Raga Karaharapriya reminds me of the banyan tree. With its innumerable branches and roots, the banyan tree stands tall and covers a large surface area. Karaharapriya too exhibits such breadth with a wide range of derivative (janya) ragas and holds a special place in the pantheon of primary (Melakartha) ragas.
There are several stories, possibly apocryphal, behind the name of the raga. The most popular one was that the raga referred to the priya, the loved one (Rama) who killed (hara) the demon Khara, the brother of Ravana. Tyagaraja has composed several songs in this raga from the slow-moving Chakkani raja to the medium paced Pakkala Nilabadi and Rama nee samana. Papanasam Sivan’s Appan Avadharitha on Lord Ayyappa and Neelakanta Sivan’s Navasidhi Petralum on Lord Siva are other popular songs in this raga.
Here is a rendition of raga Karaharapriya by the stalwart Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.
Karaharapriya corresponds to the Kafi thaat of Hindustani music. Here is a rendition of raag Kafi by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
A true measure of a raga’s popularity is when it’s reach extends outside the concert hall. Karaharapriya continues to adorn the repertoire of music directors, particularly in Tamil cinema. Illayaraja has composed many songs set to it. One of my favourite AR Rahman songs Pachai Nirame, from the movie Alaipayuthe, is loosely based on this raga.
For those who want details, Karaharapriya is a Melakartha raga (22) and the scale is as follows – SR2G2M1PD2N2S SN2D2PM1G2R2S