• Raag Bageshri •


An ancient raga of the late night, Bageshri is associated with ‘vipralambha’ – the profound shades of longing felt by a separated lover. These sentiments are reflected in its multipolar phraseology: artists may resolve towards Sa for a clustered, inward-turning feel (mgRS), or towards shuddha ma for a more open, expansive sound (DnSgm) – often seen as symbolising two lovers, or perhaps competing waves of emotion within a single soul. Prakriti with Bhimpalasi, Shahana, and many other Kafi-shaped forms – although Bageshri is usually classed as a Kanada raga, and should be tuned to its own distinct set of sruti (e.g. shuddha Dha may be set closer to a ‘pure‘ major 3rd above the ma vadi: ~886 cents from Sa vs. 900 in ‘equal temperament‘). Also see nearby ragas including Rageshri, Durgawati, and Prabhateshwari.

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Aroha: SnDnS, SgmD, gmDnS
Avroh: SnDm, mPDmg, mgRS

Chalan: e.g. SnD; DnS; Sgm; gmD; gmnD; gmDnS; Sgm; mgRS; SnDm; mPDmg; mgRS; DnS; mgRS


–Shahid Parvez Khan (2017)–

“Bageshri is an old and ‘big’ raga…It finds mention in the older treatises as ‘Vageeshwari’…The ma is powerful, the melodic centre of gravity…[and] the touch of Pa occasions moments of delicious frisson…” (Rajan Parrikar)



Origins, myths, quirks, & more

While Bageshri’s exact origins have been lost to the winds of time, its direct lineage stretches back at least several centuries. Faqirullah’s Rag Darpan, published for Emperor Aurangzeb in 1666, cites it as an archaic combination of Dhanashree and Kanada – while Vyas’ 1842 Raga Kalpadruma personifies it as a consort of Kaushik: “Vagishvari is desirable, her voice seductive near her lover; With flawless pale form, and eyes large like a lotus; she plays songs of love on her veena…


Despite its extensive history, Bageshri’s melodic identity has remained relatively stable through the ages (Bor: “Bageshri seems to have undergone little transformation over the past few centuries”).


–Amir Khan (1970s)–

“The reflective temper of Amir Khan is well-matched to Bageshri’s expansive space, with the rich, measured strokes of his vocal brush holding us captive to this séance. He picks up a traditional vilambit composition, Bahu Guna Ka Mana, and tops it off with a tarana.” (Rajan Parrikar)



Swaras, geometries, movements, characteristics…

Despite its heavyweight status, Bageshri is often considered to be a relatively ‘straightforward’ raga. As mentioned above, its melodic identity seems to have remained fairly stable for at least the last few centuries…

[coming soon]

–Nikhil Banerjee (1971): pitch-graph–

“For Bageshri, after tuning Sa, the next note I will tune is ma. Then the next is Dha, then ga and Re. I’ll play phrases, tuning in relation to the other swaras…then you get the exact microtones of that raga. If you tune Bageshri like Kafi, you will not get the correct Gandhar…” (Shivkumar Sharma)



A brief selection of superb renditions

–Hariprasad Chaurasia (1967)–

  • Call of the Valley (10m): a bewitchingly simple bansuri gat supported by some all-time great ektal playing from Manikrao Popatkar, which has captivated me since my earliest listening days (released on the 1995 reissue of Call of the Valley, a true landmark in global raga appreciation):

[refrain, e.g. 2:37] S m, SmgmR(g)S, R (nDn)D n(D); S m(gmS), SmgmR(g)S…


–Nirmalya Dey (2015)–
  • Dagarvani Dhrupad (20m): a Tansen-attributed composition, recorded with true Dhrupad patience (Indian Express: “the slow-but-systematic alap elaboration created the atmosphere, making the audience glide from here to eternity…masterly touches [in] his meends and gamaks“) – also hear another of Dey’s renditions, accompanied by Bahauddin Dagar:

[refrain, e.g. 9:20] (S)m\gm, (mS)D(SD) Sn (Dn)D, m(D)PD, (m)g R(gm)S, nD (n)DSS, (S)m\g(mg) g/m, (m)D, m/n(Dn)D D(Pm), mm(DP)n D(nD) mg(m)R, S; (S)m\g/m…


–Further Recordings–
  • K.G. Ginde (4m): Parrikar: “A spin on the standard: Re and Pa are free-flowing, and careful listeners will sense special sancharis
  • Ramakant Gaikwad (5m): the young Patiala vocalist renders patient bandish, filmed by Darbar in the Maharashtra desert
  • Kesarbai Kerkar (6m): an open-minded Jaipur-Atrauli take (Parrikar: “freely interspersed are tidbits of Bahar and Kafi“)
  • Padma Talwalkar (10m): an AUTRIM pitch-graph (“The lady requests garlands…and will placate [her lover] with her smile”)
  • Shankar violin trio (12m): a Sangeeta Shankar gat in the 7.5-matra ‘neel taal’, supported by daughters Ragini and Nandini
  • Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (17m): a Dhrupad rudra veena interpretation, with pristine sound from a 1979 Seattle show
  • Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (24m): exploring the raga’s epic dimensions via the quick-sliding capabilities of his mohan veena
  • Shivkumar Sharma (25m): a spellbinding tintal gat, showcasing a stronger use of Pa in passages such as DPDm; DnRSnDPm
  • Utsav Lal (32m): on the ‘fluid piano’: a recent invention fitted with string-sliders to open up meend and other sruti-subtleties
  • Ravi Shankar (34m): in dhamar taal, from a 1992 album (also featuring oddly occasional interjections from Ali Akbar Khan)
  • Rashid Khan (38m): filmed at the Allarakha Samaroh, with Vijay Ghate, Mukund Pethkar, Nagesh Adgaonkar, & Krishna Bongane
  • Kishori Amonkar (50m): “A reflective, pensive temper…Tai opens up new realms with exquisite alaps and taans
  • Amjad Ali Khan (55m): a perpetually restrained rendition (to my ears, an ideal embodiment of the separation shringara)
  • Shahid Parvez Khan (90m): an astonishing 2002 Australian show, featuring magical interplay with Anindo Chatterjee’s tabla


