Rajan Parrikar Music Archive

Short Takes: Bhoopali and Deshkar

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on August 5, 2002

Rajan P. Parrikar in Yosemite valley in California (1989)

Rajan P. Parrikar in Yosemite, California (1989)


The range of expression manifest on the world’s musical canvas reveals a full panoply of underlying assumptions and values. At the heart of India’s Art music lies the notion of Swara, a conception more fundamental than Raga and a prerequisite to its realization. Swara is tough to pin down in words since there is no satisfactory English equivalent. It is important to emphasize that although a note (or a group of notes) constitutes the building block of Swara, the two are not synonymous. Swara encompasses a slew of melodic experiences acquired by a note. Significantly, there is also a metaphysical component involved, for Swara is imbued with ‘life’ and hence, with feeling. The enlightened musician does not view Swara as fungible, to be traded and consumed in the marketplace of melody. Both Indian musical thought and practice hold it as an ideal that the Swara is precious, to be accorded the same care and love that one would reserve for one’s own children. The difference between the Indian and Western conception of music is deeper than the superficial melody vs. harmony dichotomy. Pitted against the sophistication of the idea and practice of Swara, the dispensation of “notes” in all Western musics is seen to be rather primitive despite their occasional complexity in formulation and technique.

The profoundly civilized approach to music conceived and developed in India has no equal on this planet (this is a statement of fact, not an opinion). The principal subject of this edition of Short Takes, Raga Bhoopali, stands as an exemplar of the coherence achieved when Swara is brought within the ambit of ragadari.

Throughout this excursion, M = shuddha madhyam and m = teevra madhyam.

Bhoopali and Deshkar – The Basics

Bhoopali (also known as “Bhoop”) and Deshkar are both audav-jati (pentatonic) ragas with an identical swara-set: S R G P D. The corresponding Carnatic raga goes by the name Mohanam. This simplicity of scale belies the finespun gestures with which these ragas – Bhoopali especially – are instantiated and consequently the unsually wide compass for vistar (elaboration) they permit. Considerable musical maturity and ingenuity must be marshalled to exploit and realize their full potential.

Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang”
© Rajan P. Parrikar

A fair amount of muddleheaded prattle is frequently heard apropos of these two ragas in the ranks of both the innocent and the initiated. The cant typically proceeds from their common aroha-avaroha, the vadi-samvadi flip-flop, and ends with the citation of their respective poorvanga-uttaranga regimes. In the following causerie, aided and abetted by Jha-sahab’s trenchant commentaries, I propose to dust off some of those cobwebs and pave the way for a fuller understanding of the Bhoopali-Deshkar dichotomy. A few allied ragas are also addressed.

Bhoopali is a Kalyan-anga raga whereas Deshkar is a Bilawal-anga raga; their respective characteristics can be inferred from this proposition. It must be underscored that this is a statement not of historical chronology but of the relevance of specific melodic groupings – ragangas, in our terminology – attending the orthogenesis of ragas and of their continual presence in the Indian musical imagination.

Let us first examine Bhoopali. The definitive tonal sentences are:

S, S (S)D’ S R G, G R S (S)D’ S
The nyasa on G and the grace of S on D are points of note.

S (G)R G, G R P G, P R G, S R, R G R, S R S (S)’ S
The tonal activity is centred on G. Another important nyasa swara is R.

G R G P, P G D P (P)G, G P R G, G R, S R S (S)D’ S
The G-D coupling and the arohi nyasa on P are illustrated.

G P (S”)D, (S”)D, S”, S” (S”)D S” R”, R” S”
This represents a typical uttaranga launch.

To summarize, the nyasa locations in Bhoopali are S, R, G and P. Tonal activity revolves around G. The G-D coupling and arohi nyasa on P are points of note. The raga swaroopa unravels in the poorvanga region. Tonal clusters such as S R S (S)D’ S or S R (S)D’ S serve as delimiters during elaboration. It should now be obvious that Bhoopali’s simple aroha-avarohana masks its non-linearity. The perceptive mind will also see in Bhoopali the shadow of raganga Kalyan. The nyasa swaras and formulation of tonal contours derive from Kalyan minus madhyam and nishad, which is why some vidwans refer to Bhoopali as “Bhoop Kalyan” or “Ma-Ni-varjit-Kalyan.” En passant, the P-G and the S-D arcs may occasionally create an abhasa of m and N, respectively.

Let us turn to Deshkar. The definitive tonal sentences are:

P, P G P D, D, P, P D G P
This is an uttaranga-pradhana raga. The tonal activity is concentrated on D. The avarohi nyasa on P and the D-G coupling attending Deshkar are gestures obverse of those plied in Bhoopali.

