Film Songs Based on Classical Ragas (12) – A morning with Asavari/Jaunpuri

May 27, 2017

Guest article by Subodh Agrawal

(I had once hesitantly asked Subodh whether he would be writing on Asavari and Jaunpuri in his series on articles on film songs based on classical ragas. The reason for my hesitation was that these ragas might be too light for a connoisseur like him. Therefore, I was extremely happy to find his article on my favourite ragas without any extra nudging from me. The beautiful Ragamalika painting on Asavari Ragini, used as the thumbnail with the article, located by his daughter, is from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London collection, available on their website, which I have downloaded with their permission with grateful thanks. As credited by the V & A Museum, this is by an unknown artist from Hyderabad from 18th century.

Subodh decodes the similar ragas Asavari, Jaunpuri and Dev Gandhar with his characteristic clarity. About the painting, he pointed out a unique feature: In all the paintings on Asavari, snake figures very prominently for some unknown reason. As you enjoy this post, the experts are also called upon to throw light on the snake-Asavari connection.  Thanks Subodh for another excellent piece. – AK)

Asavari Ragini, courtesy @Victoria & Albert Museum, LondonIndian ragas have different times of the day assigned to them. One begins with Lalit at the crack of dawn, and goes on to the Bhairav family. Asavari and its clones Jaunpuri and Dev Gandhar belong to late morning. The original version of Asavari used all four komal swaras – much like Bhairavi. It then ceded popularity to the modern version of Asavari, which uses shudh ‘re’ but komal ‘ga’, ‘dha’ and ‘ni’. When Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande grouped north Indian ragas into ten thaats, he chose Asavari (with shudh ‘re’) as the key raga of the thaat named after it.

The original Asavari is now known as ‘Komal Rishabh Asavari’. The modern Asavari in turn ceded popularity to Jaunpuri, which differs from it only in using the seventh note ‘ni’ in ascending movement. Interestingly, with the shifting of people’s preference from shudh ‘re’ Asavari to Jaunpuri, komal ‘re’ Asavari has made a comeback of sorts. Most of the recordings labeled simply Asavari are in komal ‘re’ Asavari. Dev Gandhar also uses shudh ‘ga’ sparingly in addition to the Komal one. The three ragas sound very similar and some experts on music, including Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, do not consider Asavari and Jaunpuri to be different ragas. In this article I will not distinguish between the two. However, the songs of Dev Gandhar will be pointed out.

Asavari has the same scale as Darbari. It is the difference in movement that distinguishes the two ragas. One doesn’t need to be an expert in classical music to tell them apart. Laymen with an ear for music don’t have any difficulty in distinguishing them. In fact the one raga that gets confused with both Asavari and Darbari is Desi – known to aficionados of Hindi Film Music via Aaj gawat man mero jhoom ke of Baiju Bawra.

Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh was the capital city of a Sultanate that broke free of the Tughlaqs in late fourteenth century and maintained its independence for nearly a century before succumbing to the Lodhis. The rulers of Jaunpur were keen patrons of the arts, and the last one – Sultan Hussain Sharqi – was himself a distinguished musician. It is probable that the Jaunpuri flavor of Asavari was developed by him or under his patronage.

I have come across recordings on YouTube from NCERT that provide brief and accessible introductions to different ragas. Readers may like to visit these recordings for Asavari and Jaunpuri to understand the formal structure of the two ragas and get a feel for their similarities and differences.

1. Jhulna Jhulaao private song by K L Saigal (1932/1933)

This song is in Dev Gandhar, but presents the full flavor of Jaunpuri. The shudh ‘ga’ is heard in ‘…bo…’ of ‘…koyal bole rama’. I have seen it described as the first recording of Saigal. If it is indeed true then the great man had come to the recording scene fully formed – there isn’t a trace of rawness in this perfect rendering:

2. Shri Ram bhajo dukh mein sukh mein private song circa 1935 by K C Dey

I was introduced to this song thanks to AK’s post on K C Dey. Asavari/Jaunpuri excel in creating a mood of devotion:

3. Apne man mein preet basa le by Ashraf Khan from Baghban (1938), music Mushtaq Hussain

My thanks to AK for locating this old gem. I had not heard it before:

4. Ram prabhu adhar jagat ke by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi from Sant Tulsidas, music by Gyan Dutt

The instrumental prelude to this song intentionally or unintentionally strays into the Darbari-Adana territory. Panditji immediately establishes Asavari as soon as he starts the bhajan in his powerful voice:

5. Dil ko laga ke ham ne kuchch bhi na paya by Uma Devi from Anokhi Ada (1948), music by Naushad

One wonders how many beautiful songs have been lost to us because Uma Devi found success as the generously endowed Tuntun. I read on a website that this song inspired Madan Mohan to compose the next song in this list:

6. Meri yaad mein tum na aansoo bahana by Talat Mahmood from Madhosh (1954), music by Madan Mohan

I don’t find a striking resemblance between the tune of this song and the previous one. In fact, this one brings out the characteristic movements of Jaunpuri a lot more clearly – the raga is established with the instrumental prelude itself. Another Talat song Jayen to jayen kahan is also listed as being in this raga, but despite its greatness as a song in itself, it does not present the characteristic movement that well:

7. Jab dil ko satawe gam by Lata Mangeshkar and Saraswati Rane from Sargam (1950), music by C Ramachandra

Another one in Dev Gandhar, and like the previous one it does a better job of creating the mood of Jaunpuri than songs in Jaunpuri proper. Interestingly the word sargam in …chhed sakhi sargam is sung on the notes sa-re-ga-ma in that order, with shudh ‘ga’.

8. Rahiye ab aisi jagah by Suraiya from Miza Ghalib (1954), music by Ghulam Mohammad

Suraiya was the last of the great singer-actors. Both her qualities are very much on display in this beautiful song:

9. Dil chhed koi aisa nagma by Hemant Kumar from Inspector (1956), music by Hemant Kumar

This beautiful song is in two versions – male and female. I am including the male version in deference to the site Administrator’s known preference. It is purely incidental that Hemant also happens to be my favourite singer:

10. Jaan sake to jaan by Mohammad Rafi from Ustad (1959), music by O P Nayyar

This was the first song that was introduced to me as an example of Jaunpuri. It is quite faithful to the raga, and can be used by learners to get a feel for it.

I begin the classical pieces with a rendering in Komal Rishabh Asavari by DV Paluskar. The raga sounds very much like standard Asavari or Jaunpuri, although the use of komal ‘re’ lends it a Bhairav like gravity mixed with a Todi like pathos:

Paluskar again, this time in Jaunpuri, Raghukil reeti sada chali aayee:

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali presents Jaunpuri in his signature style:

A very spiritual and soulful tribute to Baiju Bawra from Pandit Jasraj in Komal Rishabh Asavari. I can’t place the main accompanying instrument. Surbahar? Some variant of veena? Modified guitar?

There are many more excellent recordings of Jaunpuri on YouTube and other music sites. Let me close this article with this one from the great Kishori Amonkar. The recording begins a little abruptly, but that annoyance is soon lost in the soulful mood created by the maestra:

{ 121 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dr Dhanwantari G.Pancholi May 27, 2017 at 5:43 am

आदरणीय एक केजी मैंने निम्न जानकारी प्राप्त की है शायद उपयोगी हो


Asavari is described as being a melancholic raga. The traditional picture of Asavari is of a female snake-charmer sitting atop a mountain. Scholars believe that Asavari evolved from a local melody, probably from a tribe worshipping the naga (snake) as its deity. Asavari is performed in the late morning. The raga employs all seven notes and Ga, Dha, and Ni (3rd, 6th, and 7th notes) are… ”

-डॉ. धन्वन्तरि जी. पंचोली

2 Dr Dhanwantari G.Pancholi May 27, 2017 at 5:45 am

क्षमा करें नाम लिखने में भूल हो गई है
शायद पोस्टिंग में एडिटिंग की फैसिलिटी नहीं है इस लिए सादर निवेदन

आदरणीय AK जी…

3 Ashok M Vaishnav May 27, 2017 at 7:36 am

Thanks Subodhji (and of course AKji) for so meticulously putting across one more raga.
Crass laymen like me may still fail to understand the basics of raga (or for that matter any thing technical in so far as music is concerned), but do immediately recall similarities of words of Apne man mein preet basa le with Kisi Ke Man Mein Preet Basa Le (Aaram, 1951, Anil Biswas)
which has quite an expressive use of piano.

I do not whether this composition is based on some raga or not.

4 AK May 27, 2017 at 8:48 am

Dr Pancholi,
Thanks a lot for throwing light on Asavari-snake connection.

Of course, all thanks are due to Subodh Agrawal. As for your last sentence, let me make a trite statement: every song is based on some raga, even a song like ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast mast” or ”Bidi jalaile”.

