Pandit Bhajan Sopori (1948-2022) was a renowned Indian santoor player, honoured with many national and international awards. On 2 June 2022, he took his last breath in Fortis Hospital, Gurugram, Haryana. He was suffering from colon cancer.
Bhajan Lal Sopori was born on Tuesday, 22 June 1948 (age 73 years; at the time of death) in Sopore, Jammu and Kashmir, India. His zodiac sign is Cancer. He did a Master in Indian Classical Music (specialisation in Sitar), a Master in Indian Classical Music (specialisation in Santoor), and a Master in English Literature. He then pursued a degree in Western Classical Music at Washington University, Washington, US.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Hazel Brown
Pandit Bhajan Sopori was born in a Kashmiri family.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Pandit Shamboo Nath Sopori, was a santoor player.
A picture of Pandit Bhajan Sopori’s father
Wife & Children
He was married to the Indian professor Aparna Sopori. The couple has two sons named Sorabh Sopori and Abhay Sopori, who is a santoor player too.
Pandit Bhajan Sopori with his wife, Aparna Sopori, and son Abhay Sopori
Pandit Bhajan Sopori with his wife, sons, and grandsons
His grandfather, Pandit Samsar Chand Sopori, was a santoor player.
Journey of a Santoor Maestro
Pandit Sopori was the eighth generation santoor player in his family. In childhood, he started his training in playing the santoor under his father and grandfather, who were renowned Indian santoor players. His first performance in a public concert was at the age of 5. When he was 10 years old, he got an opportunity to perform along with his father in Prayag Sangeet Samiti at the University of Allahabad. His performance set a benchmark in the concert which helped santoor in establishing as a solo instrument on various national and international platforms. Before this, people were not much aware of santoor. When he grew up, he started working as a music composer and santoor player at All India Radio. From 1990 to 1993, he was transferred to AIR, Delhi, but he then decided to return to Jammu and Kashmir, as music almost vanished from the state. In an interview, while talking about it, he said,
I was with All India Radio when I was transferred to Delhi in 1990. For three years, no music was produced from the Valley. When I decided to go back, there was not even a tabla player to accompany me. They were so scared (of the terrorists).”
Pandit Bhajan Sopori’s old phot
After returning to Jammu and Kashmir, he started focusing on local folk music. He started composing folk music, and he helped in spreading awareness about the importance of folk music. He composed a collection of prayers and Tarana-e-Watan (patriotic songs) along with 8000 school and college students as the choir. The song was sung as a common prayer in Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir. Later, Pandit Sopori composed ragas like Laleshwari, Patwanti, and Nirmalkauns. He worked as a composer in more than 6000 songs in various languages such as Hindi, Kashmiri, Dogri, Sindhi, Urdu, and Bhojpuri. He composed Hindi patriotic songs like ‘Bharat Bharat Hum Iski Santaan,’ ‘Hum Honge Kaamyaab,’ ‘Vande Maataram,’ and ‘Naman Tujhko Mere Bharat.’ Some of his recomposed Hindi songs are ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna,’ ‘Vijayee Vishwa Tiranga Pyaara,’ ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa,’ and ‘Bharat Ki Beti.’ Apart from songs, he composed music for ghazals of poets like Ghalib, Daag, Momin, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Kabir Das and Meera Bai. To promote Indian classical music in India, he founded a music academy SaMaPa (Sopori Academy for Music and Performing Arts), New Delhi, in 2011.
Pandit Bhajan Sopori performing in a concert
He also organised music classes for the prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir. Under his academy, he started a music award SaMaPa Vitasta Award in which a cash prize of Rs 50,000 was given to the winner. Pandit Bhajan composed music for the tableaus for the Indian Republic Day Parades. In 2010, he won the first prize for Sangeet Natak Akademi Tableau in the republic day parade.
