Kolkata, Jan 03 (Agencies): The passing away of legendary singer Suchitra Mitra in the 150th birth anniversary year of Rabindranath Tagore marks the end of an era in Rabindra

Mitra was one of the brightest stars in Rabindra Sangeet along with singers like Hemanta Mukhopadhayay, Kanika Bandopadhyay, Debabrata Biswas and Dwijen Mukhopadhayay.

Her powerful rendition of 'Shonar Bangla Ami Tomai Bhalobashi', which became the national anthem of Bangladesh, inspired freedom fighters during the Liberation War in 1971. The number remains one of her most popular songs along with 'Krishankoli Ami Tareyi Boli', 'Tobu Mone Rekho' and 'Ekla Chalo Re'.

Mitra was awarded the Padmashree in 1974, besides
'Desikottama' from her alma mater Visva Bharati, the HMV Golden Disc Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1986.

The influence of her father Sourindra Mohan Mukhopadhyay and her mother, both avid lovers of Rabindra Sangeet, left an indelible impression on Mitra's life.

Born in 1921 in a moving train at Gujhandi, she often joked that she was born to travel relentlessly. Mitra visited USA, the UK, Hungary, Poland, erstwhile Soviet Russia, East Germany and Czechkoslavia to participate in numerous festivals on Rabindra Sangeet.

She received early lessons in music from Pankaj Kumar Mullick and was exposed to influences of cinema from an early age as luminaries of Bengali cinema like Pramathesh Barua, Debaki Basu and Sisir Kumar Bhaduri were regular visitors at her father's home.

Mitra joined Sangeet Bhavan at Viswa Bharati with a scholarship just 20 days after the demise of Gurudev in 1941,a fact that she rued many times.

She was under the tutelege of the bard's disciples Indiradebi Chaudharani, Shantidev Ghosh and Shailajaranjan Mazumdar.

Her first record appeared when she was only 24 in 1945. She set up 'Rabitirtha', an academy for teaching Rabindra Sangeet which has created a large number of talented singers.

Later, Mitra became an active member of the Indian Peoples Theatre (IPTA) as she believed that every human was a political being and music had the power to reach a message of unity and peace to the people. She toured various parts of rural Bengal with Hemanta Mukhopadhayay and Debabrata Biswas.

"But I don't belong to any party," she had said in an interview.

Mitra taught Rabindra Sangeet at the Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata and opened a department for it, which she headed till 1984.

A purist, she took upon herself the task of spreading Rabindra Sangeet and resisted any attempt at distortions of notations and words of the bard's original works.

She has to her credit innumerable records of Rabindra Sangeet, besides songs of Atul Prasad Sen and Dwijendralal Roy and some modern songs.

She also acted in Rituparno Ghosh's National award winning film 'Dahan'. Her other interests included painting and the performing arts. She produced Rabindra Nritya Natyas (dance dramas) and took part in many of them.

Suchitra, who has to her credit many books and essays on the grammar and techniques of Rabindra Sangeet and Gurudev's aesthetics had recently directed her efforts towards compiling an encyclopedia of Tagore's songs for students and

She had also served as the erstwhile sheriff of Kolkata in 2001.

Prez condoles Mitra's death

President Pratibha Patil on Monday said the death of eminent Rabindrasangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra would leave a void in the world of art and culture.

"I am deeply saddened at her death. She was a creative genius and a versatile personality. In her death there will be a void in the world of art and culture," the President said in a condolence message.

Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson Archana Dutta said that the President who was in Goa, also said in her message, "she was a renowned exponent of Rabindrasangeet and a great name in the field of performing art".

Earlier, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said Mitra, would be remembered for her wonderful rendition of Tagore's songs.