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:) Enjoy!
Raga Lalit: Healing Light of Dawn
The mellow notes of Raga Lalit, played or sung usually in the early hours of dawn, are like a balm to a broken heart or an injured soul. It is like the Raga by its very presence heals you of the deep sorrow that has till now overwhelmed you.
Raga Lalit is usually played between 4 am and 6 am—just that time when you have woken up and are alone with your thoughts. The empathy and compassion in the raga make it distinctive.
Raga Lalit in popular culture
The song ‘Badi Dheere Jali’ from Ishqiya, captures the sense of longing and pathos of the raga.
The song ‘Raina Beeth Jaye’ from ‘Amar Prem’ does the same—it is a deeply contemplative song that allows you to heal via introspection. Classical vocalist Rahul Deshpande also has his own unique take on the song in Raga Lalit (You can hear it here).
Raga Lalit in Hindustani Classical
Legend has it that Goddess Parvati once asked her husband to create a Raga that would soothe her soul. And the great Lord Shankara—from whom all music begins—created Raga Lalit for her. Raga Lalit has been part of the Hindustani tradition of music for a very long time, and is primarily used for devotional songs. It got a boost in terms of popular usage with Tansen, of Emperor Akbar’s court, who used it extensively. Here is Ustad Rashid Khan singing one of the more popular
Raga Lalit: the instrumental version
An early morning raga like Lalit lends itself very well to instrumental music. Here is Jyoti Hegde (below) playing the raga on the immensely powerful Rudraveena. The notes produced by a santoor, on the other hand, are in contrast to the notes produced by the Rudraveena—mellow and consoling. Maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma delves into the Raga on the Santoor (You can see it here).
The melancholy nature of the Raga comes to the fore with the plaintive notes of the shehnai, and this rendition by Ustad Bismillah Khan captures the nature of the Raga exceedingly well.
And, finally no early morning raga is complete without the versatility of the flute—that expresses every nuance in the Raga and the entire range of emotions associated with it. A very young Hari Prasad Chaurasia, with an even younger Zakir Hussain in this concert recording of Raga Lalit.
Vocals in Raga Lalit
One of the earliest recordings I heard in Raga Lalit was Bhimsen Joshi singing Ustad Aamir Khan’s composition in Raga Lalit—‘Jogiya More Ghar Aaye’.
But to appreciate the true beauty of the Raga, there is nothing better than hearing it explored to its hidden depths in a Khayal. Two of my favourite Khayals are performed by Malini Rajurkar, and by Veena Sahasrabuddhe. The word Khayaal literally means a thought—and both artists are able to express the raga as a series of thoughts through their performances.
No delving into the raga would be complete without listening to one of the all time greats of Hindustani Classical Music—someone whom Bhimsen Joshi considered a guru—singing Raga Lalit. Kesarbai Kerkar with an amazing recording of this Raga (below).
Raga Lalit as a Dhrupad
The Dhrupad is probably the oldest form of Hindustani Classical Music in existence today. It is mostly a devotional expression of the Raga. According to legend, Dhrupad music originated from the sound of Lord Shiva's damru. And many of the songs are dedicated to him. Amongst the greatest proponents of Dhrupad are the Dagar family who act as the custodians of Dhrupad. Below is the Senior Dagar Brothers—Moinuddin and Aminuddin—with an incredibly spiritual rendition of Raga Lalit, where the song is the prayer. Each time I hear this, it purifies me.
PS: If you need a list of all the amazing music shared by Harini:
- ‘Badi Dheere Jali’ from ‘Ishqiya’
- ‘Raina Beeth Jaaye’ from The Rahul Deshpande Collective
- Rendition of Raga Lalit by Ustad Rashid Khan
- Rudraveena rendition of Raga Lalit by Jyoti Hegde
- Santoor rendition of Raga Lalit by Shiv Kumar Sharma
- Shehnai rendition of Raga Lalit by Bismillah Khan
- Instrumental rendition of Raga Lalit by Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain
- ‘Jogiya More Ghar Aaye’ by Bhimsen Joshi
- Khayaal by Malini Rajurkar
- Khayaal by Veena Sahasrabuddhe
- Classical rendition of Raga Lalit by Kesarbai Kerkar
- Spiritual rendition of Raga Lalit by Senior Dagar Brothers