Ananda bhairavi is an ancient raga, which has its origins in the folk traditions of South India. It is a janya of the 20th mELakartA naTabhairavi. Around the beginning of the 18th century, the raga underwent important changes in its structure. SvarAs that were foreign to its structure were added to it, making it the rAga we know today. The modern Ananda Bhairavi as it is rendered now can be said to be the contribution of Syama Sastri, one of the Trinity.
It is classified as a ShADava sampUrNa vakra, which means it has six notes (ShADava) in the ascent and all seven (sampUrNa) in descent and the notes are not in order but take a twisted route (vakra).
· ArOhaNa : S sAdharaNa G catushruti R sAdhAraNa G shuddha M P catushruti D P S
· avarOhaNa :S kaishiki N D P M G R S.
The foreign notes in any rAgA are called anya svarAs and in the case of Ananda bhairavi the variants of antara G, shuddha D and kAkali N are present. Such rAgAs are called bhAShAnga rAgAs. M and G are considered the life line notes of the rAga. SGRGM, SGM, SGGM, SMGRS etc., are very pleasing svara patterns as also double notes such as GG and MM. These have been extensively used by Syama Sastri.
Syama Sastri’s handling of Ananda bhairavi merits special mention. In all there are eight compositions or so of Syama Sastry in this rAga. Four of his compositions are famous. Two of them, marivErE gati and O jagadambA have glittering ciTTasvara-sAhityas. His pAhi shrI girirAjasutE is considered a perfect picture of this rAga. His only varnam sAmini rammanavE is in this rAga. His himAcala tanaya, which was originally set to Sastry’s characteristic cApu tAla, is nowadays rendered in Adi tALa. Muttuswami Dikshitar’s contribution to Ananda bhairavi is also monumental. He has composed the first of the Kamalamba navAvaraNa kritis in this rAga. Other famous compositions of his are tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam, mAnasa guruguha (the second of the Guru Guha vibhakti compositions), daNDAyudhapANim and AnandEshvarENa. Of these tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam is considered to be the crown jewel in this rAga, It employs rare instances of prosody in the lyrics. daNDAyudhapANim is on the deity at Palani and is a grand and moving piece. There is an interesting story behind AnandEshvarENa. Once, D.K. Pattammal went to Kanchipuram, had darshan of the Kanchi Paramacharya and sang this song before him. The Paramacharya after expressing appreciation, asked her to desist from singing the song in concerts. The song according to him ought to be sung only for pujas, in the presence of sanyAsIs and yatIs, and in temples. Kavi Matrubhutayya, one of the composers attached to the court of Tanjore, has given us nI mati callaga, a very moving piece in this rAga. This was often used as pAtra pravEsha (signature tune for a character) in stage plays and was particularly popularised by SV Subbaiah Bhagavatar who later released a 78 rpm record of it. The dance opera kuTTrAla kuravanji has many songs based in Ananda bhairavi. Swati Tirunal’s pAhi tarakshu purAlaya on the deity at Vaikkom is a very well structured piece in the rAga.
While elaborating on the rAga, it is considered essential to dwell periodically on the note sequence SPS. Interestingly both Syama Sastry’s pAhi shrI and Dikshitar’s tyAgarAja yOga open on the same sequence of notes. There are only three compositions of Tyagaraja in this raga, all of them minor pieces. His kshIrasAgara vihArA is quite popular. Almost all the major composers have composed in Ananda Bhairavi. Veena Kuppayyar’s aTa tALa varnam sAmi nI pai is a veritable lesson in this rAga. The pada varnam in Tamizh of Ponniah of the Tanjore Quartette, sakhiyE inda vELayil is popular on the dance stage. Ananda bhairavi is popular on the dance stage also. Kuchipudi dance makes extensive use of this rAga.
The closeness of the rAga to rItigauLa has always posed a challenge to musicians while elaborating on it. Dwelling on the N for prolonged periods of time is not allowed in Ananda bhairavi for that is a feature of rItigauLa. It is also necessary that the phrase SPS be brought in at intervals to maintain its identity. Given the slow gait of the rAga it has never been taken up for detailed delineation by most of the prominent artistes, though they all rendered songs in it. Fortunately such has been the enormous corpus of songs in it that the rAga continues to hold the status of a major one.
Among artistes renditions, T. Brinda and T. Mukta’s renditions of marivErE gati and tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam have been exquisite. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer also excelled in his renditions of marivErE gati, nI mati callaga, tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam and pAhi tarakshu pura. DK Pattammal has often taken up tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam for rendition in her concerts. Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Madurai Mani Iyer were very well known for their renditions of mAnasa guruguha and O jagadamba. Continuing the tradition, KV Narayanaswami and TV Sankaranarayanan too have often rendered mAnasa guruguha most evocatively. Balamuralikrishna is known for his moving rendition of kshIra sAgara vihAra and palukE bangAramAyana. MD Ramanathan used to render O jagadamba in his own cauka style, moving his audiences. The American Bhagavatar, Jon Higgins made tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam his own. GN Balasubramaniam used to render davaLarUpa and sAmagAna priyE with flourishes characteristic to his style.
Ananda bhairavi is very popular as a rAga to be included in rAgamAlikas and in viruttams and shlOka renditions. karpagavalli nin, a four rAga suite often rendered by TM Soundararajan begins with Ananda bhairavi. It is also very popular as a rAgamAlika svara choice in pallavi singing. Instrumentalists put it to good use in their performances. The film world has also not lagged behind in utilising Ananda bhairavi. One good example is the song in the Tamil film Karnan, pOi vA magaLE pOi vA. This song in chaste Ananda bhairavi was tuned by Viswanathan-Ramamurti. In the film Hamse Geethe, ML Vasanthakumari and BK Sumitra have rendered a Gita Govindam piece in this rAga. The melody has been used for comedy too. In the classic Tooku Tooki, pyAri nimbaL mElE namki mazaa, a duet between TS Balaiah (playing a Hindi Seth whose knowledge of Tamizh is weak) and Lalitha (playing a scheming princess) has a major portion set in Ananda bhairavi.
Its easy identification makes it very popular with the average concert goer and the classicist alike. Ananda bhairavi therefore plays a major role in attracting the lay listener to Carnatic Music. At the same time it cannot be classified a light rAga and hence it acts as a bridge in helping the listeners graduate from the melodic to the sublime.