Ragascape: Documenting (virtually) every raga I’ve yet encountered: swara-set summaries, contextual overviews, phraseologies, prakriti forms, listening links, etc. Also see search tips – and don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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• MORE RAGAS: shortform swara-set summaries •
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“There is confusion around defining ragas. To learn just one raga, you must also know five more along with it…like a game of hide-and-seek. In this way, each raga is a mirror of all Hindustani music.” (Parveen Sultana)
—Search the Raga Index—
• Raag Abheri Todi •
Summarised by musicologist and critic Rajan Parrikar as “an obscure [Todi] variant, in which strands of Asavari and Khamaj are tied to the Todi-ang”. His guru Ramrang’s rendition of the raga revolves around phrases such as PmPm\g; mPn\d; SRnS; rnSRG, whereas Srikant Bakre‘s take also visits the shuddha Dha (bandish transcribed in full) – although further renditions are hard to definitively trace. While historical information is scant, the raga’s name is presumably linked to the near-congruent Carnatic Abheri (prakriti with Asavari thaat). Compare to other rare Todi ragas including Saheli Todi, Lakshmi Todi, Mangal Todi, and Adarangi Todi.
• Raag Abhogi •
Abhogi is a rare example of an ‘audav Kanada’ raga – somewhat resembling ‘Darbari no Pa/ni’ (or, if the Kanada component is de-emphasised, ‘Bageshri aroha no ni’). As per Tanarang, the raga’s capacity for Darbaric poorvang movements “creates a deep atmosphere”, [which] can be expanded in all three octaves” – while the ultra-sparse uttarang (empty save for shuddha Dha) presents a curious creative challenge. Bor describes Abhogi as a relatively recent Carnatic import, also noting that some artists choose to omit Re in ascent and approach ga with an ornament from above (e.g. m\g) – and that mgRDS can sometimes replace the Kanada-style gmRS concluding phrase. Witness an astonishing Dhrupad duet by Premkumar & Prashant Mallick (transcribed below) – and also see Bhavani (the only other raga I can trace which restricts its uttarang to the generic swaras ‘ma-Dha-Sa‘).
• Raag Adana •
Though prakriti with Darbari, Adana favours a ‘lighter, flittering’ treatment: often summoned via skipping ga in aroha, limiting ornaments on komal dha, and focusing more on madhya and taar saptak (exemplified in sarodiya Budhaditya Mukherjee‘s concise rendition: gat transcribed below). Ga is reintroduced via the gmRS Kanada signature in avroh – and some artists may assign a subtly higher sruti to the komal ni, especially in taans and faster passages (see ‘sakari‘). The raga appears in numerous 17th-century ragmala paintings, often depicted with imagery of ascetics lost in meditative pose. Also see the related Sughrai, Gunji Kanada, and Mudriki Kanada.
A double-ma, double-ni Todi variant linked to 18th-century composer Naimat Khan ‘Sadarang’ and his nephew Feroze Khan ‘Adarang’, who served at the court of Mughal Emperor (and prolific arts patron) Muhammad Shah. While the raga’s historical lineage remains half-sketched, Ali Akbar Khan took to performing it later in his career. Sometimes given the alternate title of ‘Turki’ or ‘Turusk’ Todi (a name which appears in the 13th-century Sangita Ratnakara – although it is unclear what connection this may have to the modern form). Also see Mangal Gujari, which overlaps with the same historic lineage.
An uncommon Kalyan variety, named Adbhut (‘of wonder’) for omitting two of Kalyan’s most vital swaras (Ma & Pa). Remains popular among artists of the Dagarvani Dhrupad, but few others have risen to the centreless challenges of losing both mid-saptak swaras. Aminuddin Dagar reportedly considered the raga to be an offshoot of Khem Kalyan – while Uday Bhawalkar links it to the congruent Carnatic Niroshta, possibly borrowed South by Muthiah Bhagavatar (‘niroshta’ roughly translates as ‘without the lips’: Ma and Pa being the only sargam syllables which require them when singing!).
• Raag Adi Basant •
An ancient form of Basant (‘Springtime’), named for its connections to the ceremonies of that season. Many see Adi Basant as the latter’s main ancestor, highlighting its historic prevalence in Dhrupad and Haveli Sangeet – and some, including Maihar musicians, consider it inseparable from Shuddha Basant (‘shuddha’, as well as referring to ‘pure’ or ‘unaltered’ swaras, may also indicate a ‘primary’ or ‘original’ quality: similar to the meaning of ‘adi’). Associated with the pre-dawn hours, Adi Basant remains rare outside of the Dagarvani Dhrupad lineage. Compare to other Basant family ragas including Gauri Basant, Malti Basant, and Basanti Kanada.
Ahir Bhairav’s unique swara set is inextricably linked to visions of the Indian sunrise. While the raga’s poorvang matches that of the ‘main’ Bhairav (SrGm) its uttarang presents its own geometries, taking a shuddha Dha and komal ni (PDnS) in a manner closer to the Kafi–ang (although many artists tune their Dha sruti closer to that of Bageshri than Kafi). Mythologically linked to North India’s Ahir cattle-herding caste, the raga is fabled to mimic the ringing of cowbells at dawn – with patient ascent motions eventually settling into extended oscillations on the komal re (said by some to symbolise the sun’s morning emergence: also see ‘non-zero Sa‘). Shuddha ma tends to outweigh Pa (visible in a ‘tonagram‘ by Rao/Meer) – although interpretations continue to vary, with Deepak Raja‘s survey of recordings stating that “the vadi seems elusive, and the samvadi does not even appear faintly on the horizon…Texts on raga grammar do suggest a standardised melodic identity…”). Compare to Ahiri (the same scale with komal ga, seemingly of shared lineage) – as well as the related Prabhateshwari, Niranjani Todi, and Rati Bhairav (Kumar Gandharva’s ‘Bhairav + Ahir Bhairav’ blend, covering the swaras of both).
• Raag Ahir Lalit •
Introduced by Ravi Shankar, drawing from the swara material of three morning ragas: Ahiri, Ahir Bhairav, and Lalit. As per Deepak Raja, “for most listeners, Ahir Lalit will be unable to escape the shadow of Ahir Bhairav over the Lalit facet of the raga…since Ahiri is heard mainly as a Bhairav / Ahir Bhairav variant”. Nevertheless, the raga’s distinctive ‘double-Ma, no Pa’ structure (said by some to function more like a ‘komal Pa‘) allows for unmistakeable flavours of Lalit – and, being a rare and recently-created raga, its phraseologies remain largely uncodified, with fresh melodic expanses open to the interpretation of performers. Also see other Ravi-related forms such as Parameshwari, Gangeshwari, Kameshwari, Rangeshwari, Jogeshwari, Mohankauns, Bairagi, Bairagi Todi, and Pancham se Gara.
• Raag Ahiri •
Somewhat resembling ‘Bageshri komal re’, ‘Ahir Bhairav komal ga’, or ‘Bhairavi shuddha Dha’, Ahiri favours long, kaleidoscopic melodies, laden with shapes from proximate ragas. Artists may seek to accentuate the ‘equilateral triangle’ of nyas (r–m–D: an augmented triad), also drawing from its murchana-set neighbours Patdeep, Charukeshi, and Vachaspati. Matches the Carnatic Natakapriya, although ultimate origins remain mysterious – also see Ahiri Todi, Jaiwanti Todi, and Deen Todi.
• Raag Ahiri Todi •
While the title ‘Ahiri Todi’ is often used interchangeably with Ahiri, the former raga has a more complex historical lineage: comprising both an Ahiri–congruent form which many consider indistinct from the main raga (SrgmPDnS) – and an older, near-extinct version which approximates the shape of Asavari (SRgmPDnNS). Agra vocalist Khadim Hussain Khan’s intriguing recording of this second form – one of only a few I can find – displays an unusually strong poorvang-dominance, revolving around phrases such as S(n)S, Sg, (m)g, RSR. Dha is skipped in aroha, and touches of a ‘mid-sruti Ni’ manifest in how root motifs blur the distinction between S(n)S; S(N)S. To add further intrigue, a third ‘Ahiri Todi’ variant seems to have once existed, with Subba Rao’s Raga Nidhi listing a raga with this name under the swara set ‘SrgmPdnNS’ (…possibly implying that it may have been a ‘bridge’ between the two forms mentioned above: although the komal dha vadi puzzles me…maybe a relic from a lost Todi–ang?).
While essentially summarisable as ‘Bilawal plus komal ni’, Alhaiya also presents other quirks. Most distinctively, Dha is treated as the vadi, but not as a nyas (Pa and Ga are used as stopping tones instead, often being reached via meend). Dha is also used to support komal ni via ‘up-and-down’ phrases such as SNDP, DnDP, giving an overall tendency towards uttarang-dominance. The raga has a long history (Pulokesh Bose: “the name ‘Alhaiya’ is found in the [16th-century] books of Pandit Lochan and Hridaya Narayanadeva”).
According to Rajan Parrikar, Ambika Sarang “was designed by [Agra vocalist] Chidanand Nagarkar…elements of Shuddha Sarang and Kafi are blended together in a delicious cocktail”. Ga is banished, allowing for Saraswati-tinged movements. While Nagarkar’s precise naming motives are unknown, ‘Ambika’ (meaning ‘Mother’ in Sanskrit) is closely tied to the goddess Saraswati – in particular, her manifestation as Adi Parashakti: a weapon-wielding, demon-slaying deity held as the ultimate matriarch of the universe – as well as the one who bestowed the other gods with their names (also see Adi Parashakti’s appearance in the mythology of Malkauns). Given these associations, some consider Saraswati Sarang – prakriti in both name and swara set – as belonging to the same essential core as Ambika Sarang.
• Raag Amiri Todi •
Created by sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan in 1974, catalysed by the untimely passing of legendary vocalist Amir Khan the same year. As recounted to Indian Express in 2009: “My love and reverence for Khansaheb does not stem only from his music, but for his truly kind and humble nature. When he died, it appeared as if the light had gone out of our lives. The idea [for] Amiri Todi developed in my mind during that period of the intense grief…A mixture of two of my most favourite ragas sung by Khansaheb: Shahana and Bilaskhani Todi“. Thus far, recordings prove elusive (thus, the swara-set suggested below is just an ‘addition’ of these parental forms).
A ‘pentatonic Vachaspati’ created (as the name implies) by Indore vocal master Amir Khan, which omits Re and Dha (thus, Amirkhani Kauns is to Vachaspati as Dhani is to Kafi). All swaras except Sa are imperfect – with the unusual Ma–ni sangati exerting inevitable gravity and drawing melodies away from clear resolution. Few of the Ustad’s renditions have made it to record, and an extended take from shortly before his tragic 1974 passing (possibly part of his very last concert) just lists it as ‘Untitled Raga’ (side B of the same LP contains another untitled form, which is in fact Chandramadhu: the same scale but with komal ga). As noted by Abhirang, the SGMPnS swara set is also known as ‘Yogini’ (Sanskrit for ‘state of union’: the same derivation as ‘yoga’ and ‘Jog’), which he links to the lineage of the Carnatic Hrodini – and elsewhere I’ve seen it referred to as ‘Audav Ram Kalyan’ (n.b. numerous Vachaspati renditions have a weak or absent aroha Re). Also see Khan’s Amirkhani Kauns (plus Amiri Todi, composed in his honour).
