Rajan Parrikar Music Archive

Raga Kedar – A Perspective

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on May 15, 2000

Rajan P. Parrikar

Rajan P. Parrikar (Yosemite, California, 1989)

Named after Lord Shiva, the hoary Raga Kedar occupies a pride of place in the Hindustani pantheon and is much loved in the ranks of both the laity and the connoisseur. Its structure reveals a kaleidoscope of complex melodic gestures, conduct and richness of character. Seldom are the core values of Indian ragadari music united under one roof as they are in Kedar. To know this raga is to experience firsthand the genius and workings of a superior musical intelligence. In the hands of a master it dispenses food for the soul; in lesser climes it can be intolerable.

Raga Kedar is of ancient vintage and finds representation in every conceivable genre: dhrupad, dhamar, khayal, thumri and so on. Its abstract nature makes it notoriously resistant to capture on paper. By “abstract” we mean that it is not a scalar raga, amenable to reconstruction with linear aroha-avarohi phrases. There is much more to it than merely piecing together and summing up a group of tonal clusters.

Throughout the discussion, M = shuddha madhyam and m = teevra madhyam.

The raga employs all shuddha swaras plus the teevra madhyam. The heart of Kedar lies in the following turn of tonal phrase:

S M, M (G)P, D–>M, S R, S

The meend from D–>M is vital. The raga’s tonal ‘centre’ is anchored by the powerful shuddha madhyam. The pancham is strong and a location for nyasa.

Let us briefly examine the lakshanas and some of the supporting melodic constructs. The sound clips adduced later will clarify and reinforce these ideas.

S R S M, M, M (G)P
The gandhar is used lightly (alpatva) in the vault from madhyam to pancham. A variation on the uthava (launch) – S M (G)m, P – illustrates the subtle interplay of the two madhyams, a feature of the raga. The consecutive madhyams may likewise manifest themselves in an avarohatmaka glide: P m M. It must be emphasized that although the madhyams appear cheek by jowl in written form the intonation is not so simple: the slide is always mediated by a meend or a kana-swara (grace note). In some traditional dhrupad and dhamar compositions, phrases such as G M R S or M G R S are observed but they have fallen out of favour in our khayal-dominated times. It bears mentioning that the proportion of the teevra madhyam is far less than that of the shuddha madhyam. In some older accounts and compositions, the teevra madhyam barely receives acknowledgement.

M, M (G)P, P (m)D–>P–>m–>M
Upon arrival at the pancham a couple of options suggest themselves. One may simply repair to the shuddha madhyam via a meend grazing m en route. Or one could execute a meend originating on the dhaivat back down along the D->P->m->M locus.

PDPP S”, S” (N)R” S”
P N (N)D S”

These are some of the prescribed prayogas for an uttaranga launch.

S” R” S”, (S”)D P M

These are typical avarohatmaka prayogas originating from the tara shadaj. Appearances are deceptive since every step of the way is laden with a meend or a delicate curve. Swara uccharana means everything to this raga. The delicious swoop from the tara shadaj back to the shuddha madhyam makes whistle-stops along the way on the dhaivat and pancham. Accurate description of such prayogas is beyond the scope of the written word.

Obiter dicta: The dhaivat is piquant but it is not a location for nyasa. The role of the shuddha nishad is ambivalent. It is not used for nyasa but the proportion and manner are functions of the performer’s background. Typically the musician’s asthai-antaras (i.e. the canonical composition he chooses to amplify on) ought to lay bare the raga-lakshanas. We will not point to all the auxillary strands and embellishments that make for the Kedar tapestry. Each stylistic school or region has its own manner of putting flesh to the raga kernel. In this sense, Kedar furnishes an apt metaphor for Indian tradition in the wider context.

The komal nishad is optional and when introduced, is rendered weak in a vivadi-like role: m P D n D P. As regards tanbazi: straight tans do not sit well with this raga. Typically, swara doublets SS MM PP and triplets SSS MMM PPP are executed, not a trivial undertaking. This completes our preamble.

We inaugurate our audio parade with chants from the Bhagavad Geeta by Jitendra Abhisheki.

This popular prayer from GUDDI (1972) by Vani Jairam was composed by Vasant Desai to Gulzar‘s lyrics: humko mana ki shakti dena.

