"Rāga" (Sanskrit, lit. "colour" or "mood"; or "rāgam" in Carnatic music) refers to melodic modes used in Indian classical music. ["Raag" is the modern Hindi pronunciation used by Hindustani musicians; ] It is a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is founded. In the Indian musical tradition, ragas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a raga. Non-classical music such as popular Indian film songs or ghazals sometimes use ragas in their compositions.

"Rāgini" is an archaic term for the 'feminine' counterpart to a raga.

Nature of raga

: योऽसौ ध्वनिविशेषस्तु स्वरवर्णविभूषितः ।: रञ्जको जनचित्तानां स च राग उदाहृतः ।।

: "That which is a special "dhvani", is bedecked with "swara" and "varna" and is colorful or delightful to the minds of the people, is said to be "raga" - Matanga in the Brihaddeshi.

Raga describes a generalised form of melodic practice. It also prescribes a set of rules for building the melody. It specifies the rules for movements up ("aahroh" [आरोह] ) and down ("aavroh" [अवरोह] ) the scale, which "Swara" (notes) should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly, which notes may be sung with "gamaka", phrases to be used, phrases to be avoided, and so on. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies, allowing for endless variation within the set of notes.

The basic mode of reference in modern Hindustani practice (known commonly as the "shuddha" - basic - form) is a set which is equivalent to the Western Ionian mode -- this is called "Bilawal thaat" in Hindustani music (the Carnatic analog would be "Sankarabharanam"). In both systems, the ground (or tonic), Shadja, Sa, and a pure fifth above, Pancham, Pa, are fixed and essentially sacrosanct tones. In the Hindustani system, in a given seven-tone mode, the second, third, sixth, and seventh notes can be natural ("shuddha", lit. 'pure') or flat ("komal", 'soft') but never sharp, and the fourth note can be natural or sharp ("tivra") but never flat, making up the twelve notes in the Western equal tempered chromatic scale (Western pitch equivalences like, for example, A# and Bb do not apply; EG: Ri 3 may, to a Western musician appear enharmonic to Sadharana Ga in that system, but in practice is not.) A Western-style C scale could therefore theoretically have the notes C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, B. The Carnatic system has three versions -- a lower, medium, and higher form -- of all the notes except Sa and Pa. Ragas can also specify microtonal changes to this scale: a flatter second, a sharper seventh, and so forth. Tradition has it that the octave consists of (a division into) 22 microtones. ("śrutis"). Furthermore, individual performers treat pitches quite differently, and the precise intonation of a given note depends on melodic context. There is no absolute pitch (such as the modern western standard A = 440 Hz); instead, each performance simply picks a ground note, which also serves as the drone, and the other scale degrees follow relative to the ground note. The Carnatic system embarks from a much different shuddha (fundamental) scalar formation, that is, "shuddha" here is the lowest-pitched swara.

By comparison, using the common tonic "C" for a western musician:

Ragas and their seasons

Some Hindustani (North Indian) ragas are prescribed a time of day or a season. When performed at the suggested time, the raga has its maximum effect. During the monsoon, for example, many of the "Malhar" group of ragas, which are associated with the monsoon and ascribed the magical power to bring rain, are performed. However these prescriptions are not strictly followed, especially since modern concerts are generally held in the evening. There has also been a growing tendency over the last century for North Indian musicians to adopt South Indian ragas, which do not come with any particular time associated with them. The result of these various influences is that there is increasing flexibility as to when ragas may be performed.


Although notes are an important part of raga practice, they alone do not make the raga. A raga is more than a scale. Many ragas share the same scale. The underlying scale may have five, six or seven tones made up of "swaras". Ragas that have five swaras are called "audava" (औडव) ragas; those with six, "shaadava" (षाडव); and with seven, "sampoorna" (संपूर्ण) (Sanskrit for 'complete'). Those ragas that do not follow the strict ascending or descending order of swaras are called "vakra" (वक्र) ('crooked') ragas.
It is the mood of the raga that is more important than the notes it comprises. For example, Raga Darbari Kanada and Raga Jaunpuri share the same notes but are entirely different in their renderings.

Northern and southern differences

The two streams of Indian classical music, Carnatic music and Hindustani music, have independent sets of ragas. There is some overlap, but more "false friendship" (where raga names overlap, but raga form does not). In north India, the ragas have been categorised into ten "thaats" or parent scales (by Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, 1860-1936); South India uses a somewhat older, more systematic classification scheme called the "melakarta" classification, with 72 parent ("melakarta") ragas. Overall there is a greater identification of raga with scale in the south than in the north, where such an identification is impossible.

As ragas were transmitted orally from teacher to student, some ragas can vary greatly across regions, traditions and styles. There have been efforts to codify and standardize raga performance in theory from their first mention in Matanga's "Brhaddesi" (c. tenth century).

Carnatic raga

In Carnatic music, ragas are classified as "Janaka" ragas and "Janya" ragas. Janaka ragas are the ragas from which the Janya ragas are created. Janaka ragas are grouped together using a scheme called "Katapayadi sutra" and are organised as "Melakarta" ragas. A Melakarta raga is one which has all seven notes in both the ārōhanam (ascending scale) and avarōhanam (descending scale). Some "Melakarta" ragas are "Harikambhoji", "Kalyani", "Kharaharapriya", "Mayamalavagowla", "Sankarabharanam" and "Todi".