An ingenious evening raga created by the late (and vastly underappreciated) santoor maestro Ulhas Bapat, based around mirroring Jog‘s GmgS catchphrase in the uttarang as Dndm: thus hinting at a ma-murchana (i.e. ‘double-Ga is to Sa as double-Dha is to ma‘). This allows Amrut Ranjani to visit the territory of Bageshri (DnS), Rageshri (GmD), and Jogeshwari (gGm), while always retaining a highly distinct melodic character – cemented by a captivating pair of Bapat’s gats (as far as I can tell, the only available compositions). Given the near-total lack of further information about the raga, take the chance to learn more about Bapat’s other creative endeavours (“He has developed his own specialized system of tuning, [featuring] all the 12 notes…and reconstructed the sticks in a manner which enables him to produce meend. Composing in unique taals is another speciality, e.g. ‘makarand’ [11 matras as ‘5½–5½’] and ‘pratik’ [9 matras as ‘4½–4½’]…”.
A rarely-heard member of the Bhairav raganga, which seems to have no precise prakritis. As per Rajan Parrikar, “the komal dha in Bhairav is replaced by its shuddha counterpart, and the komal ni is parachuted into the scheme in an [avroh phrase] SDnP inspired by Bilawal (in Bhairav-ang ragas where either Re or Dha is rendered shuddha, the ma tends to assume a powerful role, and is often elevated to a vadi swara) – and care must be exercised to not let Anand Bhairav stray into Bhatiyar’s neighbourhood”. Refer to excellent renditions by Sanjeev Abhyankar (a self-composed khayal bandish) and Amjad Ali Khan (a sliding sarod interpretation).
A creation of Gwalior vocalist and educator Ramashreya Jha ‘Ramrang’ – named in honour of Anjana, a mythic Vanara princess fabled in Hindu lore as Lord Hanuman‘s mother. As per his student Rajan Parrikar, “the basic idea involves rendering the aroha of Madhuvanti sampurna, by taking in both [shuddha] Re and Dha. The aroha contour thus…permits the advance of Kalyan-like clusters”. Abhirang’s rendition of Ramrang’s bandish (Hanana Hanumana Manake: transcribed below) features strong meend on ga, Ma, & Dha (which, along with Sa, form a ‘diminished square’: S-g-M-D) – with all swaras except komal ga set to their highest specific variants (SRMPDNS). Also congruent with a Carnatic form known as Dharmavati – and compare to other Ramrang-related ragas including Bhankari and Kesari Kalyan.
• Raag Annapurna •
From my 2018 Darbar interview with bansuri maestro Rupak Kulkarni: “I lately composed…Raag Annapurna: dedicated to Maa Annapurna Devi, my grand-guru [teacher of my teacher]. It is a combination of morning and evening ragas, so can be played at either of these times”. In 2022 I asked Kulkarni for more info: he described it as “a mixture of Todi and Shree, blending multiple elements from both ragas” – also sending me a mellifluous alap (below: as far as I can tell, the only recording out there!), full of haunting ornaments and odd dissonances, with Sa rendered durbal, and komal dha often skipped in wide up-jumps from Pa (PS(N)S, PrN, P(M)P…).
• Raag Antardhwani •
Among the youngest ragas to have found global acclaim, Antardhwani (‘sound of the inner self’) was unveiled by Shivkumar Sharma in the 1990s, who discovered its unique hexatonic shape by chance while retuning his santoor from one raga to another (although it is unknown which ones…). Adapting the geometries of Bhairavi, the raga is adored for its calming, meditative flavours, partly inspired by the late Pandit’s lifelong love of yoga. Prakriti with the seldom-heard Viyogavarali (independently adapted from a Carnatic raga by S.N. Ratanjankar) – while also lying proximate to Gujiri Todi (the same scale with tivra Ma) and Chandrakauns (minus re).
• Raag Arun Malhar •
A rare and ancient Malhar variant, said to be marked out by a DDnPDGPm pakad. As per Rajan Parrikar, “although it finds a mention in Bhatkhande, no details are forthcoming – there are a couple of other works where the raga is treated, but only in the sketchiest of terms”. Described as a mix of Bilawal, Gaud Malhar, and Shuddha Malhar, seasoned with “a Tilang-like tonal phrase, providing a very pleasing effect”. Refer to Ramrang’s 1989 rendition (bandish transcribed below), which showcases a strong shuddha Ga amidst slow-looping ornamental flourishes – as well as a 1970s tarana–tappa–kajri take by Vishnu Sewak Mishra (one of the only recordings I can find by the Benares maestro: a vital part of the city’s Prasuddhu-Monohar lineage).
• Raag Asa Bhairav •
A joining of Bhairav and the archaic Sikh form Asa (Sanskrit for ‘Hope’), matching the swaras of ‘Bilawal double-Re’ – with the shuddha taken in ascent, and the komal in descent. Parrikar notes that “the Bhairav-ang is expressed in the poorvang [e.g. Gm(G)rS], and the rest of the contour looks to Asa [e.g. S, S(m)RmP, DNPD, S]…Ravi Shankar furnishes a delightful play on the theme”. Shankar himself notes having “learned this rare raga from Baba [Allauddin Khan], and developed it myself…its mood is of viraha shringar” (‘the loneliness of being apart from a lover’). Few other artists have cut full-length recordings, leaving ample space for future experiments. Compare to other ragas Shankar played a pivotal role in popularising (e.g. Hemant, Hem Bihag, & Nat Bhairav) – plus his Carnatic imports (Charukeshi, Vachaspati, Kirwani, Malay Marutam, & Simhendra Madhyamam).
• Raag Asavari •
An antique late morning raga, listed in lakshanagranthas as a ragini of Malkauns, Asavari’s modern incarnation comprises two disinct variants: an older, Dhrupad-rooted ‘komal re’ form, and a more recent set of ‘shuddha Re’ interpretations. Both forms of the raga call for complex connective motions and expressive alankar around dha, which some artists tune to an ati-komal sruti. Many classical ragmala paintings depict Asavari, with imagery ranging from a female snake-charmer sitting atop a mountain to hooded cobras observing the world from perfumed sandalwood trees. Depending on re/Re position, can be prakriti with ragas including Bhairavi and Bilaskhani Todi (if re), or Adana, Darbari, Jaunpuri, and Kaunsi Kanada (if Re). Also see Gandhari, a double-Re raga which shares historical overlap with Asavari.
• 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.
A blend of the late-night Bageshri and the springtime Bahar, most prominently recorded by Bhimsen Joshi (below: from his 1997 Rarely-Heard Ragas album, also featuring Hindolita & Jaijaiwanti Nat: although the actual recording session appears to have taken place in 1980). Matches the swara set of ‘Kafi double-Ni’, and is thus prakriti with several other ragas (e.g. Miyan Ki Malhar, Sindhura, Barwa). Pa and komal ni assume greater prominence than in Bageshri (e.g. Bahar-style n\P glides), with characteristic phrases including Dn(D)SnS and (D)nSRSnS. Often, RgRS is favoured over Bageshri’s mgRS – and the use of shuddha Ni is typically infrequent, serving to preserve the base scale’s palindromic nature (PDnS<>SRgm). Kishori Amonkar has also taken the raga to soaring heights via an evocative pair of bandish (bada khayal: Rut Basant ki Apni Umang So & chota khayal: Sajan Sang Kaahe Nahi Rahi) – with the latter composition featuring a far more Malharic focus on shuddha Ni than in any of Joshi’s interpretations.
Described by Parrikar as “an exceedingly beautiful raga, known for aesthetic unity in spite of its convoluted structure…the disparate constituents are tied together by special sancharis, and the intonation is mediated by meends”. He cites two distinct versions of the raga in modern circulation (neither of which appear to be linked to the Carnatic Bahaduri), noting that “the preferred strategy draws on Desi for [aroha development], and the eventual termination of melodic sorties draws on the Todi-ang…shuddha ma is approached from komal ga and dwelt upon; it is skipped en route to Pa”. Mallikarjun Mansur’s mandra-focused rendition (below) revolves around long, slow, full-toned poorvang lines, interchanging komal and shuddha re in fine balance – while Manjiri Asnare-Kelkar‘s excellent breakdown also highlights “prominent shades of other ragas, like Bilaskhani Todi, Desi, Bhairavi, and Jaunpuri“, many of which call on distinct sruti for the same basic swara positions (“an extremely complicated, very difficult raga, as complex as Khat…Pandit Ramashreya-ji has mentioned that if you want to sing Bahaduri Todi, you must learn it directly from a guru, or else it will lose the flavour…”). Also see AUTRIM’s pitch-graph of an Aslam Khan recording.
• Raag Bahar •
As per Tanarang, Bahar (meaning ‘spring’) “brings out nature’s beautiful blessings…full of shringar and bhakti ras…khatkas and intricate taans are conducive to its dynamic, fleeting nature”. While rooted in the Kanada raganga, the raga features a Malharic twin-Ni, with the shuddha being more prominent. Bageshri hallmarks are also evident in the weak aroha Re, and the use of shuddha ma as nyas (e.g. S/m, m/n\P) – although Pa is also strong, and the Kanada avroh signature is preferred (e.g. Pgm, gmRS. In recent generations, the raga has proved itself an attractive jod ingredient (Parrikar: “highly promiscuous, and has been found in flagrante delicto with several other ragas”), appearing in such conjunctions as Bhairav Bahar, Bageshri Bahar, Rageshri Bahar, and Tilang Bahar.
• Raag Bairagi •
A pentatonic form introduced to the ragascape by Ravi Shankar in the 1940s, although the basic scale shape has likely been used in many guises throughout the ages. Its swara set – which concisely scatters interval jumps of 1, 2, 3, and 4 semitones – is describable as ‘Megh komal re’, while its melodies generally draw from the Bhairav–ang (e.g. sustained oscillations on komal re). Generally favoured by instrumentalists rather than vocalists, although audav specialist Amir Khan‘s renditions are ever-sublime. The nSr grouping is reminiscent of Vedic-era chant refrains (in Anoushka Shankar’s words, “Bairagi has this deep, spiritual, internal quality”), while the overall swara-set resembles the Carnatic Revathi – and also the ‘Insen Scale’ of Japanese court music (as highlighted in Aishik Bandyopadhyay’s intriguing Comparative Study between Indian Ragas and Japanese Scales). Also see Shankar’s derived Bairagi Todi – as well as Parameshwari, Gangeshwari, Kameshwari, Rangeshwari, Jogeshwari, Mohankauns, Ahir Lalit, and Pancham se Gara.
Created by Ravi Shankar, Bairagi Todi replaces Bairagi’s shuddha ma with a Todi-intoned ati-komal ga, retaining the concise audav structure while presenting an odd mix of narrow and wide intervals. Sometimes matched with unusual talas (e.g. Shankar’s original is in Sade-Gyarah: a ‘fractional’ 11.5 matra cycle divided ‘4-4-2-1.5‘), the raga is explorable in all saptak, with artists generally favouring a ‘deep and heavy atmosphere’, laden with phrases reworked from nearby forms. Non-Shankar renditions are relatively rare, but those on record display considerable divergence. Also see other Ravi-authored ragas including Parameshwari, Gangeshwari, Kameshwari, Rangeshwari, Jogeshwari, Mohankauns, Ahir Lalit, and Pancham se Gara.
A distinctive Bhairav raganga offshoot with uncertain origins, summarised in poetic fashion by MeetKalakar: “Being Nishad-taboo, its caste is shadav. Dhaivat and Rishabh are used softly…which are respectively the plaintiffs” (n.b. the ultra-rare Meghranjani is the only other ‘shadav Bhairav’ raga I can definitively trace). Performed by only a handful of khayal vocalists (e.g. Abhirang, Purnima Sen, and Yunus Hussain Khan) – but remains a staple of the Dagarvani Dhrupad: listen to a pakhawaj-less rendition from the 1980s by Nasir Aminuddin Dagar (“after the death of [his brother] Moinuddin in 1966, Aminuddin sang alone…He also changed the pitch of his singing far lower…”), and another by his nephew Wasifuddin Dagar (from a 2007 concert at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris: a city which has arguably become Dhrupad’s ‘second home’ over the past half-century or so).
