Rajan Parrikar Music Archive

Uncommon Ragas: Hem Kalyan and Khem Kalyan

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on April 2, 2001

Rajan P. Parrikar

Rajan P. Parrikar (University of Colorado at Boulder, 1991)


In this feature we shall discuss the aprachalita (uncommon) Ragas Hem Kalyan and Khem Kalyan. These melodies have been part of the Hindustani landscape for well over 100 years but are rarely heard in today’s mehfil. Most of the active performers are scarcely acquainted with their essence and recordings of the older masters are few and far between thus thwarting efforts towards meaningful revival. The two ragas have much to recommend them by way of aesthetic merit and deserve wider recognition.

Throughout this promenade, we set M = shuddha madhyam and m = teevra madhyam.

Raga Hem Kalyan

There is no explicit Kalyan-anga in this raga and hence some purists refer to it as just Hem. The raga employs all shuddha swaras. The nishad is very weak (alpa), the rishab and dhaivat are rendered alpa in arohi movements. Hem Kalyan’s signature is embedded in a characteristic tonal sentence in the mandra saptak given by: S, P’ D’ P’ S. Most of the tonal activity occurs in the mandra and in the poorvanga of the madhya saptak. A supporting cluster – G M P G M R S – reminiscent of Kamod is encountered; so is the P–S–P coupling. The declining S–P‘ or S”–P swoop is through a meend. The dhatu of Hem Kalyan is encapsulated in the following three sentences:

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

S M G P, P G M R S, G M D, P, P D P S”

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

It is observed from the foregoing swara constructions that the raga contours are not only vakra but that there are frequent wide intervals to be negotiated. The space for alapachari is thus modest and there is limited facility for straight up and and down tans. These considerations render Hem out of reach of all but the most capable performers and perhaps accounts for its relative obscurity.

In his Abhinava Geetanjali, Volume 4, Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” makes a distinction between Hem and Hem Kalyan. In his view, the former is what we have just discussed above whereas Hem Kalyan obtains from the avarohi use of the teevra madhyam as well and the Kalyanic treatment of rishab.

The line-up of clips reveals the masters at play. With its build of wide intervallic spaces, Hem Kalyan is not naturally suited to Amir Khan‘s gayaki but the great man rises to the occasion and turns in a brilliant rendition. He opens with the vilambit composition, daiyya ri main kase jaaya pukarun – credited to “Sadarang” – the canonical Hem Kalyan bandish regarded as the carrier of the raga’s kernel. Khansaheb unwinds in Jhoomra and then adds his own tarana for the druta flourish.

The selfsame daiyya ri main this time set to vilambit Ektala and crisply delivered by K.G. Ginde.

An encore of the vilambit khayal by the Agra elder, Vilayat Hussain Khan “Pranpiya.” He also renders his famous druta bandish, lagan laagi sundara Shyam salone piya sanga. Both these compositions have been notated and published by “Ramrang” in Volume 4 of the aforementioned reference.

Salamat Ali Khan.

As always we have the exception that defies the standard. Here is a different kind of Hem, of Bilawal extraction, by Altaf Hussain Khan of Khurja. Some of you will be reminded of Savani Nat type of movements: saba mila gavo.

Raga HemNat

Elements of Nat are blended in with Hem Kalyan to create this compelling hybrid. The Atrauli-Jaipur musicians, in particular, treat this melody with great relish. Raga Nat by itself is rarely heard nowadays. Instead, it has come to be elevated to a raganga, serving seed melodic and gestural material for synthesizing hybrid or composite ragas. Nat is heavily M-centric. The definitive Nat phrases most sought after are in the poorvanga:

S R S, S R, R G, G M…

S G (R)G M, M P, P G M R S

The uttaranga of Nat is sparse but carries the important P-S” and S” D P clusters. Occasionally a komal nishad is admitted via S” D n P. Before stepping into HemNat territory let us take in a briefing of the pure Nat by Mallikarjun Mansur.

A little reflection allows that Hem Kalyan and Nat are natural allies. In fact, some Nat elements may be observed in Hem Kalyan to begin with. K.G. Ginde serves up two lovely compositions of S.N. Ratanjankar in HemNat: paarana payo in vilambit Ektala and niratata kanha in druta Teentala.

Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” gives an inspired performance of HemNat. His own composition is a beauty and apprehends the raga lakshanas in the very first line itself. Harmonium support is provided by moi and on tabla is Tulsidas Navelkar of Kala Academy, Goa, in this 1999 recording of a private mehfil.

rasa rachi Jamuna ke tata Hari basana suranga anga saje
raakaa raina sanga gopiyana harakhe-harakhe Hari nritta kare

The final tranche of the HemNat kitty features Mallikarjun Mansur plying the Atrauli-Jaipur staple, tuma bina maiko kala na parata.

Raga Khem Kalyan

This is among the most charming melodies conceived and it is a shame that it is consigned to the ranks of the obscure. Traditionally the Agra musicians have had a lock on this raga. The central idea here is the judicious interleaving of Hamsadhwani and Kalyan. Outside Agra territory the raga shows variance in implementation but without loss of its original kernel.

The definitive phrase in Khem Kalyan is: S, D’ N’ S G R… or N’ S G R… The nyasa on the final rishab is exceedingly pleasing. There are some reminders of Hem Kalyan harking back to the S-P’-S coupling and the use of the mandra pancham P’ as an amsa swara via S P’ or SR P’.

The Agra design uses Yaman Kalyan as its base and may be summarized in the following sentences:

S, SN’D’N’, S G R… S, R S (S)P’, D’ N’ S G R… G M (G)R, S P, G M (G)R

G P N S” N D m G R, G M (G)R, N’ D’ N’ S G R, S R (R)P’, S G R…

These ideas are fortified in this taleem session administered by Khadim Hussain Khan to Lalith Rao and other students. He peppers the development with peremptory, albeit pertinent, remarks. The vilambit composition is standard Khem Kalyan issue: piharva maikain deho bataye.

Anjanibai Lolienkar deals the old Khem Kalyan bandish composed by Ata Hussain Khan (“Ratanpiya”): hata na kara mohe chhanda piharva.

The Rampur-Sahaswan version of Khem Kalyan is instantiated by Nissar Hussain Khan. The teevra madhyam is sidelined here. The vilambit and druta bandishes are again, respectively, piharva maikain and hata na kara. Compare the latter, now shorn of the teevra madhyam, with Anjanibai‘s earlier clip.

The concluding item – Kishori Amonkar‘s ethereal artistry. She has no use for shuddha madhyam and seamlessly wades in and out of Hamsadhwani and Yaman.