Dara Singh - the champion loses his final fight; Bollywood, politicians, sports fraternity condole his demise

Mumbai: Former Wrestling champion and veteran actor-turned-politician Dara Singh died at his home on Thursday morning following a brief illness. He was 84.

Dara Singh had been undergoing dialysis at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital but was shifted home after chances of his revival looked bleak. It was his family's wish that he should be home in the last stages of his life. He is survived by his wife and six children - three sons and three daughters. One of his sons, Vindu Dara Singh, is a known name in showbiz.

"Angel now gone to shine like a star up above," the actor's son, Vindu Dara Singh, texted after his father's death.

The veteran actor was rushed to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Saturday by his family members following a cardiac problem. He had been in a critical condition since then. Two days later, he was put on dialysis after his kidneys stopped functioning.

Dara Singh, who had won the title of Rustam-e-Hind for his wrestling prowess, appeared in various films and TV serials. He is best known for his portrayal of Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and in BR Chopra's Mahabharat. He had appeared in films like Watan Se Door, Daada, Rustom-E-Baghdad, Sher Dil, Sikandar E Azam, Raaka, Mera Naam Joker and Dharam Karam. He was last seen in the 2007 release Jab We Met. He had also directed films.

Indian film stars and politicians alike issued messages of praise and condolences on the death of wrestler-turnedactor-turned politician Dara Singh, while the government said it was "deeply saddened" by the news.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he rose to the heights of the entertainment world, sports arena and public life with humility and grace.

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Dara Singh, who has been an inspiration and icon to many generations in our country... his contribution to the Hindi and Punjabi cinema, wrestling and the Upper House of the Parliament will be remembered by millions," he said.

"I wish to send my deepest condolences to the family of Dara Singh and to his countless admirers in India and abroad," he said.

BJP Parliamentary Party Chief L K Advani said he and his party are deeply saddened by the demise of Singh. "The country has lost one of its gems. The void caused by the death of Dara Singh, who was a kind-hearted soul, cannot be filled."

Standing tall with rippling muscles, Dara Singh made a name in the field of professional wrestling and had over 500 professional fights to his credit, all undefeated. Dara Singh won the title of 'Rustam-E-Punjab' and 'Rustam-e-Hind' for his wrestling prowess. Also, he became the Commonwealth Champion in 1959 and in 1996 he was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.

He was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from August 2003 to August 2009.

Dara Singh was born in November 1928 in village Dharmuchak of Amritsar, Punjab. A childhood hero to many for his wrestling prowess, 83-year-old Singh played Hanuman in epic teleserial Ramayanan and also dabbled in politics.

Dara Singh learnt the Indian style of wrestling. He was a favourite at wrestling tournaments in India. His massive physique helped him a lot in his wrestling days.

Meanwhile in a condolence message, IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra said “Indian wrestling in 50’s and 60’s was synonymous with Dara Singh and there is no doubt he gave a new direction to this sports which till that time was confined to rural areas of the country”.

Prof Malhotra said by his fine behavior on and off the ring Dara Singh also raised the profile of this sports and added glamour quotient to it.

Dara Singh’s rise to the fame also attracted rural youths to this game and gave them a sense of self belief. Indian wrestling will miss the genial giant, May his soul rest in peace.

Meanwhile Bollywood too paid tribute to the veteran actor. Messages poured in on social networking site Twitter.

Anupam Kher
on Twitter "Dara Singh ji was LARGER than life but never made anyone feel dwarfed with his presence. The strongest and the humblest. A Hero All The Way."

Akshay Kumar on Twitter "Sad to know the great Dara Singh ji is no more. Some more goodness taken away from us... He was Hanuman for every kid and the God of all wrestlers, the original action hero who truly inspired me."

Mahesh Bhatt on Twitter "Dara Singh passes away!Memories of this warm 'pehlwan' turned actor flicker in my memory.When childhood heroes die the world looks desolate."
Farhan Akhtar on Twitter "RIP Dara Singh. Always respected the honesty & dignity with which you lived your life."

Amitabh Bachchan on Twitter "Dara Singh ji passed away this morning. A great Indian and one of the finest humans..An entire era of his celebrated presence gone !"