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  • Writer's pictureSrivani Jade


Bihag is the soul exfoliator of Hindustani music. Having a bad day? Or just a blah day? A little Bihag can lighten and brighten your outlook.

And why is that? I think its the beautiful chalan laid on top of the shuddh swars (Bilawal thaat) plus the soupcon of a sparkly teevra madhyam that gives it its characteristic brightness. Having said that, it lends itself beautifully to a wide palette of emotions, as long as the artist knows how to use it. From the slow and relaxed Kaise sukh sove neendariya to the pining Hamse najariya kaahe pheri to the flirtatious Lat lujhi suljhaa jaa baalam (a rare example of the openly seductive Abhisarika nayika in Khayal literature) to any number of ati-drut Taranas…Bihag does it all, and exceedingly well.

This Kunwar Shyam bandish assumes a little Thumri-esque liberty with the raga (like the tandem madhyams, which would be a no-no in Khayal proper). It is set in our standard scene of the Gopi maiden ‘complaining’ of being waylaid by a flirtatious Krishna as she goes to the Jamuna to fetch water. All is fair in love and war and Krishna it seems, and we shall embrace this bandish for the beautiful ditty that it is. We shall also continue to be charmed by this reclusive composer’s deep and varied approaches to Bihag (Dekho mori rang me bhigoye daari chunariya, takes a different tack). In fact, Goswami Shrilal ‘Kunwar Shyam’ who confined himself to the precincts of the Radha-Govind temple in Delhi, probably saw all the world as a manifestation of the supreme love of Radha and Krishna.  There was no ‘theme’ other than this, no motivation higher than this, no story to tell beyond this story of all stories.

Bihag/ Teental/ Goswami Shrilal ‘Kunwarshyam’

देखो सखी कन्हैया रोके ठाडो है गैल, पनिया भरन कैसे जाऊं मोरी आली

हूं जल जमुना भरन जात थी, बीच में मिल गयो ‘कुंवर-श्याम’ आली

Photo: Water Bearers – cast bronze sculpture by artist Glenna Goodacre, David Brink Park, Kirkland. (c) Srivani Jade. All Rights Reserved.

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