori has left a huge legacy behind him along with hundreds of disciples, who all see his son, santoor maestro and music composer Abhay Rustum Sopori, to carry forward the work, his vision, music and legacy, the guests said at the prayer meet.
Abhay Rustum Sopori said, “I am short of words. He has left behind the rich legacy of 300 years of the exclusive Santoor Gharana of the country, and the Sopori Sufiana Gharana of Kashmir, which has produced musicians in every generation who have contributed to the cause of humanity and music. His sad demise is not just a personal loss, but it’s a huge loss to the entire world.”
“It’s such a big responsibility to carry forward his legacy, his vision, all his work… My responsibilities have increased many folds. At the same time, being his son and disciple, I believe his teachings and blessings will help me sail through and work on the path shown by him,” he added.
A composer of over 8,000 songs, Sopori also widened the scope of devotional and religious music. He was known for his patriotic songs, his classical version of ‘Saare Jahan Se Achha’, instrumental version of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Vaishnav Janto’ etc.
He was honored with multiple national and international awards including the prestigious Padma Shri (2004), National Kalidas Samman (2020), Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1993), J&K Government’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2016), J&K Government’s Civil Award (2007), and Honorary Doctorate from Utkal University of Culture, Odisha.