Bairagi Bhairav : Introduction
Bairagi Bhairav, or Bhairav, or Bhairon, is a raga in Hindustani classical music that was for centuries considered to be the most important raga. Its modern form with an important komal rishabh is, however, very different from that described in the old texts. Bhairav has its name from Bhairava, an incarnation of Shiva, and was historically associated with glory and awe, but became identified with peace and devotion. Raga Bhairav is sometimes linked to raga Bhairavi via Bhairavi’s association with the consort of Bhairav (as aspect of Shiva) of the same name; Hijaz Bhairav is an example of this. There are several allied ragas such as Ahir Bhairav, Bairagi, Gunkali, Hijaz Bhairav, Nat Bhairav, Ramkali, Jogiya and Kalingda.
This raga corresponds to Mayamalavagowla in Carnatic music, which is the first raga taught to beginners.
Bhairon appears in the Sikh tradition from northern India and is part of the Guru Granth Sahib. Every raga has a strict set of rules which govern the number of notes that can be used; which notes can be used; and their interplay that has to be adhered to for the composition of a tune.
In the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy Granth (book) there are a total of 31 raga compositions and this raga is the twenty-fourth raga to appear in the series. The composition in this raga appear on a total of 43 pages from page numbers 1125 to 1168.
Bairagi Bhairav was an important raga at the time of Guru Nanak and has continued to retain its significance and popularity. Bhairav (not to be confused with Bhairavi) appears in the Ragmala as husband/wife of Bhairavi and four other raginis. Today it is the head raga for one of the ten thatas. The “Raga Sagara”, a journal of circa 8th century, describes this raga as awe-inspiring and as expressing the “fulfilment of the desire to worship.” Mesakarna (1509) calls this morning melody of the autumn season one of awesome grandeur. Performed before sunrise, this raga was used by Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, and Guru Arjan for 99 hymns.
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