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How ragas were formed?

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  • How ragas were formed?

    how ragas were formed? Conceptually, it is very simple. As the following song aptly puts it - "Ezhu swarangalukkul ethanai paadal", all different ragas originate from just the 7 swaras. That is simply the permutation and combination of the different swaras in their swara sthanas that gives rise to the thousands of ragas that are known and in use today. Each raga has an ascending and descending pattern (called Arohana and Avarohana respectively) to which it should adhere. This is what defines the raga’s framework.

    A proper unique combination of all the 7 swaras in the correct increasing and decreasing order of sound levels give rise to 72 parent ragas which are called “Janaka” ragas. Since they have all 7 notes, they are also called “Sampoorna” ragas. These form the basis of the unique 72 melakartha scheme in carnatic music.

    The 72 parent ragas give rise to thousands of child ragas or “Janya” ragas. Most commonly, they are formed by removing one or more swaras from either arohana or avarohana or both (varja raga) or by disturbing the order in which swaras occur (vakra raga). In majority of the cases, a janya raga contains the swaras from its janaka raga and hence will be called “upanga” raga (a subset of the parent). But some janya’s carry a swara not present in its janaka. For example, the popular raga Bhairavi contains D2 Dha in its Arohana structure which doesn’t belong to its parent raga Natabhairavi. That swara is called “Anya Swara” (alien note) and the janya is termed “bhashanga” raga.

    These are the basics of how different ragas came into existence. There are more classifications and sub-classicfications as well, which I’d rather not delve into right now.

    How do we identify a particular raga? That is a complicated question to answer and requires the skill to be cultivated through repeated listening. Our ears need to be trained to first differentiate the different swaras and their swara sthanas (especially that of the vikruthi swaras). It is relatively easier to identify the janaka ragas because of its simple and uniform framework. Simple “varja” janya ragas like the raga mohanam are easy to find out too.

    Also Sruthi is very important to understand and differentiate the ragas. As Sruthi helps to identify the beginning note, it helps to understand the relative placement of other swaras that is characteristic of the raga. Some ragas resemble each other (have same “chaya” – eg. Bhairavi and Mukhari) and in such cases, apart from the arohana avarohana pattern, the way the swaras are sung also play a crucial role in differentiating the ragas.

    There are lot more things and further types of swaras which will be too complicated to read before understanding the basic structure of carnatic music. Hence I’d limit my response to this.

    Hope my explanations are clear and not confusing. Kindly convey if you felt like "kannai katti kaattil vittar pole". I'll try to simplify. Also if you find any additional explanation wanting, please let me know, I’d be happy to fill in.

    Thanks for reading through...
    Last edited by dhivya; 26-06-13, 23:38.