Anyone who has endured the unrelenting heat of the Indian summer will appreciate the relief that the Monsoon brings to the Indo-Gangetic plains. Cleansed of the heat and the dust, all nature seems to wear a new shiny robe. Suddenly the air is laden with the smell of damp earth and the gathering clouds cover the scorching sun with the promise of showers. The men and the boys are on rooftops flying kites of a hundred colors, while women and children swing from the branches of lofty trees. Peacocks fan out their long incandescent tails and the Papiha bird sings its love songs. The whole atmosphere is loaded with the symbology of love and yearning.
The ancient Vedic culture of India believed in the invocation of the rain Gods to bring life to the parched plains of India. Ragas were sung in scientifically worked out lengths and recited with specific musical notes to initiate the onset of rains each year before the season. Musical geniuses in ancient India believed that specific notes, sung in certain phrases, could darken the skies and bring a downpour of rains. In fact, this practice of invoking the rain Gods continues even in modern India whenever there is fear of a delayed Monsoon.
Begum Akhtar – Chha Rahi Kali Ghata :
Munawar Ali Khan – Kari Ghata Ghir Aayi Ri Sajani :
The monsoon is knocking at our doorstep. While the southern part of India is already drenched with heavy rainfall, the northern part of the country still awaits the sweet smell, that emanates from the first drop of rain falling on the sun baked earth. The rains have always been unpredictable, the science of meteorology notwithstanding. However, some things have remained steadfast down the centuries, and one of these is India’s concept of monsoon music. Ragas that bring out the romance of rain are a part of our heritage.
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Kabir (or Kabir Das), one of India’s most quoted poets and mystics is not easily categorized as a Sufi or a Jogi. He is both of these. Kabir is unusual in that he is spiritually significant to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike. Kabir touches the soul, the conscience, the sense of awareness and the vitality of existence in a manner that is unequalled in both simplicity and style. He stands as a unique, saintly, yet very human bridge between the great traditions that live in India. Almost every hindustani classical vocalist aspire to sing the poetry of Kabir, sometime in his or her singing career. An entire raga, Kabir Bhairav has been dedicated to his work.
Kabir was born in Benares, India, probably around the year 1440. His birth itself is shrouded in mystery, some say he was the son of a Brahman widow, what is known though is that he was brought up in a family of muslim weavers. He was never formally educated and was almost completely illiterate. All of Kabir’s recorded verses are in Hindi. The beauty of Kabir’s poetry is that he picks up situations that surround our daily lives. Thus, even today, Kabir’s poetry is relevant and helpful in both social and spiritual context. His lyrics are characterised by a free use of the vernacular, and is unfettered by the grammatical bonds of his day. It is this quality which has made his philosophy accessible to generations of Indians.
Kumar Gandharva – Ud Jayega Hans Akela : (Download)
Ashwini Bhide – Chadar Ho Gayi Bahut Purani : (Download)
Some of his dohas, as his two-line verses (couplets) are popularly called :
कबीरा खड़ा बाजार में, मांगे सब की खैर
ना काहू से दोस्ती, ना काहू से बैर।
साँईं इतना दीजिये, जामें कुटुम्ब समाये
मैं भी भूखा ना रहूँ, साधू ना भूखा जाये।
बुरा जो देखन में चला, बुरा ना मिलया कोई
जो मन खोजा आपना, मुझ से बुरा ना कोई।
माया मरी ना मन मरा, मर मर गये शरीर
आशा त्रिश्णा ना मरी, कह गये दास कबीर।
दुख में सुमिरन सब करें, सुख में करे ना कोये
जो सुख में सुमिरन करे, तो दुख काहे को होये।
चलती चक्की देख के, दिया कबीरा रोए
दो पाटन के बीच में, साबुत बचा ना कोए।
धीरे धीरे रे मना, धीरज से सब होये
माली सिंचे सौ घड़ा, ऋतु आये फ़ल होये।
ऐसी वाणी बोलिये, मन का आपा खोये
औरों को शीतल करे, आपहुँ शीतल होये।
जाती ना पूछो साधु की, पूछ लीजिये ज्ञान
मोल करो तलवार की, पड़ी रेहन जो म्यान।
माटी कहे कुम्हार से, काहे रोंदे मोहे
ईक दिन ऐसा आयेगा, मैं रौंदूगीं तोहे।
साधु ऐसा चाहिये, जैसा सूप सुहाय
सार सार को गही रहे, थोथा देय उडाय।
बड़ा हुआ तो क्या हुआ, जैसे पेड़ खजूर
पंथी को छाया नही, फल लगे अति दूर।
Early in his life Kabir became a disciple of the Hindu bhakti saint Ramanand. It was unusual for a Hindu teacher to accept a Muslim student, but tradition says the young Kabir found a creative way to overcome all objections. Not much is known about what sort of spiritual training Kabir may have received. He did not become a sadhu or renunciate. Kabir never abandoned worldly life, choosing instead to live the balanced life of a householder and mystic, tradesman and contemplative. Kabir was married, had children, and lived the simple life of a weaver.
Although Kabir labored to bring the often clashing religious cultures of Islam and Hinduism together, he was equally disdainful of professional piety in any form. This earned him the hatred and persecution of the religious authorities in Benares. Nearing age 60, he was denounced before the king but he was spared execution and instead, banished from the region. He subsequently lived a life of exile, traveling through northern India with a group of disciples. Legend says that he relinquished his body when he was about 120 years old. He died at Maghar near Gorakhpur, India.
One of the most loved legends associated with Kabir is told of his funeral. Kabir’s disciples disputed over his body, the Muslims wanting to claim the body for burial, the Hindus wanting to cremate the body. But, when they lifted the burial shroud, they found flowers where the body had rested. The flowers were divided, the Muslims buried the flowers while the Hindus reverently committed them to fire.
Amongst the vocalists of the younger generation of the Jaipur-Atrauli tradition of Khyal singing, Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande is an artiste of great caliber. She has been performing in a number of prestigious music conferences in India for over fifteen years and have had successful concert tours of Europe as well as of North American continent.
Ashwini began her training at the age of five under the guidance of Pandit Narayanrao Datar. After graduating with a “sangeet visharad” from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, she started receiving guidance and meticulous attention from her mother, Smt. Manik Bhide, a great Khyal singer herself. Ashwini has inherited all that was best in her mother’s style and was able to add a lot to her repertoire with great sensitivity and intellect. Presently she is receiving guidance from Pandit Ratnakar Pai, a veteran of the Jaipur gharana.
Systematic exposition of the Raag structure, brilliant phrasing, variety of taan patterns, ease and grace in all of the three octaves mark her singing. She does not merely present the gammer of a Raag, but can build it up into an aesthetically pleasing experience.
A resident of Mumbai, Ashwini is a graduate in Microbiology and also holds a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry.
Here is one of her rendition in Raga Bhup, Malaniya Layi :