5 AK May 27, 2017 at 8:58 am

It seems KC Dey was very fond of Jaunpuri. I had shared another one with Subodh. KC Dey always touches the heart whatever he sings. Here is the song, it has not appeared on SoY so far:

Na ranj karo badnaseeb bharat abhi teri aabaroo hai baaki by KC Dey from Grihlakshmi (1934), music SP Rane

6 Dr Dhanwantari G.Pancholi May 27, 2017 at 10:39 am

Just a simple curiosity arised.
Can it be called music if anything vocal be synchronised with a musical instrument?
Rhythmatic patterns of sounds isn’t music.
From a novice to all the wise members of this platform. ‘have to learn.

7 Subodh Agrawal May 27, 2017 at 10:46 am

Thank you Dr Pancholi for the information on the Asavari-snake connection.

I am not sure I fully understand your question in comment no. 6, but my off the cuff response would be that music is a lot bigger than what any particular tradition would describe. Rap is accepted as music, and that would probably not fit your definition.

8 Subodh Agrawal May 27, 2017 at 10:47 am

Thank you Mr Vaishnav. I second AK’s comment that ultimately every song is in some raga or the other. It is, however, often a big challenge to identify the particular raga for a song.

9 Subodh Agrawal May 27, 2017 at 10:48 am

AK, thanks for your generous introduction and for the KC Dey song. I agree with everything you said about this song and its famous singer.

10 RSR May 27, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Jonpuri is a favourite raga in carnatic light music world. I would like to share some thamizh songs ( film/ non-film). 1) non-film MS.Subbulakshmi ( Eppo vaeuvaaro) 2) The same song as rendered by Madurai Mani Iyer 3) A film song from Madhurai Veeran starring MGR and Padhmini ( Nadakam ellaam kanden unthan aadum vizhiyile) really good song. 4) The first stanza in MS Subbulakshmi’s 4 stanza ragamalilika on Barathy by Kalki. ( dheyvath thamizh naattinile) ..
Quite a few songs in Jonpuri here including Jayen thu Jayen by Latha Mangeshkar. .
1)eppo varuvaaro ( M.S.Subbulakshmi)
2) eppo varuvaaro ( madhurai mani iyer)
3) First stanza of Dheyvath Thmizh Nattinile by MS ( Ragamalika) music by S.V.Venkataraman
4) Nithiraiyil vanthu ( lyrics by Suddhanandha Barathy) by N.C.Vasanthakokilam a singer as gifted as MS and slightly shriller but divine voice. Died young unfortunately ( it was a race between MS and NCV from 1940 to 1953 golden years) .
5) an exceptional film song with very nice lyrics. from Madurai Veeran ( MGR -Padhmini starrer).
6) Jayen tho Jayen Kahan by Lata ( Taxi driver)
7) Subodhji may advise if the famous Tamil Meera Song ‘Kaatrinile varum geetha’ may be classified as Misra Jonpuri. It is said to be based on an earlier Bengali song by Juthika Roy. Can our members give the link?
Thank you.

11 D P Rangan May 28, 2017 at 6:02 am


Your posts would outlast time itself as the source from which they emerge are like an eternal spring from musical haven. The exposition runs like a mountain brook, bubbling with joy and also highly instructive. I have adopted you as my ‘manaseega guru’, i.e., Ekalaivan adopting Dronachari . I am getting better acquainted with a few ragas of the Hindustani genre. The appended examples are exemplary and easily lend themselves to pin the ragas. You must write regularly, at least a post a month, to cover the ragas progessively. I conclude with the maxim pax domini sit tecum.

12 Subodh Agrawal May 28, 2017 at 6:58 am

RSR: Thank you for your comment and the wonderful links. I am listening to Nadagmellam as I type this.

As for ‘Kaatrinile varum geetha’ it sounds closer to the North Indian Bhairavi. The opening invocation recalls Saigal’s ‘Ae qatib-e taqdeer’.

13 Subodh Agrawal May 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

Dear Mr Rangan, everyone loves being praised and I am no exception, but your words bestow on me a thousand times more than I deserve. I am humbled, and resolve to be worthy of at least a fraction of these words in future.

14 RSR May 28, 2017 at 8:41 am

Dear Sri.Subodhji, Thank you. You may not have heard NC Vasanthakokilam earlier. Plaese do. I have tried my best to gather as many of her records as available and placed them in
NCV also has sung Eppo Varuvaro ( with slight change in words) ina film.–venuganam
You are sure to like her crystla clear voice.
I tend to associate Lata in Yasmin ‘Mujphe Iljam ‘ with Jonpuri. Wide off the mark? if so what is the raga of that CR -LATA gem?

15 Ashwin Bhandarkar May 28, 2017 at 9:01 am


Kudos for yet another well-written article! Here are two other examples of Asavari/Jaunpuri:

1. ‘Piya te kahaan gayo’ by Lata from ‘Toofan aur Diya’ (MD- Vasant Desai; Lyrics – Meerabai)

2. The segment from 5:37 to 7:24 of MS’s rendition of the Hanuman Chaalisa:

It struck me a few seconds ago that the reason for choosing Asavari/Jaunpuri for this segment might have been the incidence of ‘asa vara’ in it!

(A happy coincidence – I attended a performance of Pt.Ulhas Kashalkar earlier today and Jaunpuri was one of the main ragas he rendered. As always, he was brilliant!)

16 Ashwin Bhandarkar May 28, 2017 at 9:10 am

And here is an extremely popular rendition of Purandaradasa’s ‘Neenya ko ninna hangyaako ranga’ by Bhimsenji:

17 Ashwin Bhandarkar May 28, 2017 at 10:07 am

The segment ‘Chandrika dekh chaayi’ of the song ‘Kuhu kuhu bole’ from ‘Suvarnasundari’ is in Jaunpuri:

18 Subodh Agrawal May 28, 2017 at 11:24 am

RSR, ‘Mujh pe ilzam-e bewafai hai’ is a lovely song. Thanks for reminding me of it. The first line, particularly the upward movement on ‘…bewafaayii..’ does bring Jaunpuri to mind, but the song as a whole doesn’t sound like this raga to me. I am unable to identify the particular raga, if there is any. Music directors often mix ragas freely in their compositions.

19 Subodh Agrawal May 28, 2017 at 11:29 am

Ashwin, very pertinent observation about ‘asa vara’ in the Jaunpuri portion of MSS’s Hanuman Chalisa. In fact I heard this composition first in the voice of the new sensation Sooryagayathri. You introduced me to the original in your comment on the Mand-Shivranjani post.

20 Subodh Agrawal May 28, 2017 at 11:34 am

Ashwin, thanks for the Bhimsen Joshi composition. Panditji’s style suits this composition admirably.

‘Kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya’ remains one of the best ragamalikas from films.

21 Gaddeswarup May 28, 2017 at 11:49 am

One of my favourite songs ‘chale jana nahin nain milake’ from Badi Bahen seems to be in Asavari according to some sites.

22 Subodh Agrawal May 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Yes Mr Gaddeswarup., one source to which I refer often, also lists it as Asavari, though I confess the movement of the raga is not obvious in this song – not to me, at least.

23 RSR May 28, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Dear Sri.Subodhji, Thank you for the clarification about the Yasmin gem. Glad that I was atleast 10% right . Best Regards

24 ksbhatia May 29, 2017 at 10:28 am

Subodh Agarwal ji;

A very nice article studded with beautiful gems of songs . Each a fav. of mine .
I am still a learner of raga based songs ; still I am trying to catch up with some approx. approach , may hit the target as I try on and on .

Any chance for the following song getting approval.?

Gori tore nain kajar bin…..Asha, Rafi….Main Suhagan Hun…Lachhie

25 ksbhatia May 29, 2017 at 10:49 am

… continuation…..
what about the following triad song…

Man mohan man mein…..S D Batish, Rafi, Suman…Kaise Kahun..SDB

26 Peddadu May 30, 2017 at 8:26 am

KS.Bhatia ji @24 &25,
The two songs mentioned by you (from ‘Mai suhagan hu’ and ‘Kaise kahun’) are based on Des and Adana respectively.

27 N Venkataraman May 30, 2017 at 11:39 am

Namaskar. Your post had always been outstanding and wonderful to read and listening to the songs and the classical numbers therein provided pure pleasure. This post is no exception. Thanks Subodhji for yet another excellent post. Your erudite introduction of the Raags Asavari, Komal Rishab Asavari, Jaunpuri and Dev Gandhar was precise to the point and gives the interested listeners a crisp and clear overview of the said Raags. Thanks too for the information on and the clippings of NCERT.

Enjoyed listening to 10 HFSs presented by you. My pick of the lot is obviously the three great vintage numbers by K L Saigal, K C Dey and Ashraf Khan.
It seems, the brief 20 seconds Alaap by K L Saigal, before the song Jhulna Jhulaao, was in pure Asavari. What a mesmeric singing? No wonder this record’s sales crossed 5,00,000 units and Saigal was generously praised by Ustad Faiyaz Khan for his rendition. Kudos for appropriately selecting this song as your opening presentation. Most probably, when Saigal met R C Boral for the first time, he sang a Bhajan in Raag Asavari.

