J&K loses illustrious son: Santoor maestro Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma passes away

‘Envisioned a dream and became synonym to stringed instrument’ Tributes pour in; Prez, PM, others pay homage
The santoor maestro and music composer, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, passed away after a cardiac arrest at the age of 84 in Mumbai on Tuesday, May 10.
The santoor maestro and music composer, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, passed away after a cardiac arrest at the age of 84 in Mumbai on Tuesday, May 10.IANS

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir lost one of its most illustrious sons as internationally acclaimed Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma passed away in Mumbai due to cardiac arrest on Tuesday.

He was 83.

Cascading flow of octave notes emanating through his stringed instrument would instantly ‘transport’ one to a state of trance, amid lush green meadows, lofty mountains, majestic lakes and springs of Jammu & Kashmir – an identity he proudly cherished, anywhere and everywhere.

Meanwhile, President Ram Nath Kovind, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah led the galaxy of prominent persons including politicians, artistes, litterateurs and those from other walks of life across the country in paying glowing tributes to Santoor virtuoso.

A Padma Vibhushan recipient, Pandit Shiv Sharma, born in Jammu in 1938, is survived by his wife Manorama and two sons, Rahul, also a Santoor player and Rohit.

Reports quoting maestro’s secretary stated that he (Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma) breathed his last between 8 and 8.30 am at his Pali Hill residence in Mumbai. “He was suffering from renal ailments. He had a severe heart attack in the morning… He was active and was to perform in Bhopal next week. He was on regular dialysis but was still active,” it was stated.

“His mortal remains will be kept at the Pali Hill home. At 10 am on Wednesday, the body will be shifted to the Abhijit Cooperative Housing Society in Juhu for “public darshan” till 1 pm. The last rites will be held at Pawan Hans Crematorium in Vile Parle,” reports said, further quoting his secretary.

It was his grit and determination that made him and “Santoor” – a synonym to each other internationally and made J&K and Jammu, his home town in particular, very proud.

It was his passion that took Santoor, a traditional folk instrument of J&K and so innate to its culture, to the exalted status of classical instrument and that too at international level. However, this recognition to “Santoor” and its virtuoso Pandit Shiv Kumar did not come so easily.

“His journey to convert “Santoor” from a simple four-stringed folk instrument to its modified and modern 100-stringed magic instrument started with a simple dream as it would find reflection in a song composed by him and his partner and another connoisseur Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia in their musical journey as their maiden venture in Hindi film industry – “Silsila” so aptly. “Dekha Ek Khwab to Yeh Silsile Huye.....(”Envisioned a dream which led to this chain of events...). However, Shivji’s journey remained unstoppable till he breathed his last,” recalls former Station Director Radio Kashmir Jammu (now Akashwani Jammu) and DDK Jammu Anjali Sharma, while sharing some of her cherished memories about him.

Recalling those nuggets of past, Anjali stated that they were neighbours in the vicinity of Panjtirthi (Darbargarh) and Shivji enjoyed a strong camaraderie with her cousin Rameshwar, a Scientist , now settled in the USA. “So obviously he (Shivji) would frequently figure in our talks at home. His father wanted him to learn Tabla but he became inclined towards Santoor. He improvised it. He would love to perform Raag Rageshwari- his own creation in every concert,” Anjali stated.

She also recalls her first (in-person) meeting with Shivji during the Golden jubilee of RKJ on December 1, 1999 where he was invited to perform. “Our association deepened in the years to come. I was simply mesmerised by his aura. Later in 2017, we invited his son Rahul, who too plays Santoor, to perform in the 75th anniversary of RKJ. He was a bit hesitant yet Shivji persuaded him and he performed. All those who saw him performing, saw “young Shivji” in him. Later, Shivji shared his happiness saying – it’s great you invited Rahul to perform in Jammu. He loved his roots. That’s why he introduced even Dogri folk song in a new flavour in his musical composition for film “Chandni” – “Mere Haathon Mein Nau Nau Chudian..,” Anjali shared another nugget.

Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986, followed by the Padma Shri in 1991 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. As “Shiv-Hari” duo, they composed music for an array of films including “Silsila”, “Lamhe”, “Chandni” and “Darr”.

Another illustrious son of the soil renowned litterateur, film director and childhood friend of Santoor virtuoso, Ved Rahi, while speaking to Greater Kashmir from Mumbai, goes nostalgic, while recalling few nuggets of past related to his “buddy” (Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma).

“He was not just a great performer but a magnificent individual as well. He had his initial training in Classical music and Tabla from his illustrious father Pandit Uma Dutt Sharma, who was associated with (the then) Radio Kashmir Jammu (RKJ). It was Shivji’s virtuosity which accorded recognition to Santoor as a classical instrument at the international level and he became a synonym to the stringed instrument. Very few people would be aware that he would play Tabla and Violin too with great ease and regale his audience with his performance. When I was serving in RKJ, I, myself, have seen him playing Tabla while accompanying the Ghazal Queen Begum Akhtar during concerts,” Rahi reminisced.

“We were friends as we lived in the same locality i.e., Darbargarh near historic Mubarak Mandi (of old Jammu city). We shared a close bond as there was hardly any age-difference. His passing away is a personal loss for me. He was deeply attached to his roots. His love for Jammu & Kashmir can be gauged with a simple fact that he would not leave any opportunity to visit here. He had also come to be part of the programme to mark the 110th birth anniversary of my father Lala Mulk Raj Saraf. Yet another aspect is that former MP Dr Karan Singh and Shivji had initial training in Tabla and Classical music from Pandit Uma Duttji (Shivji’s father), you may call them “Guru-Bhai” (Shivji and Dr Singh) as well,” he recalled.

