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The Raga System Essay

1133 words - 5 pages

Music is an expression of inner feelings through tones (swar) and rhythm (taal). These swars and taals are combined so that they are pleasing to the ear. Music is sound created from the ideas and emotions of man. When these ideas are expressed through the voice in a rhythmic and appealing sound, music is born. Music in its true form controls human activity and is thus the source of attaining pleasure and salvation. At the base of Indian Classical music lies an appreciation for, and an emphasis on creating sound with aesthetic appeal. This is achieved through Raga or melody. In Brihaddeshi, Matang defines raga as “that attractive combination of notes which pleases the mind”. That this sound be attractive and pleasing is of extreme importance. Because music is so closely linked to human emotion, it is important that it is written and performed so as to truly interpret and convey the emotion and beauty of the melody. To ensure that this is done successfully, there are some guidelines for Indian Classical musicians to follow to ensure an effective interpretation and display of their art. The system of raga in Hindusthani Classical music is both complex and sophisticated, using particular elements within strict guidelines to attain a pleasing and beautiful sound.

In addition to the aesthetic aspect, a raga is also distinctive in form. These two aspects are inextricably bound together and are used in a complementary manner. In Hindusthani Classical music, ragas have been classified according to their form under ten thaats. The ten thaats under which all ragas are classified have derived from the twelve notes used in Hindusthani Classical music. A thaat is the ascending scale from which a raga is created. The ten thaats are: Kalyan, Bilawal, Khamaj, Bhairav, Poorvi, Maarva, Kafi, Asawari, Bhairavi and Todi. A thaat is named after the most prominent raga created from it. Ragas are also classified by the number of notes used in their ascent and descent. Two ragas written from the same thaat will comprise the same notes, however, the possibilities of development are limitless. Thus, each raga is a unique expression of an artist’s mind. In creating a raga, a musician must adhere to several guidelines, and must have an understanding of the essential elements or lakshans which comprise a raga. These are:
1.     A raga must possess at least five notes;
2.     A raga must possess an Aroh (ascent), Avroh (descent) and Pakad – the most important note combination that expresses the feeling of the raga;
3.     A raga comprises a Vadi- the chief note, and a Samvadi – a supporting harmonic note;
4.     Sa is never omitted in any Raga because it is the starting note of every raga;
5.     Ma and Pa should never be omitted as both of these notes are harmonic notes of Sa;
6.     Both forms of a note i.e. full tone and...

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