Raag Shree is sung essentially as the sun sets, and is the most popular raga that best depicts the spiritual, yet anxious and intense mood of Hemant Ritu.
The end of Sharad Ritu (autumn) marks the end of the most important Hindu festivals starting from Navratri to Sharada Pournima (Kojagiri Pournima), Vijayadashmi (Dussehra) and the most important of them - Deepavali.
Sharad Ritu that ends with full of positivity, colour, vigour, enthusiasm and brightness, is followed by Hemant, which brings to us the sacred and holy yet anxious time period just before the chill sets in. Yes! It is the time to await the winter. This is the ritu which attracts musicians for concerts . The Hemant ritu covers the Margashirsh and Pausha months, starting mid-October and continuing till mid-December as per the Gregorian calendar.
And it is Raag Shree that depicts the spiritual, devotional, yet anxious, intense and fervent mood of Hemant Ritu. It’s a raga that catagorises itself in the Poorvi thaat, which in a way explains why ‘anxiousness’ is a sentiment that dominates the experience that the listeners get when they hear its renditions. Two other major factors add to this mood of restlessness. One is the dominant usage of meend that refers to a gradual glide from one swara to another. Second is the time in which this raga is usually sung, the fourth prahar of the day, close to sunset.
Here’s one of the best renditions of Raag Shree by late Pundit Ravi Shankar who did a pivotal job of introducing Hindustani classical music to the world. (Today we have British sitarists like Clem Alford who have not only been performing Indian vocabulary of music but have gone ahead and bagged the title of Sur Mani).
Sunset – marking the beginning of darkness as the sun sets, also brings with it the mood of restlessness and fear along with romance and spirituality.
Here’s a beautiful rendition of Raag Shree by Ustad Amir Khan, the founder of Indore Gharana whose father - Shahmir Khan, a sarangi and veena player of the Bhendibazaar gharana, served at the court of the Holkars of Indore.
Shree, being one of the oldest Hindustani ragas is believed to have an association with Shiva. It also finds a dominant place among the 31 ragas appear in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Tracing the origin of this raga may be difficult yet some scholars do claim that Shree may have been sung as a melody calling out to the devas to alleviate one from anxiety.
Here’s the tappa queen of India, Malini Rajurkar addressing this raga in her own style. Malini Rajurkar is best known for her mastery over tappa, an Indian semi-classical genre that’s believed to have found its roots in the folk music that originated in the hearts of Punjab and Sindh.
Raag Shree is also which is believed to be one of the six purush (male) ragas has not featured prominentlu in Bollywood or old Hindi cinema. One of the most obvious reasons behind the raga being so rare is the complex structure of swaras that make the rendition of the raga difficult. Accomplished Hindustani classical vocalists claim that this raga demands a great competency and mastery over swaras and a crystal clear voice modulation. Although the complicated permutations and combinations of swaras that makes this raga quite demanding, Raag Shree has its own reasons that do attract music lovers even today in the world of Hindustani classical music.
Here’s one of the rare Hindi film song based on Raag Shree from the film Andolan released in 1951. It’s composer was Panna Lal Ghosh and singer, Parul Ghosh.