Bhatiyar. What a raaga. Infinitely complex and extremely puzzling to the ears. It is a morning raaga, which, in the words of Mr Rajan Parrikar, "is heard at the crack of dawn, attendant with the quotidian, crepuscular rite where Indian ladies, armed with state-of-the-art spices, take control of their sovereign space to negotiate the day's culinary projects."
Despite my relative unfamiliarity with quotidian crepuscular rites, I have very little doubt that this richly tapestried pastiche of bizarrely juxtaposed words accurately describes this amazing raaga. Bhatiyar is a raaga with an edge. It is a raaga of apparent calm on the surface and a whirlpool of seething emotions underneath. I like to compare a Bhatiyar recital to, say, being a psychiatrist in a therapy session with a new patient who is chronicling, in detail, the happenings of his day as he sits across the table from you. This particular patient of yours is well-educated, clean-shaven and appears to be leading a well-adjusted life. Why, you wonder is he here and what does he want from you?
And so Bhatiyar begins quite innocuously, with every note shuddha (pure), Sa Ma Pa Dha Ni and you relax and settle back into your seat, expecting it to be a smooth listen. You pour yourself a big one.
And so, as your patient begins to talk about his life, his work, his hobbies, you begin to think that perhaps this will be an easy case, just some guy who has no one to talk to. And you are lulled into a state of tranquility as your patient drones on and on about his daughter's spending habits and his wife's preoccupation with jewellery and your attention begins to wander. And then, just as you are about to nod off, your patient exclaims, "Oh oh, let me tell you a story, this is funny, I killed my neighbour today, hacked him with a chainsaw, chopped off his head and made love to the torso".
And that is when Bhatiyar, inexplicably, takes a deep breath while on the Nishad, skips the higher Shadja and leaps onto the komal Rishabh, screaming out the intense sorrow and rage that has always been lurking beneath the outward serenity of the pure notes of the raaga.
But once that single hysterical outburst is done, Bhatiyar returns back to normalcy as a sober clean-shaven law-abiding melody, just like your patient, who continues to ramble on about how he just purchased a new garden rake because summer is almost over and he's got a lot of wooded acres in his backyard and they keep the house cool during the hot months but clearing all the leaves becomes a bitch in autumn, but as you are listening to him, you can't help but brace yourself for the next psychotic zinger he will surely be throwing at you, just as you brace yourself for Bhatiyar's next foray into the high octave komal Rishabh.
Here is a clip of Pandit Jasraj's rendition of Raaga Bhatiyar. Listen to the final moments of the clip. Don't be fooled by its apparent placidity, it is a homicidal raaga with a repressed childhood.