The exceptionally gifted (albeit untutored) composer O.P. Nayyar had the uncanny habit of plucking a raga-based tune out of thin air, a trait that drew admiration from his distinguished admirer Amir Khan. This sparkler from EK MUSAFIR EK HASEENA (1961) is dealt by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle.

Another O.P. Nayyar nugget from CID 909 (1967) rendered by Asha Bhonsle and Mahendra Kapoor: jaane tamanna.

Lata Mangeshkar provides an object lesson in what it means to handle the swara gently in this MUNIMJI (1955) number. The tune by S.D. Burman is an adaptation of an older bandish as we shall later see: sajan bina neenda na aave.

Manna Dey “sweats blood and produces rubbish” whereas Lata swings by effortlessly in this number from TEL MALISH BOOT POLISH (1961) composed by Chitragupta.

The purist might wince at the contamination Kedar is subjected to in the next clip. Kedar shares some of its genetic material with ragas such as Kamod and Hameer, and film composers, driven by exigencies of the lyric, are often wont to stray. There are nevertheless clear Kedar vistas to be had in this Madan Mohan beauty, superbly delivered by Mohammad Rafi in JAHANARA (1964). The final antara is quite unKedar-like but is the piece de resistance from the point of view of the lyrics. Rajinder Kishen‘s words convey appositely what is often termed the “divine nonsense of romantic love.”

Another quasi-Kedar song from SHAGUN (1964) with music by Khaiyyam. The singers are Talat Mehmood and Mubarak Begum.

A vintage 1942 melody from BHAKT SOORDAS in Khursheed‘s voice. Gyan Dutt is the tunesmith: panchee bawara.

We conclude the ‘light’ round with a Marathi natyageeta by Vasantrao Deshpande from the play SHAKUNTALA.

Fruitful consultation with Sir Vish Krishnan and Dr. Ajay Nerurkar in compiling the ‘light’ selection above is gratefully acknowledged.

Onward now to the classical arena where we set the ball rolling with a dhrupad by the Dagar brothers, N. Zahiruddin and N. Faiyazuddin, set to Chautala: bhaja re mana Vishwanatha.

A couple of pickings from Gwalior gharana serve to introduce the khayal treatment. D.V. Paluskar sings the traditional vilambit bandish, jogi rawala. Note the play on the two madhyams about 15 seconds into the clip. The druta composition features the chestnut kanha re Nanda nandana.

Sample another popular traditional cheez in Malini Rajurkar: kanganwa mora atahi amola.

Very few musicians in our time (or before us) have attained the heights Bade Ghulam Ali Khan “Sabrang” did in the mastery of Kedar. We are pleased to offer an unpublished mehfil recording of his own vilambit composition.

To cap that, BGAK’s 3-minute commercial recording of his own cheez, E naveli nara.

In Fateh Ali Khan we have another fine Patiala statement.

The distinguished Mogubai Kurdikar brings home the standard issue Jaipur-Atrauli bandish: payo payo Rama nama.

Her daughter Kishori Amonkar, the greatest vocalist of the day.

From the Agra quarters, the perpetually constipated voice of Dinkar Kaikini.

Now for a few words on the Kedar-Chandni Kedar imbroglio. There is no consensus on just what Chandni Kedar is. It is an unnecessary distraction with which many a musician has commandeered the bragging rights that accompany the so-called “rare Raga.” Some suggest that strengthening of the komal nishad and shuddha gandhar in standard Kedar gives rise to Chandni Kedar. Others hold that Kedar with an added komal nishad is the de facto Chandni Kedar. In practice, most musicians run some minor variation on their canonical Kedar and call it “Chandni Kedar.” But these changes are academic in nature and of little significance. What we essentially have here are two names, not two ragas. So I shall leave it at that and when necessary interject with my remarks.

The following observations may be made on the Jaipur-Atrauli brand of Chandni Kedar. The gandhar is expressed more strongly in aroha, and the meend from D->P->M is de-emphasized. I recently raised the issue with a Jaipur-Atrauli Maharashtrian lady who has recorded the raga but she was unable to shed any light except to say “I got this bandish as Chandni Kedar from my guru who got it from his guru and we elaborate based on that.” At any rate the following mehfil recording of Kesarbai Kerkar‘s Chandni Kedar is a collector’s item. She seems to be in an unusually playful mood and even pauses to outline the text of the Alladiya Khan composition Eri ina naina in vilambit Ada Chautala.

