Bhakta Raj Acharya
Bhakta Raj Acharya

Bhakta Raj Acharya, popularly known as Bhajan Siromani, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 82.  Acharya, a chronic cancer patient, passed away on his way to the hospital. His demise marks the loss of another legendary figure in the Nepali music industry. He was a contemporary of Narayan Gopal and Prem Dhoj Pradhan.

Mutu Jali Rahecha, Hajar Sapana Haru ko, and Ma Kahi Katai Haraye Bhaney are among his evergreen songs.

Born in 1942 in Dhankuta, eastern Nepal, Acharya’s family migrated to Kalimpong, after an epidemic. In Kalimpong, Acharya’s struggles began as he lost his father at a young age. Raised by his mother, who worked on a tea farm, Acharya developed an interest in music while living there. Despite his passion, he dropped out of school to pursue music, much to his mother’s anger. At the time, there seemed to be no promising future in the music industry.

His mind, however, was set. Music was all he wanted to do and he started to look for ways to do it.

Kalimpong to Kathmandu

From Kalimpong, Bhakta Raj Acharya migrated to Kathmandu. His financial status was not great but he had a dream and he was willing to go through anything to fulfil it. All he brought from Kalimpong was a harmonium and a steel box.

Then he began singing in Kathmandu. But, he did not achieve and earn anything and he ran out of money. Afterwards, he returned to Kalimpong. 

After trying his luck with singing in Kathmandu and facing financial difficulties, Acharya found himself back in Kalimpong. However, encountering familial conflicts, he decided to return to Kathmandu. During the bus ride back, he made a promise to himself: he would not return home until he succeeded in becoming a singer.

Bhakta Raj Acharya is a legend in Nepal’s music scene. A biopic titled Acharya has shed light on how much struggle he went through in his career.

In 1974, he won a gold medal in the National Level Singing Competition organised by Radio Nepal. This opened doors for him, leading to a job at Radio Nepal and marking the beginning of a flourishing musical career.

The versatile artist

Acharya has sung around 500 songs. This included both originals and playback. He garnered acclaim for his musical compositions and was particularly renowned for his bhajans, earning him the title of Bhajan Siromani.

His influence extends beyond his own career, as his children, Satya Raj and Swaroop Raj, have carved out their own distinct identities in the Nepali music industry.

Throughout his career, Acharya’s songs have resonated deeply with listeners. His contributions to the Nepali music scene include iconic pieces such as Mutu Jali Rahecha, Jati Chot Dinchau, Jaha Chan Buddha Ko Aankha, Hajar Aankha Herne, and Sabai Behosi.

Beginning of the end

His career was going great but in 1990 everything changed. A targeted attack on Bhakta Raj Acharya left him with a severe head injury. He was rushed to Bir Hospital, but it took 12 days before he underwent head surgery, performed by neurosurgeon Dr Upendra Devkota. This incident brought his singing career to an abrupt halt.

In 1993, Acharya faced another setback when he was diagnosed with an ulcer on his tongue, which later was identified as cancer. Subsequently, he underwent the amputation of his tongue. This left him unable to speak or eat properly, and many of his aspirations remained unfulfilled. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, he succeeded in realising his dream of contributing timeless songs to the Nepali music industry.

“We have lost a legend, it is an unrecoverable loss,” says music composer Sambhujit Baskota. “He was a university of music.” 

For Baskota he was like an elder brother even though he was his contemporary.

“We have had some really good times. The Nepali music industry owes a lot to him and he will always be remembered,” he said.

Baskota further says that Bhakta Raj Acharya is a testament to the power of dedicated practice in music, likening him to a university that demonstrates this effectiveness.

Baskota, however, is disappointed with the government’s indifference towards singers like Acharya.

In addition to his prowess as a singer, Bhakta Raj Acharya was also highly skilled as a music arranger.

“We have lost a remarkable musician,” says musician Alok Shree. “Since the day Acharya was forced to stop singing, Nepal’s music industry has been grappling with a shortage of quality music.”

Alok Shree reflects on Acharya’s exceptional singing ability, noting his precise pronunciation and pitch.

Musician Raju Singh echoes Alok Shree’s sentiments regarding Acharya’s impeccable pronunciation and singing prowess.

“He was a singer of international calibre, known for his flawless pronunciation,” Singh says.

At one point, Pakistani veteran ghazal singer Ghulam Ali praised Acharya’s singing abilities.

Singh stresses Acharya’s role as an inspiration to Nepali singers, asserting that his songs will always be remembered fondly.

Adios, Bhakta Raj Acharya. 

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