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My Music: from Moksha to Mania

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Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”— Plato

girl singing tanpura


The Greek philosopher and thinker Plato poured his views on music eras back, which are relevant even today. Music has a power to overpower all that is good as well as bad. Music adds to more happiness when you’re cheerful, similarly it melts the solidity of grief with its warmth and healing powers. Music has always been an inseparable part of my life whether I sing or listen to it.

I was 10 when I started learning Hindustani classical music,  and while going through those Ragas and Raginis, I came across some strange facts about them, as they have a strong impact on human life as well as having some miraculous healing properties. It seemed quite illogical to believe, that by singing Raag Deepak, oil lamps could be lit automatically, or by singing Raag Malhaar, it starts raining without any indication of clouds prior to that. For an intelligent kid of 10, all those were mere old sayings, which were simply told to prove those theories about the power of music. I didn’t know then, that time would make me experience such things which seem paranormal even today.

It was a February morning and a 15 year old me, was busy with my Riyaz (music practice) with Raag Bageshri. My Guru Jee was continuously scolding me for not putting up the right swaras (notes) of Madhyam ‘Ma’. Irritated and agitated, my Guru Jee left my room murmuring— “I can’t teach this girl the difference between Madhyam and Teevra ‘Ma’.” It was quite embarrassing for me being insulted by him as I was being praised by people for my beautiful voice. The poor me, didn’t know what he was expecting from me, nothing but knowledge.

An offended me, wanted to show him that I was not that imbecile what he was thinking of me. So I thought of doing a riyaz of Raag Bageshri in a theoretical manner. Since I had read somewhere in my music theory books that Bageshri is a midnight raga so I started practicing it exactly at the midnight 12. Those were the much disciplined times (1983) when there was neither cable T.V. nor internet was existent, so midnight 12 was absolute peaceful with pin-drop silence.

I was learning bada khayal which used to take quite long to finish. I started singing and got so involved in it that I forgot about the time, about the people around, about the neighborhood getting disturbed and all other external factors. While singing ‘Manmohan Shyam Sundar Roop’, the Bandish which was my Guru’s expertise, I entered into a complete ‘trans’ state-of-mind. Alaap… bol… taan… tarana……. the raga was going was going on and on and I forgot myself. My room, my taanpura, walls, furniture,  everything got disappeared,it felt, and I was not even able to recognize myself.

Nadir… dir… ta…nita… dani… dheem… tana…dir…na…

And it seemed that I had encountered some mystical powers. I am an atheist and I don’t believe in worshiping and performing rituals  . Neither I believe in any super natural powers, but that feeling was indeed enigmatic. I can’t express that enigma in words, as it seemed music was either infused in my soul or was incarnated in front of me. ‘Twas a sublime experience, I’d never had before nor did I experience ever after. Music became a celestial body that day!

I didn’t remember about how long did I sing that day, but when I opened up my eyes, my room was filled with a broad daylight and my Guru Jee was sitting in our living room with my father. I saw an old man besides him, who said to my Guru Jee— “You fool! How could she be your shishya (pupil) ?” My Guru, Pdt. S.N. Pathak smiled softly yet kept quiet.

Later, I came to know that the old man was none other than my Guru’s Guru, Pdt. Aditya Narayan Jha from Banaras Gharana, a noted khayal singer and renowned Hindustani classical music teacher. He himself wished to teach me and my father got simply elated as Jha Ji Sir was infamous for insulting and refusing students for teaching music even without listening to them. But I was the most fortunate of them all for having learnt music from a great teacher like him for the next four years.

Later, I had to bid adieu to classical music being entangled in the crude realities of life, like early marriage, study pressure, family, kids, responsibilities and what not! I couldn’t even discuss my trance experience during riyaz with my Gurus, reason, they being too effervescent (or rather say arrogant) and me, being too shy and introvert.

But four years later while doing my graduation, I asked my philosophy teacher about that ‘trans’ feeling during music practice. She said— “Girl, you know what was that? You were quite close to Moksha. Saints and sages spent years of learning, self discovering and sacrificing worldly pleasures to achieve that very moment. And you were about to attain that ‘salvation of your soul’ !”

It’s been almost 32 years since that incident occurred, my tanpura and harmonium have been left like skeletons (eaten away by mice) in the store room of my maiden home. I am no longer a practicing classical singer (I feel myself ‘besuri ’ if I try to), but music still resides in my soul. I hum Bollywood numbers, am addicted towards old classics, sing songs of Lata, Aasha, Mubarak Begum, Anuradha Paudwal and almost all female singers.

I even try hard to touch Shreya Ghoshal’s effortless high notes and harder to meet my daughter’s high pitch falsettos. But, I was, am and will always be a music lover. Music, for me, is proved to be a silk route from Moksha to mania. Old classic movie songs make me weak and give me goose-bumps even in my late 40’s. Today, music is an irresistible temptation for me and I still sing my heart out despite losing my pakad on sur.

सुर ना सजे, क्या गाउँ मैं?
सुर के बिना जीवन सूना |

And I have penned down a free-verse for how I feel about music— it’s my obsession, my compulsion, so I lead a path from Moksha to mania with music.

Womanly, playful,
Sensuousness wraps me
Yet I’m revealed in its folds.
Drapes the myriad moods of me
And I look at its many incarnations.
Moksha? Impossible…!

