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#Musings with Nitin Amin: Raga Bhairavi

21 Song Salute to the Great Lata

Raga Bhairavi enjoys a very significant place in Indian culture. The most important significance in Hindustani Classical Music is that it is used to mark the ending of a concert. If you see a singer or instrumentalist begin the raga Bhairavi, you can presume that he or she is going to end the concert after that presentation. There could be many reasons for this but the one that we think fits well is that Bhairavi is normally sung in the mornings, and probably in the olden days since the concerts went on well into the night so the end of the concert would normally coincide with daybreak.

There may be another possible reason that is slightly more complex. As a performer in a concert, if the singer or instrumentalist has to present many ragas one after the other then, to consistently increase the level of performance after they have presented a raga in all shuddha swaras, the next raga should introduce one komal swara and then two and so on. Finally, when you come to the end of the performance, all the swaras become komal and that is raga bhairavi. Bhairavi is a raga that uses all the swaras in their komal versions.

Raga Bhairavi is extremely popular, you get Dhrupads, Khayals - normally in madhyalaya, Thumris and many of the semi-classical forms as well.

Advanced listeners of Hindustani Classical music should notice the following in the structure of Raga Bhairavi. All the swaras are in their komal versions as demonstrated here. The swaras are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa. In the chalan of raga Bhairavi, you will notice that the Re is omitted in the aaroha and there is a very peculiar andolan to the Ga as shown - Ni, Sa, Ga, Ma, Ga, Ga, Ma, Ga, Ma, Re, Sa, Ni, Sa in the beginning and then Ga, Ma, Dha, Pa as the next phrase. When you go into the uttarang towards the Sa you will hear Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni, Sa or Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa in the original pure form of Raga Bhairavi.

Over the last few centuries, raga Bhairavi witnessed a lot of changes. A lot of shuddha swaras are getting added to the structure of raga Bhairavi and today in fact, we treat raga Bhairavi with all twelve swaras. You will notice that there is a popular ‘system’ to how the swaras are used today. You can see a demonstration on the bansuri here. This flexibility and malleability of the raga is probably what has made it so popular for the light and semi-classical music.

Experience a wonderful bandish on the Bansuri in Raga Bhariavi here.

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