Thousands of people on Wednesday bade a tearful farewell to doyen of Oriya bhajan singer Bhikari Bal at Puri Swargadwar when the legendary singer's eldest son lit the funeral pyre amid chanting of prayers and gun salute by a State police contingent.

The highly acclaimed devotional singer and popularly called ‘Bhajan Samrat' passed away while undergoing treatment at SCB Medical College and Hospital here late on Tuesday night. He was 82 and is survived by wife and three children, including a daughter.

Governor M.C. Bhandare, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Culture Minister Devi Prasad Mishra, BJP leader Jual Oram and leaders of various other political parties expressed deep condolences to the bereaved family members of Bal who was ailing for the past several years.

His followers, fans, disciples and music lovers from across the State were shocked over the demise of the devotional singer who had immensely contributed to spread the Jagannath culture in and outside the State.

As soon as news of his death spread like wild fire, people from all walks of life rushed to the hospital last night to pay their homage to one of the ardent Jagannath devotee. Earlier, the mortal remains of the singer was taken to his native village in Kendrapada district, about 50 km from here in the morning before it was taken in a flower bedecked vehicle procession to Puri.

Recipients of several prestigious awards, the bhajan singer had also lent his voice to several Oriya films including Mathura Bijaya, Srikrushna Rasa Leela, Bhakta Salabega and Abhilasha.