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• Raag Chandranandan •

S-R-gG-m-P-d-nN-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bilaskhani Todi •

S-r-g-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Parameshwari •

S-r-g-m-D-n-S A mellifluous modern form created by Ravi Shankar in 1968, via a murchana rotation of Kameshwari (itself the product of backseat travel boredom in Bengal). While somewhat resembling a ‘komal re Bageshri’, Parameshwari’s hexagonal structure is ripe for open-ended experiments, summoning its own colours and tensions – and, despite its young history, has already garnered significant […]

 

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• Raag Antardhwani •

S-r-g-m-d-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Basant Mukhari •

S-r-G-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Todi •

S-r-g-M-P-d-N-S Pivotal to Hindustani history, Todi overflows with musical ideas found nowhere else on the planet. Some link its ambiguous geometries with ‘existential anguish and unsettlement’, while others hear ‘the playfulness of a newborn, content and smiling’. Rajan Parrikar hails it as “the most profound, finespun idea in melodic music…from ecstasy, to frolic, to pathos, […]

 

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• Raag Lalit •

S-r-G-mM-d-N-S Lalit (meaning ‘Lyrical’) is an oddly-shaped sunrise raga, resembling ‘Bhairav with Pa lowered a semitone’. Among the most influential forms in Hindustani history, its distinctive ‘double Ma, no Pa’ structure has a malleable ambiguity, capable of conjuring flavours ranging from ‘sadness and anguish’ to ‘the serene and devotional‘ (Deepak Raja discusses “two facets…NrGm; MdNS….Lalit’s […]

 

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• Raag Charukeshi •

S-R-G-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhairavi •

S-r-g-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhairav •

S-r-G-m-P-d-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Asavari •

S-rR-g-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Ahir Bhairav •

S-r-G-m-P-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bilawal •

S-R-G-m-P-D-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Hindol •

S-G-M-D-N-S A captivating, challenging audav raga with all swaras appearing in their highest specific positions (i.e. no komals, and Ma, if present, is tivra: also see Bhupali, Hansadhwani, & Adbhut Kalyan). The name translates as ‘swinging’: indicative of the raga’s melodic character, which is built around ‘swaying’ motions between a trio of nyas (Sa, Ga, […]

 

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• Raag Gujiri Todi •

S-r-g-M-d-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Madhusurja •

S-rR-mM-P-n-S A Kumar Gandharva creation, inspired by witnessing the plight of a goat as it was led past his house on the way to be sacrificed at a nearby Kali temple. To collate a few common tellings: “When the goat realises, it starts pleading to save its life. The vilambit bandish describes these prayers [‘bachaale […]

 

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• Raag Jaiwanti Todi •

S-r-g-m-P-D-n-S An Ahiri–prakriti raga introduced by Maharaja Jaiwant Singh Waghela (1904-1980): a hereditary King of Sanand who also gained wide renown as a vocalist, music educator, spiritual teacher, and generous patron of the nascent Mewati gharana (see below: also hear his famous Mata Kalika bandish). Some link its twists and turns to the melodic lineages […]

 

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• Raag Ahiri •

S-r-g-m-P-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Medhavi •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-nN-S Medhavi is generally cited as an invention of Ali Akbar Khan, who seems to be the sole source of recordings – however the liner notes to his most prominent rendition make no direct mention of this, instead describing it as “a compound melody of recent origin…its features [vary] according to traditional modes”, adding that […]

 

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• Raag Gunkali •

S-r-m-P-d-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bibhas •

S-r-G-P-d-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Alhaiya Bilawal •

S-R-G-m-P-D-nN-S 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, […]

 

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• Raag Ramkali •

S-r-G-mM-P-d-nN-S Resembling ‘Bhairav with touches of tivra Ma and komal ni in avroh’, Ramkali is an early morning raga, often associated with Sikh saintly traditions – with one author recounting that “the emotions in Ramkali are like those of a wise teacher disciplining their student, who is aware of the pain of learning” (although classical ragmala paintings commonly […]

 

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• Raag Lanka Dahan Sarang •

S-R-g-m-P-D-nN-S ‘Lanka Dahan’ refers to a famous tale from the Ramayana – as per Rajeev Taranath’s preface to a recital of the raga: “Ravana’s demonic horde set fire to Lord Hanuman’s tail; and the Monkey God sent the entire city of Lanka up in flames with it. But Rama’s consort Sita, an avatar of Lakshmi, […]

 

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• Raag Kabiri Bhairav •

S-r-G-m-P-dD-nN-S Anuraag Dhoundeyal, writing in Swarajya magazine, considers Kabiri Bhairav to express “the angst of mystic experiences” (the ‘Kabir’ of the title refers to the famous 14th-century poet-mystic, highly influential on Sikh scriptures as well as the Hindu Bhakti movement through his radical critiques of organised religion). The raga’s poorvang matches with Bhairav (SrGm), however […]

 

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• Raag Dev Gandhar •

S-R-gG-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhatiyar •

S-r-G-mM-P-D-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Annapurna •

S-r-g-M-P-d-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Lakshmi Todi •

S-rR-gG-m-P-dD-n-S A complex multi-melodic blend named after the Hindu goddess of power, beauty, prosperity, and good fortune (Lakshmi: ‘she who leads to the goal’) – which imports the movements of several other ragas into a general Todi framework. Abhirang’s breakdown discusses “shades of Jaunpuri (RmPSdP; nSRndP), Dev Gandhar (RnSRGm), Gaud (SRGmGm; mGRGm), Kafi (RmPDnS), Gandhari […]