P D G P (S”)D, (S”)D, S”, D R” S”, (S”)D, D, P, P D G P
Another raganga-vachaka sangati.

P D G P G R S R (S)D’ S, S G P D, D, P
The rishab is alpa; some musicians render it langhan (i.e. skip it) during alapi, others acknowledge its presence without rendering it deergha. Whereas in Bhoopali R is an important nyasa sthana.

To summarize, the nyasa locations in Deshkar are P, D and S” (tar shadaj). The D-G coupling and avarohi nyasa on P are points of note. The raga swaroopa unravels in the uttaranga region. A little reflection reveals the hand of raganga Bilawal lurking below the Deshkar surface; the dominant D and the D-G sangati may be laid at Bilawal’s door.

The behaviours of Bhoopali and Deshkar are, as established above, driven by entirely different genetic imperatives despite their sharing a common scale, a striking illustration of the conceptual power of raga. Assigning them to two different thats also points to Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande‘s insight into the nature of raga. Incidently, it is sometimes amusing to read knee-jerk criticism of the that system peddled by toddlers in this field. Mind you, I am not talking about the ethnopimps spread over Canada, America and Western Europe. It is infra dignitatem to even think of the droppings of ethnopimps in any discussion of music, serious or otherwise. (Glossary: ethnopimps call themselves “ethnomusicologists” and are found loitering in Western universities.)

Our preamble is reinforced with a magnificent melologue of Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.” This telephone recording demonstrates his pedagogic virtuosity as we find him engaged in a musical topiary of sorts, fashioning Bhoopali and Deshkar by pruning the respective parent ragangas, Kalyan and Bilawal.

A truly stellar cast of audio clips has been assembled below and a good portion of this extravaganza is either unpublished or not readily available. From this point on, I shall proceed paucis verbis and mostly let the music do the talking.

Raga Bhoopali

Lata Mangeshkar’s chant from the Bhagavad Geeta (Ch. 15) set to music by Hridaynath Mangeshkar rings in the magical Bhoopali ambience.

The ‘light’ melodies seldom adhere strictly to the raga-lakshanas over their full run and in them it is not uncommon to hear both Bhoopali and Deshkar mannerisms placed cheek by jowl. That caveat applies to the next two numbers, both composed by the recently-deceased Sudhir Phadke. The first is the reason we hold Lata Mangeshkar, endowed that she is with an extraordinary felicity of swara, so close to our hearts. From BHABHI KI CHOODIYAAN (1961): jyoti kalasha.

Sudhir Phadke‘s bhaktigeeta from the Marathi movie AAMHI JAATO AMCHYA GAAVAA has deeply affected a generation or two in Maharashtra and Goa: dehachi tijori.

Jitendra Abhisheki bares his ‘life song’ set to P.L. Deshpande‘s tune: mazhe jeevana gaane.

Basavraj Rajguru

Basavraj Rajguru

Shobha Gurtu‘s E bandhana bandho in PAKEEZAH (1971).

Ramrang‘s composition honours Lord Shiva: Hara Hara Mahadeva.

Another creation of this rara avis, Ramrang: maana leeje sundarwa.


Krishnarao Shankar Pandit

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit

We now saunter into Bhoopali’s vilambit habitat. Basavraj Rajguru gives a fabulous account of the traditional khayal, aba maana le ri pyari and tops it off with the popular druta cheez, noon mana jobana manada ve.

Maniram Pandit (Banditji’s brother) deals the selfsame aba maana le ri.

We open the Gwalior files with the brilliant, albeit undisciplined, gayaki of Krishnarao Shankar Pandit. The famous Gwalior composition, jaba hi saba neera pata nirasa bhaye, precedes the all-weather noon mana jobana.

D.V. Paluskar is purity personified: jaba hi saba neera.

Another well-known Bhoopali composition, jaba se tumisana lagali, by the fabled Gwalior pioneer Rahimat Khan (1852-1922).

Rahimat Khan

Rahimat Khan

Omkarnath Thakur’s cherished disciple and a composer of merit, Balwantrai Bhatt, reprises jaba se tumisana lagali.

We close the Gwalior book with a mehfil recording of Malini Rajurkar: noon mana jobana.

As an old maha-raga, Bhoopali commands a respectable array of traditional compositions. Faiyyaz Khan sings one attributed to ‘Sadarang’: Eri aaja bhai’lava.

A nom-tom alap by the dhrupad specialist Ram Chatur Mallick.

