Rajan Parrikar Music Archive

Short Takes – Narayani and Gorakh Kalyan

by Rajan P. Parrikar
First published on SAWF on September 5, 2005

Rajan P. Parrikar

Rajan P. Parrikar


After the feature on Raga Multani at the end of 2002, we turned in and doused the glim. This mini revival seeks to illuminate those interstices of the Hindustani ragaspace not considered earlier. While at it, we intend to partake in our fruitful pastimes, of slaying familiar dragons (Banditji, cheej-pijja-chompin’ Alubhai) and kicking Bong ass (note that Alu has his toes sticking in both the puddles and is therefore entitled to Platinum level benefits).

Throughout the discussion below, M shuddha madhyam.

Raga Narayani

An import from Carnatic music, the Hindustani Raga Narayani is a janya of the Khamaj that, corresponding to the 28th melakarta Harikambhoji: S R G M P D n. It employs all the swaras of the Khamaj that except for gandhar.

In the Carnatic tradition Narayani presents itself in two disparate avatars. The inspiration for the Hindustani Narayani is Tyagaraja‘s conception parlayed by his kritis, bhajanaseyu margamunu and Rama neevekani. The other version due to Dikshitar, instantiated by his composition Mahishasura mardini, is a janya of the Dheerashankarabharanam melakarta. In Ragas of the Sangita Saramrta (Music Academy, Madras, 1993), the authors T.V. Subbarao and S.R. Janakiraman write that Dikshitar’s treatment “had its roots in the description of Narayani as given by Tulaja [also known as Tukkaji, the Maratha ruler of Tanjore from 1729-35].” They further observe that “the raga name ‘Narayani’ [appears] as early as in the ‘Sangit Makaranda’ of Narada (7th-9th century AD).

Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" (Delhi, Feb 2007)

Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang”

A brief discussion of Narayani is found in Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande‘s monumental work Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati. Bhatkhande’s own Dhrupad-anga composition in Sooltal, Narayana ko nita bhaja re, is documented in his Kramika Pustaka Malika and re-printed in Raja Nawab Ali‘s Marifunnaghmat. But as we shall see, the prevailing structure and lakshanas of the Hindustani Narayani follow closely the blueprint imbedded in the two compositions of S.N. Ratanjankar, to wit, the vilambit, bamana re bichara and the druta bandish, sahelariyan gavo ri. Let us now tease out the main features of the raga.

As noted earlier, gandhar is varjit (verboten) in Narayani. Since komal nishad is alpa in the arohi passages, an avirbhava of Raga Durga (of Bilawal that) is readily purchased.

S R M R M R S, n’ D’ M’ P’ D’ S
S R P, M P n D…P, D P M R M R S

Notice the lapse into Durga’s territory and the subsequent recovery via komal nishad.

Consider the cluster: S R P, M P n D…P
The avarohi pause on dhaivat (deergha bahutva) is characteristic, and is followed by a nyasa on pancham. The interested reader may at this juncture reflect on the distinction of this particular tonal play vis-à-vis Raga Soor Malhar.

P, M P n D…P, D M P (S”)D S”, n D S”
P D S” R”, S” R” M” R” S”, S” n D, P

The melodic activity in the uttaranga proceeds along these lines.

S.N. Ratanjankar

S.N. Ratanjankar

Even women and children know that it is not possible to convey the nuances of the swara-lagav so vital to raga-based music via the written word aloone.  With the advent of multimedia, we now have access to the crisp and highly cultivated mind of Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.” Jha-sahab extolls Ratanjankar in this sermon recorded over the long-distance California-Allahabad telephone link.

We roll out our audio cortège with two pieces of S.N. Ratanjankar‘s unpublished recording. As the author of two definitive and highly regarded compositions, his is a macroscian presence in the courtyard of Raga Narayani.

Ratanjankar alap.

Ratanjankar khayal.

Ratanjankar’s suite, laid out by his protégé K.G. Ginde.

Malini Rajurkar takes on Ratanjankar’s bamana re bichara.

Prabhudev Sardar.

Ashiq Ali Khan, son of the fabled ‘Colonel’ Fateh Ali Khan of Patiala: aaja mori laja.


The same bandish by the contemporary Patiala exponent Fateh Ali.

Prabhudev Sardar

Prabhudev Sardar

Nathu Khan, the sarangi-nawaz from Pakistan.

Finally, M.L. Vasanthakumari‘s splendid Carnatic rendition serves as a reference frame with which to compare and contrast the Hindustani adaptation.

Raga Gorakh Kalyan

Gorakh Kalyan, too, is affiliated with the Khamaj that, and again, like Narayani, the gandhar is out of a job here. The “Kalyan” in its name is misleading since it contains not the slightest trace of the Kalyan raganga. Some suggest, perhaps apocryphally, that it is named in honour of Sant Gorakhnath.

The origins of Gorakh Kalyan remain uncertain. Pandit Bhatkhande makes no mention of it in his published work. The popular vilambit khayal, dhana dhana bhaga, contains the “Sadarang” colophon in the antara, but one wonders if the insertion is a later emendation calculated to confer vintage and cachet on the composition.

