JUNE 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida



The Indian music system is referred to as “Raagdhari Sangeet’ or raaga-based music. The raaga or raag is a melodic entity – a combination of specific notes in a particular order, which make it unique and different from any other raaga. Raaga is the soul of Indian music. It is not just a tune or melody but a melodic mould, a continuum which is also an ever-changing and evolving entity.

A raaga acts as a tonal framework for compositions and improvisations. Typically, a raaga includes numerous compositions composed in many genres (both traditional and unconventional) such as Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khyal (vilambit – slow paced, madhyalaya – medium paced or dhrutalaya – fast-paced composition), Thumri, Tappa, Hori, Kajri, Dadra, Chaturang, Ghazal, Geet, Bhajan, Abhang, film music, etc. Raagas allow vocalists/instrumentalists/composers to create a new song or melody all the time. Using the basic scale and rules of one particular raaga, any trained musician can generate an infinite variety of melodious phrasing and sequencing.

Every raaga in Indian classical music has certain fundamental rules prescribed by various texts. Here are some of them:

A raaga must have a minimum of five notes or ‘swaras’. The universally identified seven notes or ‘sapta-swaras’ in Indian music are SA (shadj), RE (rishabh), GA (gandhar), MA (madhyam), PA (pancham), DHA (dhaivat) and NI (nishad).

A raaga must always have the base note SA from which to start and almost always contains either MA or PA or both. SA and PA are constant notes, their relative position to each other never changes and they are called ‘prakriti swaras’ (natural notes). The swaras RE, GA, DHA and NI have two variants. They are either ‘shuddh’ (pure) or ‘komal’ (flat or minor). The MA note can be sung ‘shuddh’ or ‘teevra’ (sharp or raised). RE, GA, DHA, NI and MA are changeable and hence called ‘vikruti’ swaras. There also are various other fixed, natural, sharp and half-tone note variations, which form the complex system of microtones known as ‘shrutis’.

Every raaga has a structural framework of linear progression called the ‘aaroh’ and ‘avaroh’. The aaroah is the ascending scale of a raaga while the avaroh is the descending scale of the raaga. For example, the raaga Bhairav has the following scale: Aaroh – SA RE GA MA PA DHA NI SA and Avaroh – SA NI DHA PA MA GA RE SA.

There are three octaves or ‘saptakas’ (registers) that are taken into consideration in everyday practice and performance of a vocalist or an instrumentalist, an octave being a continuum of seven notes. They are the ‘mandra’ (lower), ‘madhya’ (middle) and ‘taara’ (higher) saptakas. The beginning note (swara) of the aaroh is SA and it belongs to the middle octave or madhya sapthaka. It is referred to as the ‘aadhara shadj’, meaning the foundation or base of reference from which the melodic structure is derived. The aaroh then ascends note by note and finally goes up to the upper SA of the taara saptaka or higher octave. This SA is referred to as the ‘taara shadj’.

There are numerous classifications of raagas based on their salient features and characteristics. The ‘Janya-Janaka’ raaga system theorizes that there are parent raagas making way for offspring.

These raagas that have emerged from the parent have minor differences either in the application of vikruti swaras or one to two notes being altogether omitted. This is called ‘varjya’ or omission. If only five notes are used in the aaroh-avaroh of the raaga, it is called ‘audhav’ (omission of two notes). The use of six notes where there is only one varjya swara is referred to as ‘shaadav’. When all seven notes are used, the raaga is called ‘sampoorna’. Some raagas for example are audhav in the aaroh (five notes) and sampoorna (all seven notes) in the avaroh (descent).

For example, raaga Khamaj is shaadav in the aaroh and sampoorna in the avaroh. This feature along with the use of komal, shuddh and teevra swaras in different combinations creates hundreds and thousands of raagas. Raaga Bhairav (a sampoorna raaga) uses komal RE and DHA, while raaga Ahir Bhairav (also a sampoorna raaga) uses komal RE and NI. Though all other notes are similar, these two raagas are imbued with totally distinct emotions with the switch of a single note position. This is the beauty of raaga-based Indian classical music.

To be continued

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. Dinesh, who has three album releases to her credit, also has worked as a music critic and feature writer for Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at lavanya@lavanyadinesh.com

homeeventsbiz directorysubscribecontentclasses/places of worshipnewseditorialhealthimmigrationfinance
techno cornermoviesfashionmusic/dancebooksyogahome improvementastrologycuisinemotoringgetawayclassifiedsARCHIVES
Read the Editor's Blog. By Nitish Rele Classifieds Getaway Motoring Cuisine Astrology Home Improvement Books Yoga Music and Dance Fashion Movies Techno Corner Finance Immigration Health Editorial News Classes/Places of Worship Content Find us on Facebook!