Nazakat Ali Khan and Salamat Ali Khan serve a couple of superb cuts: a composition in vilambit Jhoomra, Khwaja sudha aana de, and a Jhaptala-bound bandish, panjetan-e-paak se noor-e-anand deyo.

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, in a 1950s mehfil.

Mohammad Hussain Sarahang of Afghanistan.

In this very old recording, Zohrabai Agrawali identifies herself at the conclusion of her item, as was the practice in those days.

Kumar Gandharva‘s searching mind had the capacity to tweak the familiar in surprising, even audacious, ways. Consider his Chaiti Bhoop, where he breaks ranks with a finessed induction of shuddha madhyam (for example at 1:39) into the Bhoopali stream: ni morika.


Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Mallikarjun Mansur makes good on another old ‘Sadarang’ composition, jaba hon jaani tihari bata, and as a bonus, throws in jaba se tumisana lagali.

Kishori Amonkar‘s artistry stands as tall as the Himalayas, and in Bhoopali is realized its summit. Upon her sahela re no human hand can improve.

We bring the curtain down on Bhoopali with a private recording of Kesarbai Kerkar, offered here without comment, singing what she refers to as “Shuddha Bhoopali.” The audio could do with a digital vaccine to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

Raga Deshkar

Lata Mangeshkar sings for Shankar-Jaikishan in LOVE IN TOKYO (1966): Sayonara Sayonara.

MEERA (1947) carried a beautiful M.S. Subbulakshmi song composed by S. Venkataraman: Giridhara Gopala.

From the Marathi drama SAUBHADRA, priye paha, by Chhota Gandharva.

A Purandaradasa pada by Mallikarjun Mansur: dharmave jayavemba divyamantra.

The classical segment features several recensions of the Deshkar chestnut, hoon to tore karana jagi. We kick off with Mallikarjun Mansur‘s stirring effort.

Amir Khan

Amir Khan

Faiyyaz Khan: first an alap, then the bandish.

The composition again changes hands. Agrawale Vilayat Hussain Khan (‘Pranpiya’).

In the final lap of hoon to tore karana, Amir Khan in a Kolkota mehfil.

Let us turn to other compositions.

Omkarnath Thakur: jhanjariya jhanake.

Krishnarao Shankar Pandit.


Sawai Gandharva: jhananana jhananana baaje.

Kumar Gandharva‘s own cheez: ja ja re bhounra ja.

Laxmibai Jadhav‘s peccant version sticks out, for it seems to encroach on Jait Kalyan (to be discussed below). Notice also the teevra madhyam (~ 0:14) and later an explicit shuddha nishad. The bandish is the traditional katava gada galava.


Sawai Gandharva

Sawai Gandharva

Most of the compositions presented have been documented by Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande. He also mentions a Poorvi-that Deshkar that has now become scarce. Very occasionally, another type of Deshkar akin to the standard version but with r instead of R is heard; I recall listening to a recording of this type by the sitar maestro Mushtaq Ali Khan.

Raga Jait Kalyan

This raga employs the same scale as Bhoopali and Deshkar, viz., S R G P D. As the name suggests, it is an amalgam of two ragas, Jait and Kalyan.

S G P, P D G P, P S”->P, P D G P
This strand is contributed by Jait: the langhan rishab, the P-S” and S”-P sangatis, the nyasa on P. Some prayogas such as P D G P suggest Deshkar but in Jait Kalyan D is diminished and P strengthened. The Kalyan component is reflected in D P (G)R S.

Jha-sahab amplifies on the shastra.

In the representative recordings, there is divergence in detail here and there; the readers are invited to take their own measure.

First off, Vilayat Hussain Khan.

Kaushalya Manjeshwar

Kaushalya Manjeshwar

From the Delhi Gharana, Ramzan Khan.

Mallikarjun Mansur sings two different compositions. Here, the familiar papiha na bolo.

And in a private mehfil, zhakora na ve.

Mogubai Kurdikar‘s senior disciple Kaushalya Manjeshwar begins with zhakora na ve and ends with a tarana.

Mallikarjun Mansur

Mallikarjun Mansur

The last-named composition again, by Master Krishnarao (Phulambrikar).

Jitendra Abhisheki, papiha na bolo.

Obiter dictum: Raga Audav Devgiri also employs the pentatonic scale-set, S R G P D.

Raga Shuddha Kalyan/Bhoop Kalyan

There is difference of opinion in the nomenclature in this subject. Some regard Shuddha Kalyan and Bhoop Kalyan as one and the same raga. Others maintain a distinction between the two, for instance, Omkarnath Thakur, the Maihar dingbats. (A small coterie asserts that Bhoopali, with its deep connection to raganga Kalyan, is itself a de facto “Bhoop Kalyan.”)

