Khamas is a raga that brims with sringara rasa. It is enticing and graceful. It is an ancient raga mentioned in musical treatises.
In Tamizh pann system, this raga is called Panchachamaram. It is a vakra shadava-sampoorna raga (six notes in ascent, all seven in descent), a janya of the 28th mela Harikambhoji. Its arohana-avarohana pattern is SMGMPDNS/SNDPMGRS. The notes featured in Khamas are sadja, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, chatusruti dhaivata, and kaisiki nishada. In the modern interpretation of Khamas, the Bhashanga (foreign) note of kakali nishada also comes into play and adds charm.
There are several attractive pieces in classical music in Khamas. Thyagaraja’s ‘Sujana Jeevana’ and ‘Seethapathe’ are interpretative pieces that bring forth the innate beauty of the raga. Dikshitar’s ‘Sarasa Dala’ and ‘Santanagopalakrishnam’ are well structured pieces while Mysore Vasudevachar’s ‘Brocheva’ is hugely popular and features the kakali nishada.
Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Edathu Paadam’ is a well known Tamil kriti and ‘Mathe’ (Daru varnam) of Muthiah Bhagavathar merits mention. Most students of music would be well acquainted with ‘Sambasivayenave’, the famous Swarajathi in Khamas.
In the Tamil film Tukaram, Musiri Subramania Iyer has sung a melodious Marathi song in Khamas. (Stellar singer Musiri had to sport a moustache for the film and couldn’t stand the discomfort while using an artificial one; hence, the shoot had to wait till he grew a real one!)
In Meera, one the most memorable melodies is in Khamas — ‘Maraindha Koondil Irundhu’. The phrase ‘SmMG,RSND’, vital for Khamas, is well brought out in several instances in this piece.
M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar has sung ‘Oru Naal Oru Pozhudagilum’ from Thiruneelakantarin Khamas. The wonderful phrase ‘PSD,PMGM’, with a characteristic gamaka at the madhyama is brought forth in the line ‘Uccharikka Vendum’. MKT has sung yet another noteworthy piece in Khamas — ‘Maanida Janmam’ from Rajamukti, with music by C.R. Subburaman. The importance of the dhaivata in this raga is highlighted in this song. For instance, even the pallavi line concludes as ‘Meendum Vandidumo…’ pausing at the dhaivata.
The kriti ‘Brochevarevarura’ in the film Sankarabharanam, sung by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and Vani Jayaram became very popular.
Ilaiyaraaja has composed ‘Pallaviye Saranam’ in the film “Oruvar Vazhum Alayam in Khamas. The opening phrase, ‘SMGM, NDNPDNS’, clearly establishes the raga’s identity, and the phrase, ‘PSDP/MGM’ in ‘...Thanthathadi Salanam’ reiterates Khamas. This melody is sung impeccably by S. P. Balasubramiam and S. Janaki.
‘Naan Pesa Vandhen’ from Palootti Valartha Kili is yet another song by Ilaiyaraaja that features many characteristic prayogas of the raga, and is mostly based on this raga.
‘Uyirum Neeye’ from Pavitra is a moving melody in Khamas composed by A.R. Rahman and sung by Unnikrishnan. In ‘Udalum Neeye’ the madhyama gamaka is beautifully placed, very typical.
Khamaj of Hindustani music closely resembles raga Khamas. ‘Tere Mere Milan Ki’ from Abhimaan sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata to the music of S.D. Burman is a lilting piece based on Khamaj.