Understanding Ragas: Majestic contours

The profound Thodi ragam of Carnatic music has its Hindustani equivalent in Bhairavi. Both are parent scale ragas in as much as they take a musical scale conceived (like Western scale) with seven syllabic notes in an order of ascent.

While Thodi, actually named as Hanumathodi is the eighth melakarta of the 72 in number and occupies the second place in the Netra (2nd) chakrabelongs to the second netra chakra, Bhairavi is slotted in the fifth of the ten thaats. Todi (Janathodi/Nattakokilam Pann) and Bhairavi are both ancient ragas; the latter is dated at 1,500 years! According to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhairavi has its origins in the folk tunes of Iran. The term derives its meaning from one of the eight manifestations of Devi that emanated from the burial ground. In the Hindustani parlance it is a female raag. Both Todi and Bhairavi, with their majestic contours evoke karuna and bhakti.

The aarohana-avarohana (ascent-descent) of Thodi runs thus: Sa-shadjam, R1(shudha rishabham), G2 (sadharana gandharam), M1(shudha madhyamam), Pa (Panchamam), D1 (shudha dhaivatam), N2 (kaishiki nishadham).

Thodi is difficult to perform due to the complexity of its usage in different kritis at different structural points (prayoga). The unique feature of Thodi is such that the same note can be rendered variedly according to the context of the composition. For instance, the gandharam (ga) and the nishadham (ni) afford a variety of intonations. And what more, all the syllabic notes (swara) barring the madhyamam can be oscillated (gamakam). The fluidity of movements of these notes is such that it gives scope for the performer to weave a range of patterns in keeping with the bhava/mood.

As such, Thodi displays its full splendor in slow, medium-paced compositions and has been a favourite with every composer. Saint Thyagaraja himself has nearly 30 kritis in Thodi and to his credit, the ragam takes a different nuance with each kriti.

Just like Thodi, Bhairavi affords innumerable options to improvise and hence it is called evergreen raag. Its unique feature is the use of all the 12 swar. The ascent of the raag runs: sa, komal Re, komal Ga, Ma, Pa, Komal Dha and komal Ni with the same being repeated in the descent (avarohan). Since it is a sampoorn raag, linear runs of the swar find frequent utterance. The pakkad/chalan is Dha, Ni, Sa is formulated on this shudh swaroop of the Bhairavi. Musicians, at times eschew the rishabh and pancham in the aaroh. A Malkauns-like tonal phrasing is also found. Most artists intersperse vivadi swar (grace notes) judiciously to embellish the raag, without disturbing the raag dharm. There are quite a few related raags of Bhairavi thaat like Shudh Bhairavi, Sindhubhairavi and Natbhairavi. Though traditionally Bhairavi comes under the morning raag category, in the present day, it has become a custom to present it towards the conclusion of a concert. Since there is this fine gender division in the Hindustani raags, Bhairavi is classified as ‘female' raag. Any number of drupad compositions abound in this raag as also in tarana, tappa and thumri. Its popularity in khyal gayaki is unquestioned and outside the realm of classicality, Bhairavi has been extensively applied to bhajan-singing, qawwali, and of course Hindi film music. Yesteryears playback singer Saigal was known for his beautiful rendition of Bhairavi. Some of the movie songs like ‘Nimbuda, nimbuda' (Hum dil dey chuke hai sanam), ‘Har gadi roop badal rahi'(Kal ho na ho), ‘Jaadu hai nasha hai' (Jism) are based on Bhairavi.


Nimbuda, nimbuda Hum dil dey chuke hain sanam Kal ho na ho Jaadu hai nasha hai Jism Dil apna aur preet paraya Baiju Bawra

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 4:14:36 PM |

Next Story