Awards & Honours
- Maharajah Travancore Swati Tirunal Puraskar 2019, Kerala
- Sangeet Ratna Srijan Shikhar Samman 2019, Delhi
- Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa) 2018 by Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee National Award 2018, Delhi
- Sathkalarathna Puraskar 2018, Sathkalapeetam, Payyanur, Kerala
- Ustad Bale Khan Memorial Award 2018, Bengaluru
- Distinguished Service Award 2018 by Delhi Govt, MTNL, NDMC & Health Care
- Foundation of India), Talkatora Stadium, Delhi
- Pandit Ramji Upadhyay Lifetime Achievement Award 2018, Delhi• PhD Art & Culture Samman (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2018, Delhi
- Sangam National Award 2018, Delhi
- Shanti Devi Gangani Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2018, Delhi
- Shudh Dhwani Samman 2018, Delhi
- Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa) 2017 by Hindustani Art & Music Society, Kolkata
- Swati Tirunal Award 2017, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- Upendra Bhanja Samman 2017, Delhi
- Munnu Guru Sangeet Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2017, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
- Kashmir Music Club Shashrang Award 2017, Kashmir, J&K
- Himalayan Cultural Centre Award 2017, Delhi
- Ustad Hafeez Khan & Ustad Basheer Khan Award 2017, Delhi
- Dhrupad Shri (Title Honour) 2016, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- J&K Government Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 by Govt. of J&K, Srinagar, J&K
- Baramulla District Administration Award of Honour 2016, Govt. of J&K, Baramulla, Kashmir, J&K
- Baramulla District Administration Award of Honour 2016, Govt. of J&K, Sopore, Kashmir, J&K
- Rotary Sur Samrat Sangeet Ratna Samman 2016, Delhi
- Maraz Abdi Sangam Award 2016, Kashmir, J&K
- Sangeet Martand Samman (Title Honour) 2015, Delhi
- Pride of India Lifetime Achievement Award 2015, Delhi
- 31st S Radhakrishnan Memorial National Teacher and Media Award 2015, Delhi
- Atal Bihari Media Excellence Award 2015, Delhi
- Atal Vaibhav Shikhar Samman 2015, Delhi
- DAV Distinguished Alumni Award 2015, Delhi
- Sangeet Vibhuti Samman (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2015, Jaipur, Rajasthan
- Global Literary Festival Honour 2015, Delhi
- Sargam Mandir Swaran Jayanti Samman 2014, Delhi
- Sangeet Shiromani Award 2014, Delhi
- P Jhunjhunwala XXIV National Excellence Award 2014, Delhi
- Art Karat Award 2014, Delhi
- Indian Fine Arts Society Award 2013, Kingdom of Bahrain
- Pracheen Kala Kendra – Koser Award 2013, Chandigarh
- Delhi Ratna Award 2013, Delhi
- National Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh (Ustad Latif Khan Samman) 2012, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
- 19th Blockbuster Sur Aradhana Sangeet Ratan Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2012, Delhi
- ECSS Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2012, Delhi
- Best Citizens of India Award 2011, Delhi
- Rajiv Gandhi Pratishta Samman 2011, Delhi
- S. Agarwal Award 2010, Kolkata
- Ustad Ashique Ali Khan Sangeet Bhushan Award 2010, Delhi
Pandit Bhajan Sopori receiving Sangeet Bhushan Award
- RaagRanjani Sangeet Bhushan Samman (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2010, Delhi
- Ninaad Sangeet Kala Ratna Samman 2010, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
- N. Mathur Smiriti Kumbh Award 2010, Udaipur, Rajasthan
- Naad Chetanya Samman 2010, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
- RAWA (Renaissance Artists & Writers Association) Award 2010, Delhi
- Baba Allauddin Khan Award 2009, Delhi
- Ustad Chand Khan Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2009, Delhi
- Srijan Cultural & Social Development Award 2009, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
- Maa Shardey Samman (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2009, Ajmer, Rajasthan
