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Raga performance at the Collège des Bernardins
Raga Darbari Canada, sung by Abdul Wahid Khan († 1949) and accompanied by Ram Narayan on tanpura and Chatur Lal on tabla. Recorded on Canadian Broadcasting in 1947

The raga or rag ( Hindi : राग , rāg ; Sanskrit : रागः , rāgaḥ (masculine) ; Tamil : ராகம் , rāgam (neuter) ) is a basic melodic structure of Indian classical music . It is a "sound personality", which in turn is assigned to a fixed tone scale, similar to the western church modes .

The raga prescribes which notes go with a piece of music. Furthermore, the raga gives certain melodic and ornamental elements, as well as rules that apply to some tones. The raga contains two main tones (1st main tone, Vadi , and 2nd main tone, Samvadi ), on which the melody figures begin and end, and which determine the expressive content of the raga. There are a myriad of traditional ragas, which are often assigned to a certain time of day (e.g. Todi - morning raga, Desh - 9 p.m. - midnight) or situation (e.g. Megh - rain raga, Basant - spring) and match the emotional quality of the moment.

An important Indian form of music, the essential content of which is to develop a raga, is also called raga : Alap is the introduction to the raga. The alap unfolds and adorns the characteristics of