Aruna Lama, daughter of Surya Bahadur Lama and Sanmaya Lama was born on September 9, 1945 (Bhadra 24, 2002 BS) in Darjeeling, India. She was the voice of the Nepalese people and had charmed many listeners from a very early age. She is widely known as ‘The Nightingale of the Hills’ and “Swar Samraagi” in Nepali.
Early Life and Education
Aruna Lama was inspired by her uncle CB Lama to pursue music and started singing at the age of seven and never looked back since then. She studied at St. Teresa’s School in Darjeeling and sang at many school cultural programs. At school, she mesmerized her friends and teachers with her melodious voice. And when she was 11, she won the Music Competition organized by the Gorkha Dukha Niwarak Sangh in 1956. Later on, she graduated in Arts from Darjeeling Govt. College.
Aruna Lams started taking formal music lessons from musician Amber Gurung. Her tutor was so impressed with her singing that he gave her the title, ‘Nightingale’. Soon she gained a lot of fame and popularity. She has sung for many music composers, especially Amber Gurung, Shanti Thatal, Narayan Gopal, Dibya Kaling, and Gopal Yonzon. The first song she sang was written by Bhupi Sherchan and composed by Amber Gurung in the year 1961. Her first recorded song immediately touched the hearts of people as it talked about youth and sadness. Then other songs followed which became instant hits. Her famous songs include Phool lai sodhey, Pohor Saal Kulsi Phatyo, Hera Na hera Kancha, and many other highly famed ones. Her songs were also featured in the films like Maitighar, Kanchhi, and Paral ko Aago.
Marriage and Music
Aruna Lama married Saran Pradhan a musician, lyricist, and composer on 9 July 1963. After marriage, she prioritized her husband and children more while her singing career took the backseat. After much persuasion from other musicians and artists, she made a comeback. She then lent her mellifluous voice to the music compositions by Karma Yonzon, Gopal Yonzon, Ambar Gurung, Shanti Thatal, Narayan Gopal, Mani Kamal Chettri, and Dibya Khaling. Her fans dearly loved those songs.
She had an innately unique voice that brought Aruna back to the spotlight and she was acclaimed as one of the best Nepali female singers of all time along with her contemporaries like Tara Devi. She also worked as Assistant Teacher in St Alphonsus during 1965 AD
In 1974, the midnight of May 4 came as a big curse in Aruna’s life. That was when she lost her beloved husband in a road accident. She was just a 30-year-old widow working at the Chit fund. Aruna had no other choice but to be strong to tackle the tough times, to be a sole bread earner, and to bring up her young children all by herself. She was employed by the Government of India in the capacity of a senior Inspector in the welfare office for the scheduled castes and tribes where she served until 1998.
She was a strong-willed woman and made sure that both her children, Sapna (Pradhan) Thapa and Supreet Raj Pradhan, received sound education while she toured for concerts. Despite her work obligations, she continued in her husband Saran’s footsteps, living his musical dream.
Aruna Lama performed some amazingly heart-warming songs at Raag Rajat in Gorkha Rangamanch in Darjeeling and the Arunanjali at Pragya Bhawan in Kathmandu. Acknowledged by the West Bengal Government as the ‘nightingale of the hills’, she was bestowed with numerous awards to honor her contributions to the music industry, in both the countries, Nepal and India.
The awards she received are listed as follows:
- Sangit Puraskar (1966)
- Sur Sringar Sammelan Puraskar (1966)
- Mitrasen Puraskar (Asam Nepali Sahitya /Sanskritik Parisha,Dibrugarh (1975)
- Dishari Puraskar (Kolkata 1980)
- Bhanu Academy Puraskar (Darjeeling 1982)
- Nepali Chalchitra Puraskar (Maiti Ghar 1983)
- Chinnlata Gett Puraskar (Kathmandu-Nepal 1992)
- Urvashi Rang Puraskar (Kathmandu-Nepal 1992)
- Mitrasen Sangeet Puraskar (Gangtok-Sikkim 1995)
- Gorkha Dakshin Bahu 4th (Kathmandu-Nepal 1996)
- Sadhna Puraskar (Kathmandu-Nepal)
- Nightingale of the Hills-Hindustan Recording Sangsthan-Kolkata
- Swar Kinnari-Sitaram Sahitya Pratisthan ,(Kathmandu-Nepal)
- Swar Samagri-Arunanjali Programme(Kathmandu-Nepal)
- Accolades and Programmes : Raag Rajat(Rajat Jayanti) Gorkha Rangamanch – Darjeeling 1981
Aruna Lama passed away in New Delhi on 4 February 1998 AD and her body was brought to Kathmandu for final rites. Musicians, singers, and thousands of wellwisher throng to mourn her death and pay last respects to their beloved ‘nightingale’.
She sang hundreds of Nepali songs, including some for Nepali Films, and left an indelible mark as one of the best singers in Nepali music.