Its nature is mellifluous and smooth. This rāga offers a large scope for compositions. It is ideal for a melodious, but still a laid back majestic presentation which suits artistes of various calibre.
It is the 5th rāgam in the 5th chakra Bana. The mnemonic name is Bana-Ma. The mnemonic phrase is sa ri gu ma pa dhi nu .
Its structure is as follows (see swaras in Carnatic music for details on below notation and terms):
(Chathusruthi Rishabham, Antara Gandharam, Suddha Madhyamam, Chathusruthi Dhaivatham, Kakali Nishadham)
Due to the even spacing of swaras, many janya rāgas can be derived from Sankarabharanam. It is one of the sampoorna ragas that has high number of janya ragas associated with it, in Carnatic Music.
Many of the janya rāgas are very popular on their own, lending themselves to elaboration, interpretation and evoking different moods. Some of them are Aarabi, Ataana, Bilahari, Devagandhari, Hamsadhwani, Kadhanakuthoohalam and Shuddha Saveri.
See List of Janya Rāgams for full list of rāgas associated with Sankarabharanam.
Sankarbharanam has been decorated with compositions by almost all composers. A few of them are listed here.
Edhuta nilachite, Bhakti Bhikshameeyave and Enduku peddalavale by Thyagaraja
Sundareshwaram bhajeham and Shri kamalamba by Muthuswami Dikshitar
Pogadirelo Ranga by Purandara Dasa
Sarojadala netri and Devi Meenanethri by Syama Sastri
Chalamela (Ata tala varnam) by Swathi Thirunal maharaja
This section covers the theoretical and scientific aspect of this rāgam.
Sankarabharanam's notes when shifted using Graha bedham, yields 5 other major Melakarta rāgams, namely, Kalyani, Hanumatodi, Natabhairavi, Kharaharapriya and Harikambhoji. Graha bedham is the step taken in keeping the relative note frequencies same, while shifting the Shadjam to the next note in the rāgam. Refer table below for illustration of this concept.
Notes on above table
C as the base for Sankarabharanam is chosen for above illustration only for convenience, as Carnatic music does not enforce strict frequency/note structure. The Shadjam (S) is fixed by the artist as per the vocal range or the instrument's base frequency. All the other swarams are relative to this Shadjam, falling into a Geometric progression-like frequency pattern.
The 7th Graha bedham of Sankarabharanam has both Madhyamams (Ma) and no Panchamam (Pa) and hence will not be considered a valid Melakarta (ragam having all 7 swarams and only 1 of each). This is only a classification issue with respect to Melakarta, while this structure could be theoretically used well to create good music (probably needs an expert).
The swarams are regularly spaced in these ragams. Hence these six ragams give very good melody, scope for elaboration, experimentation and exploration of phrases. In practice, Natabhairavi is not elaborated extensively much. Harikambhoji is taken up for elaboration, but not as much as the rest of the 4 ragams, namely, Sankarabharanam, Todi, Kalyani and Kharaharapriya. One of these 4 ragams is sung as the main ragam in a concert quite often.
As can be seen in the illustration, these ragams can be played using just the white keys of a piano/ organ/ keyboard (ragam in simplified fashion).