One of the most important ragas in Carnatic music, along with other heavyweights such as Todi, Shankarabharanam and Kamboji. This is an ancient raga that developed organically, and has, over the centuries, changed quite a bit in character. In books, it is mentioned variously as upanga or bhashanga. In current usage, the bhashanga note chatushruti dhaivata in the arohana is very disctictive, and indicates the raga. Bhairavi is part of a large family of ragas with similar characteristics, the others being manji, huseni and mukhari. Huseni, especially, has a folkish nature with its leaps across intervals of fourths and fifths (madhyama and panchama).
There are quite a few major compositions in Bhairavi, perhaps none grander and more comprehensive than the Syama Sastri swarajati, Kamakshi Amba. Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar also have a good number of compositions in Bhairavi, including Upacharamu Jeseva, Koluvaiyunnaade, Balagopala and the Panchabhoota Linga kriti, Chintaya Maa Kandha Moola Kandham. The Arunachala Kavi kriti from his Rama Natakam, Yaaro Ivar Yaaro, though originally tuned in Saveri, is better known in its Bhairavi avatar. There is also Swati Tirunal's Navaratri kriti, Janani Maamava. And of course, who can forget the wonderful and ever-popular ata tala varnam, Viriboni, which was, in a way, a precursor to most of the classics that we have in Bhairavi today.