On Raga Bhairavi

by Kirit Dave’


Bhairavi is an ancient raga but it has slowly evolved into different variations. Original Bhairavi was called Komal Bhairavi and only used komal (flat) notes.

Sa re ga Ma Pa dha ni Sa”
Sa” ni dha Pa Ma ga re Sa

Shuddha rishabh (Re) was introduced next. Its arrival was so significant, that it was accepted not only in Thumari but also in Khayal and even in Dhrupad styles, which are very strict classical styles.

Sa, dha’, ni’ Sa Re ga~ re Sa
Pa, dha Pa Ma Pa ga, ga Re ga Ma ga~ re Sa

Then shuddha dhaivat (Dha) was introduced.

ni’ Sa ga Ma Pa, ga Ma dha Pa, re ga Ma Pa Dha ni dha Pa

Tivra madhyam (ma) arrived after that:
Pa dha Pa Ma Pa ga, ga Ma ma Ma ga~ re Sa

Shuddha nishad (Ni) came after that. It is generally used in Thumari forms. Also it is prominent in Punjabi (North West India) style of singing and their folk music.

Sa, re Ni’ Sa, Ni’ Sa re Sa, Sa re Sa re Ni’ Sa, ni’ Sa re Sa re Sa dha’ Pa’, dha’ ni’ Sa re ga~ re Sa, re ni’ Sa

Shuddha gandhar (Ga) came the last. It is used very sparingly and is difficult to apply.
ni’ Sa ga Ma Ma Ga, Ma Ma Ga, Ma ga Ma ma Ma Ga, ga Ma re Sa

Original Bhairavi:
Purvang: ni’ Sa ga Ma, ga~ re Sa

(i) ga Ma dha Pa, dha Pa Ma Pa ga Ma re Sa
(ii) ga Ma dha ni Sa”, re”, ni Sa” dha Pa
OR (iii) ga Ma Pa dha ni Sa”, re”, ni Sa” dha Pa

ga Ma dha ni Sa”, dha Pa Ma Pa ga Ma, Sa ga Ma Pa ga Ma re Sa

Three important pieces that will identify Bhairavi are:
ni’ Sa ga Ma re Sa
Pa, ga Ma dha Pa
ga Ma dha ni Sa”, ni Sa”~, dha Pa

Uttranga (second tetra chord) + Purvang (first tetra chord):
ga Ma dha ni Sa”, re”, ni Sa” dha Pa
ga Ma Pa dha ni Sa” re”, ni Sa”~ dha Pa

Sindhi Bhairavi:
In this very popular form of Bhairavi, there is a prominent use of shuddha nishad (Ni) and tivra madhyam (ma). It is well suited for Thumari in general, and used in Punjabi style of Thumari and folk music.

Bhairavi is an ancient raga, and so Bhairavi has been sung in all vocal styles of the past, from older to modern, Dhruvpad, Khayal, Thumari, Dadra, Tappa, Bhajan. Please see my article on Raga and Tala.

Nature of aesthetics is different in these Indian classical vocal styles. I have posted educational compositions of Bhairavi as it is sung in Dhruvapad, Khayal, Thumari, Dadra, Bhajan and Tappa styles. These compositions will give us better understanding of how Bhairavi was being sung in the past with older styles, as well as how it is sung today. Also, it will demonstrate the aesthetical differences among different vocal styles. The older Dhruvpad style is more serious, slower moving, with purist approach, less ornamental and rigid yet deeper in its effect. Thumari is a modern style. It is less rigid, more ornamental, faster moving, tolerates variants from norm, and leaves more room for abstract and creative use of notes, if it is done properly.

I want to acknowledge a great musicologist of India who passed away in January of 2010, Pandit Ramrang. The posted educational compositions are his creations. Pandit Ramrang contributed immensely to the studies of Indian classical music by his 5 volume work, called Abhinav Gitanjali on grammar of ragas.