Listening to a song while studying at night, was my penchant in my college days. One such night, I was listening to ‘Megh Malhar Raga’ based song ‘Kare Kare Badra, Suni Suni Ratiya’ from the film ‘Mera Naam Joker’. It was the end of May and clouds had just started to hover in the sky. Listening to that song created such a feeling as if it was raining inside my room. This is the influence of Indian Classical Ragas. It makes the listener to experience a particular feeling of the season or time, through its musical notes.
Though the word ‘Raga’ means color, but it also has the other meaning as beauty and melody. Thus raga is one of the melodic beautifying modes in Indian classical music. It’s an arrangement of musical tones, with stunning elegance that entertains the listener.
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Indian classical ragas are related with various times of the day, and the seasons. When they are performed at the recommended time (or in season), they have their utmost effects. For instance, it is believed that Malhar raga has the mysterious influence to carry rain and so is sung during the monsoon. But, these days as concerts are arranged in the evening, this rule is not exactingly observed. It’s also an emerging trend that North Indian musicians are implementing South Indian ragas that have no exacting association with a particular time.
Below is the Time Table for when to listen to which Indian classical ragas!
Indian classical music is entirely designed in the ragas. Sometimes ragas are used in semi-classical and light music also, like Indian film songs and ghazals.
Ragini (i.e. melodies with softer emotions) means counterpart or wife to a raga. There are 6 ‘male’ ragas with 6 wives. In the beginning, there were 6 Ragas and 36 Raginis. However, the raga-ragini scheme is no longer popular. Later hundreds of ragas were created with their help, of which many are outdated today. Today, there are about 120 to 150 ragas are in practice.
Indian classical raga is a series of 5 or more musical notes to construct a melody . However, the approach to use the notes in musical expressions and their feel are more vital in defining a raga. There are many ragas with the same notes, but are completely dissimilar in their renderings such as, Darbari Kanada and Jaunpuri.
Even though notes play a vital role in raga, yet they alone don’t make the raga. A raga is above a scale, and many ragas have the same scale. The original scale may have 5, 6 or 7 tones, i.e. swaras. Ragas with 5 swaras are audav ragas; those with 6 are shaadav; and with 7 are sampurna. Moreover, the ragas that don’t have a meticulous ascending or descending order of swaras are vakra ragas. A raga has a precise ascending (Aaroh) and descending (Avaroh) movements, definite dominating notes (vadi) and particular notes complementing the Vadi (Samvadi) notes. The characteristic phrases of a raga (Pakad) create its uniqueness and feel.
There are self-sufficient sets of ragas in Carnatic music and Hindustani classical music. In Hindustani Music, Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande has grouped the ragas into ten thaats or parent scales. In contrast, South India uses the arrangement with 72 parent ragas. Hindustani music system established by Bharata Muni doesn’t accept variation even at the shruti level.
As ragas are passed on by oral tradition from Guru to the disciple, there can be variation.