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|India Heritage:Performing Arts:Music:Classical:Hindustani Music|
The term Raga refers to both the musical melody and the abstract personification of the spirit of a raga. The two must and do merge so as to allow the individual characteristics of a raga to emerge through the notes.
Certain technicalities impart to the raga form its complex harmony. Four kinds of melodic movements (varna) are recognized: Sthayi (stable): the continuous holding of one note; Aroha: ascending notes, from Sa to Ni; Avaroha: descending notes, from Ni to Sa; Sanchari: the meandering of the notes.
Pandit Bhatkhande ruled certain qualifying features for a raga: For one, a raga needs to be composed of at least five notes, one of which needs necessarily be Shadja (Sa. Either pancham or madhyam must also be present. Further, the ascending scale (aroha) or the descending scale (avaroha) cannot carry both the sharp/pure and altered forms of the same note; however, different forms of a note can be present on different scales within a raga.
Ranade reiterated this by insisting that Sa be the tonic (or sonant) for all ragas and the latter must use the full range of an octave and be aesthetically pleasing. Also, that madhyam or pancham be one of the other notes.
In practical terms however, the dominant note or sonant (vadi) can vary and the consonant (samavadi) is always the fifth note from the vadi. The consonant works to complement the vadi. Other notes, insignificant, are known as anuvadi, and those that do not belong to the raga or have been positioned in violation of rules, maybe for purposes of contrast, are known as vivadi. The process of shifting the sonant and therefore the consonant to create new melodies is known as murchhana. The key lies in maintaining the sonant - consonant ratio.
The names of ragas are determined by a host of factors. Many are named after the deities associated with their origin, for instance Kedar, Shankara, Bhairav, Duraga, and Saraswati. Tribal names abound because their melodies have provided the basis for ragas like Asavari, Ahiri, and Gurjari. Ragas like the Malwa, Jaunpuri, Pahari are so named because of the association with the melodies of those places. Composers often lend their names to ragas such as Miyan-ki-Malhar (named after Tansen, the great musician of the Mughal emperor Akbar's court), and Miyan-ki-Todi (named after Vilaskhani Todi). Some raga names reflect their mixed origins - Bhupali-Todi, Ahir-Bhairav.
Whatever the reasons for their nomenclature, a famous and intrinsic part of ragas is the mood they seek to express and evoke. The skills and dedication required may lead to an unusual experience as well, as in the case of raga Dipak. This raga is believed capable of lighting up lamps and of setting the singer aflame! Legend has it that Gopala Naik, a renowned musician, immersed himself in water before commencing on the raga, but nonetheless could not save himself from being consumed by fire. Tansen was more fortunate during his rendition of the raga because his wife began singing raga Malhar (to bring down the rains).
Ragas in Practice
The correct time of day and night for a few ragas:
Those ragas that are meant to be played at sunset or sunrise are called Sandhiprakash. There are others that can be played at any and all times, for instance ragas Mand (regarded also as an evening raga), Sindhura, and Dhani.
These stipulations of time are governed by the notes and their pitch. Pandit Bhatkhande held that ragas performed at night or at sunset should contain the tivra madhyam (Mâ), whereas daytime ragas must not contain the tivra madhyam. Ragas which emphasize the lower pitch are to be performed during the evening or early night; ragas emphasizing the higher pitch are appropriate for late night and early morning. Undoubtedly, there are exceptions to these stringent guidelines.