- Ma Sharika Samman 2009, Faridabad, Haryana
- National Dogri Award 2008, Jammu, J&K
- Sumadhur Hansdhwani Samman 2008, Delhi
- J&K Government Civil Award (Highest Civilian Award of J&K) 2007, Srinagar, J&K
- Raag Sagar (Title Honour) 2007, Delhi
- Pandit Gama Maharaj Samman (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2007, Delhi
- Sangeet Vibhuti Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2006, Delhi
- Shree Bhatt Kirti Puraskar (Lifetime Achievement Award) 2004, Delhi
- Akashwani Special Honour 2004, All India Radio, Delhi
- Padma Shri 2004 (4th Highest Civilian Award of India), Delhi 14th Shama Award 2004, Delhi
Pandit Bhajan receiving Padma Shri
- Munnu Guru Sangeet Smriti Samman 2004, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
- Kashmir Samiti & KOA Award 2004, Jammu, J&K
- Beenkar Samman (Title Honour) 2003, Kolkata
- Kashmir Overseas Association International Award 2003, Boston, USA
- Celebrate India Award, Denver 2000, USA
- Millennium Delhi Ratna Samman 2000, Delhi
- YMCA Ability Utsav Award 2000, Delhi
- Radio Kashmir Srinagar (All India Radio) Golden Jubilee Award 1998, Kashmir, J&K
- National Shiromani Award 1996, Delhi
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 1993 (Highest Performing Arts Award of India), Delhi
Pandit Bhajan Sopori receiving Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
- Delhi Telugu Academy Award 1993, Delhi
- Sharda Samman 1993, Delhi
- Distinguished Leadership Award 1993, USA
- Kala Snehi Samman 1993, Delhi
- Punjab Sakha Award 1992, Delhi
- Kala Yogi Award (Title Honour) 1991, Mumbai
- Abhinav Kala Samman 1988, Bhopal
- National Flag Honour of the Arab Republic of Egypt 1986, Egypt
- Ismailia International Folklore Festival Award 1986, Arab Republic of Egypt
- Akashwani Annual Award 1985 for Compositional work by All India Radio, Delhi
- Akashwani Annual Award 1984 for Compositional work by All India Radio, Delhi
- Akashwani Annual Award 1983 for Compositional work by All India Radio, Delhi
- Akashwani Annual Award 1979 for Compositional work by All India Radio, Delhi
Pandit Bhajan Sopori receiving National Akashwani Award
- 1st Prize in State Music Competition 1963 (Santoor) by J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar, J&K
Note: He has many more accolades to his name.
On 2 June 2022, he died of a prolonged illness caused by colon cancer. He was under the treatment at the Fortis Hospital, Gurugram, Haryana, where he took his last breath. On his demise, his son said,
He was diagnosed with colon cancer last year in June. We admitted him to Fortis, Gurugram, three weeks back for immunotherapy treatment. It didn’t work for him and his health deteriorated.”
His last rites were performed at the Lodhi Road crematorium, Delhi. The former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to share his grief, he said,
Very sorry to hear about the tragic demise of Padma Shri Pandit Bhajan Sopori sahib.A great son of the soil, he was a colossus in the world of classical Indian music who made the santoor his own. May his soul rest in peace. My condolences to @abhaysopori and the rest of his family.”
- Pandit Bhajan Sopori belonged to a Sufiyana Gharana.
- He was known as “Saint of Santoor” and “King of Strings.”
- Apart from santoor, he used to play musical instruments like guitar, mouth organ, and sarod.
- He was a teacher, poet, and writer too.
- His name has been listed in various biographical note volumes like Famous India’s Who’s Who, the Asia Pacific Who’s Who, Asian Admirable Achievers, Personality of the Year, and Kohinoor Personalities of Asia.
- His compositions were used as a sound therapy for the patients.
- In 2011, a stamp of Rs 5 was dedicated to Pandit Bhajan Sopori by the Indian Postal Department.
- As of 2022, he is the youngest music composer to work in the National Orchestra of India (Vadya Vrinda).