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Raag Bageshri

- Written by : Onkita Adhikary

The stillness of the night pierced by the achingly beautiful rendition of “Kaise kaate rajani” by Ustad Amir Khan and poignantly flanked by Smt. Protima Bannerjee’s voice ushers in the emotion of pain, yearning and the unfulfilled desires of a woman who lives on beyond the realm of time in the Tagore classic, “Kshudito Pashan. It is beyond doubt one of the finest examples for showcasing the sheer artistry that can create magic by a melange of 12 swaras to evoke emotions that are beyond words. This is the divine tapestry of raag Bageshri, a raga that weaves a spell that is not only melodious but is also painfully beautiful. When ace filmmaker Tapan Sinha and maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan bring in the seamless confluence of the literature and the raag, celluloid and musical history is created, one that remains unrivalled till today.

A raag from the thaat Kafi sung in the second part of the night, this raag finds mention in the musical repertoire par excellance, Kalpadruma written in Sanskrit by Sri Krishnanand Vyasadeva in 1914 where he writes,

  • Teevro Ri, Dhao; G, m, N o mridayohi yasyam
  • Samvadi Shadaja sahita khalu Madhyam angsha
  • Aarohane Pa Ri hita, sakala aavrohe
  • Vageshwari sumati bhi, kathita ardh ratre

When translated, it means the raag has teevra or sharp Ri and Dha and komal or flat G and Ni and, shuddha m with the angsha or vadi or the most significant swar being Madhyam or m and samvadi swar or the second most important swar being Shadaj or Sa. It would be worth mentioning that in ancient texts of music, the word “teevra” has been noted to denote what we now assign as “shuddha” in contemporary times to avoid misunderstanding and confusion. He goes on to explain that in the ascent of the raag, the aaroh, the fifth swar or Pancham and Ri are omitted but in descent or avroh all the swars are sung making it of the Jaati Audav-Sampoorn and the time of the raag is midnight.

Named as Bageshri or Vageshri, this raag derives its name from Va or Ba meaning Vani or words and Eshwari referring to Goddess Saraswati and is one of the most divine ragas to be sung for the soul. Though connoisseurs of classical music would like to hear the divine renditions of the bandish with all its ornamentations in its purist form, this raag has transcended into genres of thumri, dhrupad and even popular celluloid musical repertoire with signature tunes like Talat Mahmood’s melancholic rendition of “Phir wahi sham, wahi gham, wahi tanhai hai” composed to perfection by Madan Mohan in Jahan Ara bringing out the essence of the raag Bhageshri’s yearn, ache and forlornness in its full glory among others. It would be difficult to not feel the bhaav or emotion of this raag when it opens itself up in the folds of the swar sangatis to tug at the listener’s heart and it is in that moment that the raag becomes an immortal melody.

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