The Automated Transcription for Indian Music (AUTRIM) Project by NCPA and UvA


Bhairavi is perhaps the most-loved rag in the north Indian tradition. An all-time favourite of artists and audiences, it is usual for musicians to end their concert with this rag.

Tone material: S r g m P d n

Bhairavi with the above tone material is known as Shuddha bhairavi, a rag which is rarely performed today. Commonly  however, in Bhairavi both natural and flat Re are used, and in thumri, dadra and ghazal performances sharp Ma and natural Dha are used as well. In this case musicians may refer to the rag as Sindhi or Mishra bhairavi. In instrumental music in addition to the above notes natural Ni may appear.

It is generally believed that there are no fixed performance rules for Bhairavi, and that it is left to the imagination and skill of the artist to create patterns that are aesthetically pleasing.  Although the musician has the freedom to introduce phrases of other rag, Bhairavi has such a distinctive mood and such characteristic melodic patterns that a trained listener can immediately recognize it.

Some characteristic phrases:
S g- m P m g m r S
g m P d P
mg- S r S

Bhairavi is rarely sung in khayal. Bhairavi is performed mostly in genres such as dhamar, hori, tappa, ghazal and especially thumri and dadra. Depending upon the melodic and poetic content of the songs, Bhairavi can have shades of several emotional expressions ranging from romantic and seductive to devotional; but it is most suited for expressing the sadness and pain of separation.

Rag Bilaskhani todi (vide) and rag Asavari (with flat Re, vide) have the same tone material as Bhairavi, and even some common melodic movements. However, the additional tones that are so commonly permitted in Bhairavi are strictly forbidden in these rag-s.

Time: traditionally, Bhairavi is a morning rag but it is an accepted norm that  it can be performed any time of the day or night (Bhatkhande [KPM II] 1952: 326)

Further listening:
Kesarbai Kerkar EALP 1278
Ali Akbar Khan EALP 1268

Recording by Abdul Karim Khan
Recording by Siddheshwari Devi
Recording by Vilayat Khan
Parrikar on Bhairavi

Performance by Uday Bhawalkar

Composition: dhrupad

जगत जननी
माता सरस्वती
शारदा विद्या दानी
दयानी दुख हरनी

जो ही जो ही माँगत
सो ही फल पावत
मन इच्छा पूरन करनी
दुख हरनी
The song is in praise of goddess Sarasvati also known as Sharada, the symbol of knowledge. She is addressed with many epithets: Jagat janani (creator of the world), jwalamukhi (symbol of the holy fire), vidya dani (knowledge giver), dayani (full of compassion), dukh harani (one who removes sorrow). Whatever one seeks from her, one receives. She fulfills all desires of a devotee’s heart.

Tal: Rupak (medium tempo)

This dhrupad performance has the version of  Bhairavi including the natural Re in addition to the flat Re. The natural Re is used in ascending phrases whereas the descending line is invariably with the flat Re. The performance commence with melodic introduction (alap) using some syllables like ri, na, a, ti, ta etc. (not from the composition), typical to this genre.

35-37: Note the extra flat Ni
84-87: Note g P m \r S, typical to this rag
83-94: Use of natural Re in the ascending line approaching the flat Ga, which is sustained
102-104: Natural Re with a touch of Sa in between, the phrase ending on lower Dha, which is extra flat
111-113: g R g S r S – Use of both Re, first the natural, followed by the flat version with Sa
140: Melodic elaboration moves in to the middle part of the octave with sustained Pa.
167: Natural Re used in another typical phrase – m R m g-
250: Upper Sa is sustained and the following phrases go beyond the Sa in to the upper octave
284-285: Natural Re in the high octave
310-316: Continuous gliding movement from flat Ga coming to Sa via natural Re and flat Re. This is an exception where both types of Re are taken in succession to create a special effect
344: Compositions starts with refrain on the 3 rd beat of the cycle
476: Second half (antara) of the composition
534-38: Note the natural Re in the composition

Performance by Ajoy Chakrabarty

करम करो मोरे सायी
तुमरे दरस बिना
जियूँ कैसे गुसायी

दरसन देहो अाज
रखो हमरो (हमारो) लाज
नैया पार करो रघुरायी

Composition: bada khayal
The devotee urges for blessings from the lord. He/she finds that the life is impossible without the glimpse of the protector. He/she seeks to meet Lord Rama and pleads with the almighty to help take across his boat (metaphor for life).

Tal: Jhumra(slow tempo)

This is a rendition of Bharavi in its pure (shuddh) form, which is indeed rare.
4-10: Performance opens with one of the phrases typical to this rag – g m PdP m g m r S, which also recurs with slight variation in the refrain of the composition that follows soon.
11-17: The melody moves down to the lower Dha which is sustained (13-17)
30-81: The first part of the composition (sthaayi) begins and its refrain has an average duration of 3 beats through the performance
81-147: Slow elaborations (bol alap) in the lower middle octave using the lyrics (bol) of the composition. This strategy continues throughout the performance.
148: Improvisations slowly move in to the upper middle octave. In this part the flat Dha is in focus (151-158, 206-218) contrasting with the Pa (166-172). Note the descending glides (mind) between Dha & Ma via Pa (174-175 & 176-179) and the corresponding appealing effect
255: Starting off on Pa, elaborations continue with higher notes. Note a beautiful contrast created with the middle Dha and the same note in the lower octave and again back to the note in the middle octave (272-280)
299: The melodic progression scales up to include the high Sa. After a few phrases touching the high Sa, the note is now sustained (321-327, 339-342). Note the manner in which the held Sa is tapered off with ornamented phrases
350: The first line of the second part of the composition (antara) is laid out. The refrain of this section has a accentuated beat on the high Sa
382-455: The same line is presented with variations
447: The concluding line of the composition

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