Kinds Of Bhairava – A morning feel in Indian Classical Music


Bhairava (भैरव) is one of the most important and fundamental ragas or one of the ten thaats in Indian Classical Music. Thaats are the ten basic ragas and modern raga-classification system, which is considered as the origin and classification of numerous ragas sung/played today. In fact, beginners are not recommended to head towards more advanced ones without mastering Bhairava.  Second and sixth flatted provides dull, serious, but at the same time soothing and refreshing essence to the listeners. 

Bhairava is a morning raga, which is ideally sung or played between 4 am to 7 am. It is an ancient vedic raga (created in Vedic period) which has been perceived by different dawn visualizations like orange golden rising sun and a lady welcoming and singing the raga. Many mythological tales has been illustrated which denotes its connection and importance with ancient period and music. For instance, when Goddess Parwati woke up early morning to offer flowers and garland for the worship of her husband Shiv’s lingam or statue, over the boat in the middle of the lake, surrounded by white lotuses all over, with resplendent sun rays reflecting on water, the pure, blissful and enriched environment compelled the Goddess of music, Saraswati to play bhairava, so that the environment becomes more pristine. Likewise, numerous ancient and medieval vedic myths and tales has been attached with this raga, which proves its significance. 

Bhairav depicts Re and Dha Komal, i.e., IInd and VIth Flat, with all the remaining notes natural (shuddha). The Raga has the same name as its origin thaat, therefore, its also called aashreya Raga. Vadi (most important and used note) is Re komal and Samvaadi (second most important and used note) is dha komal. In the proper gayaki, Re and dha, obviously flatted, are so important notes in the Raga that they are fraction of microtones more flatted and vibrated. In Hindi we call it ” Atikomal and aandolit re-dha” meaning over-flatted and vibrated re-dha. Re and dha are also considered as the “nyasaswaras” of the raga, notes on which we hault and keep it sustained which enhances the essence and objectifies the persona of the raga.

Aaroh – Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Saa

Avroh –  Saa  Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa

Main phrase – ga ma re sa, Ga ma dha paaaa… 

आरोह  : स     रे     ग     म     प          नि     सां 

अवरोह : सां   नि          प     म   ग      रे     सा 

पकड़:      ग    म     रे     सा,  ग    म       प

 Improvisations go like this:

n sa, dh n (dha) sa, sa n dh p, dh (dh) sa…. sa re ga ma re sa, n sa ga ma pa,  pa ma, pa ga ma re sa,   sa ga ma pa, ga ma dha pa, ga ma dha ni Saaa, Sa ni dha pa, ga ma pa, dha pa ga ma dha pa, ga ma (re) sa….

Gauri (गौरी ):

Raga Gauri shares exactly the same note structure system as the Bhairav Raga; same re and dha komal, remaining notes being natural, all seven notes present. The differences are:


1) The most important and stress-giving notes – In Gauri, ni is sustained note or most important unlike bhairav which haults at Sa or Pa; one needs to freeze at ni quite often to show Gauri, as in, sa re ni… ma pa ni…..SA ni… n sa ni…etc..

2) octaves usage: Bhairav is considered as  poorvang-pradhan i.e., it revolves in its first half and lower octave; whereas, Gauri is uttarang-pradhan, which shows the second half (ma Pa dha ni sa) more than the first half.

Both these ragas have the same trait but differ a lot while their development. However, Gauri didn’t come in recognition because ultimately, its exactly the bhairav raga and cannot be treated different for a long time. Eventually, Gauri Raga lost its identity as bhairav was already there as a kingly raga.

 Ahir Bhairav (अहीर भैरव ) 

 Another  popular raga in Bhairava category, which is again a morning raga but has the liberty to be sung or played after morning or day timings also. Theoretically, the time is early morning as the structure is more towards Bhairava raga.  Ahir Bhairav is not considered extremely over sensitive, serious like Bhairava, because of a slight changes in the notes structure or swar-sanchar. 

Ahir Bhairav incorporates Re-ni komal instead of Re-Dha (as in bhairav). Re komal demonstrate bhairav raga, whereas ni komal manifests many shringar-rasa or romantic ragas like kafi, khamaj, or asawari. All these are the basic ragas which comprises of Ni-komal. To be precise, first half of Ahir bhairav: Sa re ga ma pa,  which is called Poorvang, depicts the main raga Bhairav and the second half or the ‘Uttarang’ of the raga: Ma pa Dha Ni SA, exhibits the mood of many romantic/pleasant ragas, because of which the serenity of Bhairav fades for a while and is overshadowed by romanticism and ecstasy. However, frequent returning to Re-komal with the same sustenance, flatted oscillations makes  the bhairav effect pervades throughout the raga.

Ahir Bhairav goes:

Aaroh – Sa re Ga Ma Pa Dha ni SA
Avroh – SA ni Dha Pa Ma Ga re Sa

Pakad or main phrase : dh n re….Sa,  Ga Ma re Sa


n sa, dh n re….sa, n sa ga ma re sa, dh n re sa, sa ga ma pa, ga ma pa dha pa, pa dha ni dha pa, ga ma pa ni dha pa, ga ma re……(hault) sa…

higher octave:  ga ma dha ni SAAAA…..dha ni RE SA, GA MA RE SA,  SA ni dha pa, ma pa (or ma dha)  dha ni SAA, ni SA dha ni RE MA GA MA RE SAA, SA ni dha pa, ma ga ma pa, ga ma re sa….