It was not often that Kesarbai sang a druta composition.

Among the younger set Ashwini Bhide has been showing promise. What is most likely a “Saraspiya” composition – the well-known chatura sughara balma – in druta Ektala is elegantly rendered.

“Saraspiya” was the nom de plume of Kale Khan of Mathura (1860- 1926). He was fluent in Persian, Sanskrit and Braja and one of the great composers of his time, besides being a top-notch vocalist and sitariya. His end is shrouded in mystery. It is said that around 1926 he suddenly lost interest in all wordly things and vanished one day, never to be sighted again. His lovely compositions survive and thrive (eg. the one in Raga Paraj – Manmohan braja ko rasiya – immortalized by Faiyyaz Khan).

There has been no greater spectacle in Hindustani music than ‘Aftab-e-Mausiqui’ Faiyyaz Khan in full flow. The first clip features a nom-tom style alap. Notice the subtlety, felicity, and power in intonation – it seldom gets any better than this. The second segment contains the famous Dhamar mana taja de (documented by Bhatkhande) and is followed by the Saraspiya cheez dispensed earlier by Ashwini Bhide.

Faiyyaz nom-tom

Faiyyaz dhamar and khayal

From the “Chandni Kedar – A Rare Raga” album (see my point?) of Amir Khan.

The next stop – Basavraj Rajguru‘s Chandni. He sings the traditional Kedar composition (see D.V. Palukar above) with a different spin: jogi rawala.

Finally, some real dirt on Chandni from Agrawale Asad Ali Khan. Notice the peculiar manner of the komal nishad.

Kedar is primarily a vocalist’s pastureland. The tantuvadya folks, however brilliant, fall short of capturing the raga’s soul. The blowhards fare better. Bismillah Khan pulls some delectable meends in this one. Notice also his peculiar manner of lacing the madhyam with the gandhar.

Bansuri rendition of Chandni Kedar by Vijay Raghav Rao.

The great sarangi exponent Bundu Khan‘s All India Radio recording of Chandni Kedar.

This Sitar-Surbahar duet in Chandni Kedar by Vilayat Khan and Imrat Khan is tossed in to pander to the the Vilayat acolytes.

A personal favourite, this delicious nugget of Ali Akbar Khan is part of my earliest musical memories.

The traditionally acknowledged Kedar prakars are: Shuddha Kedar, Maluha Kedar and Jaladhar Kedar. Additionally there several hybrids and variations such as Basanti Kedar (a Jaipur-Atrauli staple), Kedar Bahar, Deepak Kedar, Tilak Kedar, Shyam Kedar, Anandi Kedar, Adambari Kedar, Nat Kedar and so on.

Raga Shuddha Kedar de-emphasizes the meends and the teevra madhyam, and instead sharpens the arohatmaka shuddha nishad, as witness the following Bhimsen recording.

The counterpart of Kedar in the Carnatic paddhati is known as Hameer Kalyani. A couple of Carnatic vocal renditions are included here. The first is by the veteran vocalist, K.V. Narayanaswamy, who sings a composition of Subbariah Sastry in Aditala.

The second Carnatic offering is a Mutthuswami Dikshitar composition in the voice of Y. Sitaraman.

It is observed that the Narayanaswamy treatment has a better likeness to the Hindustani Kedar.

Our Kedar expo draws to a close with a couple of renditions by the great vaggeyekara and vidwan, Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.” His own composition recreates the scene of a baby Krishna gambolling about the courtyard under the admiring gaze of Jashoda and the rest of the household. It has been my good fortune to have witnessed many a dramatic and impromptu performance by Jha-sahab, expressing as only he can in his lyrical manner the bhava and subtleties attending his compositions.

painjani baje jhanana jhanana
kati bajata madhura mrudu kinkina
nirakhata chhabi janani balihari


kilakata bolata hasata mana harata
“Ramrang” Nanda ajira viharata mohata nara-nari

The final item has Jha-sahab sketching an old composition, peppering the proceedings with pertinent remarks. This bandish is the original inspiration behind the Lata – S.D.Burman combine in MUNIMJI cited earlier: sajana bina neenda na aave.

Also see Variants of Kedar.