The time of dusk has a very special place in Indian vedic philosophy. The time just before sunset is supposed to be extremely meditative, supposed to make on reflect on one’s life and karmas – good or bad deeds. Time just before the sunset is the time when the day ends. Or it is the time just before the “death” of that day. And no matter which philosophy one may believe in, one would agree that just before one’s time to move on from this world, one would introspect, reflect on life and account for all the karmic gains and losses. As odd this concept of death of the day may superficially sound, this time is very pure, free from material attachments. It is the time of “moksha” or liberation.
Many vedic traditions, which follow this same philosophy, also treat this time as very important. In Ayurveda (traditional Indian medical system), this time is supposed to be the tail end of vata time and vata is associated with degeneration and old age. In vedic astrology, the 8th house in the birth chart is associated with this time and that house is considered the house of liberation (which people mistakenly think as house of death and therefore – bad house).
Indian classical music which is deeply rooted in vedic philosophy, there is a whole class of Ragas that are associated with this time. There tends to be a sense of mysticism with these Ragas. Some of the notable Ragas associated with this time are Marwa, Puriya, Purvi, Shree, Gauri and Puriya Dhanashree.
Raga Marwa is a very uniquely strange raga because it is played by significantly diminishing the Sa note. The Sa note (Sa being abbreviation of the word Shadja or “that which gives birth to other six notes”) is played for reference in the tanpura in the background. However as it is diminished in the rendering of the Raga, the overall effect it creates is that of unstable and anxious feeling. One of the best Marwa renditions I have heard is by Ustad Vilayat Khan.
There is one particular composition in Raga Puriya Dhanashree that I love. Here’s a version of that composition sung by one of my favorite vocalists – Dr Veena Sahastrabuddhe. The words of the composition can be roughly translated into “Today is coming to an end, Now is the time for you to meditate”.
Here’s a gem by Pandit Kumar Gandharva in Raga Shree. Kumarji had a medical condition because of which parts of his lung were removed. As a result, he had very short stamina and was advised against singing. His genius was such that he developed a whole new style of singing that deemphasized long notes in favor of punchy approach to rhythm. The tarana in Shree that he sings in this clip is a great example of his style – notice how he emphasizes the rhythm by throw of words.
By the way, those of you who feel surprised and perhaps depressed by the association of death and liberation with the time of dusk, should take heart in this next one. As circle of life continues, so does the time of the day. If sunset is “death” of the day, it is also birth of the night. Birth of course is celebrated with every bit of joy the newborn brings to the world. Ragas after sunset exemplify this feeling of joy. Raga Yaman is the king of such ragas. See how contrasting the effect is compared to all the Ragas above –