Majuli Cultural Landscape Management Authority
...Promoting and preserving the rich heritage of Majuli

CULTURE - MUSIC

ANKIYA GEET:
These are songs which are sung mostly for the dramas since Borgeets are not sung in dramas. The Ankiya Geets have compositions for rhythm etc. They differ from drama to drama and composed mainly for mass entertainment.

BORGEET:

Illustrated Borgeet

The name Borgeet popularly refers to a special set of devotional songs, set in ragas mentioned in the ancient Indian musical treatises, composed during the late 15th and the early 16th centuries A.D. by Srimanta Sankaradeva and his chief disciple and associate, Sri Sri Madhavadeva, the two prime exponents of Vaisnavism in Assam. Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva referred to their songs as geet only. The adjectival prefix Bar, meaning grand or superior, must have been a later reverential addition by their devout disciples, which might bear upon the musical grandeur of the songs too.

Sankaradeva established a community centre called Namghar for religio-cultural practices like Bhaona and Nam-Prasanga. Bhaona is the enactment of the dramatic works, popularly referred to as Anka, by Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva. Even these Ankas are full of songs, set in ragas, like the Borgeets. A Bhaona is preceded by an elaborate group performance of percussionists playing the Khol (a barrel-shaped drum) and the Tal (the cymbal). The performance involves not only the playing of the instruments but also singing and varied footwork by the percussionists. Nam-prasanga is the common and the chief religious ritual of the Vaisnava cult in Assam which involves the singing of the devotional songs and verses composed by Sankara-Madhava. The Borgeets have been traditionally an indispensable part of this Nam-prasnga.

MUSICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BORGEET
In its traditional style of performance, all the Pancha Dhatus (musical parts) of Prabandha, as described by Pundit Sarngadeva, viz., Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva, Antara and Abhoga, are distinctly exhibitted. The traditional performance of Borgeet, in its ideal form, as a part of Nama-prasanga, is preceded by the Gurughat, a song-less orchestra of instruments like Khol, Tal, Negera etc. This songless instrumental prelude corresponds to the Udgraha of Prabandha sangita.

Adau vadya Prabandhanang suddha kutadi nirmitah.
Yah khando vadyate prahurudgrahatang mahattamah. (Sangit Ratnakara)

This songless orchestra is followed by the singing of the Raga as such, that too with the accompaniment of a rhythmic composition of five strokes and one gap played in the Khol, Tal, Negera etc., variously known as Rag-Talani, Rag-Tal, Repani, Jundhara, Ghelani etc. This rhythmic elaboration of the raga may be compared to the Melapaka dhatu of Prabandha that establishes the link between Udgraha and Dhruva. The Tal (cymbals) is played by the singers themselves, while even the Bayans, playing the Khol and the Negera, often take part in the singing.

On completion of the rendering of the raga, there comes a break in the instrumental recital too and the chief singer (Gayan) of the group initiates the singing of the first line of a Borgeet, set in the raga already sung, beatlessly, repeated by the group. This is done twice and on the second repetition of the line by the group, the percussionists make their entry with the Ghat of the tala in which that particular Borgeet is normally started. A tala played with Borgeet comprises three parts: Ga-man (the main body); Ghat (the concluding part); Cok (an embellishment of the Ga-man), which is again followed by the Ghat.

The first two lines of a Borgeet are marked by the symbol Dhrung, the abbreviation of Dhruva. The singing style also differentiates the Dhruva from the rest of the song. As noted above, the first line is first sung beatlessly. Then it is accompanied by only the Ghat of the tala to be played first. The second line of Dhruva is then sung repeatedly in all the three parts of that tala itself. Thus the Dhruva part of a Borgeet is sung only in one tala, whereas each line of the rest of the song, marked as pada is sung with the accompaniment of at least two different talas. This unique style of singing each line of a song with the accompaniment of at least two different talas gives Borgeet a speciality that also reminisces Prabandha Sangita. The Astapadis of Jaydeva's Gita-Govinda are also known to have been sung in a similar style, where each pada was accompanied by a separate tala.

Just after the Dhruva, starts the choral singing of the pada part. The singing proceeds from one line to another without the burden (Dhruva) being repeated. The singing style again differentiates the last line of a Borgeet from the rest of the pada. It is sung repeatedly for several times with the accompaniment of a separate rhythmic composition called Thela-bajana, which in no way conforms to the structure and rhythmic pattern of the other talas played with a Borgeet. There end the song and the percussion. Hence the last line of a Borgeet may be said to correspond to the Abhoga Dhatu of Prabandha, and the rest of the Pada, differentiating the Dhruva from the Abhoga, may be called Antara.

Thus the traditional style of performance establishes Borgeet as a reminiscent of Prabandha Sangita. Unfortunately however, this style of performance is still confined within the Namghar, and in the process of bringing Borgeet out of Namghar as a performing art, the style of performance has been simplified and modernized to such an extent that Borgeet has lost all its special characteristics and has been relegated to the position of light-classical devotional songs. The need of the hour is therefore to teach, learn and perform Borgeet in the traditional style itself, without destroying its musical specialities, though with some modifications only in the interest of making the performance musically perfect.

THE RAGAS OF BORGEET
There are altogether 36 ragas of Borgeet: Ahir, Asowari, Basanta, Barari, Belowar, Dhanasri, Mahur, Syam, Kou, Kalyan, Purbi, Bhatiyali, Gouri, Bhupali, Kanara, Saranga, Suhai, Sindhura, Sri, Gandhar, Tur, Nat, Mallar, Kedar, Kamod, Lalit, Mahur-Dhanasri, Tur-Bhatiyali, Tur-Basanta, Sri-Gouri, Sri-Gandhar, Nat-Mallar, Karunya-Kedar, Sri-Payar, Syam-Gera, Kou-Kalyan-Sindhura.

Out of these a few like Gouri, Kamod, Kedar, Kanara, Saranga, Mallar, Nat, Barari etc. are known to have originated in between the 5th and the 11th centuries A.D. However, the ragas of Borgeet do not tally with their modern counterparts in the North or the South. The difference is in both structure (raga-rupa) and singing style.