• Raag Baradi •
A long-lived sonic lineage variously referred to as Baradi, Barari, Varati, and Varali, which appears in several overlapping modern forms, usually spanning the territory around Marwa thaat (…although Bhatkhande’s Sangeet Shastra Vol.3 notes 13 distinct variants). Some artists omit the tivra Ma, and Jaipur-Atrauli singers may feature the komal dha (‘Poorvi–ang’) – while Parrikar notes that K.G. Ginde’s rendition of a Ratanjankar bandish is built around core combinations including SGPDGP; PDMG MGrS; NrNDNDP (“the first cluster draws from Jait, the second from Bhankari, the third from Puriya Kalyan”). Also see the similarly Ratanjankar-related Salagavarali.
• Raag Barwa •
An Agra gharana speciality, Barwa blends ideas from Kafi (mP, mgR; mPDNS), Sindhura (SRmP; Pg), and Desi (RPRg). The komal ga tends to be omitted in aroha, and ma is rendered deergha, while Re–Pa is often given as the vadi-samvadi. Traditionally associated with the late morning hours, the raga is one of many Kafi-allied forms to have emerged from folk melodies (also see Zila Kafi), only becoming semi-formalised around the 18th century (Bhatkhande notes an older, audav form of Barwa: prakriti with the modern-day Dhani’s SgmPnS). Listen to classic khayal renditions by Faiyaz Khan & Latafat Hussain Khan (the ‘Prem Das’ and ‘Prem Priya’ of the Agra lineage) – as well as a rare instrumental take by sarodiya Buddhadev Dasgupta.
• Raag Basant •
Basant (meaning ‘Springtime’) is a historic and highly influential form, with a lineage stretching back to at least the 8th century. The raga’s modern incarnation matches the swaras of Poorvi thaat, with shades of shuddha ma also permitted in some interpretations (e.g. SmmG; mdrS). Phraseological allies include Puriya (GMdNM; mdGmG) and Shree (e.g. NrS; rNdP), although tivra Ma is elongated more than komal re, and melodic development is mostly focused on the uttarang portions of madhya and taar saptak. Tanarang gives a pakad of P; MGMG, describing “shringar and separation pangs…a meend-pradhan raga creating a heavy atmosphere”. A perennially popular jod ingredient (e.g. Gauri Basant, Malti Basant, Dakshinatya Basant, & Basanti Kanada), and particularly cherished by Sikh traditions, with many great saints having composed hymns in it (as per one Sikh writer, Basant “encourages the mind to brush away its selfishness…there [is] hope and expectation of a new beginning, the start of a new cycle”).
Effectively blending the poorvang of Bhairav with the uttarang of Bhairavi (SrGm; PdnS), Basant Mukhari’s complex history bears the imprints of multiple musical cultures. While its main modern inception is traceable to S.N. Ratanjankar’s eclectic Carnatic borrowings of the 1950s (also see Charukeshi: the same scale with komal re instead), many also explicitly link it to a now-extinct form known as ‘Hijaz’, itself derived from a Persian maqam of the same name. Closely related forms thus turn up across the Islamic world and beyond (e.g. in jazz, the same collection of tones is referred to as the ‘Phrygian Dominant‘, while Jewish musicians may know it as the ‘Hava Nagila scale’ after a famous Bar Mitzvah tune – and others call it ‘Escala Andaluza’ for its popularity in Andalucian flamenco). Also see Gangeshwari (the same swara set minus re), as well as a variety of ragas which may appear as chayas in Basant Mukhari renditions: e.g. Malkauns (mdnS), Jogiya (SrmPd), Ahir Bhairav (nSrGmP), and Jaunpuri (mPdnS). Seemingly unconnected to the ancient Basant lineage (the term ‘basant’ means ‘springtime’).
Perhaps the only Kanada raga to give prominence to tivra Ma (which appears in Basant-like poorvang motions such as GMDMG; MGrS), Basanti Kanada is a thinly-analysed form which summons idiosyncratic tensions via a precise mixing of seemingly incongruous elements (e.g. from the bandish below: DmG, GMdM\G, MGrS). Predominantly associated with vocalists of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, the raga is best-known via Kishori Amonkar’s numerous renditions (also refer to a superb recording by her disciple Arun Dravid, and another by Mallikarjun Mansur). As yet untouched by instrumentalists.
• Raag Bhairav •
Revered as the foremost raga of Lord Shiva, the morning Bhairav takes its name from Kala Bhairava (‘awe-inspiring form’) – an apocalyptic manifestation of the deity fabled in Hindu lore to have cut off one of Brahma’s five heads to silence his arrogance. Renditions reflect the gravity of these ancient tales, depicting Shiva’s resulting tandav (‘dance of destruction’) with wide-roving motions and dense andolan on re and dha, with patient melodic explorations often concluding in an idiosyncratic G\rS phrase. Dhrupad vocalist Wasifuddin Dagar recounts that “in the Dagar family, the initiation to music starts with Bhairav” – and, as per Parrikar, “Bhairav is so fundamental that its impact on India’s musical soul can never be overstated…verily, it falls to the lot of the noblest of ragas, deserving of renewal and reflection every single day”. Prakriti with the core forms of Kalingada and Gauri – and also see other ragas of the wide-branching Bhairav family, including Ahir Bhairav, Nat Bhairav, Rati Bhairav, and Saurashtra Bhairav.
A ten-toned multi-jod raga, Bhairav Bahar’s descent blends the melodic signatures of several disparate ragas, notably including the springtime Bahar – although, as per Darbhanga Dhrupad vocalist Premkumar Mallick, flavours of Bhairav should dominate the overall impression. Bose gives a vadi–samvadi of ma–Sa, while also mentioning the existence of an alternate ‘double-Dha’ version (thus allowing for the use of every swara position except tivra Ma). Refer to recordings by Bhimsen Joshi, Apoorva Gokhale, and Vilayat Khan (at the 1981 BBC Proms with Zakir Hussain on tabla, also showcasing the Imdadkhani sitarist’s impressive vocal skills) – as well as Rajan Parrikar’s rundown of further renditions. Appears to have no precise prakritis.
• Raag Bhairavi •
Probably the most prominent raga in the entire Hindustani canon, the dawn Bhairavi (‘awe, terror’: named after the Fifth Avatar of Mahadevi, the Mother Goddess) is a concert-closing staple. Unique in its chromatic flexibilities, the raga’s ‘Mishra Bhairavi’ form can span the full swara spectrum, allowing for a multitude of moods in the hands of a master – although shuddha ma tends to assume particular prominence as the vadi. Classified in several ancient lakshanagranthas as a ragini of Bhairav (although the Bhairavi of Tansen’s 16th-century era was more akin to today’s Kafi thaat: still evident in today’s ‘Carnatic Bhairavi‘) – with the raga’s modern incarnation enjoying widespread fame across thumri, bhajan, ghazal, filmi and many other light-classical forms. Its ‘all-komal‘ scale is prakriti with Bilaskhani Todi and Asavari (komal re), as well as approximating the ‘Phrygian Mode‘ of Western music. Also see proximate shapes such as Ahiri (‘Bhairavi shuddha Dha‘), Basant Mukhari (‘Bhairavi shuddha Ga‘), and Meladalan (‘Bhairavi komal Pa‘: also interpreted as ‘Madhyam se Bhairavi‘ by Nikhil Banerjee).
• Raag Bhankari •
A mega-mix of several ragas, Bhankari originates with Ramashreya Jha ‘Ramrang’, guru of Rajan Parrikar – who describes it as a “tantalizing melody, blend[ing] facets of Bhatiyar, Jait, Bibhas, and Deshkar while retaining an aesthetic coherence in the end product”. To my ears, Bhankari also appears to draw from Marwa (particularly in the weak treatment of Pa in descent) – although recordings are vanishingly rare beyond the Gwalior master’s originals. Compare to Ramrang’s other creations including Anjani Kalyan and Kesari Kalyan – and read a brief bio article (“His fertile imagination, retentiveness, and quickness of mind are the key strengths attending his creative impulse. He carries all the essential music in his head; it is always at hand for instant recall. In a typical Ramrang composition, each word, swara, and matra are tied together in a symbiotic melodic ecosystem…”).
• Raag Bhatiyar •
A dawn raga fabled as a creation of Raja Bharthari, a mythical King of Ujjain who is said to have left behind his life of material wealth and romantic pleasure to pursue a path of ascetic devotion (“Bharthari resolves to kill a black buck, and seek diksha [initiation rites] from the yogi…As the plan unfolds, it is Guru Gorakhnath who brings the buck back to life, and makes him his disciple…this done, Bharthari becomes a yogi…”). Somewhat resembling a ‘vakra Marwa with ma and Pa’, Bhatiyar omits or limits re and Ni in aroha – with, as per Deepak Raja, “a centre of melodic gravity in the mid-octave region, but tilting towards the upper tetrachord”. Some perceive a foreboding character, but the raga’s subtleties can produce many moods.
A hybrid of two morning ragas: Bhairav and Bhatiyar. While the movements of the latter take centre-stage, its typical PGrS descending phrase is replaced by Bhairav’s GmG\rS signature: Ramrang offers indicative patterns including Sm; mPGm; GmPDNP; DmPGmP; DNr; NDP; GmPmrS; PGmrS, occasionally seasoned with tivra Ma via MDS [n.b. ‘Bhairav-Bhatiyar’, though built from the same pairing, is considered to be a distinct form: employing double-Dha amidst other quirks]. The basic SrGmPDNS scale form (shared with Mangal Bhairav and Dakshinatya Basant) also bears a curious trio of relations to the ‘32 expanded thaat’ (i.e. all sampurna scales with exactly 7 swaras): being prakriti with #18, a ma-murchana of #3, and a reversal of #24.
A Lalit-ang offshoot of Bhairav devised by gharana-blending genius Kumar Gandharva (also the creator of Bihad Bhairav, Rati Bhairav, Saheli Todi, Lagan Gandhar, & Madhusurja). The raga employs both variants of Ga and Ni, albeit with the komal shades rendered subtly – and compositions tend to focus on the ornamental space around Sa (e.g. S(NrSN)S; NS/GrS; S(RSN)S) (n.b. while some sources suggest a shuddha Dha, Gandharva’s recordings display clearer shades of the komal: as expected given its Lalit-Bhairav parentage). Vanishingly few recordings seem to exist: refer to Gandharva’s classic 1970s renditions (Kantha Re Janoo Re Janoo), as well as a 2019 sitar-accompanied take by his son Mukul Shivputra, and an excellent 2002 performance from Khushal Sharma. Further information welcome!
• Raag Bhavani •
Distinguished by permitting only four swaras (and sometimes titled ‘Chatuswari’: ‘four-toned’), Bhavani’s symmetrical shape is akin to ‘Durga no Pa’. Its intriguing surtar sparsity necessitates a multipolar approach to melodic resolution, tempting a murchana-like refocus towards the triads available from Re (RmD: minor) and ma (mDS: major). Associated with the 20th-century experiments of Gwalior vocalist Narayanrao Vyas (who pointed his renditions towards the Bilawal-ang), with others (including Abhirang) continuing in this vein today. Other ‘chatuswari’ ragas include Shivangi (SGPDS: a ‘Deshkar no Re‘ sung by Shubhada Moghe via her guru Manikbua Thakurdas: and, incidentally, Bhavani’s exact ma-murchana), Bairagi Shree (SrPnS: a recent fusion by Abhirang), and Bharadwaj Harindra (SgGPnS: a invention of A. Sundarmurthy with 5 ‘specific‘ swaras but only 4 ‘generic‘ ones, and which ascends and descends with only 4 in each direction too: SGPnS<>SnPgS). Send in any I’ve missed!