Nat Bhairava (नट भैरव ) :

Nat-Bhairav incorporates nat-ang combined with bhairav-ang. In other words, Nat-bhairav raga is the combination of Raga Nat and bhairav, which is a lot in recognition. Unlike bhairav, the Re is natural leaving only dha komal. Rest of all the notes are natural. Re is natural in Nat-bhairav and follows nat-ang as in “re-ga, ga-ma, ma-pa” with a soft jerks between the repeated notes. This is the phrase which is frequently heard in nat-bhairav to depict the vast importance of Nat raga (an ancient raga), with a combination of bhairav as in Ga-ma-dha-pa, ga-ma-re-sa….

Brief Aalap:

sa re-re ga-ga-ma-ma-pa, pa ga ma re sa, sa ga ma pa,  pa ga ma dha pa, pa…ga ma re sa, ga ma dha pa, ga ma pa ni SA…. ni SA RE SA, SA ni dha pa, ga ma dha pa, ga ma re sa, sa-re re-ga ga-ma ma-pa, pa ga ma re sa…

Vibhaas (विभास ):
Vibhaas is a pentatonic bhairav‘s family raga, which omits Ma-Ni and makes re-dha komal (flat) as in bhairav. Precisely, its a bhoopali raga with re-dha half step lowered. This is again a beautiful raga, which gives much importance to G and P like bhoopali, without loosing bhairav’s trait: ga pa re sa.. (instead of ga ma re sa coz ma is omitted). It maintains a capturing balance between bhoopali’s note-usage and bhairav’s re-dha. This is a known raga definately but is not sung in detail by the maestros because of the shorter scope and regulations. Musicians often recite a chhota khyala briefly, that too, in the early morning concert, which is fading nowadays.

Sa re ga pa dha SA… SA dha pa ga re sa… 

Bhatiyar (भटियार ):

Bhatiyar is a popular raga and is really mesmerizing because of its unique creation. It might be hard for the beginners to understand the clear concept of this raga, as the notes-structure is a bit complicated. I remember an old doordarshan ad and as an Indian, I guess all of us can recall.


This composition is based on raga Bhatiyar and if we pay attention on the lyrics, it expresses the sunrise, which is bringing the vibrant light, rays in all directions to shun the darkness: “Purab se surya uga…” This is a captivating bandish in Bhatiyar, which belongs to bhairav’s family.

Bhatiyar involves both Madhyams (ma/ma teevr) re komal, with remaining notes natural; Re omitted in the aaroh. Sa-dha as in sa direct till dha is ita most commonly used phrase; in fact that’s the pakad of the raga. Teevr madhyam is used only for going up in the phrase: M dha SAA, that’s all.

M=ma teevra or sharp ma (IVth)

Aaroh:   Sa ga ma pa, M dha SA.

Avroh :  Sa ni dha pa, pa ga re sa…

Pakad :   Sa dha……ma pa…… pa ga re sa….

development:  Sa ga ma pa, pa ga re sa, Sa ma pa… ma pa… pa dha…ma pa…. ga ma pa ga re sa….

going higher: M dha SA…….SA ni dha pa, pa dha ma pa… pa ga re sa…..

Bhairava Bahaar (भैरव बहार ) :

Bhairav-bahaar, as the name symbolizes, is the combination of two raga: bhairav and raga bahaar, which is a monsoon raga. This  raga is originally evolved from Jaipur Gharana, thus, also called a gharanedar raga. It is sung/played only by competent musicians, as it requires a perfect, balanced blend of bhairav with the flavor of bahaar raga. Knowing the notes separately of raga bhairav and raga bahaar cannot create bhairav-bahaar. One cannot just combine two raga; it has a lot more, which cannot be conceptualized without proper training and experience. This is the reason this raga is not sung by all musicians except of a few exceptionally knowledgeable. 

In breif, bahaar is somewhat like: n sa ga ma pa ni SA…  SA ni  pa… ga ma re  sa…

Bahaar has ga-ni komal and re-dha shuddha with an effect of shringar ras, whereas bhairav’s re-dha komal and ga-ni shuddha. Therefore, bhairav-bahaar shows all re-ga-dha-ni komal and shuddha with a cool balance of shringar and morning effect.

To conclude, there are some more ragas which demonstrates their identity with bhairav but are not popular like Bairagi Bhairav   (बैरागी भैरव )   Shivmat Bhairava (शिवमत भैरव )

Prabhat Bhairava  (प्रभात भैरव ) etc.. Some got extinct because of their complexities in the gayaki, while others vanished because of their lack of uniqueness and scope.

(n, dh, p, m, g – notes like lower case without vowels in it depicts ‘lower octave’; notes with all lower cases with vowels like sa, re, ga  depicts mid octave; ALL WITH UPPER CASE LIKE SA RE GA MA is Higher oct.)


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