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, Dhulia Malhar and Meera ki Malhar.
According to legend, raga Malhar is so powerful that when sung, it can induce rainfall.
There are many written accounts of Raga Malhar. Tansen, Baiju Bawra, Baba Ramdas, Nayak Charju, Miyan Bakhshu, Tantarang, Tanras Khan, Bilas Khan (grandson of Tansen), Hammer Sen, Surat Sen, and Meera Bai 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 light, which caused all the lamps in the courtyard to light up and Tansen's body to become 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.
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.
- Chaitanya Deva (1995). Indian Music. Taylor & Francis. p. 18. ISBN 978-81-224-0730-3.
- Raga Archived 2012-11-14 at the Wayback Machine.. Centre of South Asian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.