Dara Singh, the childhood hero for millions, the he-man of Indian-style wrestling, 'Hanuman' for every kid and an eminent personality in politics, died on Thursday.
People from all walks of life -- locals to celebrities, politicians to filmmakers -- mourned his death.
The 84-year-old wrestler died after a cardio-respiratory arrest at around 7.30am at his Juhu bungalow in Mumbai.
The real action hero -- survived by his wife and three sons and as many daughters -- had been battling for life for past five days at the Kokilaben Ambani Hospital and was shifted to his house late Wednesday night in deference to his wishes to be with his family members.
He was rushed to the hospital on July 7 by his family members following a cardiac arrest. He had been in a critical condition since then. Two days later, he was put on dialysis after his kidneys stopped functioning.
Born on November 19, 1928 to Balwant Kaur and Surat Singh Randhawa in a Jat family of Dharmoochak village in Amristar, Dara Singh was encouraged to take to wrestling in the milked sand wrestling pits called 'akharas' due to his robust physique. He also worked at the family farm as a child.
Dara Singh had become the champion of Malaysia by defeating Tarlok Singh in Kuala Lumpur. He later took on international wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Stanislaus Zbyszko, and had over 500 professional fights to his credit - all undefeated.
Recipient of titles Rustam-e-Punjab (1966) and Rustam-e-Hind (1978), he won Professional Indian Wrestling Championship in 1953, and took away Commonwealth Wrestling Championship trophy in 1959. He announced his retirement from active wrestling in 1983. In 1989, he published his autobiography 'Meri Atmakatha' in Punjabi.
His first cinema release was the 1952 'Sangdil' and then came a succession of films like 'King Kong', 'Faulad', 'Sher-e-Watan' that earned him the name of Bollywood's action king.
Another successful phase in his acting career came when he bagged the role of Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar's TV serial 'Ramayan' in 1986. People liked him so much that BR Chopra roped him in to play the same role in 'Mahabharat'.
In his over five-decade long acting journey, he featured in 140 films, including classics such as 'Anand' and 'Mera Naam Joker'. He was last seen in 'Jab We Met'. He became a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from August 2003 to August 2009.
Saying the legend had achieved laurels as a wrestler in the national and international arena and proved to be an "enduring role model" to the youth and sportsmen of the country, Vice-President Hamid Ansari said his acting career was most memorable for the intensity and diversity of characters that he had portrayed. His role as a nominated member of Parliament is remembered by one and all.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the wrestler was self-educated "son-of-the-soil" who rose to the heights of the entertainment world, sports arena and public life with humility and grace.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Dara Singh who has been an inspiration and icon to many generations in our country."
The BJP top brass also mourned the death of the wrestling giant. BJP veteran LK Advani lamented that in his death, India has lost a jewel. He will be remembered for his great contribution in the field of wrestling and acting.
BJP national president Nitin Gadkari said he was a staunch BJP supporter and had campaigned for the party in several elections. Senior party leader Sushma Swaraj mourned, "He distinguished himself not only as a sportsperson but also as an actor and a member of Parliament."
Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, information and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda mourned the Rustam-e-Hind's death.
The Indian Olympic Association said Indian wrestling in 50s and 60s was synonymous with Dara Singh and there is no doubt he gave a new direction to this sports which till that time was confined to rural areas of the country.
The Wrestling Federation of India said the wrestling fraternity has lost a personality who earned name and fame in the field of macho-sport at national and international level.