• Raag Bheem •
Near-identical to Gaoti, Bheem is often said to be marked out by its allowance of komal ga in taar saptak (although nowadays, this distinction seems mostly moot – there are plenty of Gaoti renditions with this characteristic too: e.g. vocalist Acharya Jayanta Bose). Gwalior singer and educator Tanarang notes that “in uttarang, komal ni is always rendered [via a] meend from Sa, as a kan-swar like GmP, (S)nS…Similarly in avroh, ni is generally skipped like SP/DP“. The vakra GmRS is taken instead of mGRS [n.b. some scholars also note the existence of a separate Kafi-thaat Bheem, which appears to be obsolete today]. Compare to the better-known Bhimpalasi, derived from an ancient conjoining of Bheem and the now-extinct Palas.
• Raag Bhimpalasi •
Associated with the invigorating warmth of the late afternoon sun, Bhimpalasi evokes multiple shades of shringara (‘romantic love, erotic desire’). Thought to have arisen from an archaic union between Bheem and the now-extinct Palas, the raga calls for direct, passionate melodic outpourings, balancing a deft pentatonic ascent (nSgmPnS: prakriti with Dhani) against the symmetry-inducing addition of Dha and Re on the way down, with these swaras typically ornamented from above as (n)D; (g)R. Shares its core form with Bageshri, Shahana, Desi, and other Kafi-shaped ragas, although Bhimpalasi often takes its own distinct set of sruti (e.g. Shivkumar Sharma tunes his Re and ni slightly ‘closer to Sa‘, subtly reshading the symmetry of the DnS; SRg relationship). Also compare to Patdeep (a phraseological ally which takes a shuddha Ni instead) and Abheri (the closest Carnatic equivalent).
Often summarised as the ‘older form’ of today’s Kaushik Dhwani, Bhinna Shadja’s lineage stretches back over 1000 years, appearing in Matangamuni’s ~8th-century Brihaddeshi and other lakshanagranthas: Sarangdeva’s 13th-century Sangita Ratnakara describes the raga in remarkably similar terms to its modern incarnation (“Bhinna is devoid of Rishabh and Pancham, has Dhaivat as its initial and fundamental note, and Madhyam for its final note”). The name refers to its presumed origins as an offshoot of the ancient ‘Shadja-Grama’ base mode (‘Bhinna’ means ‘differentiated’, i.e. ‘differentiated from the Shadja-Grama scale’ – as per the Sangita Ratkanara, “Bhinna is differentiated with reference to four factors: sruti, jati, swara, and purity…”). While its phraseologies are relatively free, the shuddha ma vadi exerts the strongest melodic gravity – and some, including Kishori Amonkar, include shuddha Re as part of ornamental flourishes in avroh.
• Raag Bhupali •
Hailed for its structural simplicity, Bhupali is often the first raga taught to Hindustani students (it is said that “when Kishori Amonkar started learning khayal, her mother instructed her to sing only Bhupali for fifteen months”). While its basic ‘Major Pentatonic‘ scale form is shared by countless global cultures, the North Indian incarnation (named for Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal region) presents its own quirks – invoking tranquillity and home-bound reassurance with interlinked sliding motions and emphatic resolutions (e.g. SRS; S\DS). Shares its five swaras (if not its phraseologies) with Deshkar, Jait Kalyan, and the underlying ‘non-mishra‘ shape of Pahadi, as well as forming the aroha of Shuddha Kalyan – with Mohanam being the closest Carnatic equivalent, and sarodiya Debasmita Bhattacharya noting that “in Chinese music, some scales match our ragas: I collaborated with a pipa [four-stringed lute] player, and it can sound like Bhupali is there”.
A captivating audav raga said to symbolise spiritual purity, which essentially runs along the lines of ‘what if all Bhupali‘s chal swaras were set as komal rather than shuddha?’ (SRGPDS > SrgPdS). Most renditions are poorvang-dominant, drawing from the Todi-ang as well as reshaping phrases from Bhupali, Bilaskhani Todi, and other forms (given the uniqueness of its swara set, there is little danger of over-trespass). Often presents a major-ish flavour, in part as the only ascending chromatic resolutions on offer are the S>r and P>d sangati – strengthening both these latter swaras (and thus drawing attention to the dSg major triad vs. the SgP minor triad). The basic scale shape is also viewable as ‘Bibhas komal ga‘.
• Raag Bibhas •
The pentatonic Bibhas (or Vibhas) appears in at least three present-day forms: typically tilted towards either the Marwa, Bhairav, or Poorvi frameworks. The former takes a shuddha Dha, while the latter pair render it komal (thus drawing focus to Pa, which is often treated as a nyas). Prakriti with Reva in its komal dha incarnation, the raga is differentiated via a pakad of PddP, PGP, GrS, as well as a weaker treatment of komal re (this form is probably the most popular ‘audav Bhairav’ raga: also see Gunkali, Devranjani, & Zeelaf). Parrikar highlights Jitendra Abhisheki’s rendition of He Narahara Narayana, a bandish composed by Bhatkhande (“whose colophon ‘chatura’ is cleverly wedged in the antara”: see Mohankauns for a sargam-rooted spin on the same idea, as well as my Alphamelodics: global word-melody article). Possesses the rare property of ‘centredness’ (i.e. its ‘constellation’ balances at the swara wheel’s exact centre).
A ‘double-Ga, double-Ni’ creation of Bhairav-loving vocalist Kumar Gandharva (also see Bhavmat Bhairav and Rati Bhairav – as well as Saheli Todi, Lagan Gandhar, and Madhusurja). Bose describes how “the projection of the raga is done mainly around Sa…the aroha poorvang is similar to Jogiya [Srm: also Gunakri], and it has a small portion of Shivmat Bhairav” [e.g. rgrS], giving pakad such as Srm; GrS rrS; nSS; rg grS; nrrS. Gandharva’s classic renditions mix extended uttarang-bounded explorations with emphatic resolution lines which reintroduce the komal re (e.g. PDnSr, r\S). Also recorded to great effect by his son Mukul Shivputra, who turns to darker melodic shades in a slower, more poorvang-focused interpretation.
• Raag Bihag •
Created via the artful grafting of tivra Ma onto a Bilawal-oriented base, Bihag contains a wealth of melodic possibilities. Long linked to late evening festivities, its meend-laden tendencies are explored with symmetrical articulations and fluid resolution phrases, guided by nuanced swara hierarchies which may display significant gharana-to-gharana variance. The tivra Ma, while tending to be much weaker than the shuddha, turns up in characteristic motions such as PMGmG – set amidst a strong Ni and prominent Ga–Dha sangati. Prakriti with multiple ragas (e.g. Chayanat, Hameer, Nand, Gaud Sarang, and Khem Kalyan) – and also compare to various derived forms such as Bihagda, Bihagara, Nat Bihag, Pat Bihag, Maru Bihag, and Chandni Bihag. Although the raga’s long-term history remains uncertain, some scholars link it to the lineages of Kedar and Gauri (and the name is thought to derive from ‘Vihang‘, Sanskrit for ‘bird’).
• Raag Bihagara •
A variant of Bihag popular in Kirtan and other Sikh devotional styles, used as the basis for compositions by great Gurus including Ram Das and Tegh Bahadur (some refer to the raga as ‘Punjabi Bihag’). As per Jawaddi Taksal, “Bihagara is very melodious, and brings out pangs of separation which can be removed by…becoming imbued with the shabad [holy verses]” – and. The basic Bihag framework is modified through the injection of Bilawal motions, with an Alhaiya-style double-Ni favoured over the usual double-Ma, amidst characteristic phrases such as GmP; NDP; DGmG. Also performed by Jaipur-Atrauli vocalists including Mallikarjun Mansur and Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande – and usually classed as a night raga. Also see the similarly Sikh-infused Bihagda, which adds Khamaj rather than Bilawal.
• Raag Bihagda •
A Khamaj-seasoned Bihag variant with historic connections to the Carnatic Behag, which appears in several overlapping variants. Raja notes that the raga’s main ‘double-Ni’ form (indistinguishable from some interpretations of Khokar) is associated with Jaipur-Atrauli vocalists, who apply a pakad of Gm PDnDP, GmG PmPG, and limit Bihag’s tivra Ma to swift ornamental movements – while a second, rarer incarnation is essentially just ‘Bihag with shuddha ma & Ni only’ (n.b. a third Bihagda, noted by Bhatkhande, is now defunct). Also refer to Namita Devidayal’s vivid account of listening to the raga with her guru Dhondutai Kulkarni, who in turn learned it from Jaipur-Atrauli legend Kesarbai Kerkar: “A scratchy noise filled the speakers, before Dhondutai’s voice came on…This connection was like an electric current…the mellow music, this particular raga, and the memories that were softly bubbling to the surface, all made Dhondutai warm up…she described her first meeting with the demonic singer who had once guided these notes, and taught her how to please the deity inside Ga, the dominant swara: ‘Unlike you, I was not a foolish dilettante. I took my learning seriously’…”
• Raag Bihari •
Connected to historic folk tunes of the Bihar region, Bihari is popular as a setting for thumri and other romantic song styles. Its core movements lie close to Tilak Kamod, also drawing on Shuddha Nat, and sometimes featuring mishra flourishes. Kishori Amonkar’s rendition is my personal favourite (bandish: “Sleep will not come to my eyes without seeing my beloved’s handsome face; Ages have gone by thinking about you; Oh one who decorates himself well, come now, only then can there be joy…”). Most at home when sung by Jaipur-Atrauli artists (Manik Bhide, Mallikarjun Mansur, Shruti Sadolikar), but performed to great effect by Imdadkhani sitarists (Shahid Parvez), Senia-Bangash sarodiyas (Amjad Ali Khan), and others. ‘Raag Bihari’ is also the title of a 2021 novel by Rakesh Varma.
A hallowed form, Bilaskhani Todi is fabled to have been created by Bilas Khan: son of Tansen, the legendary composer of Emperor Akbar’s 16th-century durbar. On trying to sing Todi at his father’s funeral wake, Bilas found himself so grief-stricken that he mixed up the swaras – however, his panic was allayed on witnessing the corpse slowly raise up one hand in solemn approval of the new tune. Many variants of the myth abound, which, despite scant historical evidence, each reveal a different facet of the raga’s cultural personality (e.g. some say Tansen had previously issued a direct challenge to his sons to ‘blend the movements of Todi with the swaras of Bhairavi‘, with others adding that Bilas had long been disfavoured by his father for his lack of musical accomplishments). Prakriti with Bhairavi, although its melodic motions are highly distinctive (e.g. the Todi-ang rgrS, with ga usually tuned to Todi’s ati-komal shade, as well as Bhupali Todi‘s audav SrgPdS aroha).
• Raag Bilawal •
Approximates the Western Major Scale, thus taking an ‘all-shuddha’ sampurna 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.
• Raag Champak •
A seldom-heard neighbour of Khambavati, distinguished (often very subtly) by stronger use of shuddha ma, and sometimes involving a Gm\S catchphrase. Both ni swaras are used, with the komal introduced via vakra avroh motions (e.g. SRn). Named after a huge evergreen tree species with fragrant yellow-orange flowers, used in perfumery and featured in many myths and legends from Indian history (including a famous tale of a dishonest champak: “Sage Narada went back to the tree and cursed it for lying. He said that its flowers must never again be used in the worship of Lord Shiva…and also cursed the Brahmin, saying that he would be reborn as a demon…”).
