Raga Nat Bhairav is an early morning raga that evokes the softness and the affluent beauty of natural settings. A philosophical gravity is perceived in the calmness of morning nature that seems intertwined with the subtle senses of human beings in the rendition of the raga. As the name suggests, this raga is a blend of raga Nat and raga Bhairav.
The basic aspect of raga Nat can be found through using the swars -- Re, Re, Ga, Ga, Ma, Ma, Pa, Pa while the feature of Bhairav is expressed in the musical phrase Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni, Sa. It may be regarded as one of the varieties of Bhairav.
The sweetness of Rekhab reigns supreme in the portrayal of a perfect morning melody. One can find the meaning of life in the melody of raga, seeking unanswered questions of life in the musical prayer of nature. The rasa or the essence of the raga suggests that nothing is beyond nature and we will all ultimately mingle with the vastness of nature.
A sampurna-sampurna raga, it has a distinct character. Only Dhaivat is Komal while all other notes are shuddha. Ga, Ma, Re, Sa and Re, Ga, Ma, Dha, Pa are the examples of beautiful musical phases used in the raga.
The raga is widely used not only in pure classical music but also in light classical music like ghazal and filmy tracks. Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Hari Haran once composed a ghazal in pure Nat Bhairav in “Shaher Dar Shaher”. Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty recorded a Jnan Prakash Ghosh composition “Shankar Kore Damru Bajey”, set on the raga. Arati Mukhopadhyay recorded a kheyal-ang adhunik song “Ei Charukesh-e Sucharu Kobori”. Lata Mungeshkar's record of the song “Baiyan Na Dharo O Balma” is an evocative of the raga.
Many vocal maestros including Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, Ustad Sagir Uddin Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan and Pandit Tushar Dutta depicted the glory of morning through this melody. Set on the raga, soulful taan performances by Ustad Rashid Khan soothes our hearts. Ustad Sagir Uddin Khan's bandish “Ka Par Kariye Guman Re Maan” urges us to shake off all anger, haughtiness and helps broaden our hearts and horizon. Pandit Tushar Dutta's vilambit bandish “Paar Na Payo Tero” and drut bandish “Sundar Tero Roop Lubhayo” is a musical prayer through which one seeks to embrace the eternal soul. It's similar raga to Charukeshi. Among instruments, surbahar, sitar, sarod and sarangi recitals can best express the rasa of the raga.
In the ascent, Re and Ga are included to maintain the impression of Nat, while the features of Bhairav are expressed through oscillating flat Dha and the concluding phrase – Ga, Ma, Re Sa, albeit with natural Re instead of flat Re, are included as well to maintain the atmosphere of Bhairav. Sa and Ma notes are important notes in this raga. Most movements in this raga are in the middle octave. Some musicians also use flat Ni, though sparingly, in the descent.
The beauty of nature is vast; so is the melody of Nat Bhairav, which suggests bliss -- where one can indulge in the search of true sense of life.