Bharat Ratna conferred on M S Subbulakshmi
India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, has been conferred on eminent Carnatic vocalist M S Subbulakshmi.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said the award was being conferred on Subbulakshmi in recognition of her contribution to music. Subbulakshmi is the first musician to get the award.
MS, as she is popularly known, is now 82, but she continues to sing, mostly for charity concerts.
Tears welled up in Mahatma Gandhi's eyes as Subbulakshmi sang Vaisnava janato tere kahiye, jo pir parayi jane re (Only those who are religious understand the sufferings of others).
''To sing a bhajan is one thing, but to sing it by losing oneself in god is another,'' Gandhi said.
In 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru, presiding over a recital by Subbulakshmi in aid of the Ramakrishna Mission in the capital, said he could not address the meeting after Subbulakshmi had sung.
"Who am I, a mere prime minister, before a queen of song?'' he asked.
Born on September 16, 1916 in the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Kunjamma, as she was known as a child, grew up in an atmosphere of music, her mother Shanmugavadivu being an outstanding, though little recognised veena player.
Without formal lessons in music, the little girl hummed to the notes of the nadaswaram from the Meenakshi temple near her house and to the strains of veena played by her mother. She listened to music of Abdul Kareem Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan from a neighbour's radio.
She left school in the fourth standard and devoted her entire attention to music, practising for long hours. She cut her first album at 10 and was soon doing solo performances.
Endowed with pretty looks, Subbulakshmi acted in a movie on women's liberation entitled Seva Sadanam (1938).
After her marriage to Thyagarajan Sadasivam, a freedom fighter who took to film-making, she starred in his Meera, a runaway success that made her a household name across the country. Sadasivam passed away last November.
In a career spanning more than 60 years, she has sung before great personages, at several international venues, including the United Nations, and has been honoured with a large number of awards.
Freedom fighter N Sadasivam dead
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