57. Bewitching Smile of Mohammad Rafi


Have you ever seen Mohamed Rafi, the great Play Back Singer without his bewitching smile? Those who have seen  him and closely interacted with him confirm that Rafi could never be seen without his usual sweet smile…I used to wonder what could have been the sentiments behind his smile…

I am reminded of a Ghazal ‘Mera Jee Hai Jab Thak Theree’ of the Urdu Sufi Poet and  Ghazal Composer, Khwaja Meer  Dard”, the meaning of which is below:


‘My mission is to go in search of you, as long I have life in me..I will talk only about you, as long as I have a tongue to talk.. If I have a craving for something, it is only for you..You are my desire..It is only you that I keep in my heart..I have drifted enough in flower gardens of this universe..How unique is the color and fragrance of the flower of friendship..How blissful is the ability to see..What a great fortune is the opportunity to meet the friends..It will be the end of you and I, the moment our eyes get closed..O, Dard..! Whom shall my eyes search to have a talk..? Wherever I look around, I could see none but HIM…!!’

I have the feeling that these must have been the sentiments behind  Rafi’s smile…Otherwise, he could not have sung so beautifully, songs like Shakil Badayuni/Noushad teams’s Darbari Kannada song ‘Bhagavan…O duniya ke rakh waale, sun dard bhare mere naale..’, Sahir Ludhyanvi/N.Dutta team’s Bhairavi song ‘Too hindu banega na musalmaan banega, insaan ki oulaad hai insaan banega’…

Oh, we have gone too serious in philosophizing…Let us hear another beautiful song he has sung in the movie ‘Baiju Baavra’ to create a beautiful romantic scene in the same…Imagine what it is..?


56. Mile Sur Mera Tumhara… – Song In Desh Raga For National Integration Through Music…



Music, as we all know, affects our minds through its melodic presentation. Psychologists have made extensive studies on the impact of music on one’s moods and mind. Neuro-Musicology, is a recent innovation in science which examines the impact of music on the human brain. Music Therapy, the practice of Neuro-Musicology, has emerged as an adjuvant branch of medical science for treatment of ailments affecting the brain and assist the patient in bringing back to his normal health and happiness.


We have read in Puranas the melody of the flute recital of Krishna, while he was in Vrindavan. The large number of cows grazing there used to raise their heads, listen to it and get themselves exhilarated. Good music, be it Karnatic or Hindustani; Folk or Film music, which are pleasing to the ears, influence our central nervous system and the brain and induce in us a state of equilibrium which is beneficent to all human organs. It is the brain and the central nervous system that control all the organs and the functions in the body. When the brain is in a tranquil state, it induces the same tranquility in all the organs and the systems and renders peace and happiness to our body and mind.

Devotional music from ancient times, has been used by many religions to smoothly enable one in changing the pace of changing one’s brain waves from the agitating beta-state to relaxed alpha-levels. It is only at alpha levels that one could cultivate love – the love which extends beyond one’s selfish considerations and moorings. No doubt, singing Bhajans, Kirtans, Prayer Songs, Liturgical Music etc are indeed an effective way through which one can attain instant relief from the over-active mind. But such relief occurs only when the listener has faith in religion and God or at least that he is not averse to listening to them. But Indian classical music, whether it is Karnatic or Hindustani and songs based on their ragas are unique in their respects by virtue of their melodic splendor and these can also provide the same relief, irrespective of one’s religion, faith, cast creed and even political outfit, provided one has a heart to cultivate a liking for it …!

