#10 – Darbari Kanada – The Emperor of Ragas and the Raga of Emperors.

Darbari Kanada, or simply Darbari/Durvari/Durbari Kanada, is a Hindustani raga in the Kanada family, which is thought to have originated in Carnatic music and brought into North Indian music. “Kanada” suggests an association with South Indian music, and the raga is believed to be adapted from the south, and presented to Emperor Akbar by his court singer, Tansen. This tradition is reflected in the name itself; Darbar is the Persian derived word in Hindi meaning “court.”  The raga comes across as a musical entity with controlled power, philosophical depth, emotional richness and regality(badge of royalty). Darbari Kanada, due its gravity, is rightly called the raga of the kings (or their durbar) or the king of ragas.

The therapeutical effect of  Darbari Kanada is said to be very effective in easing tension and anxiety, Providing great relief from Headache (Acute), Migraine, Mind Concentration, Grief, Mental shock,and promotes Good Sleep.

A jany raga of 20th Melakartha Natabhairavi, Darbari Kanada has the following Arohana and Avarohana

Arohana:  S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S

Avarohana: S D1 N2 P M1 P G2 M1 R2 S

Jiva Swara- G and D (Much lighter than the usual G2 and D1)

Created from the notes of Asavari Thaat, the raga acquires it darkness from the Komal G  D and N. Darbari Kanada has an interesting approach to its intervals. The oscillated treatment of two swaras – komal G, and komal D are much lower than usually found; this lower than normal flattening is often referred to in Indian music as ati-komal. It is this extreme alteration of the intervals that helps give Darbari Kanada its distinctive character. These two oscillations are fundamental to the sculpting of the two phrases which virtually define the melodic personality of Darbari Kanada – g M R and d n P. The occurrence of repeat swaras- as double or triple combinations like SSS, NNN, PPP….. is a special feature of this Raga.

The phrases of G M  R  S and N  P, the signature phrases of Kanada group of Ragas feature in this raga with a characteristic substance or weightiness. The undulation(the specific wavy pattern) of G is specially sgnificant in setting the mood of the raga.  As the most familiar raga in the Kanada family, it may sometimes also be called Shuddha Kanada.

Other ragas in the Kanada family include Abhogi Kanada, Nayaki Kanada, Shahana Kanada, Kaushi Kanada and Adana.(Adana is part of the Kanada Raga group !) Darbari Kanada raga is presented in a vakra (twisted) fashion to distinguish it from related ragas such as Jaunpuri, Asawari, or Adana.

What is the soul essence in this raga?

We find that the raga is an illustrious example that can vividly bring out the feeling of love and pathos. The beauty, the poignancy and the depth of the raga can easily be brought out with the notes G M R S.  The emotion of love – ( to love and to be loved is one of the most important factor that keep us going in our life ; the nature and universe loves you so that you exist!) – relationships ( they bring in love – be it father, mother, wife, children, brother/ sister or friends !) and the meaning of life in itself is nothing but to love and to be loved (Life is complete and meaningful only with the ties of these  loving relationships!). At one level, the masculine temper of the raga gives it a majestic swaroop, at another level, the pathos and the poignancy of the raga evokes a feeling of vairagya, total detachment from worldly pleasures, a mood for meditative solitude or seclusion. Darbari Kanada is a late night raaga considered to be one of the more difficult to master and with the potential for profound emotional impact.

Immortal Compositions

There can be no doubt that Darbari Kanada is one of the most popular ragas in the entire North Indian system of classical music.  A few common songs are “Ghunghat Ke Pat Khol Re Tohe Piya Milenge”, “Jhana Jhanak Tori Baje Payaliaya”, “Mujhe Tumse Kuch Bhi Na Chahiye”, “O Duniya Ke Rakhwale”. The famous song sung by Sri. Madurai Somasundaram on Lord Muruga .” Maruda malai maamaniye Murugaiya !Devarin  Kulam kakkum velaiya” is an all time classic that showcases the gymmics of Somu’s vocal style of singing and the raga’s melodic splendour.Some of the most popular classical compositions include

Rama Nama-Roopakam-Gopala Dasar
Govardhana Giridhara – Adi-Narayana Theerthar
Matha Ramo Ramanama-Thrisram
Hari Tum Haro – Bhajan
Varuvai Varuvai-Adi
Nindathi Chandanam-Ashtapadi-Jayadevar
Srikantha Enagistu-Purandaradasa