Janya ragas are derived from the Janaka ragas using a combination of the swarams (usually a subset of swarams) from the parent raga. Some janya ragas are "Abheri", "Abhogi", "Bhairavi", "Hindolam" and "Kambhoji". See the full List of Janya Ragas for more.

Each raga has a definite collection and orders of "swaras" (the basic notes). In Carnatic music, there are 7 basic notes of which there are 12 varieties. The seven basic swarams of Carnatic music are: Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni.

Related ragas

Even though Janya ragas are subsets of Janaka ragas in "scientific" notation and representation, the differences are clear due to the differences like
*some notes that figure more in a particular raga compared to another, while other notes used sparingly
*some notes may be sung with "gamaka", stress, elongation, etc., in one raga compared to other
*specific phrases used and other phrases to be avoided in a raga (so as to avoid deviation into another raga's domain)

The effect of the ragas are different from each other, even if they notationally use same swarams (or subset of swarams between each other) due to above subjective differences related to "bhava" and "rasa" (mood caused in the listener). The artists have to ensure the same when elaborating on a raga, as has been followed and expected on each raga, without digressing into the phrases of another related raga. As we all know, science and notations cannot fully represent emotions and feelings.

Aprachalit ragas

Various schools known in the past as Gharanas have exhibited a penchant for some special ragas. They worked on these ragas so that a particular raga attained a height hitherto unachieved. These special ragas would be taught to a capable pupil alone, often the maestro's son or nephew.


Raga-ragini scheme is an old classification scheme used from the 14th century till the 19th century. It usually consists of 6 'male' ragas each with 6 'wives'(raginis) and a number of sons (putras) and even 'daughters-in-law'. As it did not agree with various other schemes, and the 'related' ragas had very little or no similarity, the raga-ragini scheme is no longer very popular. [Bor 1999]

Ragas and raginis were often pictured as Hindu gods, Rajput princes and aristocratic women in an eternal cycle of love, longing and fulfillment, (e.g. [http://www.umbc.edu/eol/6/raga/raga16.jpgraga Gujari] , [http://www.umbc.edu/eol/6/raga/basant.jpgraga Basant] , [http://www.umbc.edu/eol/6/raga/raga38.jpgraga Shri] and an example of this can be seen in a Mughal style album painted c. 1610, which is now in possession of the British Museum, London [Bor 1999] .



* Citation
first=Vishnu Narayan
title=Kramika Pustaka Malika
publisher=Sangeet Karyalaya
* Citation
title=The Raga Guide
publisher=Nimbus Records

* Citation
title=The Rags of North Indian Music. There Structure & Evolution
publisher=Popular Prakashan
. Published Sanskrit works (listed in Citation
title=Northern Indian Music
publisher=Christopher Johnson
publisher=Visva Bharati
The First period: Names mentioned in the IAST|Purāṇǎs and in the epics (Mahābhāratǎ and IAST|Rāmāyaṇǎ).
*IAST|Māṇḍuki Śhikṣhā (Atharvǎ Vedǎ).Benares Sanskrit Series 1893
*IAST|NāradĪyǎ Śhikṣhā (of Nāradǎ)(Sāmǎ Vedǎ) (with the IAST|Śhikṣhā Vivaraṇǎ commentary of IAST|Śhrī Bhaṭṭǎ Śhubhākarǎ). Benares Sanskriet Series 1983. Mysore 1946
*IAST|Nāṭyǎ Śhāstrǎ (of Bharatǎ) (chapters 28, 29 and 38 deal with music) Text only: Benares, 1929; with text and commentary of Abhinavǎ Guptǎ: Barode, 1926 The second period: starting somewhere between the 2nd century B.C. and the 4th century A.C. The third period: starting in the 10th century The fourth period: starting in the 16th century

Some Ragamala paintings can be found in:
* Citation
title=Indian Miniature Paintings c:1590 to c. 1850
publisher=Galerie Saundarya Lahari
* Citation
title=Ragas and Raginis

External links

* [http://www.itcsra.org/ ITC Sangeet Research Academy] --scholarly organization devoted to the promotion of Hindustani classical music; includes information on artists past and present, Hindustani sangeet (theory), and current events in the Indian classical world.
* [http://www.soundofindia.com/raagas.asp Comprehensive reference on raagas]
* [http://www.ragaranjani.org/ Raga Ranjani School of Music] --a non-profit organization to promote Indian classical music in Southern California, thorough workshops, classes, and concerts.
* [http://www.kksongs.org/ragamala Krsna Kirtana Songs Ragamala] --an informative database with over ninety ragas (audio clips coming soon), tutorial on the North Indian notation system, raga classification, and explanation of how ragas work.
* [http://www.omenad.net/base_ragrang.htm Raga-rang]
* [http://www.omenad.net/articles/bjack_ragrup.htm A collection of Compositions of Sangeetendu Dr. Lalmani Misra by Dr. Pushpa Basu.]
* [http://www.anandvyas.org/index.html An online learning site with Rich Internet Content] --Include online lessons and RIA's
* [http://www.tanarang.com tanarang.com , a website dedicated to Hindustani Classical Music which contains information about various Raags and contains various bandishes to listen.]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/4725/ragky.html Ragakairali] -- Malayalam film songs listed by raga.
* [http://www.geocities.com/vasudevanvrv/carnatic/raagams.htm Online quick reference of rāgams] in Carnatic music.

ee also

*Melody type
*Nava rasas
* "Raga", a documentary about the life and music of Ravi Shankar
*Raga-Rupanjali. Ratna Publications: Varanasi. 2007.

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