Hamsadhwani — a raga that is bright and auspicious, one that is most suited for commencing a Carnatic concert. That probably explains why kritis in Lord Ganesha abound in this raga. This raga is well-loved and easily identified due to its distinctive charm that gets better when sung in Madhyamakala (medium-fast tempo). Hamsadhwani is a pentatonic scale (audava raga) and the notes it houses include Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Antara Gandhara, Pancama and Kakali Nishada. Hamsadhwani has its roots in the Carnatic form, and is said to have been created by Ramaswamy Dikshitar, father of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. The credit in taking this raga into the Hindustani system of music goes to Ustad Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendibazaar gharana. In its Hindustani form, the Kaisiki Nishada also appears sometimes lending texture and finer hues to the solid fabric of the raga.

Popular kritis in Hamsadhwani include ‘Vatapi Ganapatim’ and ‘Parvati Patim’ of Dikshitar, ‘Sri Raghukula’ and ‘Raghunayaka’ of Tyagaraja. ‘Vinayaka’ of Veeva Kuppier and ‘Vara Vallabha’ of G.N. Balasubramaniam have colourful sangatis that enthuse one and all. ‘Karunai Seivaai’ of Papanasam Sivan and ‘Gam Ganapathe’ of Muthiah Bhagavatar deserve mention.

In Adutha Veettu Penn, one of the finest usages of Hamsadhwani raga on the silver screen can be seen in the song ‘Vanitha Maniye’. A whimsical and playful melody, a light-hearted love song, this piece is a delight, with its flowery sangatis at the top Sadja in the opening phrase ‘GP S’. P.B. Srinivas effortlessly renders this piece composed intricately by P. Adinarayana Rao.

In the film Vaazhkai, the song ‘Kaalam Maralam’ in Ilaiyaraaja’s music is an attractive Hamsadhwani in the voices of S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and Vani Jayaram. The pallavi begins with ‘S,NN PG/SRG,R,SS’ —the characteristic progression for Hamsadhwani. In the charanam, the Suddha Dhaivata peeps out, hinting a shift towards Vaasanthi, but quickly the original raga is restored.

Ilaiyaraaja has come up with yet another piece, ‘Ther Kondu Sendravan’ in this raga from the film Enakkul Oruvan. Interspersed with jathis, this song has clever sangatis in ‘Thozhi (NSRGR)’, and is set to triplet beat.

In Kizhakke Pogum Rayil, the piece ‘Malargale Nadaswarangal’ in Malaysia Vasudevan’s voice brings forth yet another dimension of this raga — trendy while keeping with the traditional roots, and the maestro establishes the raga clearly at the opening itself with ‘GPSN, SNPGRGPR’.

‘Mayile Mayile’ from Kadavul Amaitha Medai is unambiguously Hamsadhwani, and Ilaiyaraaja once again gives free reign to his imagination, exploring the niceties of this scale. The violin solo in the background wins hearts. In the voices of SPB and Jency, this piece is a treat.

Ilaiyaraaja’s liking for this raga is evident from the way he has handled ‘Sri Ranga Ranga’ from Mahanadhi. The last lines in the charanams culminate with a phrase that goes like ‘R,R N,P NN P,GPP…’, and such swara patterns are very sound and highly creative.

Bharadwaj has composed ‘Imaikkada Vizhiyum’ for Kadhal Dot Com in Hamsadhwani, and this song too begins at the Gandhara, the most suitable swara for starting any piece in this raga. In ‘Unnodu Vaazhaadha’ from Amarkalam, Bharadwaj has used the Madhyama in ample measure, hence that song cannot be classified as Hamsadhwani, though there are regions in the song that remind one of this raga.

A simple and artistic piece in Hamsadhwani is ‘Vellai Pookkal’ from Kannathil Muthamittaal in the music of A.R. Rahman. The charanams start at the upper octave Rishabha and make a great impact on the listeners, the harmonies caressing the senses as the guitar gently strums on.

‘Ja Tose Nahim Boloon’ from Parivaar (music Salil Chowdhury), sung gloriously by Lata Mangeskar and Manna Dey, is a sterling piece in Hamsadhwani. The alaap in the charanam by Lata is fascinating.

The Malayalam song ‘Ragangale Mohangale’ from Thaaraattu is a well-handled piece in this raga. The harmonium accompaniment is refreshing, and the voices of K.J. Yesudas and S. Janaki, enticing.