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An introduction to Raag

The Raag is a focal point of Indian classical music, be it the North Indian or the Hindustani style and the South Indian or the Carnatic style. A Raag is a combination of notes or Swaras woven in an artistic manner which transports the listener to an elevated state of music appreciation. As the Sanskrit quotation goes, “Ranjayte Iti Raagah” meaning music that provides soulful entertainment to the listener.

There are 5 basic points of introduction to a Raag. We will take a look at each of these 5 points specifically with respect to Hindustani Music.

1. Thaat
     2. Types of Swaras (Shuddha, Komal or Teevra)
     3. Vadi and Samvadi
     4. Jaati
     5. Time to perform

     1. Thaat: A Thaat is a source from where a Raag is born. Thaat is a set of 7 Swaras arranged in different combinations pertaining to the types of Swaras, e.g. 1 Komal Swara and the resth Shuddha, 2 Komal Swaras and 1 Teevra Swara, etc. There are 10 such combinations or Thaats used in Hindustani music. Each Thaat has a defining main feature associated with it. Following are the names of the 10 Thaats and their main features:

a. Bilaval-all Shuddha Swaras
     b. Kalyan-Ma Teevra and the rest Shuddha
     c. Khamaj- Ni Komal and the rest Shuddha
     d. Kaafi- Ga Ni Komal and the rest Shuddha
     e. Asawari- Ga Dha Ni Komal and the rest Shuddha
     f. Bhairavi- Re Ga Dha Ni Komal and the rest Shuddha
     g. Bhairav- Re Dha Komal and the rest Shuddha
     h. Marva- Re Komal Ma Teevra and the rest Shuddha
     i. Purvi- Re Dha Komal and Ma Teevra
     j. Todi- Re Ga Dha Komal and Ma Teevra

The Raags belonging to these 10 Thaats will have the main feature of their parent Thaat and also have their own inherent features. Thus, the relation between a Thaat and a Raag is like that between a parent and a child.

     2. Types of Swaras: As mentioned above, the 10 Thaats are formed based on various combinations of types of Swaras, that is, Shuddha, Komal and Teevra. So if the Thaat or the source of a particular Raag is known, then we can generally determine the types of Swaras present in the Raag, for example, if a Raag is based on Kaafi Thaat, then we can say that it has the 2 Swaras namely, Ga and Ni Komal, as is the main feature of Kaafi Thaat.

 3. Vaadi and Samvadi: The Vaadi or the Vaadi Swar is the most important swar of a Raag. This means it is the Swar which is rendered most frequently while elaborating the Raag and which has maximum halting points. Samvadi Swar is the second most important Swar in the Raag behind the Vaadi Swar.

     4. Jaati: The Jaati refers to the number of Swaras present in the Raag. For a Raag to be formed, there needs to be a minimum of 5 and maximum of 7 Swaras present in it. Based on this rule, the Jaati is divided in to 3 types, Audav (5 Swaras), Shadav (6 Swaras) and Sampurna (7 Swaras). While taking in to account the Jaati of a Raag, it is necessary to note the number of Swaras present in its Aroha, the ascending scale and the Avroha, the descending scale. For example, if there are 5 Swaras in the Aroha and 7 Swaras in the Avroha of A Raag, the Jaati of the Raag will be termed as Audav Sampurna. The Aroha can have either the same number of Swaras as the Avroha or lesser.

     5. Time to perform: Every raag has been assigned a specific time of the day when it can be performed. This is determined depending on the types of Swaras present in the Raag. The 24 hours of the day are divided in to 8 parts of 3 hours each called Praher. Thus, there are 3 such parts for morning, 2 for afternoon and 3 for night.

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