The duet Jab dil ko satawe gam, beautifully rendered by Lata Mangeshkar & Saraswati Rane from Sargam (1950) is another good presentation. CR’s employment of Sargam or sol-fa singing in this song, the use of Sitar and Violin and the increased tempo towards the end, adds to the luster of the song and listening pleasure. Dev Gandhar is also called Dvigandhar, may be due to the usage of two Gandhars.

Shri Ram bhajo dukh mein sukh mein is another fascinating presentation. It seems K C Dey had special liking for Jaunpuri, so does AKji. He has presented another beautiful Jaunpuri (#5) by K C Dey. Here I would like to humbly state that this song, Na ranj karo badnaseeb bharat abhi teri aabaroo hai baaki had appeared in SoY in 2014.

Apne man mein preet basa le by Ashraf Khan Both the song and the singer were new to me. Thanks to AKJi for the admirable find and thanks to you for posting this song. It appears Ashraf Khan later became a Sufi saint.

The song Ram prabhu adhar jagat ke by Bhimsen Joshi, in his matured voice, was also good. While presenting this song, you have mentioned the name of the music director as Gyant Dutt. No doubt Gyan Dutt gave music for the film Sant Tulsidas, but that film was released in 1939. Hence the film must have been shot earlier, when Bhimsen Joshi must have been around 16 – 17 years of age. This song must be from the film by the same name released in 1972. The MD for this film was Ram Kadam and the lyrics were written by B D Mishra.

Moving on to the classical numbers, at the outset I would like to congratulate you on your excellent selection to show case the Raags Komal Rishab Asavari and Jaunpuri.

Pandit D V Paluskar, in this short teen taal Bandish Barhaiya lao lao re, with his usual fineness brought the essential elements of Komal Rishab Asavari. As an amateur, I am curious to know that if Rishab, Gandhar, Dhaivat and Nishad swars are Komal, can Komal Rishab Asavari belong to Asavari That.

Pandit Jasraj’s Dhrupadish Alaap followed by the rendition set to Jhap Taal in the Raag Komal Rishab Asavari was indeed pleasantly a surprise package. The entire performance, with the accompaniments, was simple, serene and spiritual. A special thanks for presenting it. Initially I thought the accompanying string instrument to be Mohan Veena, a modified Guitar introduced by Pt Vishwamohan Bhatt. But after a search I found that it was indeed Veena, played by Narayan Mani. Was this Baiju Bawra’s composition?

Jaunpuri never fails to invoke its magic, and the 9+ minutes Raghukil reeti sada chali aayee, by Pt D V Paluskar is no exception.

Thanks for presenting another fantastic, almost 13 minutes, Vilambit Bandish Anganwa Mein Darshan in Ektaal followed by a 10 minutes Taraana in Teentaal by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in his unique style, ably supported by his son Munawar Ali. The rendition, with free flowing, bold, melodious taans and sargams, was superb.

Your final selection, the popular composition Baje Jhanan in Vilmbit laya set to Teen Taal(roughly 34 minutes) followed by the Teentaal Bandish (roughly 5 minutes), Chhum Chhananana Bichhuwa by Vidushi Kishori Amonkar, was as appropriate as your opening selection. It was another enchanting listening experience where she expresses the emotive content of the Raag. A breathtaking, sublime rendering. Simply Divine.

Let me add a short Jaunpuri rendition in Bengali by Late Jnanendra Prasad Goswami (1902-1945) of the Vishnupur Gharna. Later he had trained under Ustad Faiyaz Khan. This is an audio (mp3) clipping. Please click on the arrow at the bottom to listen to the song. I hope you would like it.

Another beautiful rendition by Ustad Fateh Ali Khan

The only shortfall in your post was the absence of an instrumental number.
Here is a 26 minute Asavari by Ustad Imrat Khan on Surbahar

Before I take leave let me express my regrets. I am yet to post my comments on your previous article on Maand and Shivaranjani. I hope to do it soon.

Thank you once again

28 Shalan Lal May 31, 2017 at 10:29 am

In his Kudos Mr Rangan has used all the magic of the writing of Pandit Subodhji and left us indeed poor of any words we may use to pay tribute to Mr Agarwal. It is “a la carte” in the manner of “बहारों ने मेरा चमन लूटकर खिज़ां को ये इल्ज़ाम क्यों दे दिया…” film Devar 1966.

The oeuvre of the “Asavari” and the illustrations are well explained the rag or ragini.

I would like to say something about his daughter’s apt choice of using the excellent miniature from the collection of the V & A Museum. This museum has a very special permanent section on the Indian Art and art crafts and the Nehru Gallery which was created from the monies raised from the Musical concerts given by Lata Mangeshkar at the Alexander Palace and other places.

From time to time the Indian Miniatures are exhibited and it is delightful experience to see them in reality.

I wonder the miniature picture shows that the lady is very easy with the snake does that mean she has charmed the snaked with the Asavari. The name is still mystery to me. Is it from Deshi or Sanskrit?

When in the nineties in London the Nehru Centre was created as the Cultural Wing of the Indian High Commission Mr Gopal Gandhi was appointed its first artistic director and he named various rooms in this centre. He named one room as Asavari and the other as Darabari. At the time I did not understand the connection now I knew thanks to the present post.

About the Ragmala miniatures that give delight away from the reality but creativity of the paintings.

There is a Ragamala section in the Granthasaheb as well. Perhaps Mr KS Bhatia could find the suitable Shloka from the Guruban that gives the impression of the “Asavari.i. Tagore was very much attracted to this portion.

The second largest collection of the verses in the Granthasaheb is that of the Marathi saint called Namdev who went to Punjab and wrote his verses in the Gurumukhi. He died in Haryana.

Shalan Lal

29 N Venkataraman June 1, 2017 at 9:54 am

“I wonder the miniature picture shows that the lady is very easy with the snake does that mean she has charmed the snaked with the Asavari. The name is still mystery to me. Is it from Deshi or Sanskrit?”

May be!
I understand the snake charmer’s profession belonged to a tribe called “Savaras”, a term very loosely used in ancient Indian literature to denote any aboriginal people living in the region from the south of the Himalayan fringes. Savara tribes perform ritual dances to drive away small pox, prevent snake bites etc. In another study on the ethnic remedies against snake bites and the documentation of the medicinal plants against snake bite, we find the mention of few ethnic groups residing in a particular area of Andhra Pradesh and one of the tribal groups mentioned in this study was Savara.

In Tibetan Buddhists literature, we find mention of “Parna Savari”, an important goddess of healing. As the god migrated from her Indian venue, where ritual dance was a cultural commonplace, to Tibet, yogic aspects of the goddess and her practice came to the fore. In Tibetan, which has no lexical equivalent of the tribal origin and designation “Savara” her name was rendered as Ritro Lomagyunma,meaning “leaf-clad mountain dweller” The Tibetan Buddhists rendered their healers in the guise of tribal women. The word “Savari” in her name, meaning tribal women, was believed to have a specific reference to the Savara tribes.

Although I have tried to form a serpentine correlation to the origin of the Raag Asavari with the Savari tribes, I am not fully convinced. Why the name Asavari and not simply Savari?

Thanks Shalanji, Your reference opened a new opportunity for spiritual and melodious listening. It appears that the Raag Asavari finds a mention in the Guru Granth Sahib and there are quite a few Sabadhs in Asavari. Wahe Guru Ji. Here I present a couple.

First by Professor Surinder Singh.

And another soothing presentation by Bhai Narinder Singh, Banaras wale.

30 Subodh Agrawal June 1, 2017 at 10:37 am

Thank you Mr Bhatia, Mr Peddadu, Mr Venkataraman, and Ms Shalan Lal. I’ve read your comments on my mobile, as there is some problem with my desktop. I will get back with proper responses once that is resolved.

31 AK June 1, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Shalan Lal
To add to what you said in #28, Mr Gopal Gandhi informs me that the main rooms in the Nehru Centre, London were named after Ragas on the suggestion of Pt Ravi Shankar, in order to – in Mr Gandhi’s inimitable language – “to prevent other less inspiring nomenclatures!” He does not remember the specific Ragas. (I know Mr Gandhi well, having worked with him very closely once.)

A small correction – his designation was Director, Nehru Centre, and not artistic director.

I am enjoying your additions. I am also impressed by your scholarship. Your Asavari-snake connection is more credible than what I had speculated with Subodh. My kite-flying was too outlandish to mention.

32 SSW June 1, 2017 at 2:52 pm

I think Asavari is Sanskrit and is probably a combination of “asu” meaning spirit and “svarga” or “suvar” meaning heaven. Not sure snakes have anything to do with it. They just tend to hang out with women, you know, like Eve, Cleopatra, Meera, Uloopi .

Subodh this is a nice article but Asavari and Jaunpuri somehow don’t float my boat. I think my layman’s ears don’t give me a peg to hang my hat on. I much prefer Adana and of course Darbari from this thaat. In fact I wonder why this is called the Asavari thaat any way as the aroha drops the gandhar and the nishad. Darbari has the full scale with of course the twist that the Gandhar is so flat that it is almost a Rishabh.

In western music this mode (the Asavari parent scale) is the natural minor scale (Aeolian in the modal form) and most composers rarely use it in its full form. I asked my teacher once why and he said it was perhaps because there was no harmonic content to differ from a major scale.
I haven’t fully understood that statement either I mean the idea of harmonic content, though a couple of things spring out. In Western music moods are changed by key changes and if you move quickly from a major to the allied natural minor your ear won’t notice the difference. The major scale becomes the natural minor if move the tonic to the 6th note of the major scale (C major becomes A minor) . You need to stay in a scale long enough for your years to savour the symmetry.
Also I think Westerners (classical form) dislike the distance of the flat 7th in a natural minor from the tonic,and raising it by a semitone to the normal 7th (shudh nishad) makes the resolution to the tonic (sa) more pleasing to their ears.
Or maybe I’ve had too much bourbon.
Jazz musicians use the natural minor often though, they feel our pain. 🙂

33 ksbhatia June 1, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Ms. Shalan Lal, Venkatraman ji , Akji;

Yes , Mr. AK is right . The designation of Mr. Gandhi was Director , Nehru Centre , London . Prior to this he was Director, ICCR , New Delhi . At that moment of time my brother in law , Mr. Ravinder pal Singh Dhir , was Asstt. Director , ICCR and held a very cordial relations with Mr. Gandhi, resulting into his getting posting to London as well. This was I think around 1992 to 1996[?].

Ms. Shalan Lal, Venkatraman ji ;

In Guru Granth Sahib , there are Sixty[60] Raags[ including raaginis] on which the Shabads, Sholoks, Verses, Hymns are all based . All the Gurus had great knowledge of these raags and they wrote and composed Shabads based on these raags .

In addition to Guru’s baani ,Guru Granth Sahib also carries the baani of babas and fakirs irrespective of their caste and status . Kabirji, Ravi Dasji, Dhanna Bhagatji , Trilochan ji , Sholak ji, Sheikh Farid ji , Pipaa ji , Ramanand Swamy ji….are a few to name….and they represented cross section of people [ Hindu, Muslim ] that came from different states , that were treated equally though some of them belonging to low caste as well.

Some of the historical Gurudwaras do beam direct live telecast of shabad / kirtan . ETC punjabi channel is the one that telecast the gurubani recital from Harmandir Sahib [ Golden Temple ] , Amritsar in the morning and evenings. Listening to them is a pure soulful experience. The Raagis goes thru years and years of rehhazs to attain perfect renditions.

34 Subodh Agrawal June 2, 2017 at 1:15 am

Dear Mr Bhatia. I second the comment of Sh. Peddadu on your query in #24. Thank you Sh. Peddadu.

Thanks for the information on ragas in Gurbaani. I would also like to add couple of clarifications. Asavari is not to be confused with Asa – a commonly used raga in Gurbaani – which is a variant of Mand. While searching for Asavari in Gurbaani one may come across ‘Asa di vaar’ which is a part of holy scriptures having little to do with the raga.

35 Subodh Agrawal June 2, 2017 at 1:22 am

Thank you Mr Venkataraman for your generous compliments and detailed comments. As always comments from you add tremendous value to my posts. Thanks in particular for the very perceptive comment on the link between Asavari and the snake. Of course ‘sone pe suhaga’ are the links provided by you. Thanks again.

36 Subodh Agrawal June 2, 2017 at 1:26 am

Thank you Ms Shalan Lal for your comments and observations. Mr Bhatia has thrown light on ragas in Guru Granth Sahib. I have seen a lot of ragamalika paintings but the link between the raga and the image usually escapes me – except for ragas like Megh in which clouds and rain are depicted, and Basant which show gardens in full bloom with generous use of yellow. Because of you and Mr Venkataraman I understand the symbolism of Asavari a lot better.

37 Subodh Agrawal June 2, 2017 at 1:30 am

Thanks SSW. Asavari wasn’t among my top favourites. I wrote this post mostly on AK’s prompting who loves this raga. However, it grew on me during research and writing, and the links in the comments have taken it further. Your detailed comments on the scale in Western music are beyond my grasp, but I do get the general drift. Thanks.

38 Gaddeswarup June 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

Shri Venkataraman #29.i do not know any thing about the topic. Following your suggestion, I searched and found this:
Check page 43 of

39 ksbhatia June 2, 2017 at 8:01 am

Subodh Agrawal ji ;

Yes , Asa di Vaar is completely different subject . Asa di vaar kirtan is recited in the early morning of the day in a very melodious and gentle pace . It is a compilation of 24 pauries or stanzas written by Guru Nanak Dev Ji . Guru Arjan Dev Ji , while compiling the Granth Sahib included few sloks of Guru Angad Dev ji [ second guru] . In its present form Asa Di Vaar contains the sloks of Guru Ram Das ji [ fourth guru] as well.

Venkatraman ji @29 have already posted nice shabads based on Asavari Raag , here is beautiful rendition of Asa di vaar by Bhai Nirmal Singh ji .

40 N Venkataraman June 2, 2017 at 9:17 am

Simply brilliant. You have got hold of the exact material needed. Your find gives more credibility to my serpentine correlation to the origin of the Raag Asavari with the Savari tribe, although AKji has already given his stamp of acceptance. Thanks a lot.
Although it appears that the matter is settled, yet the question lingers. Why the name Asavari and not simply Savari? I will be back with my explanation .

41 N Venkataraman June 2, 2017 at 10:00 am

Now I come up with my lengthy explanation. I understand that the literal meaning of the words Asi and Ari are snake and enemy respectively.

In the Draupadi-Harana Parvan (within the Aranyaka Parvan) of the Mahabharata, there is version of Ramayana by the name Ramopakhyana summarized in 704 verses and in 18 chapters. Here the Rishi Markandeya narrates the story of Rama’s exile to console and uplift the spirits of a dejected Yudhisthira, after the exile of the Pandavas and Draupadi to the forest.

When Mantara heard about King Dasaratha’s command she went to Kaikeyi and said, here I quote the verse from Ramopakhyana

Adya kaikeyi daurbhaagyam raajnaa te khyaapitam mahat;
Asi visah tvaam samkruddhah candah dasti durbhage ….roughly translated,

O Kaikeyi, today the king has declared your great misfortune. O unfortunate lady, an angry, cruel venomous snake (Asi) is biting you.

In another verse, Ravana gives metaphor for the one who has injured her sister (Surpanakha)

Asi visam ghorataram paadena sprsatiha kah;
Simham kesarinam kasca damstraasu sprsya tisthati …..roughly translated

Who kicks a horrible venomous snake (Asi) here? And who stands touching a maned lion on its teeth?

In the Puranas Shiva is refered to as Kamari and Tripurari. Kamari meaning enemy of desire, Kaam + Ari, referring to his turning of Cupid to ash with a look from his third eye of knowledge. Again the word Tripurari ( Tripura+Ari) means enemy of three cities. Tripura was constructed by the great architect Mayasura. They were great cities of prosperity, power and dominance over the world, but due to their impious nature, Maya’s cities were destroyed by Lord Shiva.

Hence we may say Asavari is Asi+Ari , meaning one who overpowers snakes.

42 Shalan Lal June 2, 2017 at 10:36 am

What a superfine discussion! I simply love the information raining from all sides and so wonderful!

I gingerly want to comment on Mr. SSW @32 on thefollowing opening statement:
“I think Asavari is Sanskrit and is probably a combination of “asu” meaning spirit and “svarga” or “suvar” meaning heaven. Not sure snakes have anything to do with it. They just tend to hang out with women, you know, like Eve, Cleopatra, Meera, Uloopi .”

If Asavari word is Saskrit then we have to understand that the “a” in Sanskrit is often used as the denial of the rest of the word. Then we have to understand “savari” as the original word. But my Sanskrit Dictionary has not “savari or asavari ” in it.

In Hindi “savari is the version for Savali

My understanding is all those women mentioned were deeply connected to the snake symbolically and in actuality as well!

But I feel very sad to find the implied meaning there that women and snakes go together!


43 Subodh Agrawal June 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

Amazing discussion indeed. I am so blessed to be part of the learned SoY family.

44 Gaddeswarup June 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Venkatramanji at #41 This corresponds exactly to what you said The discussion under the video

45 N Venkataraman June 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Thank you once again Gaddeswarupji for endorsing my comments with supporting texts. However I would like to mention that the associated Dilruba number was not very appealing.
Let me present Raag Asavari played on the Rudra Veena by Ustad Asad Ali Khan, a 23 minutes blissful Alap followed by a composition set to the beat of 12 matras.

