Its monsoon time and in todays melee we have somewhere forgotten the beauty and richness of this season. Have we ever celebrated monsoon in recent times ? Atleast I don't remember. The world has been too technical around monsoon. For urbanites it brings the dreadful memories of water logging and the resultant jams and chaos it brings along.
However their is very beautiful and poetic side this season. The months of July-August, sounds more poetic, when its called Barkha (Varsha Ritu or Rainy Season), per Hindu solar, or Saawan ( Shravan ) per Lunar. For some its more romantic....and for some more pious. Each of these emotions have been captured by our literary and musical greats in various forms.
It reminds me of 'Meghdoot' a masterpiece by great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, who asked Megh ( the clouds ) to be his doot ( the messenger ) and convey his love to his beloved ( post his separation using monsoon as metaphor ). Its one of the most romantic renderings I have read. How romantic can it be, well let me take you through the first chapter : The Plea
For failing to perform his duty, the Yaksha was banished for a year by his boss, Kubera to Ramagiri (Ramtek near Nagpur in India), where the trees are green and the waters holy. At the end of the summer, after having languished for months away from his Love and losing much weight, he saw a large cloud nuzzling a mountain peak in the sky. That sight reminded him how he wanted to hold her close to his heart. Her. Who was not there. He held his tears back and stood there quietly. The monsoons were approaching. "May be the cloud can take my message to her", he thought and he decided to suck up to the cloud. How a cloud, which is nothing but water vapor, can carry a message? But when you are heartbroken and sick with desire, you will try anything. "Great Cloud. Please help me. I am away from my beloved and miss her very much. Please go to the city called Alaka where my beloved lives in our moonlit house. Lonely women brush their hair away from their eyes and look up to greet you. Because you bring cool rain. And with the rains return their loved ones. Who wouldn't rather be with their Loves in this romantic season except the unfortunate ones like me who just cannot be there? Swift winds will blow you in the right direction. When they see you come the chataka birds will sing and the cranes will get all excited about the onset of the mating season. When you reach my place you will see my girl counting days till she sees me again. The stem of hope holds the flower of her heart, which is sure to wither without that hope. The swans, with lotus shoots in their beaks, heading for the Manas sarovar will keep you company all the way to Mount Kailas. The tall peaks that have known you year after year will greet you with warm tears of happiness.
Had it not been for rainy season, the clouds ! If you go thru the rest of the poetry - the journey, description of Alaka,the place, his home, his girl, finally delivery of his message and final thoughts. Its an awesome piece of work. His another work, Abhigyan Shakuntalam is equally marvellous. But I have more fondness for 'Meghdoot'.
Musical geniuses have brought about the richness of this season with so many ragas and compositions. In Hindustani classical music, ragas are not only associated with a particular time of day, but also with seasons. Summer is regarded as the corresponding season for Raga Dipak, Monsoon for Raga Megh/Raga Malhar, Autumn for Raga Bhairav, Winter for Raga Malkauns, and the Spring for Raga Hindol. In particular, ragas of the season are associated with spring or Basant and the rainy season or monsoons. The Malhars ( that which washes away the dirt ) and its variants - Raag Megh, Megh Malhar, Desh Malhar, Shudh Malhar, Gaud Mahar, Nat Malhar, Mirabai ki Malhar etc which epitomises this season and have been entralling generations. They make us go ecstasic. Couple this with rich emotions - excitement, peace contentment, longing, anticipation, anxiety, romance and joy - all the rasas i.e. Veer, Karuna, Sringar and Viraha. Hear Ustad Amir Khan in Raga Megh.
Had it not for Megh Malhar, Tansen would have burnt himself singing Raag Deepak. Another popular classical form sung ( generally folk in nature ) in monsoon is Raag Kajari. It is derived from Kajara or Kajal ( Kohl ), which symbolises black monsoon clouds. This form of music has two facets - some exult the happiness of union and some depict pangs of separation. The latter is generally takes the more popular form. If you hear Shobha Gurtu singing Kajari, its no less than union with GOD. Hear this Kajari by Pt Ajoy Chakraborty. This recital was given by him on BBC while BBC was commemorating 50 years of Indian Independence. ( I have don't have permission from BBC, but I am sure they would forgive me )
This season also celebrates the birthday of Lord Krisna, who is also called GhanShyam (Ghan : clouds, Shyam :dark colored, which basically means monsoon clouds ). A popular composition reads, 'Ghan Aaye GhanShyam Na Aaye' ( Clouds have arrived but not my lover/husband. Painters have depicted Krisna in joyous moods the famous Raag Megh Raagmala paintings.
Well so enamoured are we, that youngsters these days create 'rain' for a rain dance and pay quite a hefty sum for such a experience in the 5 stars.
Bollywood has been one of best mediums to capture the beauty of monsoon. They have captured every emotion. I am picking some of the best numbers. Probably the best is Raj Kapoor's 'Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua' ( Shri 420 ) with Nargis, both standing together in an umbrella...looking so cool. How can you forget a wet Madhubala in 'Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si' ( Chalti ka Naam Gadi ) or Amitabh and Mousmi with clasped hands on Marine Drive in 'Rim Zhim Gire Saawan, Sulag Sulag Jaye Man' ( Manzil ). Neither can we forget Zeenat redefining sensuality in 'Hai Hai Ye Majburi..Tere Do Takiyon Ki Naukari mein mere laakhon ka Saawan jaye' nor fresh fresh Manisha in 'Rim Zhim Rum Zhum' ( 1942 Ek Love Story ). For sheer beauty of lyrics, hear out, 'Umad Ghumad ke Aayi Re Ghata' ( Do Aakhen Barah Haath ). Some of my favorites are - 'Saawan Ka Mahina, Pawan Kare Sor' ( Milan ),'Allah Megh De Pani De' ( Guide ), 'Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi' ( Chori Chori ), 'Hariyala Sawaan Dhol Machata Aaya' ( Do Bigha Zameen ). In recent times, the theme of Lagaan was around monsoon where farmers sing, 'Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Aaye Badra'. Finally the song which has the title on this article..'O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi, Ras Ki Phuhar Layi' ( Parakh ) beautifully sung by Lata Tai.
Don't feel like making this article very technical, but still. When I ask students why it rains...I don't find a convincing answer...almost everyone ends up describing the water cycle.
Finally the furious side of monsoon. Some of our states are perpetually flooded because of poor management. As I write this blog, Kosi has wreaked havoc and devastated large parts of Bihar.
Still no emotions can match the longingness of the first drop on the parched land after months of dry hot summer, leaving the intoxicating smell of earth.
Enjoy the Season.