Bewitching, beautiful,
Magnificence paints me
Yet I’m intrigued by its fads
Covers the dauntless spirit of me
And I adhere to its hasty emotions.
Mania? Possible…!


But, music resides in my soul. 😇

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

  • Rajeev Moothedath

    Wonderful post! listened to some of the songs as well.You have a beautiful voice.

    • Thank you so much Mr. Raheev. Glad that you liked my voice and the post. 🙂 Means a lot.

  • Saru

    Oh, that’s why Maitreni sings so well. It’s in her genes. Listened to you song, it’s beautiful. I wish I had some musical training. It imbibes discipline in you.

    • Thank you so much Saru. Yes, you guessed it right. Maitreni has got it in her genes, though she couldn’t get a chance to have a professional training, still she has a sweet voice and a high range.
      Glad that you liked the post. 🙂 Means a lot.

  • Jyothi D’mello

    A passionate post from a passionate music lover. It was an enlightening read.

    • Thank you so much Jyothi. Glad that you liked the post. 🙂 Means a lot.

  • Amazing talent you have. Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Thank you so much Indrani. Glad that you liked the post. 🙂 Means a lot.

  • Sometimes music does crazy stuff to you. I started learning music when I was 4. Had to stop in between many times. This post inspires me to continue learning 🙂
    You must have sung for hours together that day!

    • Thank you so much Ranjini. Music is one of the blessings, God has bestowed upon mankind. You should continue learning music again, as this knowledge is transcendent. Glad that you liked the post. 🙂 Means a lot.

  • Purba Chakraborty

    It was a treat to read your transcending experience with music. And the poem is so soulful. Loved this post and the recording too, Ma’am. You are a wonderful person. So glad to have known a lovely soul like you <3

    • Thank you so much Purba. Glad that you liked the post.
      The feeling is so mutual kid. Being connected with you is one of the best gifts TSS has given to me. 🙂 Means a lot. Stay happy, stay blessed. 🙂

  • Completely spell bound by your seraphic poetic composition Sangeeta ji. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Jyotika. Glad that you liked the poetry part. It’s my favorite in this post. 🙂 Means a lot. 🙂

  • A soulful piece, Sangeeta ji. Loved the Plato quote. And that nadir dir dir…. part reminded me of the famous song: “Madhuvan me Radhika Nache Re.” Indeed, music is a way to reach Moksha. And you have a good voice. You should record more. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Ravish. “Madhuban me Radhika naache re” is based on Raag ‘Hameer’ in which similar ‘tarana’ is sung like ‘Bageshri’. You have always amazed me with your in depth knowledge about art & literature. It’s my pride to be read and appreciated by you. 🙂

  • Still doing Kathak and so realise the importance of music. Thanks for this 😀 It is double inspirational

    • Kathak, Wow , that’s so great. I’ve tried learning it in my childhood but failed very badly. I needs lots of stamina, energy and discipline. Glad to know. Thanks that you liked the post. 🙂

  • Ritesh

    Wow…after read this post about music impressed. But when i heard your voice, amazing voice…Thanks for sharing !!

    • Thank you so much Ritesh. Glad that you liked the post. 🙂 Means a lot.

  • Anjali Sengar

    You are so talented mam.. Lovely post 🙂

  • Beautiful post, Thanks for sharing.

  • While reading this post Sangeeta ji,my nerves filled with an excitement and enthusiasm drove my eyes to read very fastly, because attaining that state of Moksha or Salvation is not any common thing. Some people may try it for years, but still unable to feel it. And, you at a very young age experienced the power of Salvation. And, your love for music and complete transmission in to a musician made this possible. Your music became the medium to attain that salvation. The room where you are was emptied, disappeared things and you were not you anymore, this is what many people are trying to become, but failing. Am really feeling great to know a person who controlled the music. You are gifted with that talent and it will once again make you shine in this world. And i also visualized the expression of Guru jee, who embarrassed you on that day. His heart knows how great you are, since his Guru taught you the music for the next months. Simply inspirational post Sangeeta ji, thank you for sharing your experience with the music, the rhythm divine :))

    • Your’s is the one comment, which I await the most Prasanna. The way you go through the entire post without missing even minute details and dig out the such thoughts , even I could skip to notice, is simply amazing. It’s my privilege being read and appreciated by person who is so thoughtful, soulful and solemn.

      I’ve gone through your post on music, and, seriously, am amazed seeing your hard-work, passion and skill for writing about such a vast subject, Music. Your keenness, insight and way of looking the subject, show in this comment of your’s. And I’m overwhelmed reading this.

      Thank you so much. Stay healthy, happy and keep blogging. God bless you. 🙂

  • Well, music is misspelled magic. Glad to know that you’ve had such a long musical journey.

    • Thank you so much Mr. Kr. Rightly said, music is magic indeed. Glad that you liked it. 🙂

  • wow… reminds me of my kathak riyaaz…
    u r so talented and multi-faceted Sangeetaji… am glad we connected,,, much love 🙂

    • Wow, you know Kathak ! No wonder you are so fit and energetic. I was too forced to learn Kathak when I was 6, but I was the worst student of my batch. Dance wasn’t my cup of tea.
      Thanks Archana. It’s my pleasure being connected with you. Love & hugs. 🙂 <3

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