Raga Gaud Sarang – An Exegesis

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on March 20, 2000

Rajan P. Parrikar

Rajan P. Parrikar
Photo: Sanjeev Trivedi

A discussion on Raga Gaud Sarang is presented in this essay and the development fortified by a smorgasbord of representative sound clips.

Let M = shuddha madhyam and m = teevra madhyam.

Gaud Sarang employs all the seven shuddha swaras plus the teevra madhyam. “Gaud Sarang” is a misnomer for there is no trace whatsoever of the raganga Sarang anywhere within driving distance of its zipcode (this is obvious to all except the boneheaded few who insist on seeing the ‘Sarang’ mirage). To dispel the Sarang affiliation suggested by the poor choice of nomenclature, some musicians refer to it as “Din ki Bihag” (the daytime counterpart of Bihag), and a careful examination of its innards reveals that there is good justification for this viewpoint.

Raga Gaud Sarang has a vakra build and falls to the class of ‘abstract’ ragas. By “abstract” we mean that it is not a scalar raga, amenable to reconstruction with elemental linear aroha-avarohi tonal ribbons. I use the term “scalar raga” with considerable hesitation for it is an oxymoron. After all, a scale does not a raga make. A better term would be “linear raga.”

There is much more to an “abstract” raga than merely piecing together and sequencing a string of tonal clusters. We cannot formulate a quick-and-dirty cookbook recipe for the interlocking gestures that give the raga its body and character. These kind of ragas have to do time in the corridors of the mind to get at their gestalt. Nevertheless, like other proximate melodies such as Kedar, Hameer, and Nand, identification of Gaud Sarang presents no difficulty to the layman since it advertizes a distinct signature to latch on to.

In his well-known work, Raganidhi, Subbarao observes that there is no Carnatic equivalent of Gaud Sarang but that certain sancharas of Shankarabhanaram resemble the raga. As an example he cites the Tamil kriti Muddu kumarayyane.

The definitive swara cluster of Gaud Sarang is:

S , G R M G

The rest of the raga is built around this kernel. Elements of other ragas such as Bihag and Bilawal are invoked. Let us briefly examine the raga lakshanas.

S, G R M G, G M G P, [P] M G, S [P] M G
This Gaud-inspired tonal byte in the poorvanga carries the soul, or if you will, the G-spot of Gaud Sarang. The intonation of the signature – S, G R M G – from rishab to madhyam to gandhar, mediated by a graceful arc, is followed by a characteristic intonation of pancham (shaken, but not stirred), encapsulated in square brackets above to indicate its special handling. The avarohi slide P M G concludes with a nyasa on gandhar. The uccharana of madhyam is crucial: the swara is rendered deergha (elongated) but falls well short of nyasa. These nuanced melodic behaviours are very difficult to convey through the written word but the audio sampers will serve to illuminate them. The pancham is strong, a nyasa swara.

P, P S”, S” D P M G, R G R M G, P, R S
This tonal sentence outlines in broad strokes the uttaranga conduct and the avarohi biochemistry.

A sample chalan is now formulated:

S, G R M G, M G P, [P] M G
G M G P, PNDN m [P] M G, S [P] M G
G M P N S” R” N S” D P M G, PDPP S” R” S”, D N m [P] M G

Obiter dicta: As in the case of other abstract ragas, a wide variety of supporting phraseology is observed. Some musicians approach the tar shadaj via a Bihag-like G M P N, S” whereas others adopt a P S” type of launch. The downward contour S D P M G follows a grazing locus reminiscent of Bilawal. The tonal molecule P, R S often brings to conclusion many a melodic gesture. Note that the uccharana of P, R S should not be confused with the P (G)R S of raganga Kalyan. This last construction P, R S is actively relegated or shunned by some musicians (the Maihar turkeys, for instance).

The values assigned to N and m are variable. This ambiguity often appears unsettling to the outside observer but existence of this “benign anarchy” without injury to the core idea is characteristic – a feature, not a bug – of Indian tradition, musical and otherwise.

The teevra madhyam is not central to Gaud Sarang but its presence is necessary to round off the picture. The kernel of Gaud Sarang is universally recognized: how one goes about developing it is a matter of gharanic affiliation, individual taste and capacity. In heavily vakra ragas, the structure is sometimes relaxed in faster movements, more so in khayal renditions. This allowance for slackening (the term employed is shithil) is almost always in the avarohi direction – a quick S”NDPMGRS or S”DPMGMRS is not unheard of in Gaud Sarang or Kedar. Finally, the komal nishad may occasionally make a cameo appearance as a vivadi swara in phrases such as S”, D n D P.

