Film songs based on classical ragas (6): The Majestic Malkauns

December 11, 2012

Guest article by Subodh Agrawal

(Followers of SoY are familiar with Subodh’s elegant writings on songs based on classical ragas.  He surpasses himself with this article on one of the most popular and accessible ragas – Malkaus – which he describes as the greatest pentatonic raga.  He bears his scholarship lightly with his fluent and easy style of writing.  Here is his fifth article in the series – AK

PS. Please see comment no 12 in the comment box.  Because of some problem, a large part of this post has disappeared.  Full version has been revived in the other post with the same title.  Interested readers are requested to visit the other post.  This post is not being deleted because many valuable comments are here – AK)

MalkaunsI began this series with ten iconic film songs in different ragas – songs that are good enough to be used by students of classical music to get an intuitive feel for the raga. I deliberately left out the greatest iconic song of all – Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj in Malkauns, because I hoped to do a separate post on this raga. Finally, I am here to share my love for this great raga with the SoY family.

There are many beautiful ragas that use only five of the seven notes in both ascent and descent. In the Hindustani music terminology they are called audav-audav.  Bhopali, Durga, Bhinna Shadj, Hamsadhwani, Hindol are some examples. All of them are beautiful and Hindol also has a certain gravity. Still, Malkauns (also known as Malkosh and Malkans) stands tall in this group for the depth, solemnity and gravity that characterise it.

The Carnatic counterpart of Malkauns is Hindolam. There is an interesting relationship between the notes of Malkauns, the Carnatic Hindolam and the Hindustani Hindol and Hindoli as the following table shows. All these ragas omit the second note ‘re’ and the fifth note ‘pa’. The fundamental note ‘sa’ is always invariant. Of the remaining four notes ‘ga’, ‘dha’ and ‘ni’ can be either shuddha or komal, while ‘ma’ can be shuddha or teevra. I am using the north Indian terminology here:

Malkauns Hindolam
Hindoli a.k.a
and Kaushik Dhwani
Ga Komal Komal Shuddha Shuddha
Ma Shuddha Shuddha Teevra Shuddha
Dha Komal Komal Shuddha Shuddha
Ni Komal Komal Shuddha Shuddha


Malkauns guards its territory jealously. With most ragas it is not enough to get the notes right, one has to be careful about the movement as well, or one risks straying into the territory of a different raga. The same notes used differently can produce a completely different raga. Puriya-Marwa-Sohani, Bhopali-Deshkar, Darbari-Adana-Asavari are some examples. With Malkauns one is safe. Once you get the notes right, there is little you can do wrong. Feed the five notes of Malkauns into a computer programme that plays them purely at random and the sound one hears will bear the unmistakable stamp of the raga. Very rarely there can be an overlap with Bageshri in the use of sa, ga and ma, but the confusion doesn’t last more than a few seconds.

Let me present a wonderful introduction to this raga by Pt Ramashrya Jha ‘Ramrang’ from the site (Playing this audio may require you to copy and paste the url in the browser’s address bar): For those who have difficulty playing it, or have trouble understanding Panditji’s shudh Hindi I summarize the main points:

The greatness of Malkauns lies in the fact that each of the five notes is a point of nyasa or rest. Secondly, all notes are clearly related to one another. It is a favourite raga of the novice and the master alike – the novice finds it easy to master the basic structure – enough to turn in a reasonably good performance, while the master may spend a lifetime and still not feel that all possibilities of this great raga have been exhausted. These strengths set it apart and make it a maha-raga in spite of having only five notes.

Like Yaman the predominant mood of Malkauns is tranquility. However, unlike Yaman – whose tranquility has a joyous quality – Malkauns’s tranquility is laced with gravity and solemnity. It evokes the awe one feels in a magnificent temple or cathedral, of being in the presence of something much greater than oneself. It is an ideal raga for invocation of the supreme spirit.

Now I begin the presentation of songs based on Malkauns with – surprise, surprise – Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj:

1. Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj by Mohammad Rafi from Baiju Bawra (1952), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad:

This is the song that defines Malkauns for a lot of people. As film songs on this raga go, this is way ahead of the others. Personally if I rate it 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, no other song on this list – with the possible exception of no. 2 – would merit even 9.

2. Hari base sakal sansara by unknown singer from Achhut Kanya (1936), lyrics JS Kashayp ‘Natwan’, music Saraswati Devi

I thank AK for sending me the link to this song. Sung in the style of Dhrupad, it has purity that many other songs in this list lack. The yearning of the singer for God finds a ready resonance in the listener’s heart. Pity it is so short.

