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Shades of Malhar by Bhabani Shankar Dasgupta

(Shri Bhabani Shankar Dasgupta, a sarodiya, music-guru and the eldest son of Padma Bhushan Buddhadeb Dasgupta, writes about the intricacies and subtle differences between the different shades of Malhar, which might immensely help not only music lovers but learners too)

Painting by Jayita Sengupta


This particular variety of Malhar is very close to DESH and BRINDABANI SARANG. The note Gandhar (GA) is a forbidden note (Barjit Swar) in this Raga. The note Sudh Nisad (NI) is normally used in the ascending phrases (Arohi Varna) and Komal Nishad (Ni) is used in the descending phrases ( Avarohi Varna). The Raga has probably originated from KHAMAJ THAT and the emphasis is laid on the higher octaves (Uttaranga).


GAUD MALHAR is yet another variety of Malhar that has originated from KHAMAJ THAT. Sudh Gandhar (GA) Komal Nishad and Sudh Nishad (NI) are the most important notes in this raga. The stress or emphasis is on the higher octaves (Uttaranga). If there is too much emphasis on RE GA MA PA MA in the middle octave, it becomes NAT MALHAR .

In GAUD MALHAR the trend should always be towards TARA SA ie RE PA MA PA DHA NI SA (TARA SA).

NAT MALHAR and GAUD MALHAR are very close to each other. People often step into the territory of each other, while singing or playing these Ragas. While in GAUD MALHAR the emphasis is on MPDNS DnPM (n denotes Komal Nii) in Nat MALHAR the main stress is on RGMPMGMRS.

Listen to Ustad Amir Khan's rendition: ( In GAUD MALHAR the SAM usually comes upon DNS but Ustadji has landed on GR as the SAM or the first beat.

Tagore's "More Baare Baare Phirale" and "Sukhoheen Nishideen" are based on NAT MALHAR and not GAUD MALHAR. (Check out: and

The Rabindrasangeet, "Mor Bhabona re" is undoubtedly based on GAUD MALHAR.

Although the Rabindrasangeet, "Jogote Anondo Joggye". has been indicated as BILAWAL in GEETABITAN it is actually GAUD MALHAR and not BILAWAL from the grammatical point of view. The phrases MPDnP and MPDNS are frequently used in this song

(Check out the singer Asoktaru Bandopadhyay's rendition of the Rabindrasangeet).


MIAN MALHAR is often referred to as the king of Malhars. It has originated from KAFI THAT, and the note Komal Gandhar ( GA) plays a very momentous role in it. While GAUD MALHAR and SURDASI MALHAR are generally sung or played in late evening (between 7 and 9 P M) MIA MALHAR is sung or played at night (after 9 PM) .

The Andolan (vibration) of the 2 Nishads (Komal and Sudh) adds a special aesthetic beauty to this raga.

Pt. Shivkumar Sharma makes an experimental approach to the raga here: (

Check out Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's rendition: ( ).

Listen to the beauty of Sultan Khan's rendition of the raga: (

The Same type of Malhar is treated in different ways by singers and musicians of different gharanas. As you know there are different types of taans Such as Chut Taans, Gamak Taans, Kut Taans and Bakra Taans. The exponents of different gharanas specialize in different types of taans, which they execute during their recitals without distorting the RAG RUP (character of the Raag). Listen to Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, Amir Khan Sahab and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to get my point.

Note: When the notations of our North Indian Classical music are done in English capital letters denote Sudh Swars ( Notes) and small letters denote Komal Notes (Swars). The only exception to the rule is that Tibra or Kadi Madhyam ( MA) is indicated with a small letter( m)


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