Padma Shri laureate Ramchandra Manjhi, whose performance in the Bhojpuri folk dance “Naach” for eight decades helped preserve the ailing art form, died in a hospital here after a long illness, his family said on Thursday .
Manjhi, who was 97, left behind four sons and two daughters.
The folk dancer was admitted to the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences on September 2 for heart problems and other ailments. He died Wednesday evening.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has expressed his sorrow at Manjhi’s death.
“The disappearance of Ramchandra Manjhi is an immeasurable loss to the world of Bhojpuri folklore, art, dance and culture. He was a great popular artist. My condolences to his family in this hour of mourning,” Kumar said in a message of condolence.
Manjhi was a famous performer of ‘Launda Naach’, a subset of ‘Naach’, in which men dress up as women. Her passion for the dance form even at an advanced age has earned her several accolades including Sangeet Natak Akademi (2017) and Padma Shri (2021).
Born in the Saran district of Bihar in 1925, Manjhi was the last offspring of Bhikhari Thakur’s legendary ‘Naach’ folk dance form. He was one of the members of the original troupe of Bhikhari Thakur, known as the Shakespeare of the Bhojpuri language.
Manjhi was currently associated with the Bhikhari Thakur Repertory Training & Research Center in Saran, a troupe led by renowned filmmaker and artist Jainendra Dost.
Dost told PTI, “Manjhi ji passed away at 11 p.m. Wednesday. He had suffered from heart disease for a long time. His condition worsened yesterday.
Bihar’s Minister of Art and Culture, Jitendra Kumar Rai, said his passing “has left a huge void in Indian folk art, music and culture”.
Deepak Anand, Additional Secretary of the Department of Arts, Culture and Youth, told PTI, “Manjhi ji’s contribution to the field of Indian folk dance is second to none and he will be remembered for it.”
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