It is for reasons mentioned above, I humbly request to all concerned with Music of India including the Government, Music Promotional Organizations, Artists and connoisseurs to do everything possible to ensure that every citizen of India acquires the ability to have appreciation of Music. Further, every one of us should try to be proficient in both the streams of Indian Classical Music, viz Karnatic and Hindustani Music and their sub-divisions without pride or prejudice, as both these forms are the most beautiful and the best forms of music on earth.
When joint efforts and activities to promote both these streams of our music become more widespread, duly accepting them by all Indians as OURS, regardless that they belong to the South or North, then the National Integration through Music becomes a REALITY…

Then the messages conveyed through the famous national song “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” become MEANINGFUL….Let us hear it again to get these important aspects once again registered in our minds…

55. Music and ‘Pradosh Samay’- ‘Shiv Lasya’- Prashant Sastry & Laksmi Gopalaswamy


Unlike the present day children, we had plenty of time for playing and relaxation. Of course, we too had home work to do; but not to the extent  they have it today. We had long vacations, free of assignments and project work, to celebrate it with cousins, relatives and friends, to participate in Temple Uthsavaas, to attend Music Concerts, to enjoy night long performances of  Kathakali, Mohiyattam. Ottam Thullal, Kootiyattam and other traditional arts.. Alas! Those days are never to be returned  They have now been replaced by Summer Projects, Picnics in this country and even abroad, TV shows…

Even during school days,  we used to find time for our plays and pranks once the  sessions are over at 4 pm. We then rush home; by that time, we would be too hungry. The school used to be 3km away from home and we walk down the distance in about 45 minutes. After eating of whatever mother had prepared for that day, we are ready  for playing by 5.30 pm. Then upto 6.30 play only. Each day it may be different plays. After that we go to the pond and jump into it and swim for some time. By 7.00 pm we must be at the prayer room. If we make noise at that  time our Grand mother will scold us saying- “Look children! This is ‘Pradosh Samay’ and you should not make any noise. Instead keep on chanting “Namashivaaya”….

The significance of the ‘Pradosh Samay’ and the need to chant “Namasshivaaya’ , insisted upon by our Grandmother,  remained oblivious to my mind till I read a primordial Sanskrit Sloka from one of the old relics, during my  musical searches and inquiries during the last decade. Let me quote that Sloka to make matters clear…

“वाग्दॆवी धॄतवल्लकी, शतमखो वॆणुं धॄतः, पद्मजॊ

ताळानन्दकरॊ, रमा भगवती गीताप्रयॊगान्विता

विष्णुः सान्द्रमॄदंगवादनपटुः, दॆवाः समन्ता स्थिताः

सॆवन्तॆ तमनुः प्रदॊषसमयॆ दॆवं मॄडानीपतिम्..”

(During the ‘Pradosh’ time, when Shiva and his consort, Devi  Mrudaani,  perform their cosmic dance; Goddess Saraswati, the Vagdevi,  plays Veena; Indra, who has done 100 Yagaas plays Flute; Brahma maintains the Taal; Bhagavati Rama, consort of Vishnu sings; Vishnu, doyen in playing Mrudanga, is engaged in it and all the celestials stay around in service…)


I wonder whether there is any major change in the pattern of a concert between what had been narrated in the Sloka from what is prevalent even today..?  Well, there are minor changes…In Karnatic Music, Baluswami Deekshitar and Vadivelu have improvised it with Violin for Veena…In  Hindustani Music, Rudraveena was  replaced  by Saarangi and Pakkavaj was replaced by Tabla when Khyal took prominence over Dhrupad. Sadarang-Adarang (Niyamat Khan and Firos khan of Mughal Emperor Muhamad Shah Rangeela’s court) introduced Tabla and Sarangee in place of Pakkvaj and Rudraveena. They introduced Khyal in Rangeel’s Court.

In most of our Indian Dance forms, the above pattern is followed with only minor  deviations… This is our heritage we Indians can be proud of…

Now let us witness a real cosmic dance of Shiv-Parvati, which is said to take place during ‘Pradosh Samay….’



Manipravalam, a hybrid language used as a literary style by the medieval poets and music composers in South India. Manipravalam  had its genesis in the then Tamilakam as an admixture of Tamil and Sanskrit, which incidentally gave rise to the transition  to the early Malayalam from Tamil prevalent in the then Kerala region.

