In the seventh episode of our series on representations of birds in Hindustani raags and compositions, we feature vihang, a generic term in Sanskrit for a bird. I have yet to come across any khayal or thumri-dadra compositions that mention this word, but there is a rarely heard raag that goes by this name. Here is a rendition of the raag Vihang by the Jaipur-Atrauli maestro Mallikarjun Mansur. He sings a vilambit or slow-paced composition set to the 16-matra Teentaal.
We follow this with another raag named Vihanginee, which seems to suggest a connection with the word vihang. This is a raag composed by Kirana gharana exponent Mani Prasad and we have a presentation by him on the next track. He sings a composition set to a medium-paced Addha taal, a rhythmic cycle of 16 matras.
This raag is said to have inspired eminent composer Hridayanath Mangeshkar to use it in the film Lekin.
As I mentioned, the word vihang is not easily accessible in Hindustani compositions, but here is a composition created by the iconoclastic vocalist Kumar Gandharva. The word vihang appears in the second line of the composition. Composed in the raag Madhuvanti, it is set to a medium-paced Teentaal. The second composition is set to a fast-paced Teentaal.
The next track is a raagmala or composition containing a string of raags sung by Gokulutsav Maharaj, an exponent of khayal and a scholar-musician of the Haveli Sangeet tradition from Vaishnav temples of northern India. As with many raagmalas in vocal music, this one too has the names of successive raags embedded in the song-text.
The first word of the composition is vihag, literally meaning a bird, is also a play on Bihag, the name of the popular raag prescribed for the night. The first line is, therefore, composed in Bihag. The description accompanying this track mentions that this and other tracks on the same album are part of the traditional temple tradition.
We end with a nirgun pada penned by mystic poet Yaari sahib, who is said to have lived in the last quarter of the 17th and the first quarter of the 18th centuries. This pada uses the metaphor of the bihangam (another word for vihang) or bird to symbolise the individual spirit free of worldly attachment. Set to the eight-matra Kaherva, the pada is composed and sung by Shubha Mudgal. She is accompanied by Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium, Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla, and Indru Atma on additional percussion.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.