• Raag Bilawal •


Approximates the Western Major Scale, thus taking an ‘all-shuddhasampurna swara set – and selected by the great V.N. Bhatkhande as the titular raga of Bilawal thaat – although its popularity has declined in the century since (partly in favour of prakritis such as Tilak Kamod and Bihari). Dha and Ga assume vital roles (although Dha should not be a nyas), and ma is sometimes omitted in ascent – while the inclusion of komal ni brings shades of Alhaiya Bilawal (…some say the ragas are indistinguishable). With possible origins in Veraval, Gujarat, the raga features prominently in Sikh history – with hundreds of shabads set to the raga by Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and other saints (one Sikh writer describes the raga’s mood as “an overwhelming feeling of fulfilment, satisfaction and joy…like laughing out loud, there is no planning or ulterior motive”). Traditionally linked to the morning hours, and the hot summer sun.

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—Bhimsen Joshi (1995)—

[alap, e.g. 0:10] (S)G, G, G(mGmG) RGR(SNSNDNRG), (R)G RS, (PN)SRGP(DPm)G, GmG(RmGRSNSRG)m G(RS), NRS…


• Ragmalas •

Historic miniature paintings (learn more)

“Velavala, putra of Bhairava: opaque watercolour and gold” (Basohli, c.1710)

“Vilaval is performed in the morning, as suggested by the sun rising in a dark sky. A lady, preparing to meet her lover, looks in a mirror and fixing her earrings…” (Sirohi, c.1680) / “The heroine, with her confidante, completes her toilette ritual in preparation for her rendezvous with the hero, expressing joy at the anticipation of love…” (Rajasthan, c.1720)


• 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 | 32Enclosed | 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: Bilawal thaat, Tilak Kamod, Nat, Hem Bihag, Bihari, Savani, Swanandi, Gagan Vihang, Maluha, Mand, Chaya Malhar, Hemant, Manjari Bihag


–Swara Geometries–

Core form: SRGmPDNS
Reverse: SrgmPdnS (=Bhairavi)
Negative: 3-2-3-2-2 (e.g. Malkauns)
Imperfect: 1 (Ni)
Detached: none
Symmetries: mirror (R—d)
Murchanas: Bilawal set

Quirks: maximal‘ (swaras are optimally ‘spread out’)


–Global Translations–

Carnatic: ~Sankarabharanam
Jazz: Major / Ionian
Pitch classes (‘fret-jumps’):

o • o • o o • o • o • o o


• Tanpura: Sa–Pa (+Ni)
• Names: Bilawal, Bilaval, Bilaawal, Shuddha Bilawala, Bilaval, Vilāval (historic)


—Ajoy Chakraborty (2020)—



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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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