46 AK June 2, 2017 at 2:08 pm

If you refer to Mahabharata, and Asavari to mean ‘one who overpowers snakes’, my speculation was not too wild. I linked it to ‘Aas’teek at Janmejaya’s Sarp-Yagya. The entire snake species facing annihilation had to seek Aasteek’s mercy. For some odd reasons, I still remember two verses from my childhood days:

गच्छ गच्छ बिले सर्प दूरं गच्छ बिलेशय।
जन्मेजयस्य यज्ञान्ते आस्तीकस्य वचं स्मर।।
आस्तीकस्य वचं श्रुत्वा यो सर्पो न निवर्तते।
शतधा भिद्यते मूर्ध्नि शींशवृक्ष फलं यथा।।
(Go away you snake living in holes. Remember Aasteek’s words at the end of Janmejaya’s yagya. Even after hearing Aasteek’s words if a snake does not go away, its head will break into 100 pieces like the fruit from a sheesham tree. )

47 SSW June 2, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Notwithstanding the lengthy explanation that Mr.Venkatraman has given, unless some genuine facts are produced I remain unconvinced that the raga has anything to do with snakes or snake charmers. Especially unlikely as a snake charming tribe would hardly speak Sanskrit(artificial), they would more likely to speak Prakrit(natural).

The denial “a” in sanskrit only comes when added on to an adjective. However it does not have to be a singular vowel and can be part of word, like say “anubhava” which means experience.

I don’t see what you have against snakes and women. You should praise them both. In our traditions the snake is a symbol of fertility and regeneration viz. the sloughing off of the skin to emerge anew. All that faff about snakes and women being dangerous comes from those Abrahamic religions . We should strive for loftier thought.
Into this serious debate let me interject some frivolity.
This is a Ragmala sung by Manna Dey for Dil Ki Rahen. It was never part of the film. The third part is in Jaunpuri (Bhor aayi) . It consists of these Ragas in this order
1) Lalit
2) I can’t make out this one sounds like something from the Bhairav family
3) Jaunpuri
4) Bhairavi.,%20Mast%20Mayoora%20Naache%20(Raag%20Lalit).mp3

48 Subodh Agrawal June 3, 2017 at 2:15 am

The second part in the ragamalika sung by Manna Dey for Dil ki Rahen could be Bibhas – the straight rise from sa to dha in the beginning suggests that.

49 ksbhatia June 3, 2017 at 6:46 am

Subodh Agrawal ji;

Trying for the right chords ….I think this song should hit the target….

Mujhe gale se laga lo bahut udas hun mein….Asha, Rafi…Nartakii

50 Shalan Lal June 3, 2017 at 8:59 am

The miniature has a snake in the left hand of the lady. There are other miniatures where there are many snakes and a lady as well.

The one with this post is from the House of Hyderabad and is painted by a Muslim artist.

This picture also mentions that the girl is from the “Bhil” community. The “Bhil” tribal community according to my school studies mentioned that they live in the range of “Saatpuda” hills or mountains. But they are rarely associated to the snakes. If I am not wrong in the Ramayan the tribal woman who brings the gift of Berries to Ram was a Bhil woman. Bhil women come to towns with their picked up forest fruits and vegetables.

According to animal studies the snakes cannot hear as they have no ears but they sense the sound from the vibrations of the earth and also see moving figures.

The Indian Pungi associated with the snake is a myth. That takes me to the film “Nagin 1954” I wonder if there are any songs in this film based on “Asavari”?


51 SSW June 3, 2017 at 10:45 am

You are possibly very Subodh, thanks to you I am listening to a beautiful rendition in Vibhas by Kishori Amonkar, the audio isn’t very good but she is wonderful.

52 Subodh Agrawal June 3, 2017 at 12:14 pm

You got it, Mr Bhatia.

53 AK June 3, 2017 at 2:27 pm

KS Bhatiaji, Subodh
A closer Jaunpuri should be this song from a recent film.
Pal pal hai bhari ye bipada hai ayi from Swadesh (2004), lyrics Javed Akhtar, music AR Rahman

54 SSW June 3, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Sorry @51 that should read “you are possibly very right Subodh”..

55 SSW June 3, 2017 at 2:40 pm

AK I don’t think that song is completely in Jaunpuri, there are traces yes especially the “Pal pal hai bhari” part but here are too many other notes elsewhere , there is a Khamaj like tinge , there is the Carnatic Kapi in there and it ends pretty much in Bilawal.

56 RSR June 3, 2017 at 3:07 pm

As I went through all the learned posts, who are so very familiar with nuances of many Hindusthani classical ragas, I felt someone will help with my long, long search for info on the raga of ‘ Pyare Dharsana’ by MS .It is not a film song. It is a 78 rpm record by HMV issued sometime in 1947. or slightly earlier. The composer is very likely to be S.V.Venkataram or as the reverse side of the record has ‘Hari Thum Haro’ by MS in Dharbari Kanada cmusic set by a multi-faceted genius mystc Remoji ( Piano Vaidhyanathan ,a research scientist in Physics) , Pyare Dharsana also could have been set to music by him.
It cannot be a mixture of ragas. There is definite unity . Can someone help? Neither S.V.Venkataraman nor Piano Vaidhyanathan
were dabblers in classical music. I loved AKji ‘Every song has a raga behind it’. It is always a challenge to identify the raga of songs

For a note on Piano Vaidhyanathan ( by Gowri Ramnarayan, Kalki’s grand daughter )

Erudite members, Pardon me. This comment is not about jonpuri/Asaveri

57 AK June 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Thanks a lot for the correction. I concluded on the basis of the mukhada of the song.

58 ksbhatia June 3, 2017 at 5:47 pm

AK ji; @53

Thanks AK ji for reminding this beautiful song from Swadesh. I liked the song and the movie as well.

Thanks Subodh ji for the thums up @52.

59 SSW June 3, 2017 at 10:27 pm

RSR @56, that sounds a lot like Chandrakauns to me but there are a couple of areas that give me pause.

60 Subodh Agrawal June 4, 2017 at 12:51 am

Agree completely with SSW on the Swades song.

‘Pyaare dharsana’ sounds like a mix of ragas. If I didn’t listen to the words I would have taken it to be a Rabindra Sangeet number.

61 RSR June 4, 2017 at 6:23 am

Sri.SSW, (@59)Thank you Sir. . Does it have any resemblance to the following rendering by some one else?
The upload specifically mentions the raga as Chandrakauns . Is it acceptable?

62 SSW June 4, 2017 at 8:06 pm

RSR, the second one is completely Chandrakauns , the first by MS is not so, though there are tinges, after listening carefully there are too many changes to pin it down as a single raga. And there is no reason why it should not have unity even if the notes change.

63 RSR June 5, 2017 at 5:56 am

SSW @61,,,Respected Sir, May I then take the raga of that Meera bajan as a close variant of Chandrakauns? There is clip by Lata said to be in Chandrakauns. And a reader’s comment .Is he right?

(Song – Tarana in Raga Chandrakauns part of song Mere Watan Se Achcha
Artist – Lata Mangeshkar
Composer – Dhaniram )
a reader’s comment-> “K. Riaz5 years ago
See,by changing just one note(N) from komal to shudh,Malkauns becomes Chandrakauns.”
another specimen
Raga Chandrakauns
I am just trying to get a final idea about the song.
as it is my most favourite song by MS. . Pure ‘thaalam’ as they say in carnatic.
Somehow, I am unable to think of this song as anything near HINDOLAM ( of carnatic) ) Malkauns

Thank you very much for your valuable time

64 Subodh Agrawal June 5, 2017 at 6:54 am

RSR, the two links posted in #63 are clearly Chandrakauns. I have listened again to ‘Pyare Darsana’ in #56. The raga that is heard most often is Bhairav, or one of its variants. But there are others too.

65 Subodh Agrawal June 5, 2017 at 7:05 am

‘Pyare darsana’ in #56 reminds me a lot of this Rabindra Sangeet number from his dance drama ‘Shyama’:

66 RSR June 5, 2017 at 7:26 am

This song is from Thamizh Meera ( 1945) of MS. ‘Characharam’. the same tune as Pyare Dhrasana . ( In the Hindi version, the scene had ‘Maain hari charan ki dasi) of a different raga.
My method may be non-professional but I identify and learn about the ragas by the tunes more than by the notes. Though the sites like Chandrakantha are world-famous, I am unable to agree that many songs listed as Darbari Kanada could be correct. Nor as Keerrwani. Unmistakable keerwani is Rafi’s Yadh na jaye . similarly Rafi;s ‘Bagwan ‘ is unmistakable Darbari. but MannaDey Thu pyar kas sagar ‘ cannot be Darbari. More a variant of Bairavi of Hindusthani music. Nor ‘Dil Apna;. Perhaps, they go by the notes. So the search continues. without disrespect to anyone.

67 RSR June 5, 2017 at 7:28 am

kindly see this along with 66

68 N Venkataraman June 5, 2017 at 9:33 am

Thanks for the information on ragas in Gurbaani (@33) and Asa di Vaar (@39). I listened to the link on Asa di Vaar posted by you for 20 minutes. Actually the rendition by Bhai Nirmal Singh Ji is long, almost two hours. I would definitely listen to it later.

Congratulation for hitting the right chord (@49). Earlier you came very close when you posted a song in Adana. Raag Adana also belongs to the Asavari That. There is a joy in getting it right when trying to identify a Raga. It is just like getting the right spot, when there is an itch in your back. Often you almost reach there, yet the spot eludes you.

