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!
The song of eternal love: Raga Brindabani Sarang
Brindabani Sarang is associated both with afternoon—played between noon and three—and the summers. The Sarang Family—Sarang, Gaud Sarang, Madhmad Sarang—like many of the other classical ragas, have their origin in folk music. And, many of these songs are about love—romantic and divine, and the sense of oneness with the one you love.
This raga is the one most associated with Krishna and his Raas Leela. Legend has it that Swami Haridas had a dream where Krishna appears and tells him to create a raga that would capture the beauty and the essence of Vrindavan—and especially the romantic love of not just Krishna and Radha, but also of the Gopis and Krishna. The next morning he begins composing this raga.
The raga is also called Vrindavani Sarang. It is said that Krishna was so moved by the love shown by Swami Haridas in that raga, that he manifests himself as an idol that is still today, found in Mathura—the Banke Bihari temple.
Raga Brindabani Sarang in popular culture
Brindabani Sarang is a slow, lyrical raga that is often used to express the sweetest love and the complete surrender to the one you love. As instructed by Krishna to Swami Haridas, the raga oozes with Sringara Rasa (Romantic Mood). This song from the film ‘Nagin’—‘Jadugar Saiyan Chodo Mori Baaya’—is an effective example of Romance, with Lata Mangeshkar at her sweetest. A much older Lata has another lovely song—‘Jhooti Moti Miwa Aawan Bole’ (below) based on this raga, in the film ‘Rudaali’.
A more contemporary expression of the raga is Shreya Ghosal with ‘Ghoomar’, from the film ‘Padmaavat’.
Raga Brindabani Sarang as bandish
Given the roots of the raga—the love of Radha and Krishna—there are a great number of classical songs based on this eternal love story. Here is a lovely short bandish sung by Devaki Pandit—‘Ban Ban Dhoondan Jaoon’—on Radha searching for Krishna in the forest.
Whereas, this is a beautiful exposition of the Raga by Venkatesh Kumar—‘Mohan ki Murali Baaje’.
Raga Brindabani Sarang: The instrumental version
The Krishna of Vrindavan is never seen without his flute. And, it is the notes played on the flute that captivate both the cows and the Gopikas. It is the songs played on the flute that mesmerises Radha. It is but natural that there will be incredible compositions in this raga, for the flute. Here is one of the greatest of all time flautists Hari Prasad Chaurasia, pouring out his love for the flute and the raga in his incredible recital.
Another musician who made Brindabani Sarang his own, was Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan—his rendition of Brindabani Sarang was perfected on the banks of Benaras.
Hindustani vocals in Raga Brindabani Sarang
One of the greatest vocal exponents of this raga was Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The composition, ‘Tum Rab, Tum Saheb’ literally, you are my God and master, is one he sang in many moods. But in each recital, his surrender to the music was complete. This particular recital ends with the magnificently vigorous—‘Jaoon Mein Tope Bali Hari’.
Here is another beautiful composition is ‘Ay Udho Dhana’—this one sung by Shruti Sadolikar, that fully explores the nuances of the raga.
Raga Brindabani Sarang as a tarana
The raga is so beautifully melodious, that even a tarana—that is normally onomatopoeic — sounds like the song of love. Below is a brilliant tarana by Sanjeev Abhaynkar in the raga.
To conclude this exploration of ragas, I will leave you with the superbly melodious and incredibly soulful recital ‘O mora Jiya’ by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.
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 shared by Harini:
- ‘Jadugar Sayian’ by Lata Mangeshkar
- ‘Jhooti Mooti Mitwa Aawan Bole’ byLata Mangeshkar
- ‘Ghoomar’ by Shreya Ghosal
- ‘Ban Ban Dhoondan Jaoon’ by Devaki Pandit
- ‘Mohan ki Murali Baaje’ by Venkatesh Kumar
- Flute rendition of Raga Brindabani Sarang by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia
- Instrumental rendition of Raga Brindabani Sarang by Ustad Bismillah Khan
- ‘Tum Rab Tum Saheb’ by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
- ‘Ay Udho Dhana’ by Shruti Sadolikar
- Tarana in Raga Brindabani Sarang by Sanjeev Abhyankar
- ‘O mora Jiya’ by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande