Surrender could imply submission to the Superior, to oneself, to art, to legends, to creation or most significantly, to life. Surrender becomes most satisfying when it is induced by will, driven purely by reasons that are comprehensible only on one side. In a world where surrender stands synonym to bondage and void, where submission is a ploy of the vile against the weak and where withdrawal seems to be the solution to overpass its melancholy, the raga Charukesi redefines it all. With her, surrender feels spotless, ambiguous, calming and pensive. She makes surrender feel like an essential for sustenance with her power over our ears. That is her- Charukesi– the one with beautiful hair.
Charukesi – the twenty sixth Melakarta raga in Carnatic music is possibly one of the most eternal and heart-wrenching ragas. Being a Sampoorna Raga containing all the seven swaras, it uniquely stands out in its tenure from other ragas with the completion and fulfillment that it delicately promises the listeners. In Carnatic music, it invokes the rasa of Bhakti or submission in most compositions. Some amazing compositions of Charukesi would make the listener shed tears with the kind of tranquility it gives to the heart. Charukesi also delivers traces of sympathy and love in some parts. When it comes to devotion, there is no raga that could match its level of eloquence and fineness.
The notes of the raga generate tides of blissful agony, the need to let go of anything worldly and submit every shred of one’s existence to the Supreme. While Bhakti is commonly viewed as its dominating attribute, the relief from internal bondage it offers is worth a greater mention because its uniqueness lies in its ability to free the listener’s thoughts while still making him/her want to bind them together and fall at her feet in submission. While most ragas are capable of soliciting the grace of prayer and devotion, Charukesi, in addition, reassures the fulfillment in complete capitulation.
In Carnatic music, Aadamodi galate by Thyagaraja and Kripaya paalaya by Swathi Thirunal stand testimony to the Raga’s serenity and rawness in conveyance. These legendary compositions stay rooted as popular Charukesi raga choices even today, owing to the beauty in even the simplest of swara combinations the raga can create. Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman’s composition Innum En Manam is another explicitly designed work on this raga, a composition which when performed in concerts, would leave the listeners’ hearts in pieces with its crudeness and authentic, unfeigned aura.
In the cinema line, Charukesi has been used in a very estimable and laudable way. The song Manmadha leelayai from the movie Haridas is an exceptional Charukesi composition that stirs every man’s heart with its intricacies and ethics. M.L Vasanthakumari’s Aadal Kaneero from the movie Madurai veeran is another gem in the line of Charukesi. Its rhythmic patterns in hand with the tempo of the raga is a brilliant match parallel with its conveyed circumstance.
One extraordinary feature of Charukesi is its ability to invoke emotions of extremes in only a small change in swara pattern.
Such remarkable songs with Charukesi usage in cinema include Udhaya Udhaya from the movie Udhaya, Dhaandiya Aatam from Kaadhalar dinam, Aahista Aahista from Swades and Vasantha Mullai Pole from Sarangadhara. This prominent Carnatic raga surprisingly finds its beauty in Western music too. Procession of the Sardar by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov and Impromptus C Minor (Allegro Molto Moderato) by Franz Schubert employ Charukesi-like ragas in their music.
Apart from these, numerous Hindi movies have also managed to successfully shape Charukesi as evergreen songs. Some classic examples of Charukesi in Hindi would be Aaj Dil Pe Koi Zor Chalta Nahi from Milan, Akele Hai Chale Aao from the film Raaz, Ek Tu Jo Mila from Himalay ki Godh Mei, all wonderfully sung by the legendary Latha Mangeshkar. Listening to these exemplary compositions would suffice for anyone to fall in love with its originality.
With its magnitude of reach and impact on us, Charukesi would never cease to be one of the most heart-breaking ragas ever, in spite of its farther ordinance in its own domain of Carnatic. The measure of its impression on every listener is so magnanimous that even subconsciously; we would entitle our complete concentration and attention to it, at least for the few minutes of its remittance. The pain and relief that it incorporates in its form is inexplicably a mutant warrant for submission. With every note, the will to surrender keeps proliferating, pulling us into its void of emotions.
When this real Charukesi is felt, when she is understood, when she is endured, she would no longer remain a raga, known to artists and evaded to others. No, Charukesi would metamorphose into Surrender then.
The Raga Series intends to elucidate on the Raga-Rasa relationship to make your listening experience more enjoyable. The series is based on the author’s views and is purely subjective. Music tracks are shared for your quick reference and their rights belong to their respective owners.