Sunday, October 2, 2022
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10 mystical Meera bhajans

 

Over the years, Meera bhajans have had a special place in devotional music. Written by 16th century poet Meerabai, one of the important personalities of the Bhakti movement, many of them talk of her devotion to Lord Krishna. Though she was born in a royal family in Rajasthan, she left all material pleasures to pursue her goal.

 

On the occasion of Janmasthami, Lord Krishna’s birthday, we choose 10 Meera bhajans sung by some of the greatest vocalists. This selection is in no particular order, and contains a mix of popular songs and rare renditions.

1 Baso More Nainan Mein/ M.S. Subbulakshmi 

In 1945, the legendary M.S. Subbulakshmi starred in and as ‘Meera’. While the Tamil film was a huge success, the Hindi dubbed version was released in 1947. Both soundtracks were composed by S.V. Venkatraman. Another popular song was ‘Mere Toh Giridhar Gopal’. This was Subbulakshmi’s last film as an actress, as she focused on singing thereafter.

 

 

2 Chala Vahi Des/ Lata Mangeshkar 

 

The Nightingale has recorded numerous Meera bhajans in the albums Meera (1968), Chala Vahi Des (1974) and Meera Soor Kabira (2001), with music by Hridaynath Mangeshkar. The classic Lata bhajan began with the lines, “Chala vahi des, chal vahi des, kaho kusumbi saari rangawa, kaho toh bhagwa bhes”. Another really popular Meera bhajan Lata recorded was ‘Payoji Maine Ram Ratan Dhan Paayo’, earlier popularised by Pandit D.V. Paluskar.

 

 

3 Mai Sanware Rang Raachi/ Pandit Jasraj

 

One of Mewati gharana maestro Pandit Jasraj’s most requested bhajans, this concluded many of his concerts as it was composed in raag Bhairavi. One of the stanzas is, “Gaaya gaaya Hari gun nis din, kaal byaal ri baachi, Shyam bina jag khaara laaga, jag ri baata kaachi, mai sanware rang raachi”. This ranks among the most soulful renditions of a Meera bhajan.

 

 

4 Hari Tum Haro/ Jagjit Singh 

 

Though Jagjit Singh was primarily known for his rendition of ghazals, he also recorded some marvellous bhajans, specially in the latter half of his career. This one, written by Meerabai, has been composed in raag Puriya Dhanashree, and begins, “Hari tum haro jan ki peer”. Like most Jagjit bhajans, this has a temple effect with strong choruses. His voice has plenty of depth.

 

5 Aali Re Mere Naina/ Asha Bhosle 

 

This song was separately recorded by both Lata and Asha Bhosle. The latter, composed by Jaidev, was released in 1971. It makes fantastic use the santoor and bansuri. It begins with the lines, “Aali re mere naina baan padi”. The song has an upbeat air that makes it frothy, besides Asha’s vocal nuances. Lata sang the words ‘More nainan’ in her rendition.

 

 

6 Saanson Ki Mala/ Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

 

August 16 marked Pakistani maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s 25th death anniversary. While his qawwalis and Sufi numbers remain popular, there are many who continue to play this bhajan. There are various versions, including a 30-minute qawwali-styled rendition and a seven-minute edit. Handclaps and backing vocals give this a special flavour, with Nusrat’s unique style adding charm. This video clip is rare.

 

 

7 Aye Ri Main Toh Prem Deewani/ Anuradha Paudwal

 

Anuradha Paudwal opened her 1989 album Meera with this melodious bhajan. “Aye ri main toh prem deewani, mero dard na jaane koi”, she sings. Music is by Shekhar Kalyan, who makes use of sitar and bansuri beautifully. The album has other gems like ‘Main toh saanware’ and ‘Mayee Ri Maine’.

 

 

 

8 Pag Ghungroo Baandh/ Kishori Amonkar

 

The great Kishori Amonkar sang the beautiful ‘Pag Ghungroo Baandh’ at the Swar Utsav festival at India Gate Lawns, New Delhi, in 2003. She rendered it in her immaculate style, building up the mood gradually. The words are, “Pag ghungroo baandh Meera naachee re, main toh mere Narayan ki aapahi ho gayee daasee re”.

 

 

9 Jo Tum Todo Piya/ Vani Jairam

 

This song was recorded twice by Lata, for Vasant Desai in Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955) and for Shiv-Hari in Silsila (1981). Between them, in 1979, Vani Jairam sang Pandit Ravi Shankar’s composition in the Hema Malini-Vinod Khanna film Meera. The lyrics are, “Jo tum todo piya, main naahi todu re; tose preet tode Krishna, kaun sang jodoon”. The song was sung beautifully with exquisite sitar parts.

 

 

 

10 Aisi Laagi Lagan/ Anup Jalota 

 

No Anup Jalota concert is complete without this bhajan, which talks of Meerabai’s devotion to Lord Krishna. The lyrics are self-explanatory – “Aisi laagi lagan, Meera ho gayee magan, woh toh gali gali Hari gun gaane lagee, mahalon mein palee, banke jogan chali, Meera Rani deewani kehne lagee”. It’s actually a folk song written to describe Meera’s life.

 

 

While we have stuck to the Meerabai repertoire here, there are numerous other  bhajans and film songs dedicated to Lord Krishna. One non-film gem is ‘Baaje Re Muraliya’ by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Lata. Many bansuri albums featuring Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia will suit the mood too. Besides that, there’s flautist Ronu Majumdar’s 2002 recording Krishna’s Journey, which is a wonderfully structured concept album.

 

Narendra Kusnur
Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon, so to speak, Naren, who dubs himself Kaansen, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier.

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