- Written by : Dr Onkita Adhikary

Deep into the darkness of interstellar space, aboard the Voyager 1, Raga Bhairavi wafts deep into the silent abyss of timelessness playing on for 46 years wrapped in the melancholic, austere and soul-stirring deep voice of Sushri Kesarbai Kerkar questioning purpose of existence in “Jaat Kahan Ho Akeli Gori”. It is a 3 minute 37 seconds experience of pure gold clubbed together alongside the ranks of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart along with many others showcasing the “Sounds of Earth”. Bhairavi is chosen to represent us, not by race or kind or nationalities, but humans because Bhiaravi stands juxtaposed between night and day, leaving and staying, convergence and divergence in its essence questioning human existence and its purpose.

I remember wondering as I drove past the crazy traffic towards what could have possibly one of my saddest days to a crematorium, a place where everything just went up in a plume of smoke, where logic met painful reality, when creation met culmination, words met silence, maya met moksh. With my logical mind thinking about how transient and “komal” was this transition truly. They say Raga Bhairavi is named after one of the 8 forms of Shakti that emerges from a burial grounds and how apt it was that all I could hear in my deafening silence was “Main toh torey daamanwa laagi maharaj”, a vilambit composition in Bairavi that was being taught in class by our Guru Smt. Anindita Mukherjee at the time. How simply in the folds of the Srgr Srg..r grS SrgrnS or even the straight notes of SrgMPdnS’ encapsulated the pain I felt in the pit of my stomach as I saw a young child, my daughter’s age lie there in icy stillness questioning me about what was real; my existence or her salvation, my presence and her absence, my maya or her mukti?

Bhairavi floods my vision as my eyes blur at the threshold where life meets death, an ending that leads to an unknown beginning, a death that beckons reincarnation or salvation. Raag Bhairavi chokes my voice, blurs my vision and rings in my ears, but also brings me home, safe. This is the emotion in the sahitya of every Bhairavi composition that one hears from Kesarbai’s imploring question of “Jaat Kahan ho” to K.L. Saigal’s immortal “Babul mora naihar chooto hi jaye” perfectly complements the raga that weaves together the last strand of darkness with the first ray of the distant sun.

Sung at dawn when concerts would end, it allows for the sun to rise, Bhairavi is the kshitij raga, a raga that puts both “milan” and “viraha” in the same place, poignantly letting them welcome and bid adieu each other, together. With all swaras in their komal avatars, Bhairavi is the ashraye or signature raag that lends its name to its thaat. With all the twelve swaras in its kitty, Raag Bhairavi is a delight for both performers and listeners because of its unending possibilities.

A sampoorna jaati raag that is Poorvang pradhan, the essence of Bhairavi comes out in the treatment of the swar sangatis of S n S g M d P, (M)g M P d M P (M)g, d’ n’ S r [g] r S and g M d n S”, S” r” n S” (n)d P, d P M P (M)g, S r g M, (g)r S as established in the archival galaxy of Rajan Parrikar. Its expanse throughout the three octaves is breathtakingly beautiful albeit overwhelming in all its avatars; Shuddh Bhairavi which has no variations, Sindhu Bhairavi where the touch of Shuddh Dhaivat shines through along with Jangla Bhairavi and Kasuri Bhairavi.

Raga Bhairavi stretches itself over the entire canvas of the musical soundscape lending itself to vilambit Khyal gayiki, Dhrupad and Dhamar to bhajans, ghazals, qawwalis, folksongs, Rabindrasangeet and even Hindi film music. Such is the beauty of Bhairavi that not a single concert of merit ends without Bhairavi being the chosen sundowner raga. It is etched in the echelons of celluloid history with the showman of the stature of Raj Kapoor giving a standing instruction to his favourite composing duo of Shankar- Jaiskshen was that all his films had to have at least one Bhairavi composition. Need I add that if one would scratch the surface and dig deep, one could notice the deep connect they had with the raga so much so that Jaikishen ji ended up naming his firstborn “Bhairavi”.

The repertoire of almost every artist has moved up a notch every time they have attempted Bhairavi be it Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab in “Sunio Nandkumar”to the rare lighthearted almost childish question posed by Gaan Saraswati Kishori Amonkarji as she breezes in with “Main Kaise aaoongi”, rare gem that makes your soul smile or even the crowd favorite “Baju bandh khule khule jaye” sung by Geetoshree Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, a prodigal disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan whose voice simply floats on the waves of melody in timelessness. It seems that every Bhairavi composition attempted ever has made the artist explore a facet to themselves as much as the raga thus making it a transcendental and explorative in every way possible.

The word “Anahita” in Sanksrit means not kindled and as I pen this down, I remember this child yet again. Standing there in the cacophony of silence on 1 st May 2023 in the midst of a busy Monday afternoon, I remember a mother sobbing, a father performing his last duties towards his child, a confused overwhelmed friend questioning fate, life and karma, a grandfather writing away his pain in a shambled notebook, a grandma standing, ready there to exchange places and her music teacher singing. What she was singing I do not know, but what I did see was how pain spoke in all the literal “komal” swars that day in all the shrutis I knew and what else could summarize this raga better than the eternal question Kesarbai still sings today light years away “Jaat kahan ho akele gori?” Maybe Anahita is singing alongside her in the everlasting journey through space where finally time has lost its meaning and pain has lost its power.


Sangeet Sadhana
#720, 9th main, 4th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore - 560034 Landmark: Sony World Signal

Email: [email protected]

 Contact Us

Ms Anindita Mukherjee -(Guru/Founder): +919900251018

Ms Swathi: +919686950505


Recaptcha Failed Please Try Again......!