Raga Shree: The Goddess of Ragas
Editor’s Note: It’s a shame that Indian classical music often feels inaccessible to so many of us. Even if we enjoy listening to a performance or an artist as a layperson, we rarely understand the rich tapestry of tradition that gives them meaning. So we are delighted that Harini Calamur—who is a writer, veteran journalist and also a classical music aficionado—has put together this series on Hindustani music. Each instalment of this beginner's guide comes with its own delightful playlist:) This one is a guide to the Raga Shree—which is said to emerge from the face of Goddess Parvati.
I fell in love with the song, before I knew the Raga it was based on. The song was ‘Hari Ke Charan Kamal’ (below) sung by Pandit DV Paluskar. The Raga was Shree. And, since then both the song and the raga have remained my favourites. Part of the Gwalior Gharana, and son of the illustrious VD Paluskar, Digambar Vishnu Paluskar gave his first public performance at the tender age of fourteen. His bhajans based on classical ragas endure the test of time. Another beautiful rendition of the same bhajan is by Ustad Amir Khan—of the Indore Gharana.
The Legend of Raga Shree
Raga Shree is one of the oldest and most venerated ragas in the Hindustani classical tradition. Like most early ragas, it too is deeply rooted in mythology and lore. According to legend, of the primary ragas (often referred to as the "parent" ragas) in the Hindustani tradition, five are believed to have emanated from the five faces of Lord Shiva—the Panchmukhi Shiva. Different sources will give you a different list of Ragas, but the ones that are most cited are Bhairav, Hindol, Megh, Deepak, and Malkauns. These ragas are said to embody different aspects and moods of the divine. However, the sixth raga, Shree, is believed to have come from the face of Goddess Parvati, Shiva's consort. This association with "Shree-mukha" or the auspicious face/mouth is said to be the reason for its name.
The raga embodies a profound spiritual emotion, reflecting the deep serenity of dusk, a time auspicious for prayer and meditation. Its mood is generally solemn, devotional, and meditative. Because of its connection to Lord Shiva, it's also believed to evoke the Shiva Tandava or cosmic dance. This beautiful composition sung by Veena Sahasrabudhe captures the meditative mood of the raga. But the Tarana in the end captures the vigour and the power of the Tandav.
This Tarana is Raga Shree, by Kumar Gandharva is again evocative of the power of the raga. For something that can be so meditative, it can also be extremely invigorating. It also is deeply associated with the spirit world and tantra. This composition (below), sung by Manjusha Patil aka the Magic of the Tantriks, embodies this.
The Complexity of Raga Shree
Raga Shree is considered to be one of the most difficult ragas to master. And that is primarily because of the way the swaras (notes) are arranged. And, it is hardly surprising that there are very few compositions in Hindi films based on Raga Shree. But classical musicians adore the Raga, as it is a way for them to show their mastery of their craft. Here is Pandit Venkatesh Kumar with a mellow and meditative composition in Raga Shree.
The Raga at Sunset
There are few things on earth as meditative as listening to Raga Shree being played. The Raga itself lends itself to the deep contemplation that comes with instrumental music. Below is Purbayan Chatterjee with a deeply contemplative rendition of the Raga. When you hear this raga on the flute, it automatically transports you back to a time in the past, when you could feel the sunset and the call of the temple bells at Sandhya. It is probably impossible to hear this beautiful recital by Sudeep Chattopadhyay and not feel your breathing calm down to a state of meditative bliss.
Raga Shree on the santoor gives the sense of being by the banks of the Ganga, watching the waves at sunset, and letting the peace wash the stress of the day away from you.
Raga Shree by the great vocalists
Dhrupad is the most ancient form of Hindustani classical music and is deeply associated with the spiritual tapestry of temple music. Legends attribute its origin to Lord Shiva himself, terming it as the divine 'Nada' resonating from his Damaru (drum). This timeless art form, with its profound and deliberate note progressions, effortlessly guides the listener into a realm of deep meditation. When sung in the Dhrupad Style, Raga Shree brings that sense of sacred and serenity, and listening to it is prayer. This rendition by the Dagar Brothers is probably one of my favourite compositions in Hindustani classical music.
Another musical great, Mallikarjun Mansur also had a great fondness for Raga Shree, and performed it masterfully—and it is said that no two renditions sounded alike.
We will end this outing on Ragas with this absolutely mesmerising vocal performance by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande—starting with the absolutely mellow and meditative, and ending with the completely invigorating and uplifting—telling you why Shree is the Queen of Ragas, and can only be performed by those with complete mastery, and complete surrender.
We have created a handy playlist with all the tracks mentioned on splainer’s Youtube channel. ICYMI, you can check out Harini’s playlist on Raga Bhairavi here, Raga Puriya Dhanashree here, Raga Lalit here, Ragas of Spring here and Raga Darbari here.
PS: If you need a list of all the amazing music and videos shared by Harini:
- ‘Hari Ke Charan Kamal’ by Pandit DV Paluskar
- ‘Hari Ke Charan Kamal’ by Ustad Amir Khan
- Meditative Raga Shree by Pandita Veena Sahasrabuddhe
- Invigorating Raga Shree by Pandit Kumar Gandharva
- ‘Magic of the Tantriks’ by Pandita Manjusha Patil
- Mellow and Meditative Composition by Pandit Venkatesh Kumar
- Deeply Contemplative Raga Shree by Pandit Purbayan Chatterjee
- Beautiful Recital by Pandit Sudeep Chattopadhyay
- Raga Shree on the Santoor by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma
- Raga Shree Dhrupad by Dagar Brothers
- Raga Shree by Mallikarjun Mansur
- Vocal performance by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande