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Raag Desh

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Published on  |  Last Updated on April 26, 2024

Raag Desh, also called “Des” and “Desh Malhar” is a Hindustani Classical Raga which belongs to the Khamaj Thaat. This Raga is very similar to Raga Khamaj and is mostly associated with the monsoon season. The name of the Raga might confuse the audience as the word “Desh” literally means Country in Hindi but historically, the raga has nothing to do with the idea of the Indian nation state.

In fact, it predates such concepts, although it had been harnessed a few years ago to project India’s cultural unity through a short film, which featured some of the country’s celebrated North Indian and South Indian musicians and dancers. But moving beyond this obvious effort at representing Indian nationalism through Raga Desh, one can experience different moods of this raga through various musical forms.

Musical Characteristics of Raag Desh

Raga Desh is a very beautiful, romantic night-time raga and is to be sung during the second quarter of the night (9 PM to 12 PM). The Raga is of audava – sampurna nature,i.e., in its aaroh (ascent) only five notes are used, whereas the avroh (descent) uses all the seven notes. Shuddha Nishad is used in the Aaroh, while Komal Nishad is used in Avroh.

All other swaras are Shuddha. Komal Gandhar is a Vivadi, but is used once in a while, usually in tar-saptak (higher octave). Madhyam is sometimes used as a kan-swar between Shadaj and Rishabh in aaroh. The ascent in this Raga is a step by step pentatonic movement which goes like this: Sa, Re, Ma, Pa, Ni, Sa’.

It is a very sweet melody that bears the Shadaj- Pancham (Sa-Pa) and Shadaj-Madhyam (Sa-Ma) Bhava and therefore very pleasing and essentially melodic. Rishabh is very prominent in this raga, quite a few times the singer rests on Re, making it a center to the melody.

The Meend from madhyam to rishabh via gandhar is one of the most vital features of this raga. The aaroh via shuddha nishad, and the transition from rishabh to komal nishad in the avroh form an important part of the melodies in this raga.

Swar Notations 

Swaras: Gandhar and Dhaivat Varjya in Aaroh, Both Nishaad. Rest all Shuddha Swaras. 



                             Ascending Structure


Alternative Ascending Structure





Jati: Audava-Sampurna Vakra

Thaat: Khamaj

Vadi / Samvaadi: Rishabh / Pancham 

Ideal time to sing: (9 PM – 12 PM) ; 2nd Prahar of the night ; Ratri ka Dwitiya Prahar

Compositions to practise in Raag Desh 

Till now, we understood the structure of the raga theoretically. With the help of the following audios you would be able to learn basics of the Raga and some khyals followed by some taans in the same. 

Bandish 1 : Rab Gun Gaye Re Tu


Bandish: Rab Gun Gaya Re Tu, Artist : Siya Rajpal


Rab Gun Gaya Re Tu Mana -2

Kaahe Bhatkat Fire Nisadina -2 


Chin Bhangur Sab Jagat Pasara -2

Maya Jaal Birtha Kalapana 


STHAYI (8 Matras)

1. Sa Re Ma Pa Ni Ni Sa’ – , Sa’ Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa.

2.  Ni Sa Re Ma Pa Ni Dha Pa, Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Ga Sa. 

3.  Pa Ni Sa’ Re’ Sa’ Ni Dha Pa , Ni Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa.

ANTARA (16 Matras)

1. Sa’ Ni Sa’ Sa’ Pa Ni Sa’ Sa’ Ma Ma Pa Pa Ni Ni Sa’ Sa’ , Sa’ Ni Dha Pa Ni Dha Pa Ma Ma    Ma Pa Pa Ni Ni Sa’ – . 

2.  Re’ Ga’ Re’ Sa’ Re’ Ni Sa’ Sa’ Sa’ Sa’ Re’ Re’ Sa’ Ni Dha Pa , Ma Pa Ni Ni Dha Pa Ma Pa Pa Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Ga Sa.


1. This Bandish is sung in Teen Taal Madhya Laya and starts with Khali. 

2. Ni and Ga in the taan section denote Komal Nishad and  Komal Gandhar. 

Bandish 2 : Beet Jaat Barkha Ritu 

This Bandish is sung Ek Taal Madhya Laya.


Bandish: Beet Jaat Barkha Ritu, Artist : Siya Rajpal


Beet Jaat Barkha Ritu 

Aaye Na Sajan Ae – – – ri 

Ae – – – – ri , Ae – – – – ri              -2


Un Bin Mohe Chain Na Aave -2

Kaam Kaaj Kachhu Na Bhaave -2

Nisadin Mohe Birah Sataye 

Aaye na Sajan Ae – – – – ri

Bandish 3 : Mukut Chatak Girdhar Dhar

This Bandish is sung in the Taal Dadra (Madhya Laya).

Bandish : Mukut Chatak Girdhar Dhar, Artist : Siya Rajpal


Mukut Chatak Girdhar Dhar -2

Madhur Madhur He – – – -re  -2

Matak Matak Chaal Chalat 

Dagar Dagar He – – – – re


Mur Mur Murli Bajaye -2

Ee Sur Sur Sur Sunaye -2

Chal Bal Se Dhaay Dhaay 

Gale Lagat Me – – – – re

Similar Ragas

This Raga represents major problems for anyone attempting to perform it in a pure fashion because of its modality. As it uses all seven notes and both the nishads, this raga has been forced to impinge upon a number of other ragas such as Khamaj, Sarang, Tilak Kamod and Sorat. Attempting to perform Desh without impinging upon these other ragas is like trying to move around in a crowded second class train compartment which is not an easy task. 

This obvious difficulty is addressed in a delightful fashion. There is a strong tendency to perform Desh in lighter styles, such as Dadra, or thumri, where impinging upon other ragas is not only acceptable, but sort of a custom. Therefore, if performing Desh is like a crowded second class compartment, then it is a second class compartment where everyone there is your relative and you are going to attend a wedding function.

Charm of Raag Desh

Raag Desh represents all patriotic connotations including mother, soil, humankind, nature and all the literary and cultural essence of a country. A raga generally contains two major parts — Purbanga (from ‘Sa’ to ‘Pa’) and Uttaranga (from ‘Ma’ to ‘Sa’). ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ are common to both the ang. Purbanga of the raga depicts patriotism while Uttaranga of the genre portrays love for the beloved. Raga “Desh” generates the rasa of Shringar (beauty and illusion) in Uttaranga and Veer rasa (heroism and boldness) in Purbanga.

According to music exponents, a feeling of pride and close attachment to one’s own heritage works in the minds of listeners of the raga. The raga evokes nostalgic childhood memories mingled with zeal, feelings and love. All evocative memories like plucking water lilies on a rainy afternoon, water bodies; fishing, hurrying home with cattle prior to the onset of rain and reaping and harvesting crops serenade the melody of raga “Desh”.

One can get immersed in the raga with accomplished live vocals or instruments in a bucolic music lounge circled with trees including kadom, malati and madhavi in a monsoon yet moonlit night of second prahar. 

Famous songs & Rabindra Sangeet based on Raag Desh

An apt rendition or recital of the raga showcases the dazzling beauty of a blissful butterfly celebrating greenery all around. The raga has frequently been used in patriotic compositions including “Vande Mataram” (penned by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee), the national song of India. Tagore greets the advent of monsoon with one of his compositions “Esho Shyamal Sundoro” set on the monsoon raga while our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam’s “Desh” composition ” Piya Piya Piya Papiya Pukarey” makes us celebrate pathos.

Set on the raga, the great grandson of the legendary Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan Saheb (the founder of the ‘Rampur Sahaswan Gharana’), Ustad Rashid Khan recorded a beautiful Khyal on the bandish “Karam Kar Di Je Khwaja Muinuddin” that his grandfather created. Rashid Khan’s stunning performance of a thumri “Mora Saiyan Bulave Aadhi raat ko” and a bhajan “Palna Jhuley Nandlal” are also on “Desh”.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s recital of “Desh” on his santoor is breathtaking while Pandit Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia’s flute recital on the raga takes us to yesteryears ( “Pukar” in the rendition of “Desh” often produces an exquisite emotive plea that best expresses the patriotic zeal! Ustad Mehdi Hassan’s thumri ” Umar Ghoomar Ghir Aayo re Sajni Badra” and Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty’s rapturous rendition of the song “Rimjhim Rimjhim Elo Re Shraban” celebrate both romance and melancholy of the monsoon raga. Ustad Ghulam Ali’s record of the ghazal “Nazar se Nazar ko salaam aa rahe hai” superbly pours the rasa of the raga.

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Siya Rajpal
Siya Rajpal is a classically trained singer with 12 years of learning and on stage experience. She has a Sangeet Prabhakar in Hindustani Classical Music and plays ukulele as well .

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