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• Raag Jog •

S-gG-m-P-n-S A lively late-evening raga, Jog translates as ‘State of Union’ (derived from the Sanskrit concept of ‘yogi’). Its oddly bluesy harmony presents an enchanting almost-familiarity to uninitiated listeners, mixing major and minor flavours via a characteristic ‘Gmg zigzag’ phrase in descent (which, via the wonders of convergent evolution, suggests the structure of a 7#9 […]

 

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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 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 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 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 Miyan ki Malhar •

S-R-g-m-P-D-nN-S Derived from the Sanskrit for ‘banishing uncleanliness’, the Malhar family is inextricably linked to the rejuvenating effects of rain. The main raga of this lineage is named ‘Miyan ki Malhar’ for its fabled connections to Miyan Tansen, the great composer of Emperor Akbar’s 16th-century royal court, who is said to have sung it to […]

 

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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 Jogkauns •

S-gG-m-P-d-N-S Created by Jagannathbuwa Purohit ‘Gunidas’ in the 1940s (also the progenitor of Swanandi and Jaun Bhairav), Jogkauns is usually summarised as ‘Jog plus Chandrakauns’. However, the Agra vocal master’s original inception drew more from the melodies of a ‘raised Ni‘ Malkauns offshoot than from Chandrakauns itself, which was then still in its infancy (Parrikar: […]

 

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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 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 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 (Brindabani) Sarang •

S-R-m-P-nN-S The Sarang raga lineage, often linked to 16th-century mystic-musician Swami Haridas, is also associated with snake-charming rituals of the past. Brindabani Sarang, named for Uttar Pradesh’s Vrindavan region, is the principal raga of this group – and is believed to have brought an incarnation of Krishna to earth when Haridas sung it for the […]

 

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• Raag Patmanjari •

(S-rR-gG-mM-P-dD-nN-S) Said by some to be more of a ‘performance concept’ than a single raga, ‘Patmanjari’ translates as ‘Bouquet of Five Ragas’. Debate persists over whether the form should be interpreted as an open challenge to blend five ragas of an artist’s own choosing, or whether it entails five specific ragas – and, if so, […]

 

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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 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 Imratkauns •

S-R-G-m-d-n-S Devised by Imdadkhani sitar and surbahar virtuoso Imrat Khan, with a swara set resembling ‘Charukeshi no Pa’. This mid-scale space gives a strong poorvang–uttarang separation, amidst the strange geometric regularity of the consecutive ‘2-2-2-2’ run (dnSRG: just a ma-to-Ma nudge from matching the whole-tone scale, a.k.a. Sehera). Ga is strong throughout, often setting up […]

 

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• Raag Kedar •

S-R-mM-P-D-N-S An early night raga, Kedar is traditionally associated with heat (Tanarang: “there is much thermal energy in this melody…hence it is regarded as a ragini of Deepak“: Tansen’s legendary fire-bringing raga). Often seen as particularly subtle, complex, and hard-to-perform – partly due to its curiously wide aroha jump from Sa to Ma (depending on […]

 

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• Raag Amirkhani Kauns •

S-G-M-P-n-S 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 […]

 

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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 Enayetkhani Kanada •

S-R-gG-m-P-d-nN-S 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 […]

 

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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 Shuddha Basant •

S-r-G-mM-P-D-N-S Typically considered the modern successor to the ‘original’ form of Basant – with Maihar musicians such as Nikhil Banerjee and Nityanand Haldipur considering it inseparable from Adi Basant (‘shuddha’, as well as referring to ‘pure’ or ‘unaltered’ swaras, may also indicate ‘primary’ or ‘original’: similar to the meaning of ‘adi’). Generally, it differs from […]

 

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• Raag Madhukauns •

S-g-M-P-n-S A curious ‘Dhani tivra Ma’ scale introduced by vocalist Amir Khan via a ‘ma-murchana’ of Chandrakauns (listen to his sargam-demo of the process below) – full of inescapable tension, with 3 of the 5 swaras being imperfect, and the disbalancing Ma–ni sangati on stark display. Sometimes considered identical to Khan’s Chandramadhu, created as part […]

 

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• Raag Madhuvanti •

S-R-g-M-P-D-N-S A shringara raga of recent origin, Madhuvanti is geared towards evoking a ‘sweet’ flavour (‘Madhu’ means ‘Honey’). Rajan Parrikar cites “shared credits for its development…Vilayat Khan is said to have conceived it [in the] 1940s…and around the same time, Vamanrao Padhye of Kolhapur composed a similar raga and called it ‘Ambika’, after the Goddess […]

 

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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 Tulsikauns •

S-g-m-d-nN-S A barely-recorded creation of Maihar sitarist Kartik Kumar, matching the swara-set of ‘Malkauns double-Ni’ (or ‘Malkauns + Chandrakauns’). A consistently strong ma–murchana summons unmistakable flavours of the famous Western ‘Blues Scale’ (SgmMPnS), further accentuated by extended meend between the consecutive Ni positions (…I’ve used the exact same scale as a ‘modal sitar hack’ to […]

 

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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 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 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 Gangeshwari •

S-G-m-P-d-n-S 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 […]

 

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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 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 Vihang •

S-r-G-mM-P-D-N-S Vihang (Sanskrit for ‘Bird’) is a complex double-Ma form, most prevalent among Jaipur-Atrauli gharana vocalists. Manjiri Asanare-Kelkar’s detailed demo casts it as a ‘phrase-based’ raga, combining a Bihag core (NNDPMG, GmG, P(M)G GmG, NDPM, GmG) with melodies from Purva (DMPGmGrG, mGrG, DMP, GmGrG), Jait Kalyan (SSGGP, SS(NS)GGP), and Puriya (P(MP)MDS, SNrS, SNrNDrND, N(DN)P), alongside […]

 

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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 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 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 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 Pancham •

S-r-G-mM-P-D-N-S An ancient raga of great historical renown, which is nevertheless rare in the modern era. Ramrang cites it as a descendent of the long-extinct Bhukosh (also an antecedent of Bhinna Shadja), with others linking it to the prakriti Bhankar and Bhatiyar (distinguished via sequences such as GMGrS; mmmGP; MDMmG). Most interpretations approximate the swaras […]