Voice that Lives On – Lata Mangeshkar

Priya Rajamani

What can I say about Lata ji?

She is the ‘voice of the millennia’, a priceless gem of India whose melodic voice has the transcendental power to connect with the divine!

Music has no boundaries, and her incredulous career spanning seven decades, singing more than 50,000 songs in more than 36 languages proved that. She enthralled us with songs covering every emotion, ‘Navarasas’ as it’s called in the Natya Shastra.

Piya tose naina laage re exuberates the shringara (love) rasa, and her fun and lively rendition of Kya karoon raam muhje buddha mil gaya is a fine example of the Haasya (laughter) rasa. Dushman na kare dost ne woh kaam kiya hai truly shows the pain, betrayal and eventually the disgust, the protagonist feels and covers the Veebhasta (disgust) rasa.

When Lata ji sang the song Aye mere watan ke logon it was pure depiction of the Veer (valor) rasa, so is the song Saugandh Mujhe Is Mitti ki released on 30 March 2019 as a tribute to the Indian army and Nation.

In the song Chhod de saari Duniya kisi ke liye she beautifully expresses the Karuna (compassion) rasa. There is a sense of compassion mixed with grief in this song highlighting that one must be considerate of his duties towards people who have sacrificed oneself for the society one lives in.

Lata ji brings in the perfect sense of Adbhuta (surprise) rasa in the song Bahon mein chalo aao when she goes Shhhh…shhh…shh. That is the element of perfect surprise brought in with voice modulation.

Unlike today’s songs where anger is spelt heavily with loud bass and percussion, golden era had a softer way to expressing anger in songs as well. In the song Rasik Balma, Lata ji expresses the frustration with the longing Haaayyyyy. It is a melodic anger indeed in Roudra rasa. In the song Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil the haunting aalap leaves one in goosebumps as the melody aims to scare the listeners, aptly capturing the Bhayanak (Horror) rasa.

Lata ji’s voice has a calming effect and brings peace in the hearts of everyone who listen to it. She has sung innumerable Bhajans that tugs at the heartstrings. Songs like Satyam Shivam Sundaram, O palan hare nirgun ho nyare take you to a different place and make you forget your worries, showcasing the Shanta (calm) rasa.

To go back to how it all began, a little history about Lata ji.

Lata Mangeshkar was only five years old when her father Pt. Deenanath Mangeshkar started giving her singing lessons. Pt. Deenanath Mangeshkar was a well-known Marathi theatre artiste and Hindustani classical vocalist. Lata ji even participated in his plays.

But life had other plans. At 13, just as she was about to start her music career, she lost her father. Being the eldest among her five siblings, the responsibility of the family fell upon her, and she took the challenge head-on. She started singing in films and became the sole breadwinner of her family. She recorded her first song at the age of 13 and then there was no turning back.

She went on to give her voice to timeless classics including Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya from the 1960 magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam, Rangeela Re from 1970 Prem Pujari and Jiya Jale in Mani Ratnam’s 1998 Dil Se. Also, we can’t forget her mellifluous voice in Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, which has been leaving the nation in tears since 1963 – the first time when she performed it live in the presence of former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Born on September 28, 1929, Lata Mangeshkar has a record of over seven decades of playback from 1942 to 2015. The recipient of three National Film Awards, the legendary singer was honored with Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1989 and Bharat Ratna in 2001.

Lata ji, at 90 years, decided to record her last song Ata visavyacha kshan…, translating to ‘it’s now time to take rest.’ It is sung in Marathi and has a very lovely meaning. It translates to ‘I am satisfied with my long journey and the lovely memories it has given me. I am thankful for it, but now the time has come to rest, and I am going to do it with satisfaction and contentment that I have given my best…’

What a voice, what a life, what a dedication and what a journey!

What we can learn from Lata ji’s life is that one needs to give their best, with earnest efforts and that is all there is to life!

The Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar left her bodily abode leaving a huge void in the hearts of music lovers. Lata ji touched so many lives through her dedication for singing, building hospitals and temples, helping NGOs and other organizations.

What a meaningful life!

Lata ji continues to live in our hearts and is eternal!

Naam gum jaayega

Chehra yeh badal jaayega

Meri Aawaaz hi pehchaan hai

Gar Yaad rahein

Author Bio

Priya Rajamani is deeply passionate about Indian classical music and dance and is an active member of the karaoke community in the Bay area. A med-device industry professional, strategy leader, career coach, dancer, choreographer, and musician with two children, Priya was recently featured in a South Asian choreography by Raas Dance studio.

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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