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Bhairava Raga for Summer

Updated: Mar 7

In this segment, I am to present the third figurative model of Indian classical music, known as the Bhairava Raga, for the summer season. In the previous episode, I posited that miniature artists were suitably impressed by the myth of Lord Krishna when they represented the symbolic form of Basant Raga due to its geographical location. However, in their attempt to depict Vairaba on canvas, these artists were motivated by their imaginative perception of Lord Shiva. What was the rationale behind this choice? The answer lies in a precise description provided by an anonymous author regarding this Raga, which bore striking similarity with Lord Shiva's persona. Another reason behind this unique fabrication was that Lord Shiva is regarded as a symbol of peace and satiety according to ancient mythological sages. It also represents rigidity and frenzy during the summer; hence, it embodies two opposing characters - an exciting and incredible combination!


Based on Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva symbolizes the cataclysm of the last day of our universe. Perhaps it is very close to the concept of resurrection. Additionally, it is believed that it emanated directly from the face of Lord Shiva.



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Bhairava Raga by Mir Sayyid Ali on 1591, Chunar, Varanasi, India.

Furthermore, this symbolic model features four hands; in his upper left hand, he holds a chain of Rudraksha fruit that helps him concentrate intensely while playing music. In his upper right hand is fire, symbolizing the intensity of summer's heat waves, while in his lower left hand is Trishul - a three-headed weapon that represents destruction or three characters: morality, work attribute judgment, and gloom/darkness from left to right, respectively. The relative image I inserted here does not show the same; however, the above description I found in the ancient scripture has been modified several times by the artists.


He wears tiger skin as attire, representing Naga hermits who keep their bodies naked out of respect for Lord Shiva. I had depicted in earlier times Vairaba accompanied by his first wife Vairabi, who completed her morning prayers before sunrise and began entertaining Raga Vairaba with her lute-playing skills. She resembles Parvati- Lord Shiva's consort- in character and demeanor.



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Earlier statue of Nataraja. Lord Shiva represented in furious mood. Badami Cave.

Lord Shiva appeared in a serene disposition, yet the earliest Indian artists envisioned an alternate representation of him as a fierce entity. This figurative portrayal, known as "Nataraj," originated from a mythological tale concerning the demise of his wife, Parvati, and also serves as a remarkable symbolic depiction of the summer season. Here is an instance associated with this form.


It's a very artistic dancing figurative model of Lord Shiva, and this dancing form has become included in the Indian classical dance. This form indicates anger, outrage, and destruction.


Here is also a demonstration of this beautiful musical rhythm of Raga Vairaba in Santoor. Just listen and refresh your mind instantly.





It is a fact that the miniature artists of India did not strictly adhere to the author's original depiction when rendering this rhythm on canvas. In some of the earliest paintings, they even substituted their imaginative representation for Lord Shiva. Nonetheless, it is unquestionably evident that they skillfully captured the essence of this rhythm with unparalleled artistic talent.


In the upcoming episode, I will delve into the intricacies of Megh Raga - the fourth rhythm in Indian classical music. This musical composition boasts a fascinating historical anecdote that took place during Emperor Akbar's reign. Be sure to stay tuned for more captivating insights.


Please share your thoughts on the musical rhythm and figurative formation crafted by Indian miniature artists. I am eager to hear your opinion.

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