Dhīraśankarābharaṇaṃ, commonly known as Śankarābharaṇaṃ, is a rāga in Carnatic music. It is the 29th Melakarta rāga in the 72 Melakarta rāga system of Carnatic music. Since this raga has many Gamakās (ornamentations), it is glorified as "Sarva Gamaka Maṇika Rakti Rāgaṃ" in Telugu.
It is known as Bilawal in the Hindustani music system. The Western equivalent is the C major scale, Ionian mode. Hence this rāga is one of the most popular scales across the world, known with different names in different musical styles.
Its nature is mellifluous and smooth. This rāga offers a large scope for compositions. It is ideal for a melodious, but still laid back majestic presentation.
Structure and Lakshana
It is the 5th rāga in the 5th Chakra Bāṇa. The mnemonic name is Bāṇa-Ma. The mnemonic phrase is sa ri gu ma pa dhi nu. Its ārohaṇa-avarohaṇa structure is as follows (see swaras in Carnatic music for details on below notation and terms):
The notes in this scale are shadjam, chatushruti rishabham, antara gandharam, shuddha madhyamam, paṅchamam, chatushruti dhaivatam and Kakali Nishadam. As it is a Melakarta rāga, by definition it is a Sampurṇa rāga (has all seven notes in ascending and descending scale). It is the Shuddha Madhyamam equivalent of 65th Melakarta rāga Kaḷyāṇi.
Due to the even spacing of svarās, many janya rāgas can be derived from Śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ. It is one of the melakarta rāgas that has high number of Janya rāgas (derived scales) associated with it.
Many of the Janya rāgas are very popular on their own, lending themselves to elaboration, interpretation and evoking different moods. Some of them are Arabhi, Atana, Bilahari, Devagandhari, Hamsadhvani, Kadanakutuhalam, Niroshta, Shuddha Sāveri, Purnachandrika, Janaranjani, Kedaram, Kurinji, Navroj, Sarasvati-manohari, Nagadhvani etc.
See List of Janya rāgas for full list of rāgas associated with Śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ.
Śankarābharaṇaṃ has been decorated with compositions by almost all composers. A few of the compositions are listed here.
- Eduṭa Nilacitē, Bhakti Bhikṣamīyave, Maryāda Kādurā, Svararāgasudhārasa, Sundarēśvaruṇi, Manasu Svādhīnamaina and Eṃduku Peddalavalē by Tyagaraja in Telugu.
- Dakṣhiṇāmūrtē, Sadāśivam Upāsmahē, Akṣhayaliṃgavibho and Śrī kamalāmbā by Muthuswami Dikshitar in Sanskrit
- Pogadirēlo Ranga by Purandara Dasa
- Sarōjadala Nētri and Dēvī Mīnānētri by Syama Sastri in Telugu
- Chalamela(Ata tala varnam) and Devi Jagath Janani by Swathi Thirunal maharaja
- Alarulu Kuriyaga Āḍinadē by Annamacharya in Telugu
Muthuswami Dikshitar also has a list of 22 "Nottu Svara" compositions, based on Western Major Scale notes to his credit.
This section covers the theoretical and scientific aspect of this rāga.
Śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ's notes when shifted using Graha bhedam, yields 5 other major Melakarta rāgas, namely, Kaḷyāṇi, Hanumatodi, Natabhairavi, Kharaharapriya and Harikambhoji. Graha bhedam is the step taken in keeping the relative note frequencies same, while shifting the shadjam to the next note in the rāga. Refer table below for illustration of this concept.
Notes on above table
C as the base for Śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ is chosen for above illustration only for convenience, as Carnatic music does not enforce strict frequency/note structure. The shadjam (S) is fixed by the artist as per the vocal range or the instrument's base frequency. All the other svarams are relative to this shadjam, falling into a geometric progression-like frequency pattern.
The 7th Graha bhedam of Śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ has both madhyamams (Ma) and no panchamam (Pa) and hence will not be considered a valid melakarta (rāga having all 7 swarams and only 1 of each). This is only a classification issue with respect to melakarta scales, while this structure could be theoretically used well to create good music (probably needs an expert).
The swaras are regularly spaced in these ragas. Hence these six ragas give very good melody, scope for elaboration, experimentation and exploration of phrases. In practice, Natabhairavi is not elaborated extensively much. Harikambhoji is taken up for elaboration, but not as much as the rest of the 4 ragas, namely, Śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ, Todi, Kaḷyāṇi and Kharaharapriya. One of these 4 rāgas is sung as the main rāga in a concert quite often.
As can be seen in the illustration, these rāgas can be played using just the white keys of a piano/ organ/ keyboard (rāga in simplified fashion).
- Ragas in Carnatic music by Dr. S. Bhagyalekshmy, Pub. 1990, CBH Publications
- Raganidhi by P. Subba Rao, Pub. 1964, The Music Academy of Madras
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