The cause was a heart attack, said his doctor, R. K. Agarwal.
His death set off a wave of mourning nationwide. Thousands followed the body in a procession to his cremation on Thursday afternoon. India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, called Dara Singh a “self-educated son of the soil” who had been “an inspiration and icon to many generations in our country.” In a Twitter message, the Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan called Mr. Singh “our very own Superman.”
Mr. Singh, a household name in India, rode that renown to win a seat in India’s upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, serving from 2003 to 2009 as a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Many likened him to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor of California.
Though never deemed more than an average actor, Mr. Singh nevertheless commanded a mass following in Hindi cinema’s black-and-white era as a hero who, while championing what was right and good with rippling muscles, was also every inch the gentleman. He vowed never to play a bad character.
Dara Singh Randhawa was born into a Sikh farming family on Nov. 19, 1928, in a village in the northern province of Punjab, near the Pakistan border. Brawny even as a child, he was encouraged to pursue traditional Indian-style wrestling and did so with spectacular success, winning tournaments across India and earning a reputation for flooring opponents with ridiculous ease.
In the 1950s and ’60s, the British wrestling historian Charles Mascall ranked Mr. Singh as the 10th-greatest heavyweight wrestler of all time.
He became the Commonwealth Champion in 1959 and, in 1968, world champion when he defeated the American wrestler Lou Thesz.
Mr. Singh was at the pinnacle of his prowess and fame as a wrestler when he started working in films in the 1950s. His massive physique and noble image made him ideal for characters that epitomized masculine strength and pride and heroic virtues. Among his Hindi cinema hits were “King Kong,” “Samson” and “Tarzan Comes to Delhi.” The popular Bollywood actress Mumtaz appeared with him in 16 films.
Mr. Singh, who appeared in nearly 150 movies, later switched to character roles. He was also involved with Punjabi films as an actor, director and producer.
For all his film work, he may be best remembered in India for a television role, that of the mythical monkey god Hanuman in the popular series “Ramayana,” an adaptation of the Hindu epic.
Mr. Singh, who married twice, is survived by three sons and three daughters.
Some Indians saw him as a man who transcended any narrow characterization, whether wrestler or actor.
“He had star quality, all right,” Vir Sanghvi, a former editor of The Hindustan Times, wrote in a blog post on Friday. “But he had much more to offer. He represented an Indian ideal of goodness through strength. His persona — like his real-life personality — was straightforward: he was a good guy, who never did anything dirty or devious and who used his strength to protect the weak and to fight evil. In that sense, he was the first Indian superhero.”R Soft Web Hosting