ICCR Organises Malhaar Festival to Invoke Rain God

When faced with hot searing heat the thought of rains is like the proverbial manna from heaven.

In a tradition observed annually by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations since 2004, noted vocalists and dancers are gathering to invoke the rain god through the Malhaar festival.

This year the festival beginning July 8 features artistes from different styles for each of the three day duration of the festival.

"The festival will provide yet another insight into both national and the international audiences into complex and the resonance of Indian performing arts traditions which varies from session to session," says Suresh K Goel, Director General, ICCR

Malhaar is one of the rainy-season ragas performed from June to September. Its mood is joyful because the rain cause the crops to grow and the flowers to bloom. Malhaar is frequently combined with other ragas, particularly Megha.

Many artistes from medieval period and earlier such as Tansen, Baiju Bawra, Baba Ramdas, Nayak Charju, Miyan Bakhshu, Tantarang, Tanras Khan, Bilas Khan (son of Tansen), Hammer Sen, Surat Sen, and Meera were said to have been capable of invoking the rains using various kinds of Raga Malhaar.

The festival opens with Hindustani vocalist Meeta Pandit and Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan followed by performaces by vocalists Uma Garg, Madhumita Ray Oddissi dancer Shubhada Varadkar, Kathak dansue Vidha Lal among others. 

Folk derivation of this famous raag refers to Malharas Mallar and builds this whole theory of raag Mallar being a direct derivative of a tribal tune called Mallari that emerged from the musical practices of those who inhabited the Malwa centuries ago.

According to a legend, once court musician Tansen sing Raga Deepak, the raga of Lamps. On the request of the Mughal emperor Akbar to light up all the lamps in the courtyard. Subsequently Tansen's body became so hot that he had to sit in the nearby river to cool himself but even the river began to boil in the heat. The sisters Tana and Riri agreed to sing Raga Malhaar to cure him and it is said that their rendition of the raaga brought down the rains in in torrents, which cooled Tansen's body immediately.

Raag Malhaar has been popular in Hindi Films too and K L Saighal sang "Diya Jalao" (Raag Deepak) for the film Tansen in 1943 after which he sang "Baagh laga doon sajni" in Raag Malhaar. Naushad Ali used it in "Mother India" to herald the rainy season with the song 'Dukh bhare din beetay re bhaiya, ab sukh aayo re' and Malhaar can be found in "Chashme Baddoor" too.

Musicians Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Amjad Ali Khan have composed in 'Malhar'. Ustad Amir Khan immortalised the rendition of Megh with his "E barkha ritu aayee, a bada khayal" set to taal Jhumra. For the Golden Jubilee hit Baiju Bawra, Khan sang for the character of Tansen, the musician at Emperor Akbar's court.

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Digression

1/D-104
Jul 06, 2012
04:41 PM

During the monsoon season, everybody can claim to be able to create rain. If ICCR wants to check the proficiency of the invited artistes, they should conduct this event in April in Rajasthan's desert. Otherwise it will be clear that all these fairy tales about appeasing the rain gods are just myths created to justify the wasting of money by bureaucrats.

Of course we are all curiously looking forward to see if the artistes invited by ICCR do manage to invoke rain from 8 to 11 July. Dancers like Rama Vaidyanathan have never even claimed this supernatural ability, unlike for example the dancers from sai manjeera kuchipudi art academy and others.

niranjana, Delhi
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