#include <Hindustani music>

Bhairav is an important raga in Hindustani music, considered by some to be the most important. Bhairav is one of the names of Shiva, in all his gruesome awe-inspiring grandeur: an ascetic with trident, skull-and-snake necklace, matted locks and all. Consequently, the raga can invoke a range of emotions from horror and fright to peace and devotion.

Bhairav is meant to be sung in the early morning around dawn, being (for the most part) an austere, solemn raga. Tonally, it is the Hindustani equivalent of Mayamalavagowla in Carnatic music; that is, it is a sampoorna raga with re and dha komal and all other notes shuddh.

When sung, however, the raga bears only a slight resemblance to its Carnatic cousin. Dha is the dominant note in Bhairav, and most of the exposition of the raga will center around it. Dha and Re are traditionally considered vadi-samvadi (sonant-consonant) of the raga.

Sadly, due to its rather melancholy sound, Bhairav is sung less often now than it once was, with musicians preferring to use its more ear-friendly cousin, Ahir Bhairav, as a morning raga. In the raga-ragini system, Bhairav's main ragini was Bhairavi, a sweet raga often used at the end of a concert in a thumri or bhajan.


The Raga Guide, ed. Joep Bor. Published by Nimbus Records with the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music