Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Raga Bhatiyar

Raga Bhatiyar, also known as Bhatiyari (not to be confused with Bhatiyali, the folk genre of Bengal), is a popular raga prescribed for performance around dawn.  According to legend, the raga was composed by an ancient king, Raja Bhartruhari [200 AD]. Hence its name. There is, however, little evidence to support this claim to antiquity. The raga belongs to the Marwa parent scale, one of the ten scales under which ragas in the Hindustani system are classified.

The scale of this raga has to be documented expressing its zigzag phraseology.

Ascent: S D P D M/ P G/ M^ D S’
Descent: r’ N D P M/ P G r S

Bhatkhande [Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra, Vol.III, 3rd edition, 1984, Sangeet Karyalaya, Hathras] observed in the early 20th century that alternative versions of this raga involving twin-Dh usage, and komal Dh usage were also in existence.  These variants appear to have gone out of circulation since then.

The Vishranti swaras  of the raga [terminal points for phrasing] are: S, M., P, D. [Subba Rao,B. Raga Nidhi, Vol.I, 4th Edition, 1996, Music Academy, Madras]. These focal points place the raga’s centre of melodic gravity in the mid-octave region, but tilting towards the upper tetrachord. The vadi and samvadi [primary and secondary dominants] are indeterminate. This is not uncommon amongst ragas whose melodic personalities are dominated by their phraseology more than tonal weightages.

Chalan: [Skeletal phraseology]: 
S D D P [or] S M M P/ P M/ P G / M^ D S’/ r’ N D P M  [or] S’ D P M / P G r S. 

Bhatiyar has the highest risk of confusion with Bhankhar, whose phraseology is distinct, and whose vadi swara is Pa. Musicians avoid this risk, such as it is, by according greater importance to Ma in Bhatiyar.

Bhatiyar is a raga of limited potential for improvisation. This is why Bada Khayal-s in this raga, when performed, will be considerably shorter than those in the "richer" raga-s. This is also why Madhya Laya khayal-s are more commonly encountered in this raga.

Those who are fond of this raga could look for recordings of Ustad Ameer Khan and Roshanara Begum -- the best I have heard.

Deepak S. Raja
(c) India Archive Music, New York, producers of the finest Bhatiyar recordings.