It's all in the timing

Prahar is a unit of time that consists of three hours. Indian classical singing has followed the time-raga theory — a particular raga at a specific time since yore. However, due to our lifestyle and strict laws, not many concerts are held early in the day or late at night. Thus, ragas that are usually sung at these times have not been performed for a large audience. Chaturprahar, a festival of ragas held by the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), plans to change this.

Vocalist Dr Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande will perform  at NCPA’s ‘Chaturprahar: Dawn to dusk ragas’

In its second year, Chaturprahar has brought together artistes of repute — vocalist Dr Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, dhrupad singers Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha also known as the Gundecha Brothers, and vocalist Jayateerth Mevundi of the Kirana Gharana.

Ramakant Gundecha says, “We are singing raga Darbari Kanada, Shudh Kaunsi and Sohan. An event like Chaturprahar is unique because for the first time the time-raga theory is being given importance. It gives us an opportunity to perform rarely-heard ragas.”

Although the time-raga theory is not set in stone, many artistes believe in its close connection to nature. Dr Bhide-Deshpande will be performing the rather intense ragas of Lalit and Bahar that are early morning ragas. “The mood of the ragas pertains to our mood during that period in the day. The ancient gurus must have felt this connection and hence propagated the theory. I try to stick to it during performances too.”

While the artistes hold this theory is great regard, they feel its effectiveness is diminished when performing in air-conditioned halls and not close to nature as initially intended. However, Dr Suvarnalata Rao, head programming (Indian Music) at the NCPA, believes, “To feel connected to water, you don’t have to be in it. Even if you are performing in a darkened hall, your biological clock is working. There is no scientific evidence to prove the effect of time on a specific raga.” Chaturprahar is a unique platform not only for the audience but also the artistes to sing seldom heard ragas from dusk to dawn. 

Prahars and ragas
1st prahar (3 am-6 am)
Basanta, Hindol
2nd prahar (6 am-9 am)
Gunakri, Desakara
3rd prahar (9 am-noon)
Desi, Todi
4th prahar (noon-3 pm)
Dhani, Patdipa
5th prahar (3 pm-6 pm)
Puriya, Multani
6th prahar (6 pm-9 pm)
Yaman, Bihag
7th prahar (9 pm-midnight)
Kedar, Nanda
8th prahar (midnight-3am)
Megha, Adana

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