Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

The Composition – PART II

Lavanya Dinesh

By Lavanya Dinesh

4. Thumri – This is a sweet, alluring and highly popular kind of gayan (rendition). Here the compositions completely revolve around the life, deeds and beauty of Radha and Krishna. There is a lot of shringar (romanticism) and bhakti-bhav (devotion) in thumris. Virah or pain of separation and the longing to be one with the Supreme Being who is referred to as the ‘lover’ forms the central theme of most thumris. The meaningful contextual lyrics are laced with pleasing and ornamental phrasing, usually in raagas such as Khamaj, Pilu, Bhairavi, Pahadi, Gaara, Kafi and Keerwani. Like in khyal gayaki, purity of raaga is not a prerequisite, so the singer is only limited by his or her imagination in the beauty they can bring to a thumri rendition. This genre originated under the patronage of the Nawabs of northern India more than two centuries ago. Thumri is personified in the voices of my all-time favorites such as legendary Begum Akhtar, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Shobha Gurtu and Ajoy Chakraborty.

5. Bhajan – We instantly recognize the word bhajan to mean a devotional song. It is a light classical genre that is a poetic description of the leela or deeds of the Lord. Bhajans sing the praise of the Almighty, asks for divine intervention and blessings, conveys a thirst for transcendental knowledge, courage to be righteous and also describe spiritual awakenings.

Popularized in the medieval period known as the Bhakti-Kaal (age of Spiritual Renaissance), the bhajan emerged as an offspring of the bhakti movement. The pioneers of the movement were poet-saints and spiritual leaders such as Meerabai, Kabir, Tulsidas, Surdas, Jaideva and others. The languages used are Sanskrit, Hindi and its dialects like Braj Bhasha, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada and every other regional language of India. Each region has experienced a bhakti movement. The innate beauty and simplicity of the bhajan are mesmerizing. It can be an individual rendition or performed in a group in the form of keertan and sankeertan. The common man through the ages has found peace and solace through bhajan because of its simplicity and universality. Bhajan genre has been universally embraced as a pathway to reach the Supreme Truth. Bhajan renditions that touch my heart include those by Pandit D.V. Paluskar, Pandit Kumar Gandharv (Nirguni bhajans), Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Josh (Marathi abhangs and Kannada devaranamas), Pandit Rajan-Sanjan Mishra, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Kishori Amonkar.

6. Ghazal – A rich and textured genre celebrating romance, beauty, passion and even wit, the ghazal is a highly popular and attractive style of singing. An understanding of the lyrics, which are almost always in the Urdu language, is a key to its complete enjoyment. The artists take complete liberty with respect to raaga (melody) and taala (rhythm), which enables them to imbue the poetry of the ghazal with appropriate context and intensity.

Started in the Mughal era, the ghazal has emerged as an anthem for lovelorn hearts everywhere. The most expressive and improvisational ghazal performers that I have come across are Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh and Hariharan. Some of the other less frequently heard genres include the Tappa, Dadra, Hori, Kajri, Chaiti, Chaturang, Raagmala, Dhamar, Lakshan Geet and Sargam Geet.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. Dinesh, who has three album releases to her credit, also has worked as a music critic and feature writer for Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at




Varaha Avatar is the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu. As Varaha Avatara, Lord Vishnu rescued Goddess Earth or Bhoomi Devi from sinking to the bottom of the ocean. A demon named Hiranyaksha starts destruction by pushing Goddess Earth into the sea. He steals the Holy Scriptures from Brahma while he is sleeping. Maha Vishnu incarnates himself as a boar and lifts goddess Earth out of the ocean using his two tusks. He then kills Hiranyaksha and retrieves the Vedas from him, thus bringing peace on Earth.

TheTirumala Venkateswara Temple in Andhra Pradesh near Tirupathi is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, where the Lord is in the form of Varaha Avatar. 

Narasimha Avatar is the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In Tamil language, Nara means man and simham means lion. As per legend, Lord Vishnu took this avatar to save Prahlada, his young devotee from his cruel father king Hiranyakashyapu. Lord Vishnu assumed the form of half-man, half-lion, as Hiranyakashyapu had been bestowed with a boon that he could not be killed by either man or beast, his end would come neither during day or at night and he could not be killed either inside or outside a building. Keeping these conditions in mind, Vishnu took this avataram and killed the cruel king.

There are several temples in the south dedicated to the Narasimha form of Lord Vishnu.

Vamana Avatar is the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. As the story goes, King Mahabali, king of demons and grandson of Prahlada, was dominating and proud. He always showed off his wealth and claimed that he could fulfill all the desires of the people who came to him. As Vamana, Vishnu’s fifth incarnation, the Lord takes the form of a little boy and crushes the pride and ego of the Mahabali. The king had prided himself to be better than the gods and able to bestow any gifts or wishes requested of him. Vishnu, as a little boy, requests for space enough for three steps of his foot. However, one step covers the entire world and the other covers the skies. With no more space for the third step, Bali realizes his foolishness and sees that this little boy is none other than the great Lord Vishnu. Bali offers his head, which Vishnu steps on to symbolize the crushing of Mahabali’s ego.

Sri Vamanar Temple in Kanchipuram is one of the Vishnu temples where God is in the form of Vamana Avatar. It is located near to Sri Kamachi Amman Temple.

To be continued . . .

Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at

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