Renowned Gujarati folk singer and Padma Shri awardee Diwaliben Bhil passed away at her residence in Junagadh Thursday morning due to age-related ailments. She was 75. “Diwaliben died a natural death. She was suffering from age-related ailments for the last few years,” her nephew Vijay Bhil said. She was 11 days short of her 76th birthday.
Born in a tribal family at Dalkhaniya village in Dhari taluka of Amreli in 1941, Bhil took folk singing to new heights. Condoling her death, PM Narendra Modi tweeted: “Sad to know of passing away of well known Gujarati folk singer Diwaliben Bhil. Her contribution to the cultural sphere is monumental. RIP.” CM Anandiben Patel said the world of music lost a stalwart. “In death of Diwaliben Bhil, the world of music in Gujarat has lost a stalwart whose melodious voice rings in houses of Gujarat through folk songs, songs of bravery and bhajans that she sang,” Patel said in her condolence message.
A self-taught singer, Diwaliben did not take a formal education in music and singing. Vijay Piplotra, a Junagadh-based journalist who has written about the popular folk singer, said that it was in 1952 that Hemu Gadhvi, another great folk-singer from Gujarat, spotted Bhil’s talent. “Gadhvi happened to be in Junagadh while Bhil was singing garba at Vanzari chowk of the city during Navratri. He recognised her talent and made her a singer of All India Radio. Since then, her career soared to new heights,” said Pilotra.
Bhikhudan Gadhvi, a folk musician who received Padma Shri this year, said: “Diwaliben introduced folk singing to the outer world. She learned many folk songs from her mother Monghibai. Her death has left a void which can never be filled.”
Professor Ambadan Rohadiya, director of Shri Zaverchand Meghani Lok Sahitya Kendra — a centre promoting research and study of Gujarati folk literature and oral traditions at Saurashtra University in Rajkot, said, “Bhil’s contribution to folk music and folk literature in general was unparalleled.”