A speciality of the Rampur khayal gharana, which introduces the tense Ma–ni sangati to the basic framework of Bihag, further accentuated by a weak or absent Re – leaving two ‘4-row’ clusters (GmMP & DnNS), arranged symmetrically. Parrikar recounts the “enchanting tonal formulations” of his guru Ramrang’s rendition (passed down by his own guru Bholanath Bhatt, who in turn learned it from sarangi legend Bundu Khan) – while Ramrang’s Abhinava Geetanjali volumes give a chalan of SNSGmG, GmPDnS, nDPDNSNP, MPDnSnDP, GmG. The name translates as ‘Moonlit Bihag’.
A loosely-organised set of Kedar variations, Chandni Kedar (‘Moonlight Kedar’) is formed via minor modifications to its parent raga. As per Parrikar, who recommends a Kesarbai Kerkar mehfil rendition (Eri Ina Naina), “some suggest strengthening the komal ni and shuddha Ga in standard Kedar…others [suggest] Kedar with an added komal ni” – while Ocean of Ragas offers that “shuddha Ni is used in aroha, and komal ni is used [in avroh] as DnDP”. Refer to recordings by Shruti Sadolikar, Basavraj Rajguru, and Amir Khan (“a live performance at Imrat Khan‘s house in Kolkata…this incredible audience [were] animated throughout his performance…”) – as well as a magical 1967 sitar-surbahar jugalbandi from Imrat & Vilayat Khan, live from the Taj Mahal. Also see Jaldhar Kedar and Saraswati Kedar.
Chandrakauns is a spacious raga of relatively modern origin, only becoming distinct from divergent strains of ‘shuddha Ni Malkauns’ by around the mid-20th century. This Ni-for-ni replacement removes much of Malkauns’ symmetry and intervallic balance, with the chromatic leading-tone resolution (Ni>Sa) bringing more prominence to both swaras. Due to these sharper tensions, it is often played at faster tempos than its parent – with modern renditions continuing to show wide phraseological variance. Also see proximate ragas such as Antardhwani (the same scale plus komal re), Rajeshwari (a dha-for-Dha switch), and Tulsikauns (double-Ni) – as well as Kirwani (which ‘encloses’ Chandrakauns: SRgmPdNS).
An invention of Nikhil Banerjee, seemingly combining Chandrakauns and Kaushik. Expanding on a Malkauns base, the Kaunsi Kanada-like shuddha Re opens up a broader array of intervals to and from the twin-Ni positions – with the komal dha playing a similarly vital role below. (n.b. While some online sources refer to the raga as having been “created by Ali Akbar Khan in the classroom in 1977-78”, I can find nothing to back this up: possibly a confusion around Khan’s near-prakriti Chandranandan).
An angular pentatonic form conjured up by vocalist Amir Khan only a short time before his untimely death in a 1974 car accident – indeed, it is unclear if he ever formally named his new creation (I’ve seen it referred to as ‘Bhushwati’ and ‘Amarpriya’, and at least two posthumous releases just list it as ‘Untitled Raga’). A detailed RMIC thread discusses several plausible origin theories, generally linking the raga’s genesis to an intricate murchana process involving Chandrakauns and Madhukauns: it is prakriti with the latter, and Khan may well have made no practical distinction between the pair – however, given the general sparsity of information, it is unclear which recordings count as ‘true’ renditions. Bewitching in its oddities (‘Dhani tivra Ma‘ / ‘Minor Pentatonic #4‘) – also compare to his nearby Amirkhani Kauns (the same scale with shuddha Ga), as well as Amiri Todi (composed in his honour by Amjad Ali Khan).
Chandranandan (‘Moonstruck’) is a modern classic, created by Ali Akbar Khan in a spare studio moment via spontaneously blending concepts from the Kaunsi family (“Three minutes and it was finished…They asked me for the name, but I never thought of the name, I never thought about the notes. I just thought of my father and played…”). The recording sold wildly – but, when concert audiences called out for the raga, he found he had forgotten how to play it (“I told them I’d forgotten which notes I used, and needed time…I had to buy the record and listen for six months”). The Ustad‘s paradox-laden path of rediscovery is a truly curious tale, shining light onto his nuanced, multifaceted view of raga itself – encompassing everything from mythological visions and ancient rasa theory to metaphors of chess (in full below: including new information from the Khan family archives, kindly shared by his son Alam). Also see the four ragas which Khan drew from (Malkauns, Chandrakauns, Nandkauns, & Kaunsi Kanada), and the nearby Chandrakaushiki (created by Maihar stablemate Nikhil Banerjee around the same time), and the prakriti Enayetkhani Kanada (another recent Kanada innovation) – and compare to other Khansaab ragas including Gaurimanjari, Prabhakali, Malayalam, Medhavi, and Suha Todi.
• Raag Charukeshi •
Adopted from Carnatic music, Charukeshi (‘One with Beautiful Hair’) calls for wide-open melodic exploration, favouring long lines which wind around themselves while visiting the furthest reaches of all three octaves. Like many Southern scales, it may be used as a canvas for reshaping and recolouring ideas from adjacent ragas (see avirbhav), while itself presenting an odd marriage of major and minor – with an ‘all-shuddha‘ poorvang (SRGm) and ‘all-komal‘ uttarang (PdnS) allowing for contrasting emotional shades. Assumed to be a recent addition to the Northern ragascape, based on its lack of inclusion in Subbha Rao’s 1956 Raga Nidhi Vol. 1 (which states that “there is no raga called Charukeshi in Hindustani sangeet“) – although artists including S.N. Ratanjankar and Ravi Shankar were performing it soon after this date. Perennially popular for North-South jugalbandis (e.g. Purbayan Chatterjee & Shashank Subramanyam for Darbar VR360). Also compare to its murchana-set partners Patdeep, Ahiri, and Vachaspati – as well as Shankar’s other Carnatic imports, notably including Kirwani, Malay Marutam, and Simhendra Madhyamam.
Despite its long history, Chaya (also called Shuddha Chaya) is now largely overshadowed by its compounds, chiefly including Chayanat. According to sarodiya Rahul Bhattacharya, the raga is “in many aspects a more restrained version of Chayanat”, chiefly distinguished by its poorvang-dominance and weaker treatment of komal ni – although Deepak Raja notes that “even learned musicians report that some compositions are indistinguishable”. Raja also gives unique phrases including RGmPDDP, adding that Buddhadev Dasgupta considers the raga proximate to Shuddha Kalyan via an emphasis on Re and Dha. Most modern renditions seem to be on sarod (e.g. Bhattacharya & Soumya Chakraverty) – although Bhimsen Joshi was known to perform it in conjunction with Chaya Malhar (the term ‘chaya’ translates as ‘shadow’: and may also describe ‘subtle shades’ of a particular sonic element: e.g. Dhavalshree often contains ‘chayas’ of Puriya Dhanashree).
Profiled by Parrikar as “a compound melody formed by joining elements of Chaya to the Malhar raganga signature [mRm\RP]…The nyas on Pa is important, but an inapposite nyas on Re or undue brightening of ma may tilt the development towards Nat Malhar”. Listen to his Gwalior guru Ramrang’s rendition, seasoned with a particularly prominent P\R antara meend – as well as Bhimsen Joshi‘s numerous takes, sometimes performed in conjunction with Chaya itself (see bandish transcribed below). Aside from this pair of pioneering vocalists, nobody else seems to have formally recorded the raga – and neither can I ascertain much about its origins (although Savitri‘s Joshi writeup describes it as “a stamp of the Gwalior school”).
• Raag Chayanat •
A longstanding combination of Chaya and Nat, creating (as per Tanarang) an “attractive, sweet, and emotionally swaying” mood – the latter in particular summoned via ‘simple vakra’ phrases such as DNDP; RGRS. The Pa–Re sangati is vital, and shuddha ma is stronger than tivra Ma – with the raga inviting a range of expressive ornament patterns (including a prominent P\S slide in descent), as well as an occasional kan of komal ni. Raja notes that Chayanat has now largely supplanted both its parents in popularity. Also compare to a well-stocked array of other Bihag–prakriti ragas listed below.
• Raag Dagori •
Dagori draws from Bilawal thaat, featuring prominent use of Ni and characteristic slides between ma and Re. Possibly invented by Jaipur-Atrauli founder Alladiya Khan (and still near-exclusively performed by singers of that gharana), some consider the raga to be a Bilawal–ang interpretation of the now-lost Deepak (Tansen’s legendary fire raga). Dagori’s name also resembles that of the Daguribani Dhrupad…although it is unclear whether this is just a coincidence. Further information welcome!
A springtime raga described by sarodiya Joydeep Mukherjee as “very rare…adapted from Carnatic music” (hear him play it on “a very rare instrument, the Radhika Mohanveena”, created by Radhika Mohan Maitra in 1948 – accompanied by Subhasish Sabyasachi, “the first ambidextrous percussionist of India“). The name translates as ‘Southern Basant’ (to distinguish it from the main Basant) – while also sharing historical overlap with the more archaic Adi Basant and Shuddha Basant, alongside a close relationship to Shuddha Sohini (…many consider the two ragas to be indistinguishable). Enjoys an occasional presence on the modern concert stage – see recent renditions by Anuradha Kuber and Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, as well as a Sarala Bhide bandish breakdown by Ashok Da Ranade.
• Raag Darbari •
Darbari has been described as “the Emperor of ragas, and the raga of Emperors”. Its majestic tones famously echoed across the marble floors of Mughal palaces in centuries past, bringing solemn relief to kings, warlords, and diplomats alike. Consequently, modern renditions tend to retain a grave, reverential patience, pairing pakad of dnP & gmR amidst heavy, vocalistic ornaments and turns. Swara-congruent (if the raga’s significant sruti subtleties are ignored) with Adana, Jaunpuri, and Kaunsi Kanada.
• Raag Darjeeling •
Unveiled by sitarist Niladri Kumar in a 2014 Taj Mahal tea commercial, launching a new Darjeeling-themed range described in marketing materials as “definitely our most premium offering” (Niladri: “I have composed [it] in honour of the superlative flavour”). Status as a ‘real raga’ (rather than just a Mishra Bhairavi) is highly dubious – and usually I’d just ignore anything emanating from a corporate marketing scheme: but I’ll make an exception here (…much as I intuitively hate almost all advertising, I’ve gotta give props to Taj Mahal for some real raga-infused gems over the years: ‘Wah Taj!’).
• Raag Deen Todi •
A near-extinct raga of uncertain origin, Deen Todi takes an ‘Ahiri no Pa’ form. Best preserved via an astonishing rendition by Kamalesh Maitra on the tabla tarang (a semicircle of 13 sruti-tuned dayan drums: below), accompanied by a multiphonic cluster of tanpura drones (tuned D-n-r-S). Parveen Sultana has also sung it live, and seems to have taught it to students too – but today, the raga has largely been subsumed by Ravi Shankar‘s prakriti Parameshwari. Also see the overlapping Jaiwanti Todi and Prabhateshwari.
• Raag Deepak •
Strictly speaking, Deepak is a ‘lost raga’, known to us through its status as Tansen’s fabled fire-bringing melody – said to have set off uncontrollable blazes when he sung it with full force at Emperor Akbar’s royal palace (…and requiring Megh to extinguish it). But, while its original swaras have been lost to the winds of time, many have sought to reignite the spirits of these ancient tales – with three disparate Deepak varieties having developed in recent generations: Bilawal-ang, Poorvi-ang, and Khamaj-ang (although, given the reimaginative nature of such projects, interpretations can vary wildly even within these three categories). Tantalisingly, while the Deepak of Tansen’s era is hardly likely to have just ‘disappeared’, we will never really know which modern ragas may have absorbed its essences.