Master Krishnarao has documented three compositions including dhana dhana bhaga in his Raga Sangraha volumes. Were these handed down by his preceptor Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale?  If so, we can situate the raga to at least the beginning of the 20th century?  This is further strengthened by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar‘s published medley, Sangeet Ramcharitamanas of Tulsidas, where he has set a dohasab ke dekhata bedanha binati keenhi udar – to a tune in Gorakh Kalyan.

Nathu Khan

Nathu Khan

At the present time, this dulcet-toned raga is an active and popular member of the Hindustani repertory. It advertises an unambiguous swaroopa, but the doctors differ on the role and rope accorded pancham. A sensible construction sans pancham seems eminently reasonable but most performers admit of that swara, its proportion and implementation riding on the musician’s background and temperament.

Let us now examine the raga-lakshanas.

S, S R M, R M R S n’, n’ D’ S
This tonal sentence carries the soul of Gorakh Kalyan. The madhyam is powerful, a nyasa bahutva swara. Recall Narayani, with its strong pancham, and consider how this swap decisively alters the melodic compact. The second highlight here is the quaint avarohi nyasa on mandra komal nishad: those with travel experience in Gorakh Kalyan know this culmination on komal nishad to be its idée fixe.

Haider Khan (l) and Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale (r)

(L-R): Haider Khan and
Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale

This is a telling illustration of the power, meaning and significance of “swara”  – the English language has no equivalent term – “note” does not come within driving distance. In a well-developed raga, the mutual interactions between swaras and clusters of swaras evolve into a perceptible and stable gestalt. The overall form of the raga so developed in turn feeds back and influences the behavior and properties of the swaras themselves. That is to say, the two entities – swara and raga structure – are intertwined. The more evolved a raga, the stronger this coupling. Within the framework of raga, it is meaningless to talk about a swara or a shruti or a note in isolation (pace the litter left behind by intonation ‘theorists’). The situation brings to mind an image expressed by Professor John A. Wheeler in the context of General Relativity: “Spacetime tells matter how to move, matter tells spacetime how to curve.

M R M, M D, D n D M, M R n’ D’ S
Once again, the madhyam dominance is evident. The dhaivat may be elongated judiciously.

M D n D S”, S” n D n D S”
A representative uttaranga launch. Note the arohatmaka alpatva of komal nishad which helps to widen the distance from Bageshree.

D n D M, R M P M R S n’
M R M, R M P D n D, P M R
D n D, n D (P) M, M R S

These are only three of the several schemes if and when pancham is deployed. Some are subtle, grazing it along the D to M locus. Others seek a more deliberate and direct role for pancham. All this fuss notwithstanding, it remains a relatively minor player. There will be occasions aplenty to take its measure in the clipfest to follow.

We begin with the meditations of Pandit Ramashreya Jha “Ramrang.”

The next four cuts, all magnificently rendered by Lata Mangeshkar, make for the ‘light’ music round.

A chant from the Bhagavad Geeta.

Sant Dnyaneshwar’s (13th C) mogara phulala, music by Hridaynath Mangeshkar.


Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar

Ghalib‘s ghazal, phir mujhe deeda-e-tar yaad aaya, music by Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

From PALKI (1967), with music by Naushad, who apparently had Raga Narayani in his sights (if so, he ought to have been careful to not empower madhyam): dil ki kashti.

We step into the realm of classical proper. The composition attributed to “Sadarang,” dhana dhana bhaga, figures in several renditions. The reader is invited to take stock of P.

Rasiklal Andharia‘s development culminates with Ramrang‘s bandish, sajana bina bavari bhayi.

Basavraj Rajguru is liberal with his pancham.

N. Rajam on the violin.

Our familiar vilambit khayal morphs into a druta cheez in Bhimsen‘s hands, in what is otherwise an uninspired, ho-hum effort.

Those were the salad days when Banditji sang beautifully, with feeling and thrust (details of Banditji’s thrust are published in Protein Baby‘s memoirs “Timepass“). Alas, the Mewati stallion of yore is now in irreversible stall (all drag and no lift).

Banditji-bhai, in a decorous mood.

Party animal Banditji (Pic: Prashant Nakwe)

Party animal Banditji
(Photo: Prashant Nakwe)

Buddhadev Dasgupta, Raga Gorakh Kalyan.

Defending the Agra fort, Sharafat Hussain Khan.


Rasiklal Andharia

Rasiklal Andharia

Jyotsna Bhole (née Kelekar) from Goa got her early training from her sister, Girijabai Kelekar, and later from a battery of Agra dons such as Bashir Ahmed Khan, Vilayat Hussain Khan and Khadim Hussain Khan.

Ghulam Mustafa Khan of Rampur-Sahaswan.

Parveen Sultana‘s sam makes a soft landing on mandra nishad with a grace of dhaivat. Unlike the preceding musicians, she has not much use for P.

Nazakat Ali Khan and Salamat Ali Khan have no room for pancham either, as witness this scintillating live performance.

Their published HMV recording is well-known.

Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali Khan

Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali Khan

We bring the curtain down with a tarana by the brothers from Patiala, Dilbagh Singh and Gulbagh Singh. This is from a private performance in Jalandhar.


My thanks to –
Romesh Aeri and Ashok Ambardar, for their support.
Sir Vish Krishnan, for his counsel on the ‘light’ pieces.
Prof. V.N. Muthukumar and Sumitra Ranganathan, for discussions.
Taimur Khan, for allowing the use of Nathu Khan’s picture.
Anita Thakur, who keeps the engines running.