Malhar is an old raga in Indian classical music. Malhar is associated with the atmosphere of torrential rains. Besides the basic Shuddha Malhar, which was the original Malhar, there are several Malhar-related ragas that use the Malhar signature phrase m (m)R (m)R P, including Miyan Malhar, Ramdasi Malhar, Gaud Malhar, Sur Malhar, Des Malhar, Nat Malhar, and Meera ki Malhar.
According to legend, raga Malhar is so powerful that when sung, it can induce rainfall. Although this has not been scientifically proved yet, it is possible that the rainfall that the legends speak of is in fact metaphorical of the state of mind brought about by the recital of the raga.
There are many written accounts of Raga Malhar. Many great artists of the medieval period and much earlier periods used to sing this raga. Tansen, Baiju Bawra, Baba Ramdas, Nayak Charju, Miyan Bakhshu, Tantarang, Tanras Khan, Bilas Khan (son of Tansen), Hammer Sen, Surat Sen, and Meera are among the singers who are said to have been capable of starting rains using various kinds of Raga Malhar.
According to a legend, once the Mughal emperor Akbar asked his court musician Tansen to sing Raga Deepak, the raga of fire. The effect was such that all the lamps in the courtyard lit up themselves, and Tansen's body became so hot that he had to sit in the nearby river to cool himself. However, the river began to boil, and it became apparent that Tansen would soon boil to death. He set out on a search to find someone who could sing Raga Malhar to cure him. In due course he reached Vadnagar, in Gujarat, where he found two sisters, Tana and Riri, whom he asked for help. They agreed to sing Raga Malhar to cure him. When they sang the Raga, rains came down in torrents, which cooled Tansen's body immediately.
There are many variations of Raga Malhar, and are categorised chronologically  based on the era of their composition - prachina (before the 15th Century), madhyakalina (15th - 18th Century) and arvachina (19th Century and thence). Ragas Shuddha Malhar, Megh Malhar and Gaud Malhar belong to the first period
Miyan ki malhar is a variation introduced by Tansen (one of the composers in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar), which follows the swaras: S R g m P D n N. Though Miyan ki malhar and Raga Bahar have the same tone material, the melodic movements in Miyan ki malhar are rather serious and slow, moving more in the lower tetra-chord, whereas movements in Bahar are more sprightly and centre around the high Sa.
In popular culture
- In Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's Bengali language novel Anandamath (1882), a band of yogis sing Vande mataram in Raga Malhar.
- In Satyajit Ray's film Jalsaghar, Raga Malhar is used to link the powers of nature and the hero's internal conflict.
- Bhavan's Journal v.26:14-26 (1980). Page 27.
- Manorma Sharma (2007). Music Aesthetics. APH Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-81-313-0032-9.
- Bannerjee, Dr. Geeta (2000). Raag Malhar Darshan. SAWF.
- Bigamudre Chaitanya Deva (1995). Indian Music. Taylor & Francis. p. 18. ISBN 978-81-224-0730-3.
- Shah, Jaisukhlal (1969). Malhar ke prakar. Bombay.
- Raga. Centre of South Asian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Examples of Miyan ki Malhar:
- D. V. Paluskar sings Miyan Malhar.
- Shahid Parvez plays Miyan Malhar on the sitar with an introduction by Shujaat Khan.
- Pt. Ravi Shankar plays Miyan ki Malhar in a raga mala, with the London Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta
- Ustad Shujaat Khan explains how Miyan ki Malhar is played, on Doordarshan Bharati channel.
- Raga Miyan ki Malhar sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
- Pandit Kumar Gandharva a sings Miyan ki Malhar
Examples of Gaud Malhar:
Examples of Ramdasi Malhar:
Example of Sur Malhar: