According to Indo Pak ancient theory, the musician's task in
exploring mood is made easier if the performance takes place at
the time and in the atmosphere appropriate to the raga. So if a
raga that embodies the atmosphere of spring is played in spring
it will be more effective than if it were played in winter. Play
some classical sounding music and try to see if any particular
Raga thrills you. Anything that turns you off completely?
Play instrumental or light classical music at first before
embarking on a heavy-duty vocal piece. Is there a piece that
moves you? Puts you in a sublime or inspiring mood. Another
aspect of the raga is the appropriate distribution in time
during the 24 hours of the day for its performance, i.e. the
time of the day denotes the raga sung at a particular time.
Ragas are also allotted a particular time space in the cycle of
Time based ragas are divided into four types:
Twilight raga when the notes re and da are
used such as Raga Marwa and Poorvi.
Mid-day and Mid-night ragas that include the
notes ga and ni (komal).
Ragas for the first quarter of
the morning and night that include the notes re, ga, da and ni
For the last quarter of the day and night, the raga includes
the notes Sa, ma and Pa.
The entire ragas are divided into
The Poorvi Raga is sung between 12 noon and 12 midnight.
The Uttar Raga is sung between 12 midnights and 12 noons. The
variations on the dominant or “King” note helps a person to find
out why certain raga are being sung at certain times. This raga
classification is about 500 years old and it takes us to Mughals
era. The beauty of the raga will not be spoiled by the time of
the day it is sung. It is the psychological association with the
time that goes with the mood of the raga. The object of a raga
is to express a certain emotional mood and sentiment without any
reference to time and season. For a student of classical music,
this classification may give an idea as to how to base his
reasons for the traditional usage of raga.
Classification of Ragas under five principals:
From these five ragas, other ragas are derived. The first
derivatives of the ragas are called raganis, and each of the
five ragas has five raganis under them. There are 25 raganis for
the above five ragas. Raganis are female and raga is male. You
can guess raganis and raga from the name of the ragas.
Further derivatives from these raga and raginis resulted in
attaching to each principal raga 16 secondary derivatives known
as upa-raga and upa-raganis. Every raga has a fixed number
of komal (soft) or tiver (sharp) notes, from which the thaat can
be recognized. In other words, a certain arrangement of the 7
notes with the change of komal and tiver is called a thaat.
Facts About Ragas:
It took a long
time for music to come to the form found in present-day India.
The most important advance in music was made between the 14th
and 18th centuries. During this period, the music
sung in the north came in contact with Persian music and
absorbed it, through the Pathans and the Mughals. It is then
that two schools of music resulted, the Hindustani and the
Carnatic. Hindustani music adopted a scale of natural notes and
Carnatic music retained the traditional octave. During this
period, different styles of classical compositions such as
Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, etc. were contributed to Hindustani
Detailed melodic modes are used in Ragas. Traditionally,
ragas are based on a complex Vedic philosophy of sound. A raga
is also basically a set of Vedic-rooted rules for how to build a
melody. It specifies rules for movements up (arohi) and down
(amrohi) the scale, which notes should figure more and which
notes should be used more cautiously. Which phrases to be used
and which 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.
There is no absolute pitch; instead, each performance simply
picks a ground note, and the other scale degrees follow relative
to the ground note. As ragas were never codified but transmitted
orally from teacher to student, some ragas can vary greatly
across regions, traditions and styles. Indian classical music is
always set in raga, but all raga music is not necessarily
classical. Many popular Indian film songs are themselves based
on ragas. In today's Indian
classical music raga is the backbone.
The outstanding feature of Indian classical music is the “raga”
concept. Raga is the essential concept of Indian classical
music. Each raga is a distinct musical entity or unit by itself
and possesses well-defined characteristics. The concept of
raga is proud contribution to the world music. It is
defined as melody mould or melody style. The goal of absolute
music is reached in the concept of raga. Ragas are the
artistic facts that can be recognized by a trained ear. Ragas
are acoustic facts and every musician is aware of them.
They are the creative talents of a musician. The ragas
form the basis of all melodies in India. Raga is the soul
of Indian classical music. If two songs sound strikingly similar
the chances are based on the same set of notes and thus in the
same raga. Raga is also identified typically by pattern
recognition, if you are not willing to do detailed decomposition
into the basic keys of their scale. Thus, a raga is described as
the unmeasured music and it has a rich variety of
A Raga may also be characterized by a series of melodic
notes pattern called challan, which means movement or by a
key set of notes called pakad. These form the melodic
outlines of a raga and include consecutive ascending and
descending phrases. The challan discloses the basic grammar
and the progression of a raga. Every raga has a note that is
frequently used or held for a long duration and is called
vadi or a sonant note. Similarly there is another note
from vadi that is called samvadi or the consonant.
This note is usually the fourth or the fifth note from the
Identify Raga From
Raga Based Film songs:
Pakaad or bandish are the most dominating notes of a given raga.
Each raga has its own bandish. Whenever a music director
composes a song based upon a given raga, he makes sure that he
uses the bandish of that raga. This is the precise reason why
two songs composed on the same raga sound similar. In a way,
bandish is a common factor within all the tunes composed on a
While rendering a raga, one should be vary careful of not
using varjya swar. Varjya swars in a raga are the notes;
those are strictly excluded in rendition. Varjya swar is the
enemy of the raga. If a varjya swar is accidentally used
during performance of a particular raga, it will spoil the
atmosphere that a particular raga is supposed to create. So
great artists do a lot of practice of a given raga so that
they will never make the mistake of using varjya swar.
Actually, to understand the bandish of any raga, it is
better to listen and grasp the instrumental classical music
played on a musical instrument or midi music. Since
musical instruments do not utter words, the listener can
concentrate and grasp the raga very accurately after
repeatedly listening to the notes of the tune. Of course, if
you are very well versed in classical music, then you can
easily recognize a raga with ease even if you are listening
to a vocal piece. Also, in order to grasp any given raga,
one should listen to the same raga presented by different
If you listen to a vocal song based on a raga, say on radio or a
in a computer, and you want to identify the raga of this song,
then you should listen to it while you are farther away, say
about 30 to 50 feet away from the player. It has been observed
that you can recognize the raga of a song while listening to it
from a farther distance rather than by listening to it closer.
This is because as you go farther from the source of vocal
sound, you do not listen to any words from the song, but you
only hear the dominating notes or bandish of the song. Once you
hear the bandish, you can easily recognize the raga of the song.
Of course, one has to have prior knowledge of ragas before
attempting to recognize it using this technique. Also note that
within any raga or a melody there is a definite relationship
among the notes. A song based on a given raga can be composed in
any one of 3 octaves. This sometimes makes it difficult to
identify the raga of the song, although the progression of notes
follows the same rules of raga in any octave.
The way some people have it easy, and can directly see the
patterns and recognize a raga. Some others learn by going to a
guru, but for a casual listener, it might take some practice and
some intuitive thinking. If you listen too much film music, then
there is a really good and easy way to try and learn ragas.
Listen to a song and get someone to identify the raga initially
for you. Learn this raga, by listening to the song and try
humming along with it. Then turn off the song, and try humming
along the same tune, but with variations. Let me name some songs
Let us take for instance, any song of Raga Kalyan e.g
Ranjish hi sahi, composed by Nisar Bazmi Sahib. If you know
the name of the raga, play this song in your cd player. Play
it a couple of times, continuously, and then turn your cd
player off. Sing the song, but use your imagination to sing
it. And then slowly hum and let it loose. If you are finding
trouble nailing the notes, get its lyrics.
Once you've done
this for a few songs, you will have some of it down. If you want
to get theoretical however, and already have a decent ear, then
learn the notes. It really and really helps if you can play an
instrument, something visual. Harmonium is perfect, some persons
learn on electronic keyboard, so the
possibility is obviously endless. If you know theory and are
just finding it hard identifying the ragas, then just stick with
it and practice. You should try and improve your memory and
memory association skills. Watch patterns, solve pattern
puzzles, they all help.
There are certain clues to look for; here is a
short suggestion on how to identify raga notes:
First listen to how the raga alaap starts off or the song, it
must always begin with the raga identification. Its not like you
can just sing without telling the audience what the raga of the
song is. Listen closer to each note sang. Listen very carefully,
and note down which notes are higher and lower, then slowly
approximate the scale. Make it thorough first. For example
if you are listening a song you just try to sing-along with the
song. Slowly try to get what are the swars inside that song. Ok
you just think that you got the swars.