• Raag Des Malhar •
A well-established fusion of the pastoral-themed Desh and the rain-bringing Malhar, spanning the full swara sets of both via characteristic movements such as RmP, PNSRmGR; mPnDP, PNS. Steadily popular with both instrumentalists (e.g. Ali Akbar Khan’s many renditions) and singers (e.g. the Bodas clan’s duets). Dinkar Kaikini’s daughter Aditi Upadhya recounts the inspiration behind the Agra exponent’s own stellar bandish: “He reached the Hanging Gardens on Malabar Hill in Bombay…Looking up, he saw clear blue sky and, looking down, the clouds were so low the trees were hidden…Inspired, he immediately worked out a lyric (‘Dark, dark, looms the canopy of clouds, They gather, swell, and shower their heavy bounty…Trees and vines, garbed green sprouts, smile and sway in the wind…’).
• Raag Desh •
Intimately connected to Indian national identity, Desh gives melodic direction to the famous patriotic anthem Vande Mataram, as well as soundtracking dozens of Rabindrasangeet. Associated with the second quarter of night, renditions tend towards the sweet and amorous, with Deepak Raja noting clear divergence between ‘classicist’ and ‘romanticist’ treatments (the former is confined to stricter rules and bounds, while the latter borrows more liberally from thumri and other light-classical styles). The Re–Pa sangati is strong, and Ga and Dha are both omitted in ascent – with Raja giving a pakad of RRmP; nDP; RmGR. Prakriti with many ragas, notably including Alhaiya Bilawal, Bihagara, Des Malhar, Gaud Malhar, Nat Kamod, and Sorath (in fact, the ‘SRGmPDnNS‘ swara set – akin to the Western ‘Bebop Dominant‘ scale – matches more unique ragas in the Index than any other…).
• Raag Deshkar •
Typically summarised as ‘the other raga with Bhupali’s swaras’, Deshkar shuffles the same five tones to produce a mood suited more to the morning than evening hours. Taking a vadi-samvadi of Dha–Ga (as opposed to Bhupali’s Ga-Dha), the raga is uttarang-dominant, with a melodic focus on vakra movements in madhya and taar saptaks. Dha and Pa exerts gravity as nyas, and Re (prominent in Bhupali) is often rendered durbal or skipped in ascent. Parrikar provides definitive tonal sentences of P, PGPD, DP, PDGP and PDGPGRS, RSDS, SGPD, DP. Also see the prakriti Jait Kalyan.
• Raag Desi •
Desi (not to be confused with Desh) is a diffuse raga lineage, spanning several intertwined variants. Generally prakriti with Kafi, it may also follow the komal dha swara set of Asavari, as well as arriving in double-Dha form (Parrikar also discusses a rare double-Re variant known as ‘Utari Desi / Komal Desi’, likely connected to a lost Todi-ang). Generally focusing on madhya-taar saptak, the raga favours vakra motions such as SPDmP, RgSRnS – with Re and Pa rendered emphatically, and ma often employed ornamentally. While popular amongst khayal vocalists, it remains rare on the instrumental stage, although Ravi Shankar’s interpretations are effective. Also see the related Barwa, Bahaduri Todi, & Lanka Dahan Sarang – as well as an intriguing sequence of Picasso’s animal sketches, seemingly captioned by one of the Senior Dagar Brothers with: “when every swara is tamed in Dhrupad like Picasso did with his bulls…this Desi emerges” (listen to their rendition).
• Raag Dev Gandhar •
A Gwalior gharana speciality described by Tanarang as “an old melodic form, not much in vogue…very sweet, its unique appeal stems from the application of both gandhars, elaborated similar to Jaunpuri”. Unlike Gandhari, Dev Gandhar allows for both Ga variants in aroha as well as avroh – with Parrikar providing a simple summary for aspiring performers: “take Shuddha Re Asavari, add shuddha Ga as in RnSRG, m. Shake well, but don’t stir” – also recounting that K.L. Saigal’s 1932 recording (Jhulanaa Jhulavo-Ree) “went on to become a national chant. He was initially paid 25 rupees for the song, and when the record company later offered him much more in response to the massive sales, he refused the largesse…”. Some renditions may feature other tones from outside the base scale (e.g. Vidyadhar Vyas’ interpretation deviates sharply, with a shuddha-tinged uttarang and touches of tivra Ma).
A double-Ga Bhairav derivative, introduced by Agra gharana pioneer Azmat Hussain Khan ‘Dilrang’. As per Parrikar, the raga is distinguished from its parent with “the introduction of [an] avroh pragoya via the komal ga [mgrS]”. Some artists include subtle touches of komal ni, including Jitendra Abhisheki – who sings a madhyang-focused bandish (to me, somewhat reminiscent of Omkar Dadarkar’s Jogkauns rendition in its dPm(G)m phrase and twin-Ga interminglings). Abhirang, one of only a few others to have recorded it, offers pakad including gmPd, NS, mPGm & PGm, Pmg, rrS – with his analysis supplemented by Dilrang’s son Vajahat Hussain Khan, who explains that his father invented the raga “spontaneously…before the beginning of a 1944 concert at Kolhapur’s Deval Club…with Alladiya Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Vilayat Khan, and many other seasoned musicians of Maharashtra in the audience”, adding (in contrast to Parrikar) that “there is no glimpse [of] Bhairavi…the komal ga and SRGmP [phrase] have to be handled very carefully…[to] exclude Bhairavi and Shivmat Bhairav”.
A modification of Dev Gandhar, devised by Agra vocalist S.N. Ratanjankar via the addition of a Todi-like komal re – thus filling the entire Sa-to-ma swara space. Also recorded by his student K.G. Ginde, who extends this hemitonic run (and leans further into Todi’s geometries) by including touches of shuddha Ni, also reworking some Darbaric uttarang movements (nSRn\d; mPn\d nS). And a 2008 Ramdas Bhatkal article commemorating C.J.R. Bhatt (another Ratanjankar disciple), notes that “An approximation [of] a swara would never satisfy him…I recall learning with him a rarely-sung raga, a creation of Ratanjankar’s, Devgandhari Todi – that required different shades of each swara…He had neither learnt this raga from his guru, nor heard anyone sing this melody. On the strength of his [instruction], I even made bold to present this raga at a concert attended by many stalwarts…”. Also listed as sung by B.D. Wadikar on A.I.R. on Feb 24th 1973 – although I can’t find any surviving recordings other than Ginde’s. Compare to other Ratanjankar-related ragas including Salagavarali, Viyogavarali, & Basant Mukhari.
A fusion of Bilawal, Kalyan, and Shuddha Kalyan, which either avoids the tivra Ma throughout or relegates it to an ornamental role. Balancing an uttarang-focus with a tendency for melodic development in mandra and madhya saptak, the raga (as per Thakurdas) prioritises Ga and Dha, also using Pa as a nyas – with komal ni appearing in avroh only. AUTRIM’s analysis notes characteristic phrases including NSRGmG; RGRS; PD\G; D\P\G; GPNDNS; DPmG, as well as overlap with Alhaiya Bilawal. Also refer to Aneesh Pradhan’s rundown of five stellar renditions, including a idiosyncratic sarod interpretation by the legendary Allauddin Khan.
• Raag Devranjani •
Stretched by the emptiness of a vast S-m poorvang jump, Devranjani is formed by removing the Re and Ga from Bhairav. Abhirang offers up both ‘shuddha Ni’ and ‘double Ni’ variants, with the former appearing to be predominant – while Bhatkhande’s early 20th-century works discuss the importance of the ascending phrase Sm, mP as a launchpoint into the denser uttarang space. Seemingly of Carnatic origin (despite differing from the South Indian form of similar name) – and, though tantalising, remains rare.
• Raag Devshri •
An intriguing audav raga resembling ‘Megh tivra Ma’ (or ‘Vachaspati no Ga/Dha’). Its unique swara set – which features the unusual ‘tivra Ma, komal ni‘ sangati – is principally distinguished by a disbalance in how Sa and Pa are ‘surrounded’ by the swaras above and below (nSR: ‘2-2’, MPn: ‘1-3’) – offering curious contrast with the symmetry of the R-M-n ‘equilateral triangle’ (a ‘4-4-4’ augmented triad). Described by Tanarang as “straightforward to sing, and easily expandable in all three octaves” – although few outside his immediate Gwalior vocal lineage have performed it thus far. Also see proximate forms such as Saraswati (add Dha) and Hemavati (add ga & Dha).
• Raag Dhanashree •
Dhanashree is a multivariate raga of ancient vintage (listed in Medieval lakshanagranthas as a ragini of Malkauns), which arrives in several present-day forms – usually matching the swaras of Kafi (SRgmPDnS), Khamaj double-Ni (SRGmPDnNS), Bhairavi (SrgmPdnS), Bilawal (SRGmPDNS), or Patdeep (SRgmPDNS). Characteristic motions tend to retain similar ‘generic’ movement patterns, mapping them to the differing chal of these base scales (e.g. Kafi vs. Khamaj: mgmRS vs. mGmRS). The predominant Kafi variant is perennially popular in kirtan and other Sikh devotional styles, but largely overshadowed on the classical stage by prakritis such as Bhimpalasi. Also see an AUTRIM pitch-graph of an Aslam Khan rendition (“Oh bird, please go and convey my message to my beloved; Ask him when he will return to my abode…”) – as well as the overlapping Puriya Dhanashree.
• Raag Dhani •
Despite its ‘Minor Pentatonic’ scale form enjoying global popularity as the predominant mode of blues, rock, pop, and countless other guitar-driven genres, Dhani is comparatively rare as a raga in its own right – with its swara set mostly being heard as the ‘aroha of Bhimpalasi’ rather than in isolation (…it may be the least-performed of all five Bhupali murchanas: and only joined this set in the modern era, having previously allowed Re in avroh). Renditions are relatively ‘rule-free’ within the bounds of the five swaras, although komal ga and ni tend to assume a natural prominence. Often described as ‘lively, playful, sprightly’, in spite of its ‘all-komal’ status. Also see nearby audav ragas including Jog, Tilang, and Madhukauns.
• Raag Dhavalshree •
A Shree-ang monsoon raga which presents in multivariate modern forms, with particular variance evident in the status of Dha. Kishori Amonkar’s Jaipur-Atrauli interpretation adds shuddha Dha to the basic framework of Jaitashree, whereas Mallikarjun Mansur’s take renders dha komal amidst Shree-ang motions such as rNdP, also showcasing a strong SGP sangati and chayas of Puriya Dhanashree – while some sources consider the raga’s Maihar incarnation as a more straightforward ‘shuddha Dha Shree’ (in this gharana, it may also be titled ‘Dhaulashree’ or ‘Shree Kalyan’). Today’s renditions continue to display considerable variance.
Din ki Puriya (‘Daytime Puriya’) sets its six swaras to the general phrase patterns of the Puriya–ang, avoiding Pa throughout. The scale’s ‘palindromic hexagon’ places a tight hemitonic cluster (NSr) opposite a wider tone-trio (GMd), also providing an augmented ‘equilateral triangle’ (SGd). Melodic motions remain fairly free, given the lack of any prakriti ragas – with Sa standing out as the only ‘detached’ swara. Comparatively rare in khayal, and near-untouched by instrumentalists (aside from Kala Ramnath) – although Jitendra Abhisheki’s recordings have gained renown (Kovid Rathee also recounts the tale of a 1997 Jasraj rendition: “Apparently, someone in the audience was smoking a bidi…and Jasraj-ji modified the lyrics of the bandish to ask the culprit to stop, as it interfered with his singing…”).
