Just as raag Yaman is the melodic mode chosen to initiate students into classical music by many gurus, raag Bhairav is also similarly approached in some gharanas. In some cases, Yaman is taught in the evenings and Bhairav in the mornings, as they are conventionally prescribed for rendition during these hours of the day. Like Yaman, Bhairav is also taught over a long period in the traditional guru-shishya or master-disciple training format.

Bhairav is another name for Shiva, the Hindu deity, and it is therefore not surprising that the raag has an austere character. While this raag has been mentioned in early musicological texts, scholars believe that its present structure is quite different.

It uses the komal or flat varieties of the second and the sixth swaras or notes, but these are rendered with andolan or gentle swaying of the swaras. The chalan or movement of the swaras is not linear and it is this vakra chalan or twisted movement that lends to Bhairav its specific personality.

This week, we feature a dhrupad exposition in raag Bhairav.


Rahimuddin Khan Dagar (1901-1976), a senior exponent of the Dagar lineage synonymous with the dhrupad-dhamar genres, begins his rendition with a short Sanskrit text extolling the deity Shiva. This is followed with an aalaap or unaccompanied introductory movement.

He delineates the raag through meends or glides, the requisite andolans and the vakra chalan. Purists believe that sargam or solfège has no place in melodic elaboration, and yet, maestros from different gharanas and presenting various genres have often employed this device. Rahimuddin Khan Dagar too does the same.

The maestro moves to the final section that contains the dhrupad or songform. Here, the pakhawaj joins in with Chautaal, a cycle of 12 matras or time units. As is the tradition, the elaboration of the dhrupad includes rhythmic exchanges between the vocalist and the pakhawaj.