Sword-wielding singers, powerful voices – that's Aalha for you

The pride of Bundelkhand, these are songs of the battlefield, songs of bravery from a bygone era. Sung in Veer rasa, Aalha songs are sung by sword-wielding men in very powerful voices. Hence, a petite Sheelu Singh Rajput – the only female Aalha singer in our country -- singing these songs comes as a pleasant surprise

Swati Subhedar

Swati Subhedar   3 Jun 2019 8:07 AM GMT

Edited by: Swati Subhedar

"People say my voice suggests that I am a very tough girl. But the fact is when somebody scolds me even a little, I start crying, "said Sheelu Singh Rajput, who is from Lakushaha village in Raebarely.

A visit to Bundelkhand is incomplete if you don't visit this village and listen to Sheelu singing the famous Aalha songs -- the songs of the battlefield, songs of bravery from a bygone era.

These songs – the pride of Bundelkhand -- narrate the stories of valour of two brothers, Aalha and Udal, who fought many battles for King Parmaldev, who was the ruler of Mahoba, the erstwhile capital of Chandel kings.



Sung in Veer rasa – the ras of bravery and valour – these songs are mostly sung by sword-wielding men in very powerful voices. Hence, a petite Sheelu singing Aalha comes as a pleasant surprise. She is very timid and controlled off camera, but transforms as soon as she starts performing holding swords in her hands. Her voice captivates and mesmerises the audience and they yearn for more even after the performance gets over.

"When I performed at the Indian Habitat Centre, Aalha singers from different states were invited. Aalha singers are known to have fierce moustaches. I got scared looking at some of them. I thought maybe my voice wasn't as strong as theirs," said Sheelu.

Her life changed when she was 13. "I visited a temple near my village where renowned Aalha singer, Lallu Bajpai, was performing. I told my father that I too wanted to be an Aalha singer. He wasn't very encouraging at first, but I was determined to wield a sword and sing songs of bravery."

After that day, there has been lo looking back for Sheelu.



The backstory of Aalha songs

King Parmaldev was the ruler of Mahoba, the erstwhile capital of Chandel kings. He fought many battles with the Delhi sultanate and the king of Kannauj. Alha and Udal were two brothers who were a part of King Parmaldev's kingdom. They were still kids when their father died on the battlefield. The large-hearted king got the orphan brothers to his palace and the queen, Malinha, started looking after them. The two brothers grew up to be brave soldiers, who fought many battles for their kingdom. The tales of their valour are quite famous. The king was the last ruler of Chandel, but the legend of two brothers lives on. The Aalha-Udal tales are sung in the veer rasa. In Aalha Khand, there is a mention of 52 tales of valour of the two brothers.

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