Muthuswami Deekshithar

This particular school of poetry was patronized by the elite classes. The composition of this dialect also reflects the way Aryan and Dravidian cultures were moving towards a synthesis.

The second of the Trinities of Karnatic Music, Muthuswami Dekshitar, whose major works have been in Sanskrit, had however composed three major Kritis in Manipravalam.

Of the 485 published compositions of Dikshitar, 479 are in Sanskrit, 3 in Telugu and 3 in Manipravalam. In the Manipravala kritis, he had used both Tamil and Telugu, apart from Sanskrit in creating them.

They are:

  • shrI abhayamba ninnu chinthinchinavAriki (shrI)
  • vEnkaTacalapate (karnataka Kapi)
  • sri maharajni (karnataka kApi).

The first song beautifully sung by Ms. Dhanya Subramanian can be accessed through the following web link::

The Text and meaning of this Kriti can be seen at Page 79 of my book ‘Core of Karnatic Music’(2003).


The Travancore Maharaja Swati Tirunal  had  composed 15 Manipravala kritis using Malayalam and Sanskrit as Mani and Pravala. They are:

  • alar’sara Parithapam(suraTi)
  •  AndOlikAvAhanE (Anandaabhaairavi)
  • hanta jIvanAyaka(nIlAmbari)
  • hanta j~nAnEndu(gauri)
  • hanta ~nAninnu(pantuvarALi)
  • indirApati viLa.nguM(navarOj)
  • jalajabandhu(suraTi)
  • kanakamayamAyIduM(hu’sEni)
  • kAntanOdu cennu(nIlAmbari)
  • kulirmati vadanE(dhanyA’si)
  • manasi dussahaM(Ahiri)
  • nAga’sayananAM(pantuvarALi)
  • pa.nkajAkSanAM(tODi)
  • pa.nkajanAbhOtsava(mOhanaM)
  • tellu pOluM k.rpA(kuranji)

Kerala’s prestigious dance form, Viz.Kathakali is an area, where Manipravala is used by their lyricists extensively. I would cite a few examples: 

  1. Unnaayi Variar’s Nalachaitam(1st Day)

Nala, who was in love with Damayanti and was on his way to attend her Swayamvara at Vidarbha,  was caught on the way by the four lords, viz.Indra, Varuna, Agni and Yama and directed him to go to Damayanti as their emissary in an invisible form called ‘Tiraskarini’, conferred on him by the Lords and convey their desire that She must marry one of the four. The relevant Pada in Kalyani Raga is as under:

Amrutamati madhuram peeyatE, kaala-
manisam kaLikaLkoNTu neeyatE
AnavadhiguNamanubhooyatE, chira-
maayuranavadhi jaayatE …

(Here only the word ‘kaLikaLkonTu’ is in Malayalam, meaning ‘with  pleasantries’ and rest of the words are all Sanskrit)

2.  Irayimman Tampi’s ‘Keechakavadham’

A piece of the DaNdaka, which portrays the pathetic picture of Draupati, who was compelled by the Queen of ViraaTa to go to Keechaka’s palace, is given below:

‘Daasyam samastajanahaasyam ninacchu, nija-
maasyam namiccu punarEshaa
VijitasurayOshaa vigata paritoshaa.
Muzhuki bata malinataraveEha…

(Here only four words are in Malayalam(Ninacchu=Thought; Namicchu=Bent  AthiluTane=In It,at once; Muzhuki=drowned)

Droupati carrying ‘Madhu’ to Keechaka

You can observe this very ‘Dandaka’ scene being sung and enacted in Kathakali form from the following youtube  link:

Kottayathu Thampuran who composed four great kathakali Aattakathas,  viz. kirmeeravadham, kalakeyavadham, Bakavadham and Kalyanasougandhikam, had also extensively used Manipravalam in these works.

