After the warm Indian Summer, we long for the rains.
We long for cooler winds and the dark, thunderous clouds that accompany the rain. The monsoon brings relief not only to us but to the burning, thirsty earth which eagerly awaits its arrival.
One of the most distinct sensations of the first rains is the pleasant smell that arises from the wet earth. There is even a word for it, “petrichor” pronounced pet-ri-kuhr.
During the height of summer, one of the most popular requests from my friends is to sing Raag Malhaar to cause a downpour. The request unsurprisingly changes once the roads get flooded after the rain – I am then requested to stop singing the Malhaar! I have sung a bandish in Raag Miya Malhaar to give you a sense of it.
So, have you ever wondered what this Raag Malhaar is all about?
Malhaar is a raag in North Indian Classical Music associated with the monsoon. There are many stories behind the origin of the name.
There is one story pertaining to the great Miya Tansen.
The tale begins with jealousy and a challenge.
Miya Tansen was one of the “Navratans” (9 jewels) in the court of Emperor Akbar. The Emperor was very close to Miya Tansen and had a special fondness for him. This did not go well with some of the other courtiers. They were jealous of Tansen. As a way of getting back at him, they challenged him to light the lamps in the court by singing Raag Deepak. This had never been done before! Tansen took up the challenge and sang Raag Deepak. As he sang it got hotter and hotter until the heat became unbearable.
When he reached the crescendo of his recital, the lamps lit up. Tansen himself was so warm that his daughter (who was also his student) was summoned and asked to sing Raag Megh Malhaar which had been taught to her by her guru. The singing of Raag Megh Malhaar brought the rain, much to the relief of the emperor and his courtiers.
Since then, Raag Malhaar has been associated with the monsoon.
Today, we live in a modern world run by science and technology. While cloud seeding can possibly make artificial rain, it’s humanly impossible to expect musicians to sing Raag Malhaar and make it rain.
So, my friends requesting me to sing Raag Malhaar during summer is taken in good jest and at best, a compliment!
It is said that the use of the note Gandhar (g) depicts thunder and crashing rain, while the use the of the natural and flat Nishad (ni) gives the feeling of running water.
While a musician may not be able to bring rain by singing, they can certainly create an image or atmosphere that can be as powerful and compelling. A musician can re-create the feeling of a cool breeze, of rain-drops falling from the sky, the smell of water falling on hot blazing ground and dark clouds thundering etc., by singing certain phrases and notes of the raga.
So, on that note, enjoy some beautiful compositions in Raag Malhaar.
I hope you can re-create all the beautiful images associated with the monsoon while listening to these compositions.
- Raag Sur Malhaar: Dar lage garaje badariya from RamRajya, music by Vasant Desai, singer Lata Mangeshkar
- Raga Goud Malhaar: Garajat barsat savan aayo re from Barsaat Ki Raat, music by Roshan, singers Suman Kalyanpur & Kamal Barot
- Raga Megh Malhaar: Dukh bhare din bite re bhaiya from Mother India, music by Naushad, singers Asha Bhosle, Manna De, Mohd. Rafi, Shamshad Begum.
- Raga Miyan Malhaar: Bole re papihara from Guddi, music by Vasant Desai, singer Vani Jayram
And very recently for those of you who watched Bandish Bandits on Amazon Prime would recall the scene when Garaj Garaj composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy is sung and raindrops finally start falling.
I have rendered the bandish (composition) Saawan Jhariyo Jhari Aayo in Raga Miya Malhaar in Addha-Teentaal for your listening pleasure:
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