Saturday, 6 June 2015


Mishrit or jod ragas are a tricky area of Indian Classical Music. A person like me cannot create and launch a new sammishran, unless I am, and also am considered- an authority. The Gharana I belong to, Gwalior, being one of the oldest and traditional, is not that excited about sammishran. Readers might have seen the movie Sur Sangam (based on Sankarabharanam) – Pt. Shivasankar Shastri (Girish Karnad) is furious with his daughter when she uses re  in Kalawati- that was Pt. Ravi Shankar’s innovation historically which became a big issue one day.

There are some reasons for the orthodox approach. Firstly, the traditional ragas have survived the test of time and can never be nine-day wonders like Gandhi Malhar. Naturally a new mishran has not stood the test of time. Over time, virtually all viable combinations must have survived as known ragas. Some authorities like Ustad Amir Khan have tried all 5040 swara combinations, called the merukhand, and found that only around 168 are melodious. All facets of human emotions have been covered by the system. Secondly, a raga follows strict grammar and if you seriously launch a new raga, who will be the referee? Who will decide the rules of vaadi-samvaadi  or chalan etc.

Even then, as more and more practitioners and shrotas or listeners could reach this music, it was clear that nothing should be static, and our music must be freed of chains to the extent possible. Geniuses like Pt. Ravi Shankar and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi experimented with ragas and some like Jansammohini or Kalashree are now frequently sung. It is like the English language, where also the authority of Oxford is a thing of the past.

The mishrit raga Bageshri Ahir Bhairav which we are discussing here was created and played in this shape by Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia sometime and was found by us in a family collection. That was the first time we had heard of this innovation of the greatest flautist, and was put on youtube by me:

I, guided by my guru Mrs. Shubhangi Ghan analysed the raga out of academic interest, particularly as it was an attempt to combine two dramatically opposite ragas so far as the performance timing is concerned, that too, two gayaki ragas, on flute. It is easy to reach the swara from the composition, but very difficult to attempt the reverse. The earlier one is like finding the landline number at a given address, and the latter, like locating a lost friend with the last  five digits of her or his cell number. Moreover as our guru Pt. Ramashray Jha ‘Ramrang’ used to say, the raw swaras  are the same, the way they are used determines the raga.

Add to that the challenges in producing a non-shuddh swara on the flute and the innate beauty of the flute which keeps distracting you!

To begin, I repeat below the theory of mishran or jod given very crisply by :

The basic principles in combining two raag is the constituent raags should complement each other. The emotional effect of combining them should be pleasing and not disturbing, and not only for intellectual curiosity. There are at least two forms of Jod raag.

ü  One raag is given predominance than the other. For example in Raag Basant Bahaar, Basant is considered the main raag to which Raag Bahaar is combined.
ü  The other way of combining is to use the notes of one raag and Chalan (melodic movement) of the other. For instance in Raag Megh Malhar, the notes belonging to Raag Saarang are used and the raag is sung in the manner employed by the Malhaar group.

There are three ways these raags are created:

1.  Combining the Aaroha of one raag and the Avaroha of another.
2.  To have each tetrachord composed of notes of different raag (either shuddha or vikrit).
3.  Use phrases from two or more raags and alternate between them.

One may add that in this case, it is somewhat like trying to make a mixture of oil and water. An organic bonding has to be there between the two ragas and here the creator achieves it perfectly. In the process, he has tried all the 3 methods given above.

Since Bageshri is uttarang pradhan the presence of Bageshri is felt more as the recital progresses. It is then that you see phrases like GA MA DHA MA DHA ni DHA ni DHA and MA DHA MA DHA ni DHA ni SA NI DHA (*)

It starts with Ahir Bhairav only. As Panditji tells, this is a morning concert. The use of swaras is as follows:

Ø  Use of komal gandhar gives rise to shades of Bageshri
Ø  Initial nyas on madhyam and andolan on rishabh is as per Ahir Bhairav, as in phrases like ga MA re PA GA MA re ni ni SA GA MA re and MA ga re SA..

The highlight of the jod is the presence of kafi notes. The commonality of the two ragas which makes the jod viable is that both the ragas adhere to kafi thaat in uttaranga. In the latter part of the recital, we see kafi related swar samoohs which contain the aabhas or impression of both the ragas, for example:

MA DHA ni DHA PA which is one of the Ahir Bhairav strings related to kafi angg.
MA DHA MA DHA ni DHA around 20.18 minutes
Ga MA DHA around 34.00 to 34.40 minutes

The taans at the end are mostly based on Ahir Bhairav, presumably the josh comes because it is a morning concert.

To sum up, it was/is a very interesting innovation. Separately, both ragas emit gambhirya. But it abounds with  ati karun rasa created by phrases like MA GA re SA and ample use of karun swaras like komal gandhar and komal rishabh, as well as kautuhal rasa created by the streamers of Bageshri and Ahir Bhairav that flow from the kafi junction in the uttaranga. One keeps anticipating these treats.

The raga deserves to be played and heard more! Instead of oil and water, audience awaits eagerly for a combination of petrol and match-stick…! Was Bilaskhani Todi the last one such? (**)

Finally, isn’t  the name a bit cumbersome?

(*) if capitalised, notation stands for shuddha, if small, komal, only in case of madhyam, capitalised is shuddha and small is teevra.
(**) Composed and sung by grieving Ustad Bilas Khan at the funeral of his father Tansen, fusing Todi and Asawari

(Special thanks to Sanjiv Bokil for his inputs)