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• Raag Malkauns •

S-g-m-d-n-S Among the most revered ragas in the Hindustani pantheon, Malkauns (‘He who wears serpents as garlands’) combines structural simplicity with a nuanced mythological ethos. Said to have been composed by the goddess Parvati to soothe Lord Shiva’s murderous rage, in turn inspired by his wife Sati’s fiery death, its ‘all-komal‘ swara set is associated […]

 

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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 Yaman •

S-R-G-M-P-D-N-S Among the first-learned and most-performed ragas, Yaman’s influence on modern Hindustani music is impossible to overstate. Linked to the early night hours (‘when lanterns are lit’), the disbalancing effects of tivra Ma – the only non-shuddha swara on offer – allow for a kaleidoscopic emotional range, with Sa and Pa often being skipped in […]

 

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• Raag Vachaspati •

S-R-G-M-P-D-n-S Vachaspati (‘Lord of Speech’) is a recent import from the South, adapted from Carnatic music’s 64th melakarta scale around the mid-20th century by artists including Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. Consequently, its Northern form is still in a state of flux, with few firm melodic conventions aside from staying within the scale’s bounds […]

 

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• Raag Tilak Kamod •

S-R-G-m-P-D-N-S Mirroring the tones of the Western Major Scale, Tilak Kamod’s seven swaras offer robust melodic flexibility across a range of sentiments (“heroic courage, philosophic poise, devotional contentment, suggestive eroticism…”). Some trace the raga’s origin to Pyar Khan, a rabab-playing descendent of Tansen via his son Bilas Khan, who is said to have picked it […]

 

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• Raag Poorvi •

S-r-G-mM-P-d-N-S Poorvi is a long-lived sunset raga from East India, which some describe as evoking a ‘serious mood of mystical contemplation’. Mixing narrow and wide intervals (all swaras have at least one immediate neighbour), its complex twists and turns belie the base scale’s neat, palindromic nature – with Sa and Pa sometimes being omitted or rendered […]

 

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• Raag Pilu •

S-R-gG-m-P-dD-nN-S Perhaps the most emblematic thumri raga, Pilu’s highly permissive melodic framework functions more like an alliance of amorous folk tunes than a ‘rigorously codified’ form (Bhatkhande recounts that some artists of his early 20th-century era resisted Pilu’s classification as a raga altogether). While relatively rare on the khayal stage, it enjoys wild popularity across […]

 

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• Raag Patdeep •

S-R-g-m-P-D-N-S Derived from the Dhanashree family, Patdeep somewhat resembles a ‘shuddha Ni Bhimpalasi’ (akin to the Western Melodic Minor), with both ragas ascending pentatonically before revealing Re and Dha in descent. Its unique scale structure, which features a distinctive run of four adjacent whole-tone jumps (g>m>P>D>N), brings natural prominence to komal ga and shuddha Ni as […]

 

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• Raag Megh •

S-R-m-P-n-S Among the oldest surviving members of the Malhar family, Megh (‘Cloud’) is said to have saved the life of the Miyan Tansen himself. Legend holds that the great composer’s powerful rendition of the fire-bringing Deepak caused the oil lamps in Emperor Akbar’s 16th-century royal palace to ignite and burn uncontrollably – and, soon, all […]

 

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• Raag Kaunsi Kanada •

S-R-g-m-P-d-n-S Kaunsi Kanada is often oversimplified as a blend of two ragas: ‘Malkauns (or Pancham Malkauns) on the way up, and Darbari on the way down’. But, as ever, the whole is far more than the sum of these parts, with multiple facets of both ragas interacting to offer labyrinthine moods – described by Senia-Shahjahanpur […]

 

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• Raag Kafi •

S-R-g-m-P-D-n-S Perhaps more like a compendium of interlinked folk tunes than a ‘formally codified’ raga framework, Kafi offers expansive freedoms. Typically appearing in mishra (‘mixed’) form, its free-roaming melodies may borrow from affiliated ragas as well as drawing on a wide range of light-classical styles such as thumri, bhajan, dadra, and ghazal. Lyrical material has […]

 

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• Raag Jhinjhoti •

S-R-G-m-P-D-n-S A staple of thumri, tappa, and other light-classical styles, Jhinjhoti is a hearty raga of the late evening and early night hours. Particularly beloved by instrumentalists, its Khamaj-congruent swaras are a firm favourite at Indian weddings and other celebratory gatherings, offering a reassuring familiarity via balancing Durga-like ascending phrases with a special treatment of […]

 

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• Raag Gorakh Kalyan •

S-R-m-P-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Durga •

S-R-m-P-D-S 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 Mahisha by Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and the lesser gods, […]

 

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• Raag Desh •

S-R-G-m-P-D-nN-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Darbari •

S-R-g-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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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 Bihag •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-N-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhupali •

S-R-G-P-D-S Hailed for its structural simplicity, Bhupali is often the first raga taught to Hindustani students. 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 […]

 

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• Raag Bhimpalasi •

S-R-g-m-P-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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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 Bageshri •

S-R-g-m-P-D-n-S 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) – […]

 

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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 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 Shankara •

S-R-G-P-D-N-S Long fabled as a favourite of Lord Shiva, Shankara (‘Auspicious‘) takes its name from a famous epithet of the deity (Rajan Parrikar: “the musical embodiment of [Shiva’s] personality, comporting with all its attributes: raudra, veera, irascible, volatile, capricious…”). A pre-midnight raga, it ascends with SGPDNS, often in vakra patterns, before adding subtle touches of […]

 

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• Raag Pahadi •

S-R-G-P-D-S Thought to derive from Bengali or Kashmiri folk tunes, Pahadi (meaning ‘mountain’ or ‘of the hills’) combines playful and subtle shades. While its Bhupali-congruent core form offers a certain sparse simplicity, the raga’s true magic is found in its extensive mishra capabilities, with the tasteful use of any swara being permitted in some guise – […]

