Raga Ahiri:Neither Ahiri Todi,nor Ahir Bhairav

Until a few years ago, I had not heard Raga Ahiri. The opportunity of studying it came my way when I had to write a commentary on the sarodist, Tejendra Majumdar’s recording of this raga for India Archive Music Ltd., New York.

Tejendra claims to have learnt this raga from his Guru, Ustad Bahadur Khan, as Ahiri, and not Ahiri Todi. In addition, he studied, from a private collection, an unpublished recording of the raga rendered by Nikhil Bannerjee. Tejendra vouches that the raga form, as taught to him by his Guru matches that of Nikhil Bannerjee. On this evidence, I am inclined to believe that Ahiri is a rare raga, which has been a part of the repertoire of the Maihar-Seniya repertoire.

The word "Ahir" refers to a community of cowherds in northern and western India. This suggests the origin of this raga in a tribal or folk melody, which entered the raga system by shaping variants of mature, major ragas. This possibility is suggested by the popularity of its compounds (e.g. Ahir Bhairav, Ahiri Todi, Ahir Lalit) and the rarity of the pure Ahiri.