• Classifiers •

Explore hidden inter-raga connections: swara geometries, melodic features, murchana sets, ragangas, & more (also see the Full Tag List):

Swaras: -4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10+

Sapta: Audav | Shadav | Sampurna

Poorvang: SRGM | SRG | SRM | SGM

Uttarang: PDNS | PDS | PNS | DNS

Varjit: Re | Ga | Ma | Pa | Dha | Ni

Double: rR | gG | mM | dD | nN

Thaat: 10 | 32 | Enclosed | Inexact

Chal: All-shuddha | All-komal | Ma-tivra

Gaps: Anh. | Hemi. | 3-row | 4-row | 5-row

Symmetries: Mirror | Rotation | Palindr.

Aroha: Audav | Shadav | Sampurna

Avroh: Audav | Shadav | Sampurna

Jati: Equal | Balanced | Av.+1 | Av.+2

Samay: Morning | Aftern. | Eve. | Night

Murchana: Bhup. | Bihag | Bilaw. | Charu.

Raganga: Bhairav | Malhar | Kan. | Todi

Construction: Jod | Mishra | Oddball

Origin: Ancient | Carnatic | Modern

Dominance: Poorvang | Uttarang

Prevalence: A-list | Prachalit | Aprach.


• Prakriti: Kafi thaat, Kafi, Bhimpalasi, Shahana, Desi, Dhanashree, Hussaini Kanada, Mudriki Kanada, Raisa Kanada


–Proximate Forms–
Rageshri = ‘~Bageshri shuddha Ga
Patdeep = ‘Bageshri shuddha Ni
Ahiri = ‘Bageshri komal re
Darbari = ‘Bageshri komal dha
Sindhura = ‘Bageshri double Ni
Lankeshwari = ‘Bageshri double Ga
(n.b. these are just ‘scalar similarities’, with nothing particular implied about phraseological overlap)


–Swara Geometries–

Core form: SRgmPDnS
Reverse: SRgmPDnS (=itself)
Negative: 2-3-2-2-3 (e.g. Durga)
Imperfect: 1 (Dha)
Detached: none
Symmetries: mirror (S—M)
Murchanas: Bilawal set

Quirks: ‘palindromic‘ (same intervals forwards & backwards) • maximal‘ (swaras are optimally ‘spread out’)


–Global Translations–

Carnatic: ~Kharaharapriya
Jazz: Dorian
Pitch classes (‘fret-jumps’):

o • o o • o • o • o o • o


–Around the World–

While Bageshri’s underlying Kafi-prakriti scale (the ‘Dorian Mode‘) finds wide use across multiple global cultures (see Kafi page for examples), its ‘Pa-less‘ form is much rarer in its own right. There are several reasons for this: principally, the perfect 5th is the…


Nevertheless, the raga’s core concepts have been used in fusion: most notably, Indo-jazz behemoths Remember Shakti regularly perform a piece with the admirably descriptive title of ‘Ma no Pa‘. Composed by tabla star Zakir Hussain, the piece explores many interlocking rhythmic ideas, based around a novel 10-beat cycle which roughly breaks down as ‘4-4-2‘:





If you zoom in further, the piece can more accurately be seen as a 20-beat cycle, divided with more nuance as ‘8-9-3‘ (vs. the ‘4-4-2 = 8-8-4’ above):




The entirety of the piece showcases the electrifying whole-group interaction between McLaughlin’s Western jazz guitar, Zakir’s Hindustani tabla, and Selvaganesh’s Carnatic kanjira:


—Ma No Pa (India/UK)—
(Shakti, 2005)

Personally, I have a lot to thank McLaughlin for: I took up the guitar aged 14 after listening to my dad’s Shakti records – and five years later, I was studying at a sitar academy in Varanasi. Five years on, I published my first music article – an analysis of Shakti’s curious ‘remainder bar‘ rhythms – and, to my surprise, McLaughlin gave my musings his stamp of approval, urging me to continue. Back then, music was just a side fascination from the grey drudgery of office work: but after one particularly dull training course in mid-2016, I skipped out early to see Zakir Hussain’s tabla concerto at the Southbank, and met McLaughlin afterwards – reciting some sloppy konnakol and thanking him for helping to illuminate my own path. Again, his advice was simple: “Keep on striving…” (from my 2020 interview with McLaughlin)


• Tanpura: Sa–ma (+Dha)
• Names: Bageshri, Bageshree, Bageshri, Bageshwari (archaic: Vagishvari, Vageeshwari)



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George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Homepage for more, and hit me up for Lessons!

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