In the foregoing ruminations, I have touched upon the highlights, leaving out the idiosyncrasies and ancillary details. The audio pastiche that follows will help fill in the gaps. The first few clips establish the raga’s close links to the popular music of the land. In most of these instances, the thing to look for is not fidelity to raga structure but the inspiration it provides and the innovative directions that can lead to.

We kick off with Pt. Kishore Kumar of the Khandwa gharana. This rare cheez from FUNTOOSH (1956) was written by Sahir Ludhianviand tuned by S.D. Burman. Although the explicit G R M G signature is not heard here, an overall sentiment of Gaud Sarang prevails. Asha Bhonsle joins Panditji in this soft, enduring number: woh dekhen to unki inayat.

The Gaud Sarang number most likely to be charged in the ‘light’ brigade is this Lata gem from PARDESI (1957) composed by the maestro Anil Biswas (Bong, alas): na dir deem.

The raga must have been a persistent presence in Anil Biswas’ mental wardrobe for he had earlier created another beautiful composition, a duet by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar, for HAMDARD (1953): rtu aaye rtu jaye.

A charming Lata solo comes from the movie EKADASHI (1955) with music by Avinash Vyas: jhulo jhulo re.

The musical culture of Bengal shows a predilection for this raga (perhaps the ‘Gaud’ in the name provides a hint of its provenance). S.D. Burman summons the uncommon talents of Asha Bhonsle in SOCIETY (1955): leheron mein jhoolun.

Anil Biswas resurfaces in CHHOTI CHHOTI BATEIN (1965), teaming with his vocalist wife Meena Kapoor: kuch aur zamana.

The year 1952 saw the advent of highly gifted composer, O.P. Nayyar, untutored in classical music but with his heart and soul drenched in the melody of his native land. He filed this Geeta Dutt number in his first film AASMAN: dekho jadu bhare more naina.

This completes the ‘light’ round. Although we call it ‘light’ music there is nothing light about it. To do it at the level of Kishore, Lata and Asha takes unusual gifts and extraordinary ability.

In compiling the foregoing material I have benefited from the counsel of my friend Sir Vish Krishnan.

We warm up to the classical entrées with D.V. Paluskar‘s famous rendition of the highly popular cheez: piyu pala na lage.

Gaud Sarang is much valued by the Gwalior musicians. We join C.R. Vyas in the final moments of the traditional kajara re set in vilambit Tilwada before he sinks his teeth into a attractive Punjabi bandish mandi khabari na liti jani yar ve.

A dazzling tarana by the Gwalior doyen Krishnarao Shankar Pandit.

The Kirana contribution in the person of Bhimsen Joshi: saiyyon mai to ratadi.

We have come to expect innovations from Kumar Gandharva. His Gaud Sarang has a flavour all its own. Notice the explicit use of the phrase S” D N P: piya basera.

Switching lanes, we turn briefly to the dingdongers. This passage from Ravi Shankar has been especially selected for its massive kharaj meends, executed magnificently.

Ali Akbar Khan‘s prefatory alap to one of the tracks on the album Legacy.

Umrao Khan, son of the sarangi maestro Bundu Khan of Delhi, was an adept at both voice and sarangi. Here he sings a luscious composition set in Roopak: sundara nara karata singara.

‘Aftab-e-Mausiqui’ Faiyyaz Khan issues a masterly statement on behalf of Agra through a khayal composed by his father-in-law, Mehboob Khan (“Daraspiya”) of Atrauli: bina dekhe tore.

In my emphatic opinion, Mallikarjun Mansur‘s is the finest Gaud Sarang there is. In the two selections here he wields the Jaipur-Atrauli standard issue: saiyyon mai to ratadi.

Mallikarjun Mansur Cut 1

Mallikarjun Mansur Cut 2

We conclude this soirée with a couple of compositions by the great vidwan and vaggeyakara, Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.” The first is Ramrang’s own composition in dheema Teentala: najara na lage.

Jha-sahab presents a vignette of an old “Adarang” composition in praise of Lord Shiva in Raga Chhaya-Gaud Sarang. This is a variation where a soupçon of Chhaya is introduced in the Gaud Sarang flow: Bhavani pati Shambho.