Eminent Indian classical singer and music director, better known as a noted vocalist of Jayadeva’s ‘Gita Govind’, Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi died of cardiac arrest at his residence here on Sunday, family sources said.

He was 80.

Pandit Panigrahi, who was diagnosed with throat cancer a couple of months back, suffered a heart attack at around 11:30 AM. However, he was rushed to the Capital Hospital, where the doctors declared him brought dead, the sources said.

The doyen of Odissi music maestro had celebrated his 79th birthday on August 10. Pandit Panigrahi is survived by two sons.

His wife, noted Odissi dancer Sanjukta Panigrahi, had passed away in 1997. Incidentally, Raghunath breathed his last, a day after his wife’s death anniversary on Saturday.

Pandit Panigrahi’s effort to popularise poet Jayadeva’s ’Gita Govinda’, which has been hailed as the fountainhead of Odissi music, not just in the state but worldwide, has been praised by his admirers.

Born at Gunupur in Odisha’s Rayaga (earlier Koraput) district, Panigrahi learnt from his father the classical way of singing ‘Gita Govinda’, which describes the unique relationship between Lord Krishna and the ‘Gopis’, as preserved in the traditions of the Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri.

Besides making his place in the world of classical music, Raghunath got the tag of being a ‘Suramani’ (a title given to him for his deeply mellifluous voice). He had also left an indelible mark on Odissi light classicals like ‘Na Jaa Radhika’ and an out-and-out modern love song like ‘Nali Nali Ei, Krushnachuda’ or ‘Nupoor Bajaai Kie’

Pandit Raghunath was the first Odia singer to be honoured by the French government for his ‘Gita Govinda’ composition way back in the 70s. However, the noted vocalist had to wait till 2010 for the Padmashri award, a belated honour for the great master.

The soft-spoken and ever smiling singer, however, was a man of determination when it came to taking bold decisions in life.

He decided to give up a very successful and lucrative career in Chennai as a playback singer for Telugu and Tamil films to team up with his newly married wife Sanjukta Panigrahi, who was then dreaming of launching a worldwide campaign to popularise the classical Odissi dance form.

It was a very tough life after that and the couple had problems tackling survival issues for quite a few years. But Pandit Raghunath refused to crack under pressure and continued to pursue the ‘great dream’ together with his better half.

He established the ‘Sanjukta Panigrahi Memorial Trust’, which spots and encourages budding Odissi singer and dancers and recognising excellence in the art.

A dog lover, neighbours of the legendary vocalist recalled in Ashok Nagar area of the city, recalled how the maestro would take every ailing or injured stray dog in the area under his care and nurse it back to health with care and attention.

Odisha governor S.C.Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik were among those who condoled the death of the Odissi maestro.

“All of us are deeply distressed by the tragic demise of Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi. This is a real loss to the world of classical music and he will certainly be deeply missed by his many friends and admirers,” Mr. Patnaik said.