Whenever I listen to raga Charukesi, I recall an incident from my childhood. My music class was in progress and the song that I was learning was Kripaya Palaya, a composition of Swati Tirunal which extolls the virtues of Goddess Lakshmi. Even as I was singing, I could hear my uncle whistling under his breath as he walked behind me. The tune that he was humming sounded similar to what I was singing. After class when I cornered him, he gave a sheepish smile and said, “I was singing Manmadha Leelaiyai from the movie Haridas – isn’t it the same raga that you were learning?” Raga Charukesi made an easy transition from the classical stage to the silver screen quite sometime back.
Tyagaraja’s magnum opus Ada Modigalade in raga Charukesi is a sombre piece which highlights the composer’s desperation for Lord Rama to respond to the devotee’s cry. Here is a soul-stirring rendition by maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman of raga Charukesi followed by the song Ada Modigalade.
This raga is widely regarded as a recent import into the Hindustani school of music. Listen to Ustad Amir Khan singing the khayal, Laaj Rakho Tum Mori Ghosaiyya in raag Charukesi.
The song Engengey Engengey sung by Asha Bhonsale and Hariharan from the Tamil movie Nerakka Ner was a big hit.
For Western music buffs, here’s an interesting tidbit about Charukesi. Strains of this melody can be heard in this piece of Franz Schubert’s Impromptu.
For those who want details, raga Charukesi is the 26th Melakartha raga and the scale reads as follows.