Sindhubhairavi is one of the most interesting and colourful of ragas. A melange of swaras finds it way into this accommodative raga. Sindhubhairavi is a derivative of the Asavari thaat, and the conventional Aarohana / Avarohana being SRGMDNS / SNDPMGRS. The raga features the Sadja, Suddha and Chatusruti Rishabha, Suddha Madhyama (and Prati Madhyama in special phrases), Pancama, Suddha Dhaivata (and Chatusruti Dhaivata in special phrases), Kaisiki Nishada (and Kakali Nishada too), in fact, almost everything! This raga is suited for lighter pieces, exudes bhakti and sringara rasas, and could melt mountains.
Classical compositions that are often sung in Sindhubhairavi include ‘Venkatachala Nilayam’ (Purandaradasa), ‘Kalyana Gopalam’ (Narayana Theertha), ‘Visweswara’, ‘Bhaja Bhaja’ and ‘Ramachandra Prabhu’ (Swati Tirunal), ‘Manadhirkugandhadhu’ (Tanjore Sankara Iyer), ‘Kantamam’ (Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri) among several others. One may recall Parvin Sultana’s rendition of the Punjabi anga ‘Bhavani Dayani’, Bhimsen Joshi’s abhang ‘Jeekaranjale’, and Kishori Amonkar’s rendition of ‘Koyaliya’, all scintillating pieces in this raga. Most ragamalika pieces also feature this raga.
One of the most well-utilised ragas in film music would be Sindhubhairavi.
M.S. Subbulakshmi's renditions of ‘Anandam En Solvene’ from Sakuntalai, ‘Brindavanathil Kannan Valarndha’ and ‘Kaatrinile’ from Meera, are exemplary depictions of this raga.
M.K. Tyagaraja Bhagavatar’s renditions in Sindhubhairavi are some of the most refreshing, including ‘Bhoomiyil Maanida’ from Ashok Kumar, and ‘Vadhaname Chandra Bimbamo’ from Sivakavi. In ‘Vadhaname’, the complete octave is explored with splendid vocalisation in ‘...Madura Gaanamo…’, in lightning speed.
Bharatiar’s ‘Theeratha Vilayattu Pillai’ in ragamalika featured Sindhubhairavi as the first raga in D.K. Pattammal’s voice (in the film Vedhaala Ulagam). ‘Sitham Ellam Enakku’ from Thiruvarutchelvar is a riveting piece, a composition of K.V. Mahadevan, who also composed ‘Manappara Madu Katti’ from Makkalai Petra Magaraasi in this raga.
The duo M.S. Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy has composed several pieces in this raga, including ‘Ennai Yarendru’ from Paalum Pazhamum, ‘Varayo Thozhi’ from Paasa Malar, and ‘Aaru Maname’ from Andavan Kattalai. The use of the shehnai in ‘Varayo Thozhi’ is noteworthy.
‘Kalyana Saapaadu’ from Major Chandrakanth in the music of V. Kumar is a foot-tapping number in this raga, and one notices that most pieces in this ragas start at the Gandhara-Madhyama region and proceed to the Madhya-sthayi Sadja.
M.S. Viswanathan's ‘Allah Allah’ from Mohammed-bin-Tughlaq, ‘Raman Ethanai Ramanadi’ from Lakshmi Kalyanam and ‘Unakkenna Mele Nindraai’ from Simla Special are evergreen pieces in Sindhubhairavi. In ‘Unakkenna’ the refrain ‘Thaai Madiyil Pirandom...’ ending with the thom-tha-dhom jathi beautifully encompasses the entire landscape of this raga — sheer genius.
‘Thiruthani Muruga’ from Neelagiri Express is a splendid composition in this raga by T.K. Ramamoorthy who passed away recently.
Ilaiyaraaja’s forays into this raga reveal wondrous pastures and a few breathtaking examples of his many compositions in this raga are ‘Valaiosai’ from Satya in which the fusion of the raga with the guitars and Lata Mangeshkar’s voice make magic, ‘Shenbagame’ from Enga Ooru Paatukaaran, ‘Muthumani Maala’ from Chinna Goundar, ‘Madha Un Kovilil’ from Achaani (in this piece the Antara Gandhara is beautifully touched upon in ‘Thaai Endru Unnaithaan’), ‘Naanoru Sindhu’ (with a folksy touch) from Sindhubhairavi, and ‘Oru Naalum Unai’ from Ejamaan. Ilaiyaraaja has used this raga for even a sensuous number ‘Aatama Therottama’ from Captain Prabakaran.
A.R. Rahman’s ‘Nenjinile’ from Uyire and ‘Margazhi Thingal Allavaa’ from Sangamam show varied hues of this rather, the latter being a more conventional approach to the scale.
Harris Jayaraj has tried his hand in Sindhubhairavi in ‘Ivan Dhaanaa’ from Saamy and ‘Theeye Theeye’ from Maattrraan.
In Hindi film music too this raga has been widely used, and one recalls ‘Joth Se Joth’ from the film Sant Gnyaneshwar in the lilting voices of Lata and Mukesh.
‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’, a multilingual song that is close to our hearts has been composed in this raga by Louis Banks and sung by several legends in Indian music, including Bhimsen Joshi and M. Balamuralikrishna.
Sindhubhairavi raga, a personal favourite, has innumerable memorable melodies, of which only a fraction has been mentioned in this article.