A raga that is suitable for the mornings, exuding positivity and happiness, is Bilahari. Bilahari has beauty in asymmetry, and is an audava-sampoorna raga. It contains the notes sadja, chatusruti rishabha, antara gandhara, pancama, and chatusruti dhaivata in ascent, and the kakali nishada and the suddha madhyama in descent. The arohana and avarohana is SRGPDS/SNDPMGRS. The kaisiki nishada sometimes occurs as a bhashanga swara (foreign note), lending pep and freshness to the raga. Bilahari is known for the bhakti rasa that it pours forth, and in addition to classical kritis, several verses steeped in devotion are often sung as viruttams in Bilahari.
The classical compositions in Bilahari include ‘Na jeevadhara’, ‘Kanukontini’, ‘Dorakuna’ , ‘Tolijanma’ and ‘Intha kannananda’ of Thyagaraja; ‘Sri Balasubramanya’, ‘Kamakshi’ and ‘Ekadantam’ of Muthuswamy Dikshitar; and ‘Paridhanaminchithe’ of Patnam Subramanya Iyer. ‘Sri Chamundeeswari’ of Mysore Vasudevachar is a favourite of many artistes.
Ragas such as Bilahari are very unique and their signature prayogas are hard to miss. They stand out and, hence, it is quite easy to identify a Bilahari when one hears a good rendition that keeps within the rules of the scale. Due to the same reason, it is also difficult for film composers to compose a kriti that entirely conforms to the grammar of the raga.
In Konjum Salangai, the viruttam ‘Orumaiyudan’ sung by Sulamangalam Rajalakshmi perhaps best defines Bilahari and it is one of the greatest compositions on the silver screen. The opening phrase itself begins with GPDS and moves towards the signature janta (repeated swaras) prayoga SNRSSNND….
The plethora of sangatis in ‘Shamukha Deivamani’ is stunning. In the movie, Karukurichi Arunachalam (for Gemini Ganesan) plays a Bilahari alapana on the nadaswaram soon after the viruttam and it is seasoned vintage fare.
In Bala Nagamma, Ilaiyaraaja has given us a splendid depiction of raga Bilahari. The song ‘Koondhalile…’ begins with the violins cascading down the entire octave multiple times to bring in the flavour of the raga. The song opens in Yesudas’ voice, with the phrase GPDS…PDRSSNNDDPPMMGG, very typical of the raga, employing janta prayogas.
In Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, ‘Omana Penne’ is set to a light and interesting Bilahari, the highlight of the piece being the Nadaswaram solo portions. A plethora of sangatis has been possible with the help of technological manipulation of the notes. It is a stirring piece that is contemporary.
Mild and smoothing
Malayamarutham is a morning raga too, an enticing one, the arohanam-avarohanam being SRGPDNS/SNDPGRS. The notes featured are sadja, suddha rishabha, antara gandhara, pancama, chatusruti dhaivata, and kaisiki nishada. This raga is soothing, mild and relaxing. In classical music, the Thyagaraja kriti ‘Manasa Yetulo’ is well-known, and Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Karpaga manohara’ is attractive.
‘Orarumugamum’, a popular devotional piece in praise of Lord Muruga, sung by the legendary T.M. Soundararajan who passed away recently, is a sterling example of how Malayamarutham can appeal to all.
In film music, this raga has been employed in very few songs; it is challenging to deal with ragas such as these. The song ‘Kanmani Nee Vara’ from Thendrale Ennai Thoduis a breezy piece set to Malayamarutham. In the lines, ‘Ponnazhage Poovazhage En Aruge’, the notes ‘GPDD/ PDNN/ DNSS’ bring in the raga’s unique touch to the fore. The pronounced rishaba in the opening phrase of the charanams ‘S,R S,R...’ is ample testimony to the raga. One has to ignore the madhyama occurrence in the interlude.
In Oru Odai Nadhiyagiradhu, the song ‘Thendral Ennai Muthamittadhu’ is set to Malayamarutham as well. The opening phrase itself brings the raga alive — ‘GPDPGRSRSS’. The alaap that follows the line, ‘Kanavil Edho Kolam…’ outlines the quintessential notes of the raga.
In Dumm Dumm Dumm, Karthik Raja gives us a stunning Malayamarutham in ‘Ragasiyamaai’.