An icon in the history of Indian Navy, Vice Admiral (retired) Manohar Prahlad Awati, died in his native village Vinchurni in Satara district in the early hours of Sunday. He was 91. Admiral Awati, who once headed the National Defence Academy, was known as the father of Indian Navy’s circumnavigation adventures.
Born on September 7, 1927, Awati was selected for the Royal Indian Navy in 1945. A specialist in signal communication, he served on Indian naval ships such as Ranjit, Vendurthy, Betwa, Tir and Mysore.
He was the commanding officer of INS Kamorta during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and successfully faced enemy operations for almost a fortnight. He was awarded the Vir Chakra for his leadership and gallantry.
Admiral Awati was instrumental in the envisaging and initiating projects of circumnavigation, right from the first solo adventure of Commander Dilip Donde back in 2010 to the latest all-women crew on INSV Tarini, which completed its mission early this year.
On the official Twitter handle of spokesperson of Indian Navy, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, stated, “Deeply regret to inform the sad demise of Vice Admiral MP Awati (retired) early this morning, at his hometown Vinchurni, Phaltan, near Satara. He was 91. A giant of a man, one of our tallest heroes and greatest icons. It’s truly the end of an era. May his soul rest in peace.”
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted, “Vice Admiral M P Awati (Retd) PVSM, Vir Chakra, passed away; was the commanding officer of a naval unit of the Eastern Fleet, December 1971. Captured three enemy ships carrying contraband goods. His actions led to destruction of an enemy submarine. An icon in naval history. My homage.”
Admiral Awati was the Commandant of the National Defence Academy between March 1976 and July 1977. He made it a point to attend every passing out parade of the Academy till as late as May this year. In 2015, Admiral Awati presented to the NDA a Webley Revolver of .38 calibre, which was handed over to him as a token of surrender by two senior Pakistan Navy officers during the 1971 War.
The revolver, which had been kept as a souvenir and displayed in the museum of INS Vikrant till 2015, is now in the museum of the NDA, a premier tri-services military training institution.
Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre, tweeted, “Deeply pained to know about the sad demise of Vice Admiral MP Awati (Retd), one of our tallest heroes and greatest icons. May his soul rest in peace. Deepest condolences with family.”
A senior Navy officer, who knew Admiral Awati well, said. “He was the embodiment of the ethos of the Indian Navy. He had a very warm personality. There was something in his personality and his endless enthusiasm towards the Navy and maritime history, as well as his interest and encouragement for circumnavigation adventures… it made the fraternity respect him and look up to him”.
As per his wishes, Awati’s last rites were performed at his native village Vinchurni on Sunday afternoon.