Rahi is son of late Lala Mulk Raj Saraf, who is hailed as the “father of journalism in J&K.”

This reference also found a mention in the homage to the legendary artist by another renowned son of the soil and veteran journalist Anil Anand.

“Heartfelt homage to Santoor maestro, a true son of the soil (Jammu and Kashmir) and ambassador of Dogra culture and ethos, on his sad demise. Some memories of Panditji performing in Jammu in 2002-03 at a programme organised by us to celebrate 110th birth anniversary of Father of journalism in J&K Lala Mulk Raj Saraf,” Anand tweeted, while sharing a collage of picture from the programme.

Well known litterateur and a relative of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma’s wife, Prof Lalit Magotra too talks about his “domineering aura” and the “state of trance” which everyone would experience in Santoor virtuoso’s performance.

“His wife is related to me. She is my mother’s cousin. Even otherwise, we shared a very warm and cordial relationship. I spoke to him just five-six days ago as a girl student wanted to write a research paper on him. As I requested, he became willing to speak to her. However, sadly that conversation would not materialise now. He was very fond of Tawi, old Jammu charm. His connection with Jammu and Kashmir was so innate to his persona. Whenever he visited Jammu, he would always stay in “Maharaja” suite of Hotel Hari Niwas as it would give a wonderful panoramic view of Tawi and Jammu and he would relive his old Jammu charm. There was a very warm and affable personality beneath his domineering aura,” Prof Magotra fondly recalls it.

Famous multi-faceted artist and former Dean Institute of Music and Fine Arts (IMFA), Jammu Vijay Saraf ‘Meenaghe’ rued that he could not materialise his vision of “Jugalbandi” between his “Santoor recital” and his painting. Nevertheless, memories lingered on for him too.

Reports quoting Santoor maestro’s son Rahul said that his end was peaceful. “He is not with us anymore but his music lives on. He went away peacefully. He has given the entire world his music, peace through his music and what he did for Santoor… it’s now known across the world,” reports said, quoting Rahul.

“His music will always live on. He will be with us through his music. He had age related issues. He was 83. We had done a concert together 15 days ago, everything was fine. He passed away peacefully,” reports further said, quoting Rahul.

Durga Jasraj, daughter of the late classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj and a close friend of Sharma, was quoted saying in the reports that the Santoor legend fainted in the bathroom and was “gone in a fraction of a second.”

Tributes continued to pour in throughout the day. President Kovind said Sharma’s recitals would leave connoisseurs of Indian classical music spellbound. “He popularized Santoor, the traditional musical instrument from J&K. Sad to learn that his Santoor is now silenced. Condolences to his family, friends and countless fans everywhere,” the President tweeted.

“Our cultural world is poorer with the demise of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma Ji. He popularised the Santoor at a global level. His music will continue to enthral the coming generations. I fondly remember my interactions with him. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” the Prime Minister said.

Former Vice Chancellor Jammu University, Prof Amitabh Mattoo tweeted, “One of the greatest legends of Hindustani classical music Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma has passed away. A source of deep personal inspiration, I am bereft. Om Shanti!”

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah wrote, “Very sad to hear about the passing of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. A legend in his lifetime, he popularised the santoor like no one before him. A proud son of the soil, he made his mark globally. My condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.” Sarod player Amjad Ali Khan said Sharma’s death was a personal loss for him.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s office said in a statement that Sharma will be accorded a state funeral. “Sad to know about the demise of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, eminent Santoor player and internationally celebrated Indian music composer. His departure impoverishes our cultural world. My deepest condolences,” tweeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“The passing away of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharmaji marks the end of an era. He was the pioneer of Santoor and his contribution is unparalleled. For me, it’s a personal loss and I will miss him no end. May his soul rest in peace. His music lives on forever! Om Shanti,” Khan tweeted.

Ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas and veteran actor Shabana Azmi also condoled Sharma’s death.

“We have lost a gem today, Padma Vibhushan Shri Shiv Kumar Sharma ji Santoor virtuoso a big loss to Indian classical music,” Udhas wrote on Twitter.

“Deeply saddened to hear that maestro Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma has passed away. His mellifluous music will remain in our hearts of course but tinged by the pain of his loss. My deepest condolences to the family,” tweeted Shabana Azmi.

Veteran actor and BJP MP Hema Malini described Sharma as a gentleman to the core.

“He will be missed by many associated with him as also by his admirers all over the world. I have had the good opportunity to interact with him on many occasions. My heart goes out to his family,” she tweeted.

The post on the official Twitter handle of Yashraj Films read, “Pandit #ShivkumarSharma blessed the world of music with tunes that will continue to mesmerize the coming generations. May his soul rest in peace.” Ashok Vajpeyi, eminent Hindi poet and Sharma’s good friend, said the santoor player was “easily the greatest musician to emerge from his native Kashmir”.

“Pt Sharma reinvented the santoor to attain depth and range capable of resonating classical complexities and nuances. He created music full of joy, depth and meditative richness. In his demise, the creative community of India loses a doyen, a master, a gentle soul and a great performer,” he said.

Classical singer Pt Vijay Kichlu said Sharma was “more than a brother” to him.

“Since he was also a Kashmiri like me we were very close to each other and met frequently. We used to be together for at least four-five weeks once a year. The world of music has seen something entirely new during his lifetime because it was him who first brought a rural Kashmiri instrument (Santoor) to a classical platform,” he said.

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