69 N Venkataraman June 5, 2017 at 9:37 am

Mr. RSR,
Thanks for presenting the song Nithiraiyil vanthu by Ms Vasanthakokilam. Eppo varuvaro and its variants are eternal favourite of mine, so is the song Sathva guna bodhan by M K Thyagaraja Bhagavtar from the film Ashok Kumar (1941). Sathva guna bodhan” tune is the same as “Eppo varuvaro” tune.

Another song from the film Naan Petra Selvam is very much within the framework of Jaunpuri.

70 N Venkataraman June 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

A few HFS based on the said Raagas have been added in the comments section. I think the best representative songs have been presented by Subodhji and among the other available songs in the net, some of the compositions may be good, but most of them do not give the true flavour of the said Raag(s). The song from Grihalakshmi posted by Akji is a good presentation. Ashwin presented some good songs from different genres.

It is seems Raag Jaunpuri is a favourite raag for compositions in Raagmaala. We have one from Mr.RSR,and two from Ashwin and one more from SSW. And Akji comes up with this song, Pal pal hai bhaari woh bipta hai aayi mohe bachaane ab aao raghuraayi. This song may also be considered as a Ragmala sort.

I tried to wriggle away from the snakes, yet I could not avoid putting my hands again into the snake-hole. Here is another interesting observation. In the song, Kuhu kuhu bole, the interlude (3:11 to 3:20), before the piece Chandrika dekh chaayi, played on the flute resembles snake charmer’s tune. Is it sheer coincidence?

71 N Venkataraman June 5, 2017 at 9:52 am

AKji @46
Your speculation (reference to Aasteek) was not really very far-fetched. Without going into the details, I would like to simply state that Aasteek was born out of the wedlock between Hrishi Jaratkaaru and Vaasuki Nag’s sister. There is definite connection between the words Asa and Asi with snake.
The exclusiveness of SoY is that it provides a platform for exchange of thoughts on related topics.

72 ksbhatia June 5, 2017 at 11:08 am

N Venkatraman ji ;

Excellent contributions going on . The subject truly taking flights and as you stated …it is really a joy to explore more. The songs some times come very close to the main raag but the finer points makes / grouped them in assembled categories . Here are a few submitted for examination….

Madhukar shyam hamare chor…..K L Saigal….Bhagat Surdas

Mata Sarawati Sharda Vidyadani……Lata, Yesudas….Aalap

73 Subodh Agrawal June 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Mr Bhatia, both these songs are in Bhairavi.

74 RSR June 5, 2017 at 3:09 pm

@69, Sri.Venkataramji, thank you for the comments on jonpuri tamil songs. I think, MKT song ( composed by Papanasam Sivan) is modelled on Gopalakrushna Barathy keerthanai ‘Eppo Varuvaro’. Mani Iyer rendition is the ultimate. I thought of including Naan petra selvam but felt that though it was jonpuri, it was too loud. In the same category, we may add a song ( i dont remember the name of the film) ‘it runs something like ‘thozhilaali uzhappaale thondriya sialye , pala naalaay uzhatthitta palanai adainthene’ male voice about a sculpture.

75 AK June 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm

#71. Just to add a trivia which you might be knowing – Aasteek’s mother’s name was also Jaratkaru.

76 N Venkataraman June 5, 2017 at 5:33 pm

SSW @47
“Notwithstanding the lengthy explanation that Mr.Venkatraman has given, unless some genuine facts are produced I remain unconvinced that the raga has anything to do with snakes or snake charmers. Especially unlikely as a snake charming tribe would hardly speak Sanskrit(artificial), they would more likely to speak Prakrit(natural).”

The narrative in page 43 of the link provided by Gaddeswaroopji, clearly states, I quote,
“The first Ragmala paintings were introduced in between 1450 and 1550 and continued for the next 300 years. The Asavari Ragini is linked to a jungle tribe near Chawand, Mewar, known for their snake-charming practices. (Ebeling 116). The snake charming references come from a cult that still exists today and worships the snake god with offerings of rice, milk and turmeric powder. These charmers are called Savaras and live in this jungle. The woman in the Asavari Ragini symbolizes the awe and fascination for snake. (Masselos 300).”

To support their reasoning the authors have cited the works of Klaus Ebeling, Ragamala Painting. Switzerland: Ravi Kumar, 1973 and Jim Masselos, Jackie Menzies, Patapaditya Pal. Dancing to the Flute. Music and Dance in Indian Art. Sydney, Aus.: The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997. The accompanying plate on Asavari Ragini shows a lady holding a snake in her hand and a few snakes around her. The painting used as a thumbnail with the article too depicts a lady with a snake in her hand.

Besides, the works of Herbert J Stooke and Karl Khandalavala, The Laud Ragmala Miniatures, a study in Indian Painting and Music (1953), is a study of 18 Ragmala miniature plates and the seventh plate is on Asavari. And here too the authors suggest that Asavari was derived from the tune played on a type of flute bulging at the centre called the Vin (Been). In another plate (1756) we find a woman playing the Been and there are lot of snakes in front of her. The works of Sumahendra, Ragamala Paintings of Raiasthan, Jainpur, Rooprang, 1987 also reiterates the point. There are more plates which depicts a woman charming the snakes with her Been-playing.

You are absolutely right in saying that the snake charming tribe would hardly speak Sanskrit (artificial). Yes they would speak Prakrit (natural) / or their own tribal tongue. But nowhere it is said that the name of the Raagni was coined by the tribe themselves, only the tune originated from them, adopted into Raaga system developed much later.
In spite of of another lengthy rejoinder, I respect your right to disagree with my explanation.

77 N Venkataraman June 5, 2017 at 6:25 pm

In the Carnatic system, the corresponding Melakarata of the Asvari That is Natabhairavi, where Gaandhar, Dhaivat and Nishad are Komal. If the Suddha Madhyam is replaced by the Teevra Madhyam then the Raag becomes Shanmukhapriya. There is a Raag called AsavEri in the Carnatic Sangeet, whose scale is almost similar to Komal Rishab Asavari, but the movement, with vakra sanchars and andolans, are completely different and bears no resemblance.

But there is a Raag called Nagagandhari (once again the snake connection), which belongs to the Natabhairavi Melakarta(Asavari That). This Raag resembles Jaunpuri to an extent. Here I present two compositions by Mutthuswamy Dikshitar in this Raaga for your opinion.

NaagagaandhaarI Raaganute by Dhanya Subramanian

Sarasijanabha Sodari, by Mutthuswamy Dikshitar rendered by Chitra.

I would conclude here before you come up with a clipping like Obama- Romney debate on Indian classical music.

78 SSW June 5, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Mr. Venkatraman, yes I read the quote from the paper (it seems to be a precis of a bunch of things rather than any original research) and I don’t disagree that you came to that conclusion from the similar sources, but I don’t buy the argument that the natural minor scale came from any snake charmers “been” playing. That scale has been known for centuries in various cultures. But as I have no counter argument to offer I shall not beat up on this topic.

79 Subodh Agrawal June 6, 2017 at 3:22 am

Mr Venkataraman, Nagagandhari does have a resemblance to Jaunpuri, particularly in the ascending movement. Thanks for the clips.

SSW, please don’t withdraw just when the debate is hotting up!

80 Gaddeswarup June 6, 2017 at 4:23 am

SSW at #78: As somebody who cannot bat or bowl or field ( very little knowledge of Hindi, music or films), I still try to follow these discussions a little bit to get some idea of some of the topics. It seems to me that this area has been continuously reworked, reformulated with new classifications( with the usual tendency for taxonomy and numbers) and is difficult to be definite about any thing except for deep scholars. I tried to follow this topic a bit. Apparently it started in Gujarat, more prononounced in Rajasthan, spread to other areas but not to South outside Deccan (Ravi Varma may be an exception). It seems to have gone on for three centuries and declined by 19th century. Kauffman in a 1965 paper says:
“About the time of Islamic invasions, when the Sanskrit drama has already began to disappear from the Indian stage and was only kept alive in various fragmentary forms in the numerous village plays, a new concept of rasa arose. The visualisation of the ragas. Ragas, as many of their names show, became’personified’, frequently deified, and were represented not only in the form of short poems but eventually appeared as paintings. It was said that no theoretical or technical rules could achieve the effect of a raga becoming avatirpa (“descended” “incarnate”), when the deity was descending into the melody. Both performers and listeners reported to have unique, deep experiences at such occasions. Before a perfect performer could appear on the stage he was expected to know the image of the deity of the raga in every detail.”
Anyway, there seem to be regional variations and in some asavari paintings girls were fair and in some it was Krishna. So possibly, the associations of Asavari with a particular tribe may be a regional variation from a dominant area of these paintings. Apparently painters sometimes did not know music and some were Muslims. But we live by some myths in many aspects of our lives and I am not sure whether this particular myth helps in any way to appreciate the raga except as a way to remember it.
All this is probably familiar to you. Here is a link to the article if you have not seen it. For me it was a comprehensive introduction to the topic.

