In our series on representations of birds in Hindustani compositions, we will devote another episode to the swan or the hamsa/hansa. There is a rarely-heard raag bearing the word of hamsa/hansa called Hansakinkini or Hansakankini (kinkini literally a small tinkling ornament). Here is Gwalior gharana maestro DV Paluskar’s interpretation of a composition created by Niamat Khan Sadarang in this raag.

It is set to Jhaptaal, a rhythmic cycle of ten matras. Those of you who listen to tabla solo recitals will note that the first line of the sthayi or the first section of the composition has been used in the past as the preferred melodic refrain or nagma/lehera for tabla solo recitals in Jhaptaal.

Shruti Sadolikar Katkar, one of the chief representatives of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, sings a composition in Jhaptaal in the raag Hansakinkini.

Apart from raags bearing the word hamsa/hansa, it seems strange that the image of the hamsa-mithun or swan-couple, a favourite one in the Indian context to signify eternal love, seems missing in Hindustani compositions. This absence is particularly intriguing since one encounters mention of other birds in compositions that describe many...

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