Vasanthabhairavi is the janya of the 14th melakarta raga Vagulabharanam. An attractive raga, Vasanthabhairavi is usually familiar even to the untrained ear. This is because there are very few compositions in this raga, and are oft-repeated by most artistes. The most well-loved piece in this raga would be ‘Ni Dayarada’ of Tyagaraja. There will not be a vidwan who has not enjoyed presenting this piece enthusiastically to a responsive audience. Their knowing smiles and nodding heads would reveal the reach of this raga. Other pieces in Vasanthabhairavi include ‘Prasanna Venkateswaram’ of Muthuswamy Dikshitar and ‘Rama Ramana Barama’ of Tyagaraja. The notes in this shadava-vakra sampoorna raga are sadja, suddha rishabha, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, suddha dhaivata, and kaisiki nishada in the ascent. In the descent, the pancama appears, to create a serrated pattern, adding spice to the raga. The arohana-avarohana is SRGMDNS / SNDMPMGRS. Due to the swara pattern ‘DMPM’, the term vakra is applicable to this scale.
In movies, this raga has not been used much at all. This is expected owing to its unique grammar and prayogas. In the film Sindhubhairavi, Ilaiyaraaja uses the tune of ‘Nidayarada’ for the song ‘Un Dayavillaya’ and orchestrates beautifully.
The raga Begada is a delightful one, highly classical, and full of little surprises — be it a foreign note (bhashanga swara) or the exaggerated gamaka. Begada is a vakra shadava sampoorna scale, meaning only six notes are present in the ascent, and take on a jagged path, while in descent all seven notes occur. Begada is a janya of the 29th melakarta Shankarabharanam. The aarohana-avarohana of Begada are SGRGMPDPS / SNDPMGRS. The speciality of this raga is the slightly elevated tonal level of the suddha madhyama, a ‘pratyantara madhyama’ level, and the usage of the kaisiki and kakali nishadas. The other notes in this raga include the sadja, chatusruti rishaba, antara gandhara, pancama, and chatusruti dhaivata.
A unique raga, it is often referred to as Begada-meegada (Telugu), the smoothness of this raga is like fresh cream. Classical composers have explored the uniqueness of this raga to their heart’s content. Tyagaraja’s ‘Nadopasana’, ‘Lokavana’ and ‘Neeverakula’ are outstanding, while Dikshitar’s ‘Vallabha Nayakasya’ and ‘Tyagarajaya Namaste’ stand lofty. Shyama Sastri composed the melting ‘Kamakshi Nato Vada’ in this raga. Tamil kritis such as ‘Ganarasamudan’ and ‘Kadaikann Vaithu’ are popular and merit mention.
In M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar’s 1944 film Haridas, the piece ‘Nijama Idhu Nijama’ is a pristine piece in Begada. In Kappalotiya Tamizhan, G. Ramanathan gives the essence of the raga within minutes in the ragamalika piece ‘Odi Vilaiyadu Paapa’. The lines ‘Jaathigal Illayadi Paapa” establish the raga gracefully. Seerkazhi Govindarajan’s sonorous voice brings forth brilliant sangatis that are typical of the raga.
In the Malayalam film Udhayam, in the brilliant music direction of V. Dakshinamurthy, the piece ‘Kalayude Devi’ is an absolutely riveting exposition of the raga Begada — such a classical raga, handled with such an easy flow… The singers S. Janaki and Ambuli deliver the piece with grace. In the phrase ‘Devi…’ the swaras S,NDPMGS clearly outline the raga’s essential and the notes that follow SNDPS establish the raga indubitably.
There is a song in two ragas, Begada and Kalyani, composed once again by V. Dakshinamurthy. In the Malayalam film Sthree, the song ‘Innale Neeyoru’ is a stunning piece, the first half of it in Begada. This is a rather slow delineation of the raga’s various phrases, and when viewed in totality, the unmistakable fabric unfurls in all its grandeur. In the very beginning, DPSSG brings in the dhaivata in the lower octave and typically points to Begada. In the charanam, the kaisiki nishada is presented with its typical gamaka inflection that only a seasoned practitioner of classical music can envisage. K.J. Yesudas and S. Janaki have independently sung this piece, both bringing in their own flavours to the melody.