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Last updated: 02/08/2011 12:01 AM
Shankaraabharanam ~ 1 ~ [ SankarAbharanam ]

Shankaraabharanam(Dheera-Sankaraabharanam) the legendary Karnaatik twenty ninth Melakarta Raagam is elaborated here in Raaga aalaapana and taanam: Shankaraabharanam although has some vague semblance to Hindusthani Raag Bilaval, is much more replete with gamaka possibilities and a technically disciplined raaga with an ancient tradition. Despite Bilaval being a "that-raag" hardly matches the magic well defined bhaavam of Karnaatik Sankaraabharanam with its remarkable serpentine grace and rich gamaka-s. Sankaraabharanam means ornament of Shiva which is of course the serpent.

It may be useful for Hindusthani musicians to listen to Shankaraabharanam Raagam and approach its bhaavam  via. the Karnaatik rendering when they render Hindusthani Bilaval. But I have heard khayal in bilaval even omitting ma and ni in ascend which is surely not permissible in Sankaraabharanam. Here finally an attempt is made to render Sankaraabharanam in the Dhrupad Baani too. I have not heard Dhrupadia-s rendering bilaval!    

It will be necessary to absorb all the richness of Karnaatik Sankaraabharanam via Dhrupad resonance before it may be somewhat eased out for a khayal rendering  

Dheerashankarābharanam (sanskrit धीरशँकराभरणम्, Telugu శంకరాభరణం,kannada ಧೀರಶಂಕರಾಭರಣ, tamil தீரசங்கராபரணம்), commonly known as Shankarābharanam, is a rāgam in Carnatic music (musical scale of South Indian classical music). It is the 29th Melakarta rāgam in the 72 melakarta rāgam system of Carnatic music.

This rāgam is one of the most popular scales across the world. It is known as Bilawal in the Hindustani music system. The Western equivalent is the C-major scale.[1] [2]

Its nature is mellifluous and smooth. This rāgam offers a large scope for compositions. It is ideal for a melodious, but still laid back majestic presentation.

Structure and Lakshana

Shankarābharanam scale with shadjam at C

It is the 5th rāgam in the 5th chakra Bana. The mnemonic name is Bana-Ma. The mnemonic phrase is sa ri gu ma pa dhi nu.[1] 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 chathusruthi rishabham, antara gandharam, shuddha madhyamam, chathusruthi dhaivatham, kakali nishadham)

As it is a melakarta rāgam, by definition it is a sampoorna rāgam (has all seven notes in ascending and descending scale). It is the shuddha madhyamam equivalent of 65th melakarta rāgam Kalyani.

 Janya rāgas

Due to the even spacing of swaras, many janya rāgams can be derived from Shankarābharanam. It is one of the melakarta rāgams that has high number of janya rāgams (derived scales) associated with it.

Many of the janya rāgams are very popular on their own, lending themselves to elaboration, interpretation and evoking different moods. Some of them are Aarabi, Ataana, Bilahari, Devagandhari, Hamsadhwani, Kadanakutoohalam and Shuddha Sāveri.

See List of janya rāgams for full list of rāgams associated with Shankarabharanam.


Shankarābharanam has been decorated with compositions by almost all composers. A few of the compositions are listed here.

Related rāgams

This section covers the theoretical and scientific aspect of this rāgam.

Shankarābharanam's notes when shifted using Graha bedham, yields 5 other major Melakarta rāgams, namely, Kalyani, Hanumatodi, Natabhairavi, Kharaharapriya and Harikambhoji. Graha bedham is the step taken in keeping the relative note frequencies same, while shifting the shadjam to the next note in the rāgam. Refer table below for illustration of this concept.

RāgamMela #C D EF G A BC D EF G A BC
Shankarābharanam 29 S   R2   G3 M1   P   D2   N3 S'   R2'   G3' M1'   P'   D2'   N3' S' '
Kharaharapriya 22     S   R2 G2   M1   P   D2 N2   S'                    
Hanumatodi 08         S R1   G2   M1   P D1   N2   S'                
Kalyani 65           S   R2   G3   M2 P   D2   N2 S'              
Harikambhoji 28               S   R2   G3 M1   P   D2 N2   S'          
Natabhairavi 20                   S   R2 G2   M1   P D1   N2   S'      
Invalid Melakarta --                       S R1   G2   M1 M2   D1   N2   S'  
Shankarābharanam 29                         S   R2   G3 M1   P   D2   N3 S'

Notes on above table

C as the base for Shankarābharanam 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 swarams are relative to this shadjam, falling into a geometric progression-like frequency pattern.

The 7th graha bedham of Shankarābharanam has both madhyamams (Ma) and no panchamam (Pa) and hence will not be considered a valid melakarta (rāgam 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).

Interesting features

The swarams are regularly spaced in these ragams. Hence these six ragams 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 ragams, namely, Shankarābharanam, Todi, Kalyani and Kharaharapriya. One of these 4 rāgams is sung as the main rāgam in a concert quite often.

As can be seen in the illustration, these rāgams can be played using just the white keys of a piano/ organ/ keyboard (rāgam in simplified fashion).

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Ragas in Carnatic music by Dr. S. Bhagyalekshmy, Pub. 1990, CBH Publications
  2. ^ Raganidhi by P. Subba Rao, Pub. 1964, The Music Academy of Madras


Gallery Elements
Shankaraabharanam ~ 1 ~ 1 ~ aalaapana
Shankaraabharanam ~ 1 ~ 2 ~ taanam
Shankaraabharanam ~ 1 ~ 3 ~ aalaap ~ Dhrupad baani ~1

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