The mighty monsoon has blessed us with plenty of rain, but in George Harrison’s words, “All things must pass” and so this season has got to go too. As the flamboyant varsha ritu passes, it makes way for the beautiful sharad ritu, the season of autumn. While there aren’t very many ragas associated with this season, let’s explore the few that are, in as much depth as we can.
The transition from one season to another can be a tricky affair, especially from monsoon to autumn that is from varsha ritu to sharad ritu. While the rains exit, they become erratic and we see the graceful dance of light and shadow; of dry and wet spells. All of this makes a great ambience of celebration and prayer, or let’s call it the Ganesh Utsav. If you ever have been to Mumbai around this season, you will know exactly what I speak of. There are huge mandaps, and massive queues to get a glance of the elephant headed deity everywhere.
Somewhere around the fourth or the fifth day of the ten-day festival, comes the day of Gauri Poojan. The day when the energies get balanced. This goddess of purity, love and kindness, Gauri, inspires a raga that is often associated with the sharad ritu. Raag Gauri is from the thaat Bhairav, and sounds almost like Bhairav, but has some minor changes in how it’s approached. The pure classical form of the raga can be experienced in Bhimsen Joshi’s performance here.
Like I mentioned, the raga is inspired by the Goddess Gauri, who is but a form of goddess Parvati. So, if you were to see Raag Bhairav as a form of Shiva Himself, it is but natural to assume that Raag Gauri will be a Raagini of Raag Bhairav. In the song below, you will get a taste of the devotion I speak of. Today, Pandita Ashwini Bhide Deshpande is one of the most prolific classical vocalist and a scholar of the art; a “Pandita” in the true sense of the word.
Raag Gauri finds mentions in the Guru Granth Sahib too, and is sung in Gurudwaras and other gatherings in the form of shabads. The beauty of our form of music is that it adapts itself to any setting it finds itself in; be it into the Western form of singing or in courts, temples or Gurudwaras. In the links below, you will witness Raag Gauri being sung in shabads. The first is an authentic performance at a Gurudwara, and gives a feel of how it is traditionally rendered.
The second is a more new age approach to shabads, as an attempt to be able to effectively translate and educate the listeners.
There are quite a few who can bring a smile on your face with their song. But there are only a handful few who can make you weep with their voice. Just one alaap, and you’re overwhelmed with emotions. One such legend was Pandit Kumar Gandharva. I have literally saved the best for the last for you. Below is one of the most heart wrenching of all classical renditions in Raga Gauri. Enjoy.
Now that you have an introduction to Raag Gauri, we shalt meet the lord of ragas, Raag Bhairav in our next tete-a-tete. Raag Bhairav is so elaborate, and so widely sung and used in compositions, that we may spend more than just one article on discussing the various implications of the raga, from classical to commercial, to ghazals, to bhajans to Sufi. Until then, listen to good music, and have a great Ganesh Utsav.