Disciples and followers of music legend Pandit Jasraj in the United States paid their tributes to the Indian classical vocalist and described his passing away as an irreparable loss to India and its cultural heritage while fondly recalling his humble and gentle nature.
The mortal remains of Pandit Jasraj, who passed away on Monday at the age of 90 following a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey, are expected to be flown to Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon and the Consulate General of India in New York is helping with the necessary arrangements.
Former president of the diaspora organisation, US Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), Alok Kumar paid his respects to the legendary artist at the Hindu Funeral Home in Highland Park in New Jersey.
Kumar said a large number of people had gathered at the funeral home during the day to pay their respects to Pandit Jasraj.
Keeping in mind the social distancing requirements amid the pandemic, a limited number of people were being allowed at a time to enter the funeral home and pay their tributes.
"We will all miss the musical legend. It is indeed the end of an era in Indian classical music. With Pandit Jasraj's death, we have lost a 'sargam' of shastriya sangeet," Kumar told PTI.
"No one can match the legend that he was."
Hari, one of Pandit Jasraj's disciples, said that all his pupils are still in a state of shock and are trying to come to terms with the tremendous loss.
"We are trying to make sense of it. We are deeply feeling his loss but we also see the wealth of love that he has left behind," he said.
Hari said Pandit Jasraj was surrounded by his disciples and they are constantly communicating with his family in India.
They are making necessary arrangements to fly his mortal remains to India for the funeral.
"Pandit Jasraj's demise is a loss for India, for the cultural tradition of India but broadly it is a loss for music overall. He stands for music everywhere, his passing is a big loss for music," Hari said.
New Jersey-based Alka Aneja fondly recalled her association with the Padma Vibhushan recipient and said he was a maestro and a legend, 'but the humanity, kindness and generosity' that came from him was unparalleled.
Aneja said Pandita Tripti Mukherjee, Hindustani classical vocalist and disciple of Pandit Jasraj, as well as two-three other disciples are expected to take the mortal remains of Pandit Jasraj to Mumbai on an Air India flight on Tuesday afternoon.
Aneja, who was Pandit Jasraj's realtor and had known him for the last three years, said she last met him on the festival of Janmashtami last week.
"He was a legend for the world but he was a very kind and gentle soul for me. I got to know him at a personal level. He had a great sense of humor and was very humble," she said.
Aneja said a legend like Pandit Jasraj, who had achieved so much in life, was a very humble person who 'allowed people in his life. People don't have their feet on the ground when they achieve as much as he did'.
He was very humble and a gentle soul, she said.
Recalling that he used to call her 'Son Pari', Aneja said whenever she touched his feet, he would say 'betiyaan pair nahin chooti hain (daughters don't touch feet)'.
Aneja said she is blessed to have known him.
FIA Chairman Ankur Vaidya recollected multiple interactions he had with Pandit Jasraj, saying he was a 'very inspiring and mesmerising personality'.
Vaidya said Pandit Jasraj was the Guest of Honour at FIA's India Day parade in 2013 and was honoured again by the organisation in 2018 for his distinguished accomplishment and significant contribution to the Indian classical music.
Pandit Jasraj, who belonged to the Mewati Gharana, was in the US when the coronavirus-led lockdown happened and decided to stay back in that country.
Demonstrating his ability to adapt with the times, his last performance was in April this year. He sang on Hanuman Jayanti for the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple in Varanasi through Facebook Live.
'With profound grief we inform that Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj ji breathed his last this morning at 5.15 EST due to a cardiac arrest at his home in New Jersey, USA,' a statement issued by his family said on Monday.
'May Lord Krishna welcome him lovingly through the doors of heaven, where Pandit ji will now sing Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevaya exclusively just for his beloved Lord. We pray that his soul rests in eternal musical peace. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers,' it said.