Regardless of where you cast in your lot with, there is a broad consensus on the chief lakshanas of Shuddha Kalyan and a recognition that it is incubated with material furnished by Kalyan and Bhoopali. Those who consider Bhoop Kalyan as separate are agreed that it, too, combines elements of Bhoop and Kalyan; the nub of their praxis lies in the handling of m and N.

The arohi movements in Shuddha Kalyan co-opt Bhoopali. The avarohi behaviour gives the raga away, in particular the sui generis P-m-G and S”-N-D meends; neither m nor N are explicitly intoned. The primitive it tries to express is a yawn. Elsewhere the nishad may be taken explicitly but not in a nyasa role. The Kalyan molecule G P (G)R, S is pervasive. The special sangati G R S, D’ P’ G is associated with this raga. The vistar area primarily spans the mandra and the madhya saptaks. That, in a nutshell, is Shuddha Kalyan.

Ramrang’s take on matters shastraic.

Shankar-Jaikishan‘s composition from CHORI CHORI (1956), Lata’s voice: rasika balama.

The dearly-loved Mohammad Rafi classic from SIKANDER-E-AZAM (1965) was composed by Hansraj Behl: jahan dala dala par.


Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

A dip in Ramrang‘s pool nets us a rich haul. His exquisite vilambit Roopak composition: la de la de.

The traditional cheez, mandara bajo re.

The next two selections are Ramrang‘s own compositions (Satyasheel Deshpande briefly provides vocal support): bairana bhayi.

Ramrang: neendariya tu kahe na.

Faiyyaz Khan takes great delight in his meends and so do we.

Omkarnath Thakur‘s recording of a 1950s Varanasi mehfil: bolana lagi and bairana nanadiya.

The P-m-G meend is heard right away in this segment of Allauddin Khan on the surshringar.

Omkarnath Thakur

Omkarnath Thakur

As indicated earlier, the Maihar instrumentalists treat Shuddha Kalyan and Bhoop Kalyan as two different Ragas. In the latter, the defining meends of Shuddha Kalyan are absent and both m and N are relatively unornamented. Also heard are explicit Kalyan-inspired arohi passages.

Nikhil Banerjee‘s performance in this 1970s San Francisco concert is on the whole mediocre (perhaps he was trying hard to impress the audience of hippie bums) but the vignette produced here contains some bright moments.

Kishori Amonkar.

All said and done, Shuddha Kalyan is well and truly a specialty of the Kiranawallahs. It is to them that we must look to for an unadulterated, rasa-pradhana experience.

Bhimsen Joshi

Bhimsen Joshi

Abdul Karim Khan‘s all-time classic: mandara bajo.

Yeshwantrai Purohit was influenced by Abdul Karim Khan and learnt from AKK’s disciple Balkrishnabuwa Kapileshwari.

Amir Khan‘s meditations are utterly enchanting. E karama karo krupalu dayalu is topped off by a tarana.


The top honours must go to Bhimsen Joshi who has attained some sort of enlightenment in Shuddha Kalyan: tuma bina kaun and rasa bheeni bheeni.

Raga Savani Kalyan

This winsome raga has now gone out of fashion, trumped by the overwhelming preference for Shuddha Kalyan. It should not be confused with Savani of the Bihag anga that is popular with the Atrauli-Jaipur vocalists. Savani Kalyan takes after Kalyan but drops madhyam completely (S R G P D N). Shuddha nishad is present in either direction but is sometimes skipped in arohi movements. As in Shuddha Kalyan, the regions of prime melodic activity are the mandra and madhya saptaks. Savani Kalyan deserves to be relumed. The following two samples provide opportunity for abstraction of its lakshanas.

Aman Ali Khan

Aman Ali Khan

This old, moving composition was handed down to Jha-sahab by his guru Bholanath Bhatt: banata bana’ooN bana nahin aave Hari ke bina ri.


Bholanath Bhatt

Bholanath Bhatt

A votary of the Bhendibazar style, T.D. Janorikar deals a composition of his guru Aman Ali Khan whose colophon ‘Amar’ is heard in the antara: meeta ladila.

Some versions of Savani Kalyan use a weak shuddha madhyam (vide Bhatkhande‘s Kramika Pustaka Malika).

