Noted tabla player Lachchhu Maharaj of the Banaras Gharana died of a cardiac arrest at a private hospital here on Wednesday. He was admitted after he felt uneasy and complained of chest pain. A pall of gloom descended among music lovers in the city after the news of his death spread.
His younger brother Rajendra Prasad Singh said, “Maharaj was 73. We rushed him to a private hospital when Maharaj complained of severe chest pain soon after feeling uneasiness. Doctors diagnosed that the cause of pain was heard attack and gave him treatment. During late night, Maharaj passed away.”
Singh added, “His real name was Lakshmi Narayan Singh. He started playing tabla at tender age of 10 under guidance of our father Vasudev Singh, who was also a renowned tabla player. Starting from ‘tak dhin dhhinaa’, he had learnt tabla fast and attained perfection.”
“He had utmost perfection in tabla playing since beginning. His unique style coupled with perfection earned him fame and Lakshmi Narayan turned into Lachchhu Maharaj. His performance drew attention of the connoisseur of performing arts and music lovers from across the country,” Singh said.
Bollywood actor Govinda is his nephew.
Famous for his pure Banarasi style and affable nature, Maharaj developed spiritual and philosophical tunes which he used to play often during his practice sessions (riyaaj). His reached the zenith of his fame in 1971. Maharaj along with Sitar player Padma Shri Abdul Halim Zafar Khan and a classical dance artist, Laxmini Panigrahi, toured 27 countries for 40 days.
Singh said that the Centre decided to give him Padma Shri which he refused saying that no award was bigger than laurels from the audience. He was very close to former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar.
Maharaj’s student Lucky Upadhyay said, “Maharaj’s style of playing tabla was entirely different. His ‘tak dhin dhinna’ performance was extremely popular among the audience. For him, tabla was a way for spiritual elevation. Maharaj used to be so engrossed in ‘riyaaz’ that it would continue for hours daily.”
He was the only player whose performance had reflection of all four tabla gharanas. Several foreigners learned tabla under his tutelage. Besides, many of his students are now part of Bollywood.
Maharaj’s nephew, Prashant Singh, said that his wife Teena and daughter, who are in Switzerland, were informed about his death. They are likely to arrive on Friday. Thereafter, the last rites would be performed at Manikarnika Ghat. Prashant is also one of his pupils.
Several music lovers and fans of Maharaj expressed deep grief over demise of the legendary tabla player.