53. Kabir Bhajan ‘Ghat Ghat Me Panchi Bolta’- Basavi Mukerji


Sant Kabir (1440 -1518 AD) was one of the greatest sons of India, who lived in north India during the period of the Bhakti movement. He was considered a great poet as well as a mystic. The Holy Guru Granth Sahib contains over 500 verses by this venerated saint. The life of Kabir is wrapped up in contradictory legends which emanate from Hindu and Islamic sources, which claim him, by turns, as a Sufi or a Hindu saint. According to legends, he was found floating on a lotus leaf in a tank in Benaras by a Muslim weaver. The weaver took the helpless baby under his care and following traditions, named him ‘Kabir’, meaning ‘the great one’. Even at a young age, Kabir displayed enormous spiritual affinity. Later, he took Guru Ramanand who hailed from south India as his preceptor. He was considered to be an enlightened person of wide religious culture, who dreamed of reconciling this intense Mohammedan mysticism with the traditional theology of Brahmanism and even Christian faith. Thus Kabir acquired the wisdom not to have affiliation to any one particular religion. Kabir always sang the glory of a single God and a single religion. He wrote very many words of wisdom, mostly in the form of Dohas, in simple language that is understood by the common man. One such Doha and its meaning are given below. It is an ode to a new born…

‘Jab tun aayaa jagat mein, log hanse tu roye
Aise karni na kari paache hanse sab koye’

(When you came to this world, people laughed and you cried
Don’t do such deeds which make them laugh when you are gone…!)
During Kabir’s time, Varanasi was the very center of Hindu priestly influence, which subjected him to considerable persecution. One of the legends narrates of a beautiful courtesan, who was sent by the Brahmins to tempt Kabir’s virtue. Another story speaks of Kabir being brought before Emperor Sikandar Lodi, charged with having possession of divine powers, who banished him from Varanasi in 1495. It is further said that thereafter, he wandered throughout northern India with his disciples; continuing in exile a life of an apostle and a poet of love. Kabir passed away at Maghar near Gorakhpur in 1518.
The last legend about him was that, after his death, his Muslim and Hindu disciples disputed the possession of his body. The Muslims wished to bury the body in a tomb, the Hindus wanted to cremate him following their religious rites. But alas! When they went for the custody of the body, all that they could find in its place was a heap of flowers…!!
Our legendary singers like Kumar Gandharwa, Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar, Jagjit Singh, Anoop Jalota and several others have sung many of his verses in the form of Bhajans. One such Bhajan is:

ghat ghat mein panchhi bolta,
ghat ghat mein panchhi bolta
aap hi dandi aaap taraju,
aap hi baitha tolta,
aap hi maali aap bagicha,
aap hi kaliyan todta,
sab ban mein sab aap biraaje,
jad chetana mein dolta.
kahat kabira suno bhaayi saadho,
man ki ghandi kholtha.

Let us now hear this Bhajan in the melodious voice of Basavi Mukerji, the Professor cum vocalist of Hindustani Music from Shantiniketan. According to Basavi, this Bhajan, based on raagas Vibhas, Bhatiar etc.was composed by her first guru, the late Pt Kashinath Bodas.

52 ‘Diya Jalao’ – by K.L Saigal as Tansen in the Hindi Movie Tansen(1943)


Mian Tansen

Tansen (1506 – 1589) is Considered as the greatest musician in India.. He was one of the Navaratnas (Nine Gems) in the court of Emperor Akbar. Tansen was born in a Hindu family in a place called Gwalior located in Madhya Pradesh. His father was a poet by name of Mukund Mishra. Tansen’s name was Tannu Mishra. He received the prefix “Mian” from Emperor Akbar. As a young boy, Tansen learnt music initially from Swamy Haridas and subsequently from Muhamed Gous, both legendary teachers of that time. He then married Gous’s daughter and got himself converted to Islam. He is said to have performed miracles through his music, like he brought rain by singing in a Raag called Megh Malhar and lit the whole palace lights of Akbar through his singing in Raag Deepak. He composed several Hindustani Ragas like Bhairav, Darbari Todi, Darbari Kanada, Mia Ka Malhar, Sarang and Rageshwari. Let me now take you to a scene from the famous Hindi movie of 1943, ‘Tansen’, in which the legendry Singer-Actor, K.L..Saigal had enacted as Tansen. The scene is how he lit the whole palace of Akbar through his song ‘Diya Lalao’ in Deepak ….