Raga Kesari Kalyan

A creation of Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang,” it is named after Hanuman. It may be viewed as a chalan bheda on the Savani Kalyan described earlier, together with an altered swara emphasis. Seen through another prism it looks like Hamsadhwani augmented with a dhaivat and imparted special sangatis. Let us hear Jha-sahab expound on it himself.

An enchanting composition joined to Jha-sahab’s masterful delivery: pavana puta Hanumanta.

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" in concert (Panjim, Goa)

Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” in concert (Panjim, Goa)
(© Rajan P. Parrikar)

Raga Chandrakant Kalyan

Chandrakant Kalyan is an old raga, now moribund perhaps for the same reasons as Savani Kalyan with which it has some overlap. The arohi sangatis drop the madhyam and while the nishad is not verboten it often appears in a vakra form of the type G P N D S”. In avarohi movements the teevra madhyam is sought through D m G P. The Kalyan substrate supporting the raga is transparent.

Bust of Faiyyaz Khan by Madhubhai Patel

Bust of Faiyyaz Khan
by Madhubhai Patel

Faiyyaz Khan‘s nom-tom alap presented here does not fully clarify the raga-lakshanas but it makes for a valuable document nonetheless.

Raga Bhoopeshwari

This recently introduced raga is attained to by attenuating Bhoopali’s shuddha dhaivat to the komal shade: S R G P d. The resultant melody assumes a grave, haunting mien.

Hridaynath Mangeshkar has adapted Mehdi Hasan’s ghazal, ab ke bichhare, for his Marathi composition rendered by Lata: malavoona taka.

A formal statement by Mani Prasad.

Raga Pahadi

Pahadi (meaning “of the mountains”) has its origins in folk music. What French fries are to the healthy American diet Pahadi is to the Indian musical diet. It is fashioned from the scale of Bhoopali but the smooth arcs decorating Bhoopali are pared. Both M and N are summoned in avarohi tracts through special sangatis. Due to its kshudra nature, there is considerable latitude available and ‘foreign’ swaras are often sought for embellishment as are other ragas such as Yaman, Mand and Jhinjhoti. Pahadi’s sphere of activity is concentrated in the mandra and madhya saptaks; for this reason the tonic shadaj is often translated to the madhyam in performance. The following tonal sentences drive home its essence:

S, D’ , D’ N’ P’ D’ G’ P’ D’ S, D’ S R G R G M G

D’ S R G M G R S N’ D’, [P’] M’ G’

P’ D’ S R G M G gG, G P D S” D P G gG

We shall have occasion to size up many of the variations proposed. The available Pahadi pool is extremely large but our pickings here must be limited. Should you find that your pet Pahadi puppy is missing in the kennel below, keep that discovery to yourself.

Rajan P. Parrikar with Kishore Kumar (Goa, 1986)

Rajan P. Parrikar with Kishore Kumar (Goa, 1986)

From ANMOL GHADI (1946), composer Naushad and the voices of Noorjehan and Surendranath: awaz de kahan hain.

Mohammad Rafi sings to Ravi’s tune in CHAUDHVIN KA CHAND (1960).

O.P. Nayyar sneaks in a Pahadi in KASHMIR KI KALI (1964) in this Asha Bhonsle-Mohammad Rafi sparkler: isharon isharon.

Composer Khayyam has made a career in Pahadi, successfully exploiting its pliancy and its yen for promiscuity. From SHAGUN (1964), the dulcet tones of Suman Kalyanpur and Mohammad Rafi: parbaton ke pedon par.

The superhit from ARADHANA (1969) composed by S.D. Burman, delivered by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar: kora kaghaz.

Kishore Kumar‘s own composition in DOOR KA RAAHI (1971): jeevan se na haar O jeenewale.


D.V. Paluskar

D.V. Paluskar

Akka Mahadevi‘s Kannada vacana by Mallikarjun Mansur: akka kelavva nanondu kanasu kande.

A confluence of Pahadi, Kalyan and Mand is seen in this universally loved Meera bhajan by D.V. Paluskar: Rama ratana dhana payo.

From their celebrated album Call of the Valley, Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Brijbhushan Kabra.

The famously playful Dadra, by Ghulam Mustafa Khan: baton baton mein beeta gayi raat.

We conclude with the supreme master of Pahadi, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

First, a live thumri recording.

And finally, the great man’s beloved bhajan, Hari Om Tatsat.


Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Bade Ghulam Ali Khan


I am indebted to Romesh Aeri. My thanks go to Ajit Akolkar, Ashok Ambardar, Sir Vish Krishnan, Ajay Nerurkar and Nachiketa Sharma. The motive force behind this entire effort is Anita Thakur.