Rajan Parrikar Music Archive

An Evening with Raga MaruBihag

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on January 8, 2001


Rajan P. Parrikar (sketch by Nagaraj Patil)

Rajan P. Parrikar
(Artist: Nagaraj Patil)


The much-loved Raga MaruBihag is of fairly recent vintage.  In Raga Darshan, the author Manikbuwa Thakurdas speaks of an older Raga Maru as its progenitor.  Be that as it may, the MaruBihag in currency is widely acknowledged to be a product of Atrauli-Jaipur founder Alladiya Khan‘s prodigious imagination.  Over the years and in the course of its journey across regions, the raga has acquired quaint touches and flavours reflecting the idiosyncrasies of some of the more creative minds.

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

MaruBihag’s core being is beholden to Kalyan; supporting material is supplied by Bihag. The two angas are mediated by special melodic gestures as we shall shortly see.  The aroha-avarohana set may be stated as follows:

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

Since the aroha-avarohana provides no more than a silhouette of the raga, a few lines will be devoted to fleshing out its central features. The rishab and dhaivat are varjit in the ascending movement.  The teevra madhyam is part of the raga’s Kalyan heritage and plays a key role.  The pancham is the most important nyasa sthana, the centre of melodic gravity, anchoring most of the action.  A large number of traditional compositions in MaruBihag have located their sam on pancham. The shadaj, gandhar and nishad are also nyasa bahutva swaras. The rishab merits special attention; it is characteristically intoned with a kan of the shadaj, to wit (S)R, S. The R is thus elongated and approached via the shadajm, GRSR, S. The dhaivat is occasionally rendered deergha as in PD PD (P)m or from the tar S” as in N S” D, P.

The contribution from Bihag is evident in prayogas such as P’ N’ S G or R N’ S G.  More dramatic is the piquant introduction of the shuddha madhyam: S M, M G.  This foray is often concluded by the Kalyanic m G (S)R, S. The intersection of these movements represents the confluence of the Kalyan and Bihag angas. There is an implicit nod to Bihag in the construction of MaruBihag’s tonal ribbons such as N’ S G m P or Gm P N. Whereas the teevra madhyam tilts the development assuredly towards Kalyan, the underlying locus derives from Bihag. This subtle interplay of the two melodies is characteristic of MaruBihag. Remember, however, that Bihag is a Bilawal-anga raga. Interestingly, S.N. Ratanjankar has conceived a raga named Marga Bihag with an entirely Bihag-like motion but with the proviso that only the teevra madhyam is deployed.

Much of the foregoing discussion is now compressed in the following two clips, elucidating the key elements of the poorvanga and uttaranga. Note that the kan-swara (in parenthesis below) is not explicitly intoned.  The voice in these – and the earlier aroha-avarohana – clips is Nachiketa Sharma.

S (m)G m P, m G, m G (S)R, S
P’N’SM, M G, S (m)G (P)m P


GmPN, N S”, PNS”G”, m” G” (S”)R”, S
N S” D, P, PD PD (P)m, mP mP (m)G
P’N’SM, G, G N D P m G (S)R, S

We inaugurate the audio parade with the song from the movie EK RAAZ, composed by Chitragupta, and delivered in the magnificent voice of Kishore Kumar: payalawali dekha na.

MaruBihag is entrenched in popular Indian imagination via the Mohammad Rafi – Lata Mangeshkar number from SEHRA, composed by Ramlal. It is hard to overstate Lata’s extraordinary abilities with sahitya and swara. So much came so naturally to her: tum to pyara ho.

The primary and most influential carrier and transmitter of Alladiya Khan’s memes was Kesarbai Kerkar of Goa.  The original MaruBihag composition, rasiya ho na ja, has travelled far and wide, and is sung in various textual interpolations.  A couple of points merit comment in this Kesarbai rendition. At about 0:19 into the clip the shuddha madhyam arrives in a Bihag-like S G M, not a typical deployment in this raga.  The other item of note is the explicit Kalyan-esque m D N beginning at around 0:21.  This is eschewed by almost all but the Atrauli-Jaipur musicians. The alert listener will also catch the special tan constructions that embellish Kesarbai’s rendition.

The second-generation representative of Atrauli-Jaipur, Mallikarjun Mansur. This is classicism at its highest and most sublime.

Bismillah Khan‘s mastery of his instrument is stamped all over this gem of a recording.

Bhimsen Joshi weighs in his version of rasiya ho na. Notice the maverick phrase involving shuddha madhyam as he launches the antara with mana chinta. The druta cheez is the well-known tarapata raina dina.

Roshanara Begum, rasiya ho na.

In July 1995 Kashinath Bodas gave a private concert in Berkeley, California. Two weeks later he passed away in Canada. A clip of the Berkeley recording is offered. I am on the harmonium and Pranesh Khan is on the tabla. The composer is Omkarnath Thakur’s disciple, Balwantrai Bhatt “Bhavrang”: begi tuma aa’ao sundarva (notice the unusual placement of the sam on the teevra madhyam).

Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang” has composed marvelously in MaruBihag. Here we have his druta composition celebrating the wedding of the four princes of Ayodhya. The pointed placement of the shuddha madhyam on his mudra in the antara is pure magic.

aaja re badhava baje Avadha nagara mein
kunwara chari byahi ghara aaye
ananda “Ramrang” dagara dagara mein

Another druta composition of Jha-sahab, this time by Shubha Mudgal:mana le gayo sanwara

Aftab-e-Mausiqui Faiyyaz Khan‘s recording brings down the curtain on our soirée. Take stock of the komal nishad touched here as a vivadi swara at 6:30 into the clip.

Some readers may have noticed a correspondence between Ragas MaruBihag and Hemant via a murchhana precipitating the avirbhava of one raga in the other.

Raga Amritavarshini

A recent import from the Carnatic stream, this raga bears some likeness to MaruBihag.

It is of audav-jati with the swara set: S G m P N.  In Jitendra Abhisheki’s fecund melodic imagination was conceived this beautiful Marathi natyageeta rendered by Asha Khadilkar in the drama DHADILA RAMA TINI KA VANI: le’oo kashi valkala.

Abhisheki himself, in a classical posture.

Addendum: Amir Khan‘s unpublished rendition of Raga Maru Kalyan is offered here without comment. It is left as an exercise to the reader to flesh out its details.