51 ’Endaro Mahanubhavalu’-The last of the Pancharatna Kriti of Saint Tyagaraja


Saint Tyagaraja

Saint Tyagaraja who lived in Tiruvayyaru in Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu during the 18th century and early 19th century, was the greatest composer of Karnatic Music. Among his compositions, the Pancharatna Kritis are considered to be the gems and they are sung together my musical devotees during ‘Tyagaraja Aradhana’ conducted at Thiruvayyaru every year as a mark of respect to him. The Pancharatna Kritis are Jagadananda Karaka – Ragam Naata; Dudukugala – Ragam Goula; Sadhinchane – Ragam Aarabhi; Kanakana Ruchira – Ragam Varaali; Endaro Mahanubhavulu – Sri Ragam. Among the five kirthanas, Endaro Mahanu bhavulu’ is considered to be the most famous one. It is said to have sung by his disciples in front of Shadkala Govinda Marar, a great musician from Kerala, to express his appreacition and respect to Marar, who surprised him by singing the famous Ashtapadi (Githagovindam) ‘Chandana Charchitha’ in Shadkala…. Here is a scene from a Telugu movie showing the very same sequence…

50 ‘Prem Jogan Ban Ke’ – Mughal-E-Azam by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan


Ustad BadeGhulam Ali Khan

This song ‘Prem Jogan Ban Ke’ in the Hindustani Raga SOHNI was sung by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in K.Azif’s famous Hindi film, Mugal-e-Azam. The song was intended to portray the legendary Tansen, one of the Navaratnas of Emperor Akbar’s Court, giving his musical performance in the Central Platform, reachable via four footbridges in Anup Talao, a pond built with a small island in the middle, in Fatehpur Sikri, very near to the emperor’s chambers. It is said that Tansen used to perform different ragas at different times of day for the emperor and his select audience…It is also said that K.Asif had to shell down Rs 25000/- to the Ustad for singing three songs in the movie, when the great singer Mohammad Rafi used to be paid only Rs 500/- per song…. !!

49 An Annamacharya kriti by Bharatratna M.S.Subbalaksmi


Bharatratna M.S.Subbalakshmi

Annamacharya had composed most of his devotional kritis in Telugu; but had composed in Sanskrit too. One of his most famous Sanskrit kritis is ‘Bhavayami Gopala Balam’ in the Raga of Yamunakalyani. Bharataratna. M.S.Subbalaksmi had sung it so beautifully In this clip. The greatness of her rendering is that she masters the nuances of the language in which it is composed before she sings any song. So when she sings a Sanskrit Song, Telugu Song or Tamil Song, the pronunciation will be exactly as demanded by these languages. Her rendering is so clean and clear, which makes her an exception to those who believed that lyrics are not all important in music and musicians need care only for music and not for its lyrics…!

48 Amaro Bicharo Tumi Koro – Suchitra Mitra – A Tribute to Tagore on his 150th birth day on 7th May 2011


Rabindranath Tagore

‘Amaro Bicharo Tumi koro’ is a haunting song from the Tagore film ‘Debotar Grash’ , sung by late Suchitra Mitra in the Raga Kedar. In this poignant story of Tagore, the co-travelers in a sailing vessel in the Ganges sacrifice a boy to Ganga for saving rest of them from the storm that came unexpectedly, by physically throwing him to the river under mob fury, in the presence of his own widowed mother for her innocent statement to the boy, while getting into the vessel, ‘I will give you to Ganga for getting into the vessel, without my knowledge and joining me in my pilgrimage, instead of my instruction to you to stay at home till I come back….’