Bhupeshwari is a truly remarkable rag. It is found in the background music of films, in qawwalis, and other light musical forms. It is also beginning to be performed in classical styles. It is of recent invention, but in a short period of time it has spread throughout India and Pakistan. Common examples are Aziz Nazan's "Chadta Suraj Dhere Dhere" and Mehdi Hassan's "Ab Ke Hum Bichray".
It is a rag which appears to be developing before our eyes (or ears). It is a rare event to witness the birth of a rag. Because it has developed only within the last few decades, it tantalises us into thinking that perhaps we can actually document the birth of this rag. Unfortunately the details still remain beyond our reach.
Many feel that we can ascribe this rag invention to a particular person. According to some, it was developed by Alladiya Khan of the Jaipur Gharana. However, we must remember that Alladiya Khan died in 1946. If this is so, then why is it that Bhupeshwari appears to be unknown until several decades after his death. According to others, Bhupeshwari was invented by Pandit Mani Prasad of the Kirana school. This time-scale seems to make sense, but serious questions arise as to whether this was a completely organic creation or was he "inspired" by some pre-existing work. Whether any of these claims are true is difficult to say.
There is some inconsistency in the nomenclature for this rag. In India, three names arose. The major school, and possibly the oldest was to call it Bupeshwari. This is an obvious inspiration from "Bhupali", which is its closest North Indian relative. There was another school that came up with the term Bhupkali. Again this is an obvious link to Bhupali. Today only Hari Prasad Chaurasiya seems to use this name; it appears that the name "Bhupkali" never gained many supporters. To make the situation more complicated, as the rag was enfolded into the corpus of South Indian rags it acquired the name Vasanthi. The South Indians do not seem at all inclined to adopted the name Bhupeshwari, so it is unlikely that the name Vasanthi will go away; but it is likely that this name will remain permanently relegated to the south, and not have a generalised acceptance.
Even though Bhupeshwari seems to be emerging as the dominant name, there are still linguistic pressures at work. Variations such as "Bhupeshri" are also starting to emerge. These variations are the result of long understood linguistic processes, and are certainly no surprise. Equally unsurprising is the lack of a commonly accepted spelling; therefore Bhupeshwari, Bhoopeswaree, Bhoopeshree, Bhoopeswari, etc. are all to be found.
But the origin of the rag and its nomenclature are not the only problems, for there are more thornier issues; particularly the problem of it's parent modality. The fact that this is an audav rag (only five notes) brings up many practical issues. We are are left to try and deduce the pitches of non-existent notes. (If this sounds crazy, it is! This is like trying to determine the hair colour of a man who is absolutely bald.) In the south, some suggest that this rag is derived from the 16th mela Chakravakam, but others hold that it is 25th mela Mararanjani, the 26th mela Charukesi, or even the 27th mela Sarasangi. The situation is not much better in the north; this rag does not fit into any of Bhatkhande's 10 thats.
So this is what is so amazing. By all the "rules", of north Indian music, this rag is absolutely crazy, but it works! It is an amazingly powerful rag which has all off the pathos of Shivaranjani. This is itself amazing, because it is markedly dissimilar to Shivaranjani in it's harmonic structure. But the sheer power of the rag has quickly propelled Bhupeshwari into the public consciousness, where it is becoming very popular in light, classical, and filmi sangeet.
In spite of the historical and theoretical problems posed by Bhupeshwari, it is a remarkably simple rag. It is simply Bhupali / Deshkar that uses a komal Dha instead of the shuddha form. The rag is defined entirely by its modality, therefore there are not any tricky pakards that you have to navigate. This gives a lot of flexibility in its performance. However, many north Indian classical musicians feel that audav rags are inherently limited in their possibilities for full development. Bhupeshwari shares this quality with Malkauns, Chandrakauns, Kalavati and other five note rags.
Audav - (general discussion of jati)
Sa - Pa - (general discussion of drone)
For more information check out "Elementary North Indian Vocal"
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