 

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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 Maru Bihag •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-N-S Despite its A-list status (Deepak Raja’s Ragascape research lists it as the 13th most-performed raga of the modern era), Maru Bihag is a relatively recent invention, at least in its own right – Parrikar notes that “Thakurdas speaks of an older Raag Maru as its progenitor…but the Maru Bihag in currency [today] is widely […]

 

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• Raag Mohankauns •

S-gG-m-d-n-S As recounted in The Hindu, Mohankauns “was spontaneously created by Ravi Shankar in 1949. On hearing of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s death, Pandit-ji was asked by All India Radio to play a piece dedicated to the Mahatma. On the spot, he created a variation of…Malkauns”. As well as the occasional use of shuddha Re, his […]

 

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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 Shyam Kalyan •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-N-S Shyam Kalyan (‘Evening Kalyan‘) is a prachalit Kalyan variant. Ga is used sparingly in ascent, and typically skipped in phrases which run through the scale sequentially, and shuddha ma is taken in descent only – while Re is emphasised throughout, and Pa is available as a resting note. As per Tanarang‘s summary, the raga is “a very […]

 

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• Raag Ramdasi Malhar •

S-R-gG-m-P-D-nN-S A diverse sankirna raga, fabled as a creation of Guru Ram Das – a 16th-century Sikh saint said to have opened Emperor Akbar’s eyes to the unity of the divine (“these jagirs [feudal land grants] are sources of evil passions, pride, and ego…it is by the name of God that all creatures, continents, worlds, […]

 

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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 Deepak •

(S-R-G-m-P-D-nN-S) 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 […]

 

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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 Nat (Shuddha) •

S-R-G-m-P-D-N-S Described by Parrikar as “singular for its unabashed promiscuity”, Nat is perennially popular as a jod ingredient (see Nat Bihag, Nat Bhairav, Nat Kamod, Chayanat, and Jaijaiwanti Nat). The raga has likely origins in the age before Hindustani and Carnatic music’s bifurcation (while seemingly being unrelated to the Southern ‘Nata’), although renditions of its […]

 

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• Raag Lakshmi Kalyan •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-N-S An enchanting but seldom-heard raga, taking the swara set of ‘Kalyan double-Ma’ (n.b. ‘Lakshmi’ refers to the Hindu goddess of power, prosperity, and fortune). Described by slide guitarist Deepak Kshirsagar as “a combination of Shuddha Sarang and Shyam Kalyan, [although] some combine Shuddha Sarang and Kamod..or use [the swaras of] Shyam Kalyan in the […]

 

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• Raag Madhumad Sarang •

S-R-m-P-n-S Running along the lines of ‘Brindabani Sarang with komal ni only’, Madhumad Sarang is among the principal incarnations of its raganga (‘Madhumad’ derives from the Sanskrit ‘madhyamadi’, meaning ‘first’: the Carnatic equivalent is similarly titled ‘Madhyamavati’). Ma and Pa are strong, and the uttarang summons natural upward momentum via clusters such as PSn, PnS, […]

 

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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 Gauri •

S-r-G-m-P-d-N-S 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‘ […]

 

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• Raag Gaud Malhar •

S-R-G-m-P-D-nN-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Nayaki Kanada •

S-R-g-m-P-n-S A popular Kanada raga said to have been created by Gopal Nayak – the legendary poet-composer of Alauddin Khilji’s 12th-century Delhi durbar, fabled to have catalysed Amir Khusro’s invention of qawwali via Khusro seeking to outdo Nayak’s Sufi syllabic singing (although other origin myths relate the raga to Nayak Bakshu of Raja Man Singh’s […]

 

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• Raag Dhanashree •

S-R-g-m-P-D-n-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Kamod •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-N-S An intricate raga which draws together elements from many others (Tanarang: “this dynamic melody is rather complex…one can see clear shadows of Malhar [SmRP], Hameer [GmDP], and Kalyan [SRS, SDP], together with glimpses of Kedar [MPDP] and Chayanat [PDPS, SRS]”). Distinguishing sequences include RRP, GmPGmRS, the taar Sa is accentuated with long P/S slides, […]

 

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• Raag Champak •

S-R-G-m-P-D-nN-S 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 […]

 

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• Raag Kukubh Bilawal •

S-R-G-m-P-D-nN-S A Bilawal variant seasoned with poorvang shades of Jhinjhoti and Jaijaiwanti, which enjoys a notable presence in the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. Shuddha Re typically takes centre stage, often ornamented from above as (G)R. Distinguishing phrases include SNS(G)R, GRGPmG, mGRGS(G)R, with most other movements falling into the framework of Alhaiya Bilawal (although the Agra interpretation tends […]

 

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• Raag Khambavati •

S-R-G-m-P-D-n-S A loose mixture involving Jhinjhoti, Khamaj, and Mand, with different renditions emphasising varied facets of these ragas. The movements of the former tend to predominate: as per Deepak Raja, “normally performed in slow or medium tempo, with low to medium melodic density…an instant identification of Khambavati, as distinct from Jhinjhoti, requires consummate musicianship. This […]

 

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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 Nand •

S-R-G-mM-P-D-N-S Associated with Lord Krishna, Nand (also known as Anandi or Anandi Kalyan) rose to prominence around the turn of the 20th century – initially gaining renown through a pair of bandish by Mehboob Khan ‘Daraspiya’ (Dhundu Bare Saiyan) and Vilayat Hussain Khan ‘Pranpiya’ (Ajahun Na Aye). Tanarang links the raga to Bihag, Hameer, Kamod, […]