Does any reader know the name of the singer?

3. Mat bhool are insaan by Mohammad Rafi from Mastana (1954), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan

Reminding oneself that the one up there is watching is a favourite theme of bhajans. This song from Mastana is a good example. Everything about the setting of this song is standard film fare – the lady with the child in her arms diffidently approaching the steps of a temple, repeated close-up shots of the idol and the sadhu singing to himself but addressing the lady’s inner turmoil. The music of Madan Mohan and the greatness of Malkauns, however, give a touch of something special to this scene.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Subodh Agrawal December 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for your kind words AK. A little correction is needed in the table giving comparison of the notes of four ragas in the introduction. Ma in Bhinna Shadj/Hindoli is shuddha, not teevra. Sorry for the mistake.

2 ASHOK M VAISHNAV December 12, 2012 at 10:56 am

Even at the cost of being obvious, I would state that Subodhaji keeps on raising his bar and then, surpassing that raised bar.

To those, like me, who are not initiated to the classical music, his discourse on the Raag would unhesitatingly go a long way in scaling up their level of appreciation of the music as well as the manner in which the appreciation can be manifested.

To me personally, probably the most lay, staunch follower and fan Ustad Amir Khan Saheb would ever get , the pleasure was not only getting to re-listen Ustadji’s majestical rendering of vilambit alaap, in Malkauns, but also the fact that this piece sets at the top of Subodhji’s choice. What a scale of the following, the most uninitiated at one end to the one who “bears his scholarship lightly with his fluent and easy style” at the other end of the spectrum.

If “Man Tarapat” has been The Malkuans for me, I would put “Jaane Bahar Hushn Tera Bemissal” as my The Favourite, out of these 10 gems.

My [personal] bonus , over and above the generosity of Subodhji are : Saamaja vara gamana and Yesudas ‘s classical rendition and, Hari Base Sakal Sansara

My wanderlust on HFS on Malkuans trail has led me to:

Zindagi Bhar Gam Judai Ka Mujhe – Miss Bombay – Hansraj Bahal – Mohammad Rafi –

Nirbal Se Ladayi Balwan Ki,Ye Kahani Ek Diye Aur Toofan Ki – Toofan Aur Diyaa -Vasant Desai – Manna Dey –

Two (male) songs from the universe beyond the boundary of this blog:
Deep Jalaye Jo Geeton Ke Maine – Kalakaar (1983) – Bappi Lahiri – Suresh Wadkar –

Aaye Sur Ke Pachhi Aaye – Sur Sangam (1985) – Laxmikant Pyarelal – Rahan Mishra –

And female songs that may help render some balance, as well as a foothold for any likely discussion, are:

Saavan Ki Raat Kari Kari – Meherban – Ravi – Asha Bhosle –

O Pavan Veg Se Udane Ghode – Jai Chittod – S N Tripathi – Lata Mangeshkar –

Balama Maane Na – Opera House – Chitragupta – Lata Mangeshkar –

Interestingly Ravi, S N Tripathi and Chitragupta have marked their presence in this list as well. Chitrgupta , in particular has used Lata as deft as has been Rafi, in so far as songs of Malkuans, here, go.

And Tu Choopi Hai Kahan – Navrang, also finds mention as song under Malkauns. That would make C Ramachandra also appearing twice in this roll call.

3 ASHOK M VAISHNAV December 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm

In tribute to PandiT Ravishankar :
(part 1)
(Part 2)

4 AK December 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I am travelling, so by way of a quick comment. Thanks a lot for adding so many gems. By Malkaus we always meant Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj. So it was exciting when I stumbled upon Hari base sakal sansara. I was sure it would find a pride of place when Subodh wrote on Malkaus.

Who could have thought Balma mane na is Malkaus. A quintessential Chitragupta-Lata Mangeshkar song. The connection with classical raga must be very tenuous, but a great song nevertheless.

The boundaries I have set for this blog is not dogmatic. It is just that the sound and orchestration went through a sharp change in the 1970s to which I do not relate emotionally as I did for older songs. Obviously it does not apply to eternal songs like Aye sur ke panchhi aye. In fact I was not aware that Rajan Mishra had sung for films until recently when the brothers came on Doordarshan’s Aaj Savere. This gave me an idea for a post – pure classical singers who have sung essentially classical ragas in films. Besides your favourite Amir Khan, the list includes the greatest names – DV Paluskar, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Pt Jasraj and earlier Narayanrao Vyas etc. I am hopeful Subodh would take up on this suggestion.

