Moods of Malhar
S.D. Sharma

Artistes talk about the role and relevance of monsoon melody Megh Malhar

From left: Shovana Narayan, Meeta Pandit, L.K. Pandit, Pandit Yashpaul and Gurnam Singh
  Shovana Narayan            Meeta Pandit                L.K. Pandit                 Pandit Yashpaul            Gurnam Singh

Prominent seasonal ragas which evoke human emotions and sentiments in eloquent and irresistible ways include the rainy season Raga Megh Malhar, which has many derivatives and its intrinsic melody and beauty can best be relished when sung in the months of July and August.

Prominent maestros express their views on this king of ragas — Megh Malhar.

Able administrator,`A0prolific author, and danseuse of international eminence Padmashri Shovana Narayan has been enriching the Kathak genre for the last four decades through performances, lecture demonstrations and dance festivals.

Shovana says, "From among the large repertoire of Indian classical ragas, only the Megh Malhar is the extensively used raga in our Kathak themes, which are woven around the folk culture of Avadh, Braj, the legends of Lord Krishna as nayak and Radha as the nayika. I am using it in my more innovative projects for its capability of expressing the whole spectrum of human emotions in dance dramas."

Highly admired performer and guru, Pt L.K. Pandit, hailed as the doyen of the oldest Gwalior classical music gharana,`A0is the disciple son of Padma Bhushan Pandit Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and represents its unbroken fifth-generation lineage.

Commenting on the intrinsic melody of Raga Megh Malhar, Pt Rao Pandit attributes the magnificence and splendour of classical music to the contribution of musicologists from the vedic era and later the conception, invention and classification of the ragas in patent forms. Each raga exudes its own aura, perfectly in tune with the mood or sentiment inspired by the seasonal cycles.

"Megh Malhar or the Malhar group of ragas retain the opulence and fervour of the rainy season, evoking romance in all its moods: joy, longing and even pangs of separatio. Music maestros have woven many compositions to depict the Raas Leela of Lord Krishna with His divine consort Radha during the rainy season," says Pt Rao Pandit.

Pt L. K. Pandit’s illustrious disciple daughter, Meeta Pandit, a classical vocalist specialising in khayal and tappa gayaki, maintains that music stalwarts, both from India and Pakistan, have ventured to bring out the best of the melodic character of the original Raga Megh Malhar through new creations, keeping the basic character of the raga intact. "Malhar compositions like ‘Bol re papihra,’ ‘Karim tero naam,’ ‘Baadal garje bijuri chamke’ though structured in the old idiom still establish a deep connection with the mind and soul. Our Gwalior Gharana is a treasure trove of traditional compositions in Raga Megh Malhar, besides the lighter forms like Kajri and Saawan and we continue to sing at concerts with a blend of modern touch to reach out to the younger audience."

A highly acclaimed maestro of the Agra Gharana, academician and performer, Pandit Yashpaul, also a classical composer under pen name Sagun Piya, opines that music is not only emotional but also psychological and is meant to reflect subtle shades of sentiments stimulated by the atmosphere around. As such the various forms of Raga Malhar, a derivative of the main Raga Megh, when sung to perfection in the rainy season, induce instant joy and mutual love.

"Etymologically ‘Mal har’ means cleanliness of the mind from evil or bad thoughts, like the rains wash away all dirt from the environment. Raga Megh Malhar in its pure form is so rich in structure, theme, appeal and endless improvisations that great maestros like Tansen created new raga forms (parkars) of Malhar like Mian ki Malhar and others christened as Surdasi, Mirabai, Chanchal Sas, Gaud, Ramdasi, Roop Manjri, Nat Malhar and others in the olden era.

"A Kedar Malhar created recently failed to match the brilliance of the olden Malhars. But since tradition can only survive through innovation and adaptation to the contemporary cultural environment, young maestros must venture to explore the melodic potential of Malhar and other ragas with newer insights within the accepted norms and parameters," adds Pandit Yashpaul, to be bestowed with the President’s Award.

World renowned keertankar and musicologist Dr Gurnam Singh, at present professor and founder head, Department of Gurmat Sangeet, Punjabi University, Patiala, has the distinction of `A0presenting `A0complete 31 main ragas and 31 raga forms, 62 enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, for the first time in his melodious voice and the traditional musical style of Sikh music.

Dr Singh says that the sublime Indian classical music is always in tune with the divine, and our first five Sikh Gurus, besides Bhagat Nam Dev and Bhagat Ravi Das, had enshrined the blissful partaals (compositions) based on the most popular ragas of the Malhar family (except Mian ki Malhar) in the Guru Granth Sahib. Soaked in devotion, he recites "Baras ghana mera man bhina ..." Delineating the salient features of seasonal melodies like Raga Malhar and its family of popular ragas, Dr Gurnam Singh informs that it is imperative for the Sikh sangat to chant bandishes set in Raga Megh Malhar at the Darbar Sahib during the month of Sawan.

Much younger in years but old in experience, young classical virtuoso, Aditya Sharma, a research scholar at the Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, under Guru Ulhas Kushalkar, has a fancy for Raga Megh Malhar.

Winner of the All-India Radio music competition and national honour in inter-university youth fests, Aditya is a national level footballer also.

Sharing his personal experiences, he claims that the very recital of Raga Malhar, which is very close to nature, puts one in a state of calm contemplation, filling the mind with joy, and drives away tensions. Most youngsters, unaware of the magical influence of Malhar, definitely appreciate hit film songs like ‘Aei barkha bahaar’, ‘Mein teri hoyi re baalma’, ‘Dukhbhare din beete re bheyya’, ‘Nacha re mayura Mammadshaha rangile’, ‘Bol re papihra’ and many more.

On the growing awakening of classical music among youngsters, Aditya refers to the popular Malhar college festival in Mumbai, which is being hosted by the students of St. Xavier's College since 1979 and is attended by more than 20,000 students during the month of August.