 

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• Raag Darjeeling •

S-r-g-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bairagi (Bhairav) •

S-r-m-P-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Barwa •

S-R-g-m-P-D-nN-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bairagi Todi •

S-r-g-P-n-S 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, […]

 

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• Raag Asa Bhairav •

S-rR-G-m-P-D-N-S 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, […]

 

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• Raag Ahir Lalit •

S-r-G-mM-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhupali Todi •

S-r-g-P-d-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Sohini •

S-r-G-M-D-N-S Sharing its six swaras with Marwa and Puriya, Sohini aims for a looser, more sprightly flavour to these more famous congruents – focusing on agile movements in madhya and taar saptaks, and uttarang-based phrases built on a strong Dha–Ga sangati. Re is banned in aroha, and Sa assumes greater strength than in Marwa, while […]

 

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• Raag Prabhateshwari •

S-r-g-m-P-D-n-S A seldom-heard raga created by bansuriya Hariprasad Chaurasia, which (to my ears) resembles a blend of the morning Ahir Bhairav and the late night Bageshri. His student Rajendra Teredesai describes it as having “all the hues…beautiful, complex, yet spiritually uplifting…full of pathos and bhakti ras…a state of perpetual divine bliss”. Prakriti with Ahiri, the raga […]

 

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• Raag Salagavarali •

S-r-g-P-D-n-S A rare ‘Ahiri no ma’ scale, combining a Todi-like poorvang with an Ahir Bhairavic uttarang. As per Parrikar: “S.N. Ratanjankar conceived of this raga…ma is eliminated to yield the following contour: SrgPDnDS; SnDPgPrgrS. Brilliantly exploited by Jitendra Abhisheki in a celebrated natyageeta. Watch out for the injection of a vivadi dosha via tivra Ma”. […]

 

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• Raag Prabhakali •

S-r-G-m-P-d-n-S An Ali Akbar Khan invention, prakriti with the better-known Basant Mukhari. Information is scant – but, as per the liner notes to the raga’s 1964 LP release, “Prabhakali permits only five notes in aroha, dropping [Ga & Ni]. For avroh, it admits all the seven notes…[re & dha] are flats as in Bhairav, and […]

 

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• Raag Nat Bhairav •

S-R-G-m-P-d-N-S Associated with Ravi Shankar‘s 20th-century experiments (although not, contrary to common perception, directly invented by him), Nat Bhairav is named for its combination of Nat in poorvang and Bhairav in uttarang. Flavours of Bhairav tend to dominate, including an ati-komal dha and vakra phrases resolving with GmRS (adapting Bhairav’s GmrS). Expounded mainly in madhya saptak, its […]

 

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• Raag Malay Marutam •

S-r-G-P-D-n-S ‘Malay Marutam’ translates as ‘Fragrant Hill-Breeze’. Maihar bansuriya Rupak Kulkarni explained to me in a 2018 interview how the raga “is from Carnatic music, which does not give so much attention to the times of day. We have decided to designate it as a morning raga, mainly due to the nature and essence of […]

 

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• Raag Lalita Gauri •

S-r-G-mM-P-dD-N-S Created by Jaipur-Atrauli vocalist Kesarbai Kerkar, who often employed it as a concert centrepiece (although the raga is also popular in the Agra gharana). Blending Lalit and Gauri via, respectively, “the close coupling of the two madhyams…[and] appropriate clusters on and in the vicinity of the mandra Ni”, the raga typically takes a shuddha Dha […]

 

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• Raag Kalingada •

S-r-G-m-P-d-N-S Kalingada shares the same seven swaras as Bhairav, but approaches them in distinct fashion – generally preferring a simpler, less ornamented character (as per Rajan Parrikar: “Kalingada has a flippant mien…far less austere than Bhairav. Ga and Pa are advanced to positions of influence, and the swara-lagav is mostly linear, without the andolit treatment […]

 

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• Raag Jaunpuri •

S-R-g-m-P-d-n-S Jaunpuri is a late morning raga, likely originating in the Sultanate-era music of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh (as per Subodh Agrawal: “The rulers of Jaunpur were keen patrons of the arts, and the last one – Sultan Hussain Sharqi – was himself a distinguished musician; it is probable that the Jaunpuri flavor of Asavari […]

 

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• Raag Jaun Bhairav •

S-rR-gG-m-P-d-nN-S A jod raga fashioned by Agra vocalist Jagannathbuwa Purohit ‘Gunidas’ (also the creator of Jogkauns and Swanandi), combining ideas from two well-known morning ragas – Jaunpuri and Bhairav. Parrikar pointso to the “crowded swara-space”, with both komal and shuddha variants of Re, Ga, and Ni on display: meaning that the entire komal ni to […]

 

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• Raag Deen Todi •

S-r-g-m-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhankari •

S-r-G-mM-P-D-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Anand Bhairav •

S-r-G-m-P-D-nN-S 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, […]

 

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• Raag Adi Basant •

S-rR-G-m-P-D-N-S 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 […]