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what is rag in indian music?

Updated on 05 June 2020
Vanita tambakhe
6 min read 1 views
Updated on 05 June 2020

The rag is the most impor­tant con­cept that any student of In­dian music should understand. The Hindi/Urdu word "rag" is der­ived from the Sanskrit "raga" which means "colour, or passion" . It is linked to the Sanskrit word "ranj" which means "to colour" . There­fore rag may be thought of as an acoustic method of colouring the mind of the listener with an emotion. This is fine as a ge­ne­ral con­cept but what is it mus­ically? It is not a tune, melody, scale, mode, or any con­cept for which an Eng­lish word exists. It is instead a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent char­acter­is­tics. It is these char­acter­is­tics which define the rag. Here are the char­acter­is­tics.

There must be the notes of the rag. They are called the swar. This con­cept is si­mi­lar to the Western solfege.

There must also be a modal struc­ture. This is called thaat in North In­dian music and mela in Carnatic music.

There is also the jati.Jati is the num­ber of notes used in the rag.

There must also be the ascending and descending struc­ture. This is called arohana /avarohana.

Another cha­rac­teristic is that the var­ious notes do not have the same level of sig­nifi­cance. Some are impor­tant and others less so. The impor­tant notes are called vadi and samavadi

There are often cha­rac­teristic move­ments to the rag. This is called either pakad or swarup.

In addition to the main char­acter­is­tics of rag, there are some other less impor­tant ones. For insta­nce rags have trad­itionally been attributed to par­ti­cu­lar times of the day. They have also been anthropomorphise into families of male and female rags (raga, ragini, putra raga, etc.). 

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