Swara to Raga

We saw earlier that a Raga is a melodic theme, made of a set of swara. Let us see how we choose a certain set, so that it provides enough potential to expand the theme, keeping the ranjan element intact.

First Swara: The Shadja, Of course. How can we omit the Shadja from any theme? The very existence of any other note is relative to and hence dependent on the Shadja.

The second swara : Pancham or Madhyam. We have to keep either of them, and can not omit both at a time. The reason is quite simple really. The Pancham ( or the Madhyam) is the starting point, or the Sa of the Utaranga. And if the purpose of presenting a raga is finally to exploit the symmetry between these two parts of the Saptak, then we can not do with a set which has neither one. Furthermore, we have seen that the Ma-Pa space is the axis of symmetry between the Poorvanga and the Uttaranga. If we omit both, and thus remove this axis, it would be impossible that the resulting structure can be effectively used as a Raga.

The remaining swara will have to be chosen such that there is a balance of these between the Poorvanga and the Uttaranga. What is the minimum number we need? Having one each does not give us enough scope to make complimentary phrases, but a combination of 1-2 or 2-1 should be just enough. So we need at least three more notes.

The clip below should further help understand the concept.


To summarise the rules that make a raga:

Rule No.1 : A raga has at least 5 notes, including the Shadja. More than 5 is definitely ok. We can then add a further complexity, by choosing different swara in the ascent ( Aaroha) and the descent ( awaroha). So the number of combinations can then be 5-5, 5-6,5-7,6-5,6-6,6-7,7-5,7-6 and 7-7. Five is Odhav, six is Shadhav and 7 is sampoorna. So, an odhav-sampoorna raga will have 5 swar in the aaroha and 7 in the awaroha.

We have still not bothered about the  version ( komal, or teevra in case of Madhyam)of the swara.But it is obvious that their choice also will be guided by the principle of the Poorvanga-Uttaranga symmetry, and the ability to exploit the Sa-pa or Sa-ma bhaav. For example, a komal rishabh will b complimented by komal dhaivat in the uttaranga, or a komal gandhaar with the corresponding komal nishad.

There are of course exceptions to the rules, but hardly any.

All the above only gives us the mathematical possibilities. This does not mean that every combination arising out of the above rules gives us a Raga. One needs to really appreciate the fact that the Raga has evolved over a few centuries.  Only those combinations which could pass the test of ranjan for the listener, and more importantly the test of time, have sustained and survived as Ragas.

So there must be some more factors beyond the above rules that give the Raga its Ragatva or Raganess. The Chalan and the Vaddi Samvaadi are those factors, which we shall look at from closer quarters in the next post.

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