Identity of a Raga – Yaman/Kalyani

yamuna riverAjay Parasuraman

A couple of days ago a friend pointed me to ‘Aaj ibaadat‘ from ‘Bajirao Mastani’. It has been composed in the melancholily-named raag ‘Yaman’ – some say it’s derived from a similar sounding Persian word, others say it’s a shortening of Yamuna (the river) along the banks which it is believed to have been created. Although the song has some of the more common usages in said raag, the singing – by Javed Bashir – has infused a sense of novelty. One particular paragraph, and I’m listening to it for possibly the fiftieth time as I type, was enough to warrant an article in the raag of its composition:

Dard ke andhEron se
Aa gaye ujAlOn mein
Ishq ke charAgon ka
Noor hai khayAlOn mein

Part of Kalyan thaat, Yaman, or alternatively Kalyani (means ‘auspicious’ in Sanskrit), is heptatonic – which means, it has all the seven swaras in its scale. All swaras are Shuddh, except ma (which is Teevra).

Some of the common usages in this raag include:

– Ni Re Ga Re

– Dha Ni Re

– Ni Dha Ni Sa

– Ga Re Ga Ma Pa

– Ni Dha Pa Ma Pa

– Ma Dha Ni Dha Pa

Raag Yaman is usually sung during evenings. Yaman / Kalyani is one of the easier ragas to alaap in because of its heptatonic nature. A continuous link between each of the swaras usually doesn’t require a conscious effort to recall either aarohan, or avarohan. Considering this basic nature, the raag is taught to students early on. One of the first varnams in Kalyani is ‘Vanajakshi’ in Adi Talam. Kalyani has innumerable derived-ragas / janyas: Saranga, Hamir Kalyani, Mohana Kalyani etc. each of which is equally famous.

Shruti Bhedam (the technique of using a note – other than Sa – as the ‘new Sa’) results in some fascinating outcomes! For example, using Ri, Ga, Pa, Dha and Ni as shadjam results in ragas Hari Kambhoji, Natabhairavi, Sankarabharanam, Kharaharapriya and Todi, respectively, each of which is equally dear to connoisseurs.

Kalyani is ubiquitous in concerts; compositions are mostly sung at a brisk pace to set the tone of the concert itself. Just like comfort foods, people, I’m sure, have their ‘comfort songs’ as well. Of late, in Ragam Kalyani, that song (for me) is Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s ‘Needu Charana’, sung by Abhishek Raghuram:

Some of the other popular songs in Carnatic music are:

  • Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Kamalamba Bhajare – recommended version: D.K Jayaraman
  • Shyama Sastry’s Himadri Suthe – recommended version: Bombay Jayashri
  • Thyagaraja’s Ethavunara – recommended version: Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

Here are a few other compositions for your enjoyment:

  • Ilaiyaraja’s ‘Sundari Kannaal Nalla Seithi’, from the Tamil movie ‘Thalapathy’:
  • Bandish ‘Eree Aali Piya’, sung by Bhimsen Joshi:
  • ‘Jogi’, by Richa Sharma and Rashid Khan at Coke Studio:
  • ‘Jab deep jale’, from ‘Chitchor’:

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