In the Hindu pantheon of deities, Gauri represents a form of Shiva’s consort Parvati. For Hindustani music lovers, the name Gauri represents a raag that is sung at dusk. It has been interpreted differently across gharanas and has been a part of some compound raags.
Essentially, interpretations of Gauri that are currently performed belong to the Poorvi and Bhairav thaats or parent scales. Both have the characteristic focus on the mandra saptak shuddha Nishad or the lower octave natural seventh, and on recognisable phrases that meander between the mandra saptak komal Dhaivat or the flat sixth, the shuddha Nishad, the shadja or the tonic and the madhya saptak komal Rishabh or flat second. Another phrase that goes to the madhya saptak Pancham or the fifth, only to return to the mandra saptak shuddha Nishad in a zig-zag, represents the trajectory of the raag, and along with the other components mentioned earlier, stands out almost to declare “I am Gauri.”
Today, we listen to two renditions of Gauri pertaining to the Poorvi thaat. Both are by artistes hailing from Karnataka.
The first track features Mallikarjun Mansur (1910-1992), one of the chief representatives of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. The maestro sings a famous vilambit or slow composition set to Teentaal, a cycle of sixteen matras or time-units. Using a broad aakaar or the vowel “aa” that has a long sustain, Mansur explores the focal areas of the raag. Each aavartan or cycle of the taal is covered with long sweeps juxtaposed with quicker phrases, all of which are sung in a single breath that lends a hypnotic continuity to the music. The track concludes with Mansur’s inimitable taans or swift melodic passages that cover the gamut and large spans of each aavartan.
The next track has a presentation of Gauri by the avant-garde vocalist Kumar Gandharva (1924-1992). His interpretation includes a touch of raag Shree as is sometimes heard in renditions of Gauri. He sings two of his own compositions, the first in the sixteen-matra Sitarkhani or Addha taal and the second in a faster-paced Teentaal.