Favourite Filmy Raga

This raga has been extensively  used by north Indian film music.  There is a plethora of lovely songs in this raga. Some of the songs are so vibrant and typical in  melody it becomes your life style progressively. You cannot live without Darbari kanada –So deep is  the impactof raga  on your life. One of Ilaiyaraja’s unforgettable gems is ‘Aagaya Vennilave’ from the blockbuster hit movie ‘Arangetra Velai’.This song is set to the notes of Darbari Kanada, for its potential of profound emotional impact. It is a duet describing  a woman’s beauty  with that of the moon. The evergreen hit Sathyam Shivam Sundaram sung by the Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar is framed in this raga. Other movie songs in variuos languages include

Shivadam Shivanaamam – Malayalam – Mazhavillu
Azhage Nin –  Malayalam – Amaram- Raveendran
Malare Mounama – Tamil- Karnan – Vidyasagar
Kaatre – Tamil- Rhythm – A.R.Rahman
Pudu vellai Mazhai – Tamil- Roja – A.R.Rehaman ( another marvel in Darbari Kanada)
KalyANa thenilA – Tamil- Mounam Sammadham
Jogi Aaya – Hindi- Black n White – Sukhwinder Singh
Tere Dar Pe Aaya Hun, Kuchh Karke Jaunga -Hindi – Laila Majnu – Madan Mohan

Allied Ragas –  Kanada  and Darbari Kanada

Kanada does bear similarities to the hindustani raga Darbari Kanada.  Both ragas share melodic similarities in places due to some similarities in the underlying scale structure. However, but there are key, fundamental differences.

Similarity of scales:

Note that descent for both ragas are similar in structure as in N  to P to G. This usage of N P G P G etc. are vital to both ragas.

dhaivatam (da):  Kanada takes the higher catusruthi dhaivatam, whereas Darbari Kanada takes the lower Shuddha dhaivatam. This is a key  differentiator between Kanada and Darbari Kanada. GAndAram (ga):The (sAdAraNa) gAndhAram is the lifeblood swara of both ragas,but the typical/characteristic gamakas used for it varies between the two. Thus we find both similarities and differences between the two ragas in phrases containing G2. In Darbari Kanada, the G2 is sung in aslowly with a slight slow oscillation. It is done so from R2 when ascending, and from M1 when descending.

I  conclude this review with the words that Darbari Kanada is regarded as one of the most grand, and profoundly introspective ragas in Hindustani music. Several prominent musicians have even stated that Darbari Kanada is the raga they would choose to sing before passing away! The raga possesses one of the most famous peaks in Hindustani music.

Featured Composition

Ragam: Darbarikanada
Talam: Adi
Narayana Theethar

Krishna disuades Nanda and his subjects from performing Indra yagam (Ritual to please Indra).  He preaches them that Sri Maha Vishnu is the only supreme God and advises them to invocate him in the Govardhana mountain and worship. Angered by this Indra troubles them with torrential rain and storm. Sri Krishna, the all powerful God lifts the Govardhana and protects them under it. They sing the praise of Krishna in this song.


gOvardhana giri dhara gOvinda
gOkula pAlaka paramAnandA

Meaning : Oh! Krishna, You lifted the Govardhana mountain and protected the shepherd community. You are the embodiment of supreme happiness.


Sree vatsAnkita Sree koustubha dhara
bhAvaka bhaya hara pAhi mukundA

Meaning :  Srivatsa spot on your chest and the koustubha gem are beautiful on you. You dispel the fears of your devotees. Protect, Oh! Mukunda


pATita sura ripu pAdapa brunda
pAvana charita parAmruta kanda
nAtya rasOtkaTa nAnA bharaNa
nArAyaNa teerthA rchita charaNa

Meaning:You annihilated the enemies of devatas and your life is holy. You bestow the nectar of trascendental happiness.You immerse in the divine dance. Your ornaments are many. Narayana Teertha worships your feet.

Enjoy the Right Royal Darbari Kanada 😀

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6 thoughts on “#10 – Darbari Kanada – The Emperor of Ragas and the Raga of Emperors.

  1. I really appreciate the effort taken by you to create an awareness in raagaas, Ms Anuradha. Here I find a fascinating list of film songs as well. May I humbly correct you in one of the songs. The song in Roja is not ‘puthu vellai nila’ but “puthu vellai mazhai ingu pozhikindrathu & the song is based on the raag Kaanada. Keep up the good work.

  2. சின்னஞ்சிறிய வண்ணப் பறவை எண்ணத்தை சொல்லுதம்மா – அது இன்னிசையோடு தன்னை மறந்து சொன்னதைச் சொல்லுதம்மா

    Hophe this song also Darbari Kaanada Raga.

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