81 N Venkataraman June 6, 2017 at 6:42 am

I do agree it is difficult to be definite about anything. I would let the matter rest here and agreement or disagreement does not hinder us in any way in the enjoyment/ appreciation of the Raag. Tomorrow SoY will be entering into its 8th year and Akji will be coming up with a special topic for the occasion and let us all get ready for the celebrations. Thanks a lot for your open-minded response.
My thanks also to Subodhji, Shalanji,Gaddeswarupji, Bhatiaji and Akji.

82 Shalan Lal June 6, 2017 at 11:20 am

It is sad if the above wrangling will end. It is coming out with more information and various logical points as well.

But they can pick up fight in the next post. After all we have nothing to lose. It’s just words, words and more words!


83 RSR June 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

May I share this nice article by (Sarod) Ustad Amjad Ali Khan ?

Sri.VENKATARAMAN has made a nice point about Natabairavi and Sahanmugapriya. Just as we South Indians are missing great treasures of the Hindusthani music system, the North also is missing many gems from South. Add to that much ignorance about the raga systems of each. After all, there should have been a unified Indian Music system before 1000 years.
Now to a glorious song in Natabairavi by Radha&Jayalakshmi
and a hugely popular Shanmugapriya by N.C.VASANTHAKOKILAM

Let there be greater interaction between the two systems. and inclusion of non-hindi short pieces as well.

My humble opinion is that we should not try to understand any raga by the origina scale. It is just grammar and in no way makes us wiser. Whatever be the That, there is absolkutely no trace of jonpuri in either Shanmugapriya or Natabairavi.

Kindly do not miss the article by Ajmad Ali Khan
Best Regards to ALL

84 SSW June 6, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Mr.Gaddeswarup (bit odd adding a honorific to your net moniker :-))
Thank you for the pdf, I had not read it before, though I did peruse through Kaufman’s Ragas of Northern India a long time ago. Music as all else , changes with time and in some ways even Bhatkande’s classification might fall by the wayside as people stretch existing ragas or create new ones. The classification isn’t as rigorous as the Carnatic division(my opinion) that works around changing notes in the lower and upper tetrachords while keeping the tonic(Sa) and the fifth (Pa) fixed.
But I do agree with your statement that we need our myths, life would be a lot less romantic were they not there. So let us assume for the nonce and much to the chagrin of Subodh (who was gleefully waiting for a punch up) that in some part of India the raga Asavari came from a snake charmers “been” (I find this a trifle dis-heartening I’d rather that it was a scale discovered by a comely young woman who was named Asavari and some malignant patriarch stole her discovery and gave it to a snake charmer who lost no time in announcing to the world that he had found it).

85 Gaddeswarup June 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Mention of Ali Akbar Khan above reminded me of my late friend Kalyan Mukherjea who once wrote about him. Our conversations mainly pertained to mathematics, but he was also a sarod player. Here is one by him
of course, I know very little classical music but it sounded fine to me.
Anandaswarup Gadde

86 Shalan Lal June 8, 2017 at 10:11 am

Gaddeswarup @ 80 and others to Gaddeswarup @80

SWW makes a statement in his comment @84 that “But I do agree with your statement that we need our myths, life would be a lot less romantic were they not there. ”

I feel disappointed though agreed that myths are needed for us to indulge.

But our higher aim should be to dispel the myths and clear the jungle. There are so many myths Indians believe and refuse to accept the modernism. Hundreds ogf gods, hundreds of beliefs and hundreds of practices of religious rites.

It seems that the readers of this post has ignored my comment that “snakes do not respond to the music as it believed and other that the snakes who have bitten the person that could be re-sucked by the same snake as it was shown in the film “Nagin”.

However snake poisons are used for medicinal work that I can understand because it has come through the laboratical practice.

Shalan Lal

87 RSR June 8, 2017 at 3:19 pm

@86-> Most myths may have great truth as well. Human civilization is atleast 7000 years old. Many historical events get slightly exaggerated over many centuries but the basics are not just creations of mere imagination. Homer’s creations were till very recently considered to be just a myth but archeological excavations have brought to light almost exactly as Homer described. Nehruji mentions that Homer lived in 1000 BC and was blind. ! Similarly, excavations in Palestine have recreated the Life of Jesus. and how lovely some if not all these .myths’ are! For instance ‘The Adoration of Magi’. If we read the Bible and Bagavatham, there are so many similarities. King Herod takes the place of Kamsan. The river Yamuna gives way to Vasudev to take the baby Krishna safely to the other shore. So does the sea in the Bible. Ramayana and Mahabaratha war may not be mere myths. Even as early as 200 BC , Tamil sangam anthology Aha Nanooru mentions about Rama asking the birds in the surrounding trees in Dhanushkodi ( Rameswaram) to keep quiet and not disturb the discussion about the strategy. Silappathikaram mentions about Rama suffering many things just to honour the boon given by his father to Kaikeyi. The three ancient kings Pandya, Chola and Chera are clearly mentioned as belonging to kings from Surasena, Mathsya janapadham (Chandra vamsam) , Chola of Sibi fame from present day pakisthan-afgan border ( a fertile valley) (Surya Vamsam.Ragu Vamsam) and Chera as agni kulam and they are said to have participated in Mahabaratha war. ( could be placed around 1000 BC. ) Most of the rituals associated with the Iraq territories ( Sumeria, Chaldea(chola) and Assysia ( Chera) are exactly as practiced even today in many Tamilnad temples.( Goddess of Mountai( Parvathi?),the moon god ( Chandrasekaran?) Even Islam has retained the Moon! Of course there are bound to be much exaggeration and absurd additions but Puranas cannot be just brushed aside. ( Pargiter has tried to understand Ancient Indian History in the light of Vishnupurana.) Will Durant’s classic series ‘Story of our Civilazation’ deals with Our Oriental Heritage) Dwijendarlal Roy was supposed to be a ‘secular’ poet and his poem on Ganges is absolutely grand Our Venkataramji helped me to understand the lyrics . No orthodox theist could find a word there against ancient beliefs held dear by crores and crores of simple people .

Long Live the Myths . They are the essence of our higher self. . Anything that releases our ‘ego’ and libido and takes us into ‘super-ego’ is most welcome.

88 Gaddeswarup June 9, 2017 at 2:48 am

Shalanlal Lal at 86. I guess that the conversation is going on at several levels. I was talking of myths more in the sense of Harari in his book Sapiens ( I could not complete the book because there is a lot of fluffy stuff but he makes some good points). I have been agnostic since the age of 11 and really do not know Hindu myths deeply. I think we have coevolved with snakes and in general there is deep fear as well as recognition systems for snakes built into us. ButHindu mythology seems quite different from western in its treatment of snakes.

89 Subodh Agrawal June 9, 2017 at 3:22 am

Mr Gaddeswarup, interesting that you mentioned Yuval Noah Harari. I have read both his books – Sapiens and Homo Deus and found both – the first in particular – fascinating. According to him, and I agree with him here, our ability to create and believe in imagined entities like God, nation, corporations is what sets us apart from other animals and gives it so much power. Of course, like everything else, it has its downside as well. Myths are only an expression of this ability. This YouTube video succinctly presents his main argument:

90 SSW June 9, 2017 at 3:54 am

I think most people know that snakes do not hear as we do and hence do not hear music , though they have a fully developed inner ear attached to their jawbone.
I do think myths are important , it gives us a sense of what we are and where we came from and why we differ from others around us and why we think the way we do. I don’t have much use for the divinity of any religion (all religions are myths) but I like to look at them in an anthropological sense. I did like watching and reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” and still do.

I think we can live with myths, there is a lot to learn from them, what we should guard against is unquestioning obedience to anything.

91 Shalan Lal June 9, 2017 at 10:20 am

SSW @90

“what we should guard against is unquestioning obedience to anything.”

I like this part of your comment.


92 Subodh Agrawal June 10, 2017 at 3:35 pm

SSW @47: The second part of ragamalika could also be Bhatiyar. Listen to this piece by Ustad Rashid Khan:

93 RSR June 10, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Song of the Day: eppO varuvaarO from vENugaanam.

– Saravanan writes:

eppO varuvaarO..’ from vENugaanam. Sung by N.C.Vasantakokilam.
Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s original lines suitably altered by Kambadasan, and set to music by Govindarajulu Naidu.

94 RSR June 10, 2017 at 5:58 pm
95 Shalan Lal June 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Most of the comments about the usefulness of the “Myths” for the humanity is good. But the awareness of myth (unreality) about the myths should be there as well. Blind following under the name of religious tenets create tension when we are now in the 21st century. We must have more belief in Galileo, Copernicus and others than the creation myths that various religions have created.

Technology and space science have go so far in the heavens above us that just for cultural caressing we cannot go backward. Especially what is happening in present India is very vile. Politicians are entering into the fields of which they are ignorant. Recently one Indian politician made a speech about Chicken eggs eating give heart attack and other diseases. Shame on him. Why did he make such a stupid gaff?

He should look after how he could help the people to their basic needs like “Roti, Kapada, Makan” etc.