5 n.venkataraman December 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Subhodh ji,
I have just completed listening to your magnificent piece, at a stretch. By the time I reached the end of this prosody, I was totally lost in the fathomless ocean of Malkauns. Each time, Ustad Amir Khan was about to touch the mandar komal nishad, the feeling was like, I too was about to attain the elusive S(oh)am. Lo and behold, again I was thrown into another cycle of 14. Let me thank you for an excellent selection of Raag Malkauns renditions and perfectly placing them in an order so as to reach the inner diminuendo!
If you kindly permit me, I will post my detail comments, may be, tomorrow.
Thank once again.

6 mumbaikar8 December 13, 2012 at 6:10 am

I am sooooo ignorant…..and let me confess ignorance is not bliss… I cannot follow abc of the ragas. Still I, immensely, enjoyed your aricle as well as all the songs.
All I can do is thank you for making classical music simple enough for ignorant like myself to cherish.

7 Anu Warrier December 13, 2012 at 7:17 am

Sudhir, for someone like me, to whom Hindustani classical is a mystery, your articles in this series comes as a godsend. Thank you so much; and thank you, AK for hosting these guest articles.

My contributions: (I’ll leave it to you to tell me if I’m correct in my assumption that these are Malkauns.)

Pavan veg se udhnewaale ghode from Jai Chittor

Akhiyan sang akhiyaan from Bada Admi

From my limited understanding of the raaga both of these are Malkauns. (Keeping fingers crossed that I am right!)

8 Naresh P Mankad December 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

Perhaps the best example of Malkauns for a layman is Man tadpat Hari darshan ko.. Then we can have Adha hai chandrama raat adhi (C. Ramchandra, film Navrang). Rafi’s Akhiyan sang akhiyan lagi aaj is also good composition. I doubt if anybody can be better than Ustad Ameer Khan in rendering this raag. He is simply divine. But then he excels in whatever he sings.

9 Naresh P Mankad December 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

It can be interesting to allude to some related raagas also like Chandrakauns (an excellent song “San sanan sanan sanan, jaari O pavan by Lata in that great musician Vasant Desai’s music; film Sampoorna Ramayan). Comparing and distingushing between such raagas makes the understanding clearer.

10 AK December 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Anu, You mean Subodh! Ankhiyan sang ankhiyan lagi aaj figures in Subodh’s post. This sounds very clearly as Malkaus. O pavan veg se udanewale ghode has been mentioned by Mr Deshmukh’s comments. He is sound in his research.

Welcome back from you long hiatus! I have to catch up with your posts.

11 Subodh Agrawal December 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Apologies to the lovers of SoY for a problem with this post. Since 12th Dec (I wonder if some 12-12-12 virus has hit) a major part of the post has vanished. I guess that’s why Anu couldn’t see ‘Ankhiyan sang ankhiyan’ in the article. The full article has 10 songs from films followed by a good number of classical pieces. Right now we can see only up to the third song from films.

There is not much I can do about it. AK seems to be travelling. He will be able to set it right once he is back. Do revisit after a few days. Thanks for your patience.

Thanks Mr Vaishnav, Mr Venkataraman, Mr Mankad and Anu for your nice comments.

12 AK December 15, 2012 at 12:30 am

Dear readers,
I really do not know what happened. But I noticed while travelling that a large part of the post had vanished. On return, I have redone the whole post as a new post with the same title. The only problem is that the old comments will sit here. This is messy but trying to revive the original here was more cumbersome.


13 Anu Warrier December 18, 2012 at 1:32 am

Eeesh! I’m so sorry, Subhodh, to have misnamed you thus! My apologies.

AK, with re: Ankhiyan sang ankhiyan lagi aaj figures in Subodh’s post., it wasn’t there in this post. 🙁

14 AK December 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Now you can make out what happened from comment no #12. You can visit the restored post here.

15 Pramod Kumar Tandon September 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I definitely remember that my grand father had told me that the male singer in Achut Kanya was ” Aslam ” of Lahore.

16 AK September 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Pramod Kumar Tandon,
Welcome to SoY. Thanks for the information.

17 Subodh Agrawal September 2, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Thank you and welcome Pramod Kumar Tandon.

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