A Swan Song

Of all the raags that have come to Hindustani Classical Music from Carnatic Music, this is one of my most favourite. The raag which literally means “The Swan Song” , Hamsadhwani, is a wonderful melody and lends itself to all genres of music. Said to have been created by Ramaswamy Dikshitar , the illustrious father of the legendary Muthuswami Dikshitar, this is an audav-audav raag. It is now very much part of Hindustani Classical Music thanks to the efforts of Aman Ali Khan (of the quaintly named Bhendibazaar Gharana ) and the true legend , my father’s favourite (and mine too – I cannot imagine anyone else singing the Marwa but him) Ustad Amir Khan, the doyen of the Indore Gharana (but that isn’t the reason why both of us love him)

An Audav-Audav raag means that the aaroha and avaroha contain only 5 notes (Madhyam and Dhaivat are excluded) . In the Pandit Bhatkhande scheme of organising raags into Thaats, it is considered to be of the Bilawal Thaat. It is a raag best heard or rendered in the late evening hours.

The song based on this raag that I love very much is this one from Sharda. C Ramachandra composed the Rajendra Krishan piece of poetry beautifully. It is also unusual because it is a rare duet by Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar. Anna did not use Asha Bhosle much, (his preference for the Badi Behen was clear and due to a variety of reasons) but when he did, the results were divine as in this one. The movie has an interesting casting by way of Meena Kumari (in a more happy role), Shyama and Raj Kapoor. Interestingly the Bhaav-Mudra of Shyama give away the fact that she was an accomplished dancer. Meena Kumari is the seedhi-saadhi homemaker and Shyama the enchantress . Amazingly Raj Kapoor , who is travelling in a plane with everyone else asleep (no seat belts!!) is wide awake and reading a book with no reading lights on, (the cabin lights are always dimmed at such times, aren’t they) and the view through the plane window shows the craft flying at a much lower altitude than I would expect when cruising. Also amazingly the overhead bins don’t seem to have doors to shut- imagine the manna from heaven if this plane were to hit turbulent weather. After all a physician cannot but notice all this even while watching a film song. The taal Keharwa is wonderful, too.

I was immediately reminded of a timeless classic. Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar‘s creation based on a Sant Meerabai bhajan set to the same raag and taal from his immortal album “Chala Vahi Desh” which has been created from Meerabai’s devotional offerings to her most beloved Lord Krishna.

Lata Mangeshkar has always reserved her best singing for such composers who think out of the box and specialise in the most difficult compositions: Jaidev, Khayyam, Hridaynath, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shriniwas Khale. Hamsadhwani/ Keharwa again, but an entirely different mood. Guaranteed to take you into another world of higher plane. Away from the worldly worries.

Goosebumps for me throughout the singing. Amazing melody, truly. My mood is set and my day made.

Stay safe folks, stay healthy, happy and away from the Chinese malice.

I will get lost in these notes and waft into the weekend

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

6 replies on “A Swan Song”

wow….Fabulous Raag Hansadwani….
Both the songs….O chaand jahan wo jaaye and karam ki gati nyari santo..
are having beautiful lyrics…. wonderful singing by both Ashaji and Lata ji…..

Meera bhajan is extremely difficult to sing with such a complex but beautiful composition….But Lata ji has sung it with soooo much ease….

Liked both songs a lottttt!!
Thanks for the wonderful share Aniruddha Sir👍👍🙏🏻🙏🏻

Liked by 1 person

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