96 Ashwin Bhandarkar June 11, 2017 at 6:00 pm

A few Naag/Naagin ke Nagme are in order here:

1. ‘Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag’ from Anarkali – the 2nd antara has the line ‘das rahe the gham ke naag’.

2. The god-awful ‘Main teri dushman, tu dushman mera, main naagin tu sapera’

3. The even more god-awful ‘Ungli mein angoothi, angoothi mein nagina’

97 Ashwin Bhandarkar June 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm

The Yaman Kalyan-based ‘Maage ubha mangesha’ from the Marathi film ‘Mahananda’ (it was remade in Hindi as well) has the line ‘sarpamaala rule uri’:

98 RSR June 12, 2017 at 6:33 am

@95-> There are lunatics in every creed who debase their own original noble ideas of the ideology. We need not take them as representative. There can be no greater intellectual than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who knew how to blend the great reverence and pride in the past of our glorious nation and the passion for progressive pursuit of science and technology for wiping out the poverty and misery of common people. Great scientists of our land like Dr.C.V.Raman, our own inimitable Dr.Abdul Kalam, are a few more role-models for combining deep spiritual values with great achievements in Science and Technology. .. The dedicated band of scientists in our R&D labs and departments who are almost every month giving proof of their mettle in Technology are mostly deeply-spiritual people who cherish the ‘myths’ of our land.
The Guptha Age and later the Raja Bhoja age are remarkable for numerous treatise in all branches of Science. ‘Myths’ are necessary for Nation-building. and there is a crying need for such Nation-building activity today, without fanning enmity between the people of our land despite apparent difference in language, customs, and way of life. I use the word ‘apparently’ because , anthropological studies reveal that most ‘orthodox’ people are following the ‘tribal’ rites of their ancient forefathers. Prof.Gilbert Slater in his book of 1940’s ‘ Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian’ cultural roots has indicated many such practices. Even the most orthodox brahmin families have their own ‘kula – deivam’ most often totally unrelated to any brahminical orthodoxy. !. Let us ignore the fringe elements and take the best things from the past, present and lead the world in future. For, our country is unique! and the spiritual leader without armed conquest of the entire South Asia in the form of Buddhism. ( Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, Indo China , parts of Indonesia, Korea, Japan and China of olden days. The important thing to note is that this cultural leadership was entirely without any armed invasion! …..If Subodhji had limited the title to just Jonpuri, the controversial deviations might have been unnecessary. Nehru’s Glimpses and Discovery of India are the base for all the ideas expressed by me here.

99 Shalan Lal June 12, 2017 at 10:06 am

RSR @ 98
Many critics of Jawaharlal Nehru think that both the books quoted by you had many mistakes and also mistake in the thought process of Nehru.

His daughter Indira Priyadarshini gave an interview to the BBC TV often was quoted by whenever Nehru mentioned. She said, “My father was a dreamer and not practical man>” This was summed up by her of his career in politics.


100 Shalan Lal June 12, 2017 at 10:19 am

Ashwin B @ 96
Yes the Nagan and Phagan should be right order. But I think there should be a separate post on Nagan songs and Nagan culture. I heard that in Maharashtra there is a village or town where on the Nagapanchamiday Nagas roam freely and do not bite the human beings

Nagas indeed have gone far in the blood of Indian culture.

The Anarkal song you quoted is very superfine imagery of Shakespearean level.

The tune is sweet as wine.


101 Ashwin Bhandarkar June 12, 2017 at 1:40 pm


The Anarkali song is in Raga Bageshri. Two other songs tuned by CR in the same raga are

1. Mohabbat jo nahin samjhe from Parchhayi

2. Na bole na bole from Azad

102 RSR June 12, 2017 at 3:11 pm

@99-> Such critics are very few . Nehruji’s books were praised by great people like Einstein. and the critics of his thought process, should examine themselves. People would do well to read John Gunther’s introduction to Nehru’s Autobiography. ‘Towards Freedom’. Indira Gandhi simply said, ” My father was a statesman. I am a political woman.” Indira Gandhi was groomed by Nehruji and she dared to act where Nehru dithered . Excuse me. I am quitting. There is no meeting ground.

103 Ashwin Bhandarkar June 12, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Sorry, the opening words of the first song cited above are ‘Mohabbat hi na jo samjhe’.

104 SSW June 12, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Subodh @92, yes it does sound close to Rashid Khan’s interpretation especially the movement from Sa to Dha and Ma leaving other notes.

Ashwin one of my favourite snake songs.

105 RSR June 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm

When John Gunther was in India in 1938, everywhere he went the first political question asked him was “Have you seen Jawaharlal?”
Gunther sent to Asm an article published under this title in February!1939- Of the autobiography he wrote in his book Inside Am, **Nehru*s autobiography is subtle, complex, discriminating, infinitely cultivated,steeped in doubt, suffused with intellectual passion. It is a kind of Indian Education of Henry Adams,

written in superlative prose-
hardly a dozen men alive write English as well as Nehru

and it is not only an autobiography of the most searching kind, but the story of a whole society! the story of the life and development of a nation.**
The three classics are the bedrock of all progressives in India. Period.

106 Ashwin Bhandarkar June 12, 2017 at 5:33 pm

SSW: A kaalassic song, isn’t it? It’s my favourite too.

107 ksbhatia June 12, 2017 at 6:09 pm

SSW, Ashwin ji;

Well my fav. is a classic duet from ….Ganga Jamuna….O chhaliya re chhalia man mein hamar nazar tori phhas gayi…….nagin daas gayi….by Rafi, Asha……Naushad .

108 ksbhatia June 12, 2017 at 6:18 pm

SSW, Ashwin ji ;

Snake songs Reminds me of one beautiful dance number by Vaijyantimala in ….Ishara .

Hey abdulah nagin wala aagaya…..Rafi, Lata….KA….Ishara

109 Shalan Lal June 13, 2017 at 9:33 am

Ashwin B @ 101

Indeed the songs you have mentioned are in Bageshree. When long time ago C.Ramchandra visited London there was an interview on TV and he was asked why he was so fond of Bageshree?

He answered Lata exposed it very well and I love her artistic ability to take the listeners to higher level. I am one of her listeners.


110 Peddadu June 14, 2017 at 10:14 am

AK ji @75,
I would like to mention that mother of Aasteek was not Jaratkaru, but it was Manasa, though there are many versions regarding her origin; Jaratkaru was the father’s name, who insisted that his wife should be of the name as his, but had married Manasa. (

111 AK June 15, 2017 at 8:50 am

I remember very clearly that Aasteek’s mother’s name was also Jaratkaru. I am travelling. Would check up from Mahabharata later.

112 Shalan Lal June 15, 2017 at 9:34 am

Ashwin B @101

As you have skills in identifying Ragas in the filmy songs perhaps you may like to do a post on “Bageshri”.

That will be nice and KSBhatia may supply as many songs on Bageshri for our taste.


113 Peddadu June 18, 2017 at 7:30 am

AK ji @111,
You are right; as per Mahabharata Astikaparva, Vasuki’s daughter, also named Jaratkaru was offered to the sage Jaratkaru in marriage. ‘Brahma Vaivarta Purana’ and ‘Devi Bhagavata’, the later writings named her as Manasa.

114 AK June 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm

That settles. Really, these minor variations in mythologies hardly matter. My interest in them was as an inexhaustible source of stories.

115 Gaddeswarup June 19, 2017 at 8:16 am

AKJi at #114, one way I look at some of these stories from myths is it is way of passing on wisdom or accumulated culture to the next generations. I think that there is a theory of some universal elements in some of the stories (Claude Levi-Strauss?) that many form all over the world are the same story if you change names etc. but some are more culture specific, I think. May be the authorship is not so important ( particularly in India) but they are more guides to living. That is why, they keep modifying them from time to time and we have so many Ramayanas. Then there are modern myths too like democracy, money…May be.

116 AK June 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I agree that there are some universal elements in myths across cultures. Some values they teach are also eternal. However, some of their ‘wisdoms’ have become dated. What might have been a noble thing at that point of time might appear perverse in today’s times. Many conflicts we are seeing today is due to some sections taking an absolutist view of their stories.

117 Shalan Lal June 20, 2017 at 10:21 am

AK @ 116

Compliments for seeing the truth through the maze of old and new myths. Yes many myths or dated understandings have been causing trouble in the present world. The prospect of cool way looking at the complex things is in danger of being muscled out by either numbers of one faith or gangsterism in political demands by various groups and parties.


118 Ashok Kumar Tyagi June 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm

AK ji
Sorry for belated response. This is another superb post by Subodh ji in his beautifully compiled series. All songs/classical compositions are great.

119 AK June 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Thanks are obviously due to Subodh.

120 Subodh Agrawal June 21, 2017 at 1:11 am

Thanks Mr Tyagi for your appreciation.

My thanks to Shalan Lal, SSW, Mr Gaddeswarup, Mr Peddadu, Mr Venkataraman, RSR for enriching this post with their learned comments on importance of myths. I had no idea that the thumbnail used with this post will open such a goldmine of knowledge.

121 RSR June 21, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Dear Subodhji, Thank you. Best Regards

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