• Raag Durga •
Beguiling in its pentatonic simplicity, Durga (Sanskrit: ‘invincible, impassable, inaccessible’) is inextricably tied to visions of the Hindu Mother Goddess: depicted in lore as a destroyer of demons and protector of the faithful (Maa Durga: who, according to legend, “was created to slay the buffalo demon Mahishasura by Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and the lesser gods, who were otherwise powerless to overcome him…She is usually depicted riding a lion, with 8 or 10 arms each holding the special weapon of one of the gods…”). Despite these ancient associations, the raga is of relatively recent Carnatic import (seemingly evolving from Suddha Saveri), only gaining broad acceptance among Northern rasikas around the mid-20th century. Prakriti with Jaldhar Kedar and Shuddha Malhar, Durga is principally differentiated via a greater emphasis on shuddha Dha (the only ‘imperfect‘ swara). Also see proximate forms including Durgawati, Jhinjhoti, and Mangal Bhairav.
• Raag Durgawati •
A rare shadav raga, matching the swara set of ‘Durga plus komal ni’ (or ‘Kafi/Khamaj no Ga’). The inclusion of ni in avroh opens up Bageshri-like uttarang motions (SnDm…), with the rest of the raga generally trending towards Durga (e.g. RmPD; PDm; mRDS). Seemingly an invention of Maihar bansuriya Hariprasad Chaurasia, based on the lack of renditions by anyone else: with his most prominent recording being a 1997 Navras release (paired with the similarly folksy Mishra Shivranjani). Not to be confused with Durgeshwari (in either of its forms) – and also see the prakriti Gorakh Kalyan and Narayani. Further information welcome!
An invention of Imdadkhani sitarist Rais Khan (who, with a pleasing lack of pretention, named his new raga ‘a type of Kauns’). From Martyn Clayton’s excellent liner notes to a 1985 Navras recording: “Indeed an unusual raga…Rais Khan’s ‘Ek Prakar ki Kauns’ is based on Malkauns, but incorporates two extra notes [shuddha Ga & Ni]. The use of these notes is dramatic…a fascinating musical experiment”. Shuddha Ni is first introduced via a lingering nNS meend, sometimes replacing Sa in mandra passages (e.g. nNnd), while the ascending shuddha Ga can bring strong shades of Jog (e.g. GmgS) – with both the extra swaras also being used chromatically (e.g. mGgGm). Also see Enayetkhani Kanada (another ‘double-Ga, double-Ni’ raga, created by Rais’ uncle Vilayat Khan), as well as Kartik Kumar’s Tulsikauns (which takes the swara-shape of ‘Malkauns double-Ni’, thus offering a similarly bluesy ma-murchana: i.e. ‘mdnNS>SgmMG‘). Also recorded by Maihar sarodiya Bahadur Khan (Ali Akbar Khan‘s cousin, no relation to Rais).
Invented by sitarist Vilayat Khan as a tribute to his father, legendary Imdadkhani innovator Enayet Khan (although when the raga first surfaced, circa 1981, he was calling it ‘Vilayat Khani Kanada’ instead…). As per fellow Imdadkhani sitarist-scholar Deepak Raja’s excellent analysis, the raga runs along the lines of “Darbari with the addition of two ‘alien swaras’ in the ascent [shuddha Ga & Ni]…Phrases with the alien swaras are always sandwiched between typical Darbari phrases, and blend into the new melodic entity with a distinctive emotional flavour”. He also details how Darbari’s character “is preserved by keeping the raga firmly anchored in the lower half of the melodic canvas, with very sparing development in the upper tetrachord and higher octave”. Khan’s most prominent recording is laden with long, ponderous meend, which occasionally render the adjacent ni–Ni positions consecutively. Seemingly unperformed by anyone besides its creator (also see his other inventions, e.g. Madhuvanti, Sanjh Saravali, and Pancham se Pilu).
As per Ocean of Ragas, Gagan Vihang (Sanskrit: ‘Birds of Heaven’) “was composed by Pandit Dinkar Kaikini…we find features of Bihag, Savani, Nand, and Mand, although the raga maintains its independent melody [via] unique phrases such as SRPGm, GmRS, NDmP” – while others also point to the influence of Shankara. The Agra khayal innovator (also the father of tabla maestro Yogesh Samsi) recorded his creation several times, but few have followed. Compare to the many other Bilawal–prakriti ragas listed below – and also see Kaikini’s other creations, including Gunaranjani and Bayati (an intriguing ‘quarter-tonal‘ raga, adapted from a Middle Eastern maqam).
• Raag Gandhari •
Described by Parrikar as “an Asavariant of ancient vintage, [with] no consensus regarding its contemporary swarupa”, the modern Gandhari usually appears in double-Re form – although some variants also employ double-Ga and/or double-Dha. Many renditions follow a ‘Jaunpuri-plus’ framework, seasoning this raga with komal re in concluding phrases (e.g. nPndPmg, grgrS). Sometimes known as ‘Gandhari Todi’, indicative of the Todi-ang available in descending phrases (also see the prakriti Bahaduri Todi, as well as the related Dev Gandhar and Devgandhari Todi).
• Raag Gangeshwari •
Like Parameshwari and Rangeshwari, Gangeshwari (‘Lord of the Ganges River’) was created in 1968 via murchana rotation of Ravi Shankar’s Kameshwari (itself dreamed up during a car ride through Bengal). Its unique swara set most closely resembles a ‘no Re’ version of either Charukeshi or Basant Mukhari (or alternatively, ‘Gopika Basant shuddha Ga’) – with an ‘all-shuddha‘ poorvang (SGm) and ‘all-komal‘ uttarang (PdnS). Like the rest of its murchana set, the raga’s phraseology remains open and uncodified, with little risk of trespass on the bounds of other ragas. Also see an array of other Ravi-authored forms including Jogeshwari, Mohankauns, Bairagi, Bairagi Todi, Ahir Lalit, and Pancham se Gara.
• Raag Gaoti •
Sarodiya Rahul Bhattacharya describes the late-afternoon Gaoti as “an underutilised gem…a pleasant, fulfilled feeling…like enjoying a perfume without actually knowing why it’s so nice”. Also known as ‘Gawati’, the raga is often considered near-identical to Bheem (some say Bheem can be distinguished by its occasional use of komal ga in taar saptak, although this is also evident in some Gaoti renditions: e.g. Acharya Jayanta Bose‘s below). Straightforward audav ascents are balanced by sampurna descending lines which tend to run in ‘paired’ sequences (e.g. nS, DP, mP, Gm, RS).
• Raag Gara •
Gara is a disparate melodic lineage, derived from thumri compositions of centuries past: Manuel’s research describes it as “a loose, informal melodic entity until the 18th century, after which [its] grammar was organised by classically trained musicians…like Kafi, Pilu, Jungala, Barwa, and Zila”. Often close to Jaijaiwanti, the modern Gara may also draw from Pilu, Khamaj, and Jhinjhoti, setting their melodies within a vakra framework focused on mandra-madhya saptak: low Pa is used as the scale-base, and low Sa is home to a pakad of DnSNS. Also see Pancham se Gara (‘Gara from Pa’) a murchana-based derivative which rotates this catchphrase upwards a perfect 5th to form GmPMP, as well as Madhyam se Gara, which adds a perfect 4th (=RgmGm). Typically considered a night raga (although Bhatkhande classified it as time-neutral) – refer to Deepak Raja’s superb analysis for more (“Conventional wisdom regards Gara as vivacious and romantic…Vilayat Khan adopts the Pilu–Jhinjhoti axis of the raga described by Bhatkhande, however, towards the upper end of the melodic canvas, [he] tilts mildly towards Jaijaiwanti of the Bageshri–ang…).
• Raag Gaud Malhar •
A blend of Shuddha Malhar and the now-extinct Gaud, which finds mention in Shrikantha’s 16th-century Rasakaumudi treatise. Parrikar’s analysis highlights the “strong, glowing ma”, which lies between a Gaud-like poorvang (SRGm, mGm, Pm) and uttarang phrases from Shuddha Malhar (mP(S\)DS) and Bilawal (PPNDNS). Other Malharic material includes m(m\)R; (m\)RP, although some argue for the exclusion of Miyan ki Malhar’s nDNS phrase, given this raga’s status as a later invention (“the Malhar purist considers it at best superfluous, and at worst injurious…”). Dhrupad musicians often include both forms of Ga, while others may render the swara komal or omit it entirely – and a less frequent form of the raga is in existence, which strays closer to Khamaj. Popular in filmi – and not to be confused with Gaudgiri Malhar.
• Raag Gaud Sarang •
Aside from its afternoon designation, Gaud Sarang carries no discernible hints of the Sarang family – running more like a vakra Bihag variant seasoned by a GRmGPRS pakad amongst other melodic quirks (some refer to it as ‘Din ki Bihag’: ‘daytime Bihag’). Shuddha ma is strong, but not used as a nyas, with its enclosing swaras preferred as pause-points instead (Ga & Pa). Omkarnath Thakur’s Sangitanjali Vol.4 notes that the raga “can bring a serious mood when performed in vilambit; however it can also evoke a hopeful and energetic atmosphere in madhya–drut” (in particular, the wide P/N and P\R jumps are challenging to render at high speeds) – while Parrikar points to “proximate melodies such as Kedar, Hameer, and Nand”, and “a Gaud-inspired tonal byte [SGRmG, GmGP, PmG, SPmG], which carries the soul, or if you will, the G-spot, of Gaud Sarang…”). Associated with shringar rasa.
An engrossing raga of uncertain origin, Gaudgiri Malhar is most prominently associated with Mewati pioneer Pandit Jasraj – although Gwalior stalwart Haribhau Ghangrekar and others were performing it even before this. Also sung by Jasraj’s brother Pratap Narayan and disciple Hemang Mehta, as well as Kirana vocalist Moumita Mitra – who describes it as a combination of Gaud (SRGm, RGRmGmRS), Kafi (PDnDP, mgRS), and [Megh] Malhar (mR, RP, nP), suggesting nyas of Sa/ma/Pa and a vadi-samvadi of ma–Sa (and including flourishes of shuddha Ga and Dha in her rendition). Also refer to R.K. Das’ comments on Pratap Narayan’s rendition: “[I’ve] heard a pentatonic variety of Gaud Malhar from Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan of Kirana, most probably [this] is the root of [Narayan’s] recording…He does not use komal ga, but his brother does…the way Narayan sings is more akin to an amalgamation with Sarang”. Despite their similar nomenclature, the raga is distinct from Gaud Malhar (and the ultra-rare Gondgiri Malhar). Compare and contrast to the prakriti Suha and Nayaki Kanada.
• Raag Gauri •
Described by Deepak Raja as “difficult to render in its purity”, Gauri is associated with viraha shringara (‘the piety arising from the separation of lovers’). The raga had at least two distinct forms as far back as the 16th century, and continues to manifest in several variations – spanning a main Bhairav-ang ‘shuddha ma‘ incarnation to various Poorvi-ang ‘tivra Ma’ renditions (often “treacherously close to Puriya Dhanashree“). In the former, mandra Ni is a prominent nyas (in Kalingada style), while re and dha should not be paused on – while some omit Ga and dha in aroha. Considered a sandhiprakash raga, but (unlike Bhairav) best suited to the dusk hours.
Introduced by prolific raga creator Kumar Gandharva via fusing Gauri with Basant’s tivra Ma incarnation. His original renditions also prominently showcase a Bhairav-ang G\r slide – but this fragment lacks its usual support from shuddha ma above, instead being followed in the bandish by Basant-like turns such as GPd; PMPG (…this shift is timed to coincide precisely with his singing of the word ‘basanti’ [‘spring’]: audible here). Since taken up by his grandson Bhuvanesh Komkali, and Joydeep Mukherjee has performed it on the rare Radikha Mohanveena (accompanied by Subashish Sabayasachi, “the first ambidextrous percussionist of India”). Also see other Basant fusions such as Malti Basant and Basanti Kanada, as well as Gaurimanjari (‘Bouquet of Gauris’) – plus other intriguing Gandharva creations including Madhusurja, Lagan Gandhar, Bhavmat Bhairav, and Saheli Todi.
An intricate ten-toned raga created by Ali Akbar Khan via blending ideas from across the Lalit–Gauri spectrum (Gaurimanjari: ‘Bouquet of Gauris’) – notable for its winding melodic motions and dense, crowded swara-space (some renditions employ all specific positions except komal ga). Its core form also possesses the ultra-rare property of rotational symmetry (i.e. the interval sequence can be rotated to produce an identical copy of the original, in this case 180o: its 5th murchana). This is probably of fairly limited consequence given the raga’s overall complexity – but Khan and others (notably his student Brij Bhushan Kabra) have found fruit in exploring its wide-open melodic geometries, which allow for many subtle sub-symmetries. Compare to numerous other Khansaab-created ragas, notably including Chandranandan, Prabhakali, Malayalam, Medhavi, and Suha Todi.
A hexatonic raga of bewitching beauty, Gopika Basant matches the swaras of ‘Asavari no Re’ (or ‘Malkauns add Pa’) – while also inviting shades of Bhairavi from ga upwards. The Sa–ma sangati is strong, and, as noted by Jairazbhoy, descents can mirror the Malkauns scheme of “parallel conjunct tetrachords by oblique use of the Pa” (e.g. in ndm, Pg, mgS: where Pa separates two phrases of identical intervallic shape). While its origins lie in the Carnatic Gopikavasantham, renditions now match more closely to the allied Hindolavasantham via the absence of Re – although the raga’s Hindustani incarnation remains rare (to my ears, a bewildering state of affairs…).
A spacious, folksy raga of the late evening, Gorakh Kalyan (named for the Gorakhpur region of Uttar Pradesh) has fabled associations with Saint Gorakhnath, an 11th-century yogi mystic-musician who is said to have travelled throughout the Subcontinent in search of spiritual wisdom and sonic enrichment. Despite its name, the raga’s modern form has no discernible links to the Kalyan-ang, instead focusing on Ga-skipping motions such as SRm; RmRSn. Some performers include only four swaras in aroha (SRmD), with scholars linking this facet to its possible origins in a now-extinct audav raga known as ‘Gorakhi’ – itself an offshoot of the ‘chatuswari‘ Bhavani (SRmD). This upward sparsity leaves room for winding lines in the descent, which may often resolve to the komal ni of mandra saptak (e.g. Praveen Sheolikar’s outstanding violin rendition below). Prakriti with Narayani and Durgawati – and compare to proximate scales such as Saraswati (the same scale with tivra Ma instead) and Miyan ki Sarang (which allows both Ni).
• Raag Gujiri Todi •
A popular Todi variant named for its association with Gujarat, India’s Westernmost state. Linked to the morning hours, it takes a similar swara set to the main Todi, distinguishing itself by omitting Pa throughout. Dagarvani beenkar Bahauddin Dagar chooses to intone the raga’s Sa (the only ‘detached‘ swara) with a slightly higher sruti than that of the tanpura, adjusted in accordance with the sun’s daily arc (see non-zero Sa). Tanarnag cites a mood of “sweetness [and] karuna“, revolving around a deergha komal re. Gujiri Todi is also an exact murchana of Jog and Brindabani Sarang.
• Raag Gunakri •
Taking the swaras of ‘Bhairav no Ga/Ni’, Gunakri – described by AUTRIM as “serious and peaceful” – brings out the character of its parent raga via an oscillating komal re, and movements patterns including Sd, dP and SdSr, rS (although Jairazbhoy prefers to analyse it via the geometries of Basant Mukhari). Bose gives a neat ‘rising-falling’ pakad of mPd, mrS, which is often handled with long slides (e.g. d/S; m\r), while Vidyadhar Vyas’ version seasons the raga’s audav core with slight touches of Ga and Ni (helping to avoid shades of Jogiya’s aroha, which takes the same swaras). Not the same as Gunkali (…although renditions of each are sometimes mistitled as the other).
A Gwalior gharana favourite which blends Malgunji and Kaunsi Kanada, principally via inserting the former’s RnSRG, Gm phrase into the broader framework of the latter – although some sources also cite the vital influences of Adana and Bahar (e.g. mDnS). Modern renditions tend to take the komal dha, although a shuddha Dha variant has also circulated in the recent past (also turning up as an ornamental kanswar). Ocean of Ragas lists it as a creation of pioneering vocalist and educator Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931), with only a handful of other artists having added it to their concert repertoire over the years since (notably including Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Pandit Jasraj, & Purbayan Chatterjee).
• Raag Gunkali •
An enchanting morning raga, matching the swara set of ‘Bhupali komal re/dha’ (or ‘Shobhawari komal re’), described by Tanarang as “essentially an epitome of bhakti and karuna…straightforward, and can be freely expanded in all three octaves”. While audav at its core, some renditions may include shades of shuddha Ga in avroh, bringing hints of a Bhairav-ang – and Kumar Gandharva’s unconventional take also features varied use of both Ga and Ni. Also refer to a concise demo by Ajoy Chakraborty, a superb performance by Kedar Bodas (below), and a captivating bandish by Ramrang (“describing Shiva’s visit to Brindavan to see the baby Krishna. The text verbalises the Great Yogi’s response to an apprehensive Jashoda”). Generally considered distinct to Gunakri, despite considerable overlap – with their basic SrmPdS scale shape also forming an exact Ga-murchana of Kaushik Dhwani – and approximating the ‘In / Miyakobushi‘ mode of Japanese court music.
• Raag Hameer •
A winding raga of complex historical lineage, Hameer (‘Royal, Regal’) enjoys a steady presence on the modern concert circuit. Re is weak in aroha, and Tanarang links the shuddha Dha vadi to “the enthusiasm and courage of warriors”, giving a pakad of GMND; DDP and uttarang-focused phrases such as Gm(N)DNS; PDPPS; MPDNS. Touches of komal ni can be taken in ascent, and both Ma positions are joined in vakra fashion on the way down (e.g. MPGmRS). Parrikar summarises the raga as “a traditional denizen of considerable heft, known to project a vigorous, dramatic mein…[offering] a variety of old dhrupad, dhamar, and khayal compositions”, adding that “it is not a ‘scalar’ raga, amenable to reconstitution with up-and-down phrases”. Refer to recordings by Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and Yeshwantbua Joshi, as well as an AUTRIM pitch-graph tracing an Ajoy Chakraborty rendition – plus the Mohammed Rafi classic Madhuban Mein Radhika Nache Re (from the 1960 film Kohinoor). Also see Kedar and Kamod, which lie nearby.
Taking the shape of ‘Puriya Dhanashree minus dha’, Hansa Narayani also presents uttarang shades of Hansadhwani (PNS): another swan-related raga with Carnatic roots (‘Hansa’ suggests a swan-riding image of Saraswati, the four-armed Hindu goddess of music and learning, and ‘Narayani’ refers to an incarnation of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and fortune: collectively covering two-thirds of the ‘Tridevi’). Seemingly popularised by Pannalal Ghosh (“the wizard of the bamboo”), the raga remains rare, with melodic motions often focusing on Pa and Sa as nyas. Also refer to a short Shree-like rendition by Bismillah Khan (below), as well as Abhirang’s khayal interpretation.
• Raag Hansadhwani •
Hansadhwani translates to ‘Call of Swans’ – a creature with rich cultural associations in the Subcontinent (Saraswati, goddess of music and learning, is often depicted atop a swan: said to symbolise purity, discernment, and the routine of breathing). Originally an import from Carnatic music, the raga’s pentatonic simplicity invites the listener towards the calm of nature, with a strong vadi-samvadi pairing of Sa–Pa retaining a central reassurance, amidst what Jairazbhoy describes as “an inherently unbalanced scale”. Also see related forms including Shankara (add Dha), Bhupali (swap Ni for Dha), and the ultra-rare Veenavadi (komal ni instead) – as well as compounds such as Pannalal Ghosh’s Hansa Narayani, and other ragas linked to the same goddess (e.g. Saraswati and Ambika Sarang).
• Raag Hanskinkini •
Running something like a ‘double-Ga, double-Ni Dhanashree’, Hanskinkini is full of florid alankar and intricate melodic turns – reflected in the meaning of its name, which translates as ‘swan’ + ‘small tinkling ornament’. Performers may draw on the melodic flexibilities of other ‘double Ga+Ni’ ragas including Pilu and Jaijaiwanti, while preserving the Dhanashree-ang kernel via phrases such as mPnDP; SnDP; mPGRS (Tanarang: “a flittering, volatile melody”). Famously highlighted by Lata Mangeshkar in the 1952 film Naya Zamana (Kahan Jate Ho Toota Dil Hamara), the raga’s direct lineage seems to stretch back to at least the time of Sadarang (~17th century), although detailed historical records are hard to come by. Aneesh Pradhan recommends the renditions of D.V. Paluskar and Shruti Sadolikar (also noting that “curiously, the image of the ‘hamsa-mithun’ [swan-couple], a symbol of eternal love, seems missing in Hindustani compositions: intriguing, since one encounters birds in other compositions…”) . Also see Patdeepaki, an intertwined form which prefers the flavours of Bhimpalasi to those of Dhanashree.
• Raag Harikauns •
Among the strangest of pentatonic scales, Harikauns resembles ‘Madhukant no Re/Pa’ or ‘Madhukauns with Dha-for-Pa’ (or ‘Malkauns with the middle two swaras raised’) – forming a ‘diminished square’ of 3-semitone jumps (SgMD) plus a (symmetry-destroying) komal ni. Aside from a natural uttarang focus, the raga allows for near-complete freedom of motion – but presents inherent challenges to any who attempt it, with all swaras except ga being imperfect, and the dissonant Ma–ni sangati left in stark focus (a Telegraph India critic once described it as the “one of the ugliest and most difficult to sing ever conceived”, in a nevertheless glowing review of an Ulhas Kashalkar concert: mis-heard as ‘Holikauns’). While most effective renditions I can find rely heavily on the ornamental flexibility of the human voice (e.g. Amir Khan, Prabha Atre, Jitendra Abhisheki), my all-time favourite has to be Nasir Ahmed’s incredible electric mandolin take, which turns instead to the rapid scale-navigatory capabilities afforded by his smaller fretboard.
• Raag Hem Bihag •
Often cited as an invention of Ravi Shankar, Hem Bihag was in fact devised by his teacher Allauddin Khan – as noted by Shankar & Ali Akbar Khan when they chose it to open a tribute concert just a few weeks on from their guru’s 1972 death, at the reputed age of 110 (below: “we begin with a creation of his, a night raga…”). Allauddin himself never recorded it (although you can hear him exploring both its parents on the violin: Hem & Bihag) – meaning that modern renditions instead follow after Shankar, Ali Akbar, and Nikhil Banerjee‘s various takes, which tend to exhibit a weak Dha, strong Ni, and the avoidance of Re in aroha. The ‘Hem’ in the name refers to Hemant – another Khansaab invention which builds from a Bhinna Shadja base – rather than Khem Kalyan (although I’ve heard occasional mention of another, older species of ‘Hem Bihag’, which does draw from the latter raga). Also see other ragas which Shankar helped bring to broader attention (e.g. Asa Bhairav & Nat Bhairav) – plus his Carnatic imports (Charukeshi, Vachaspati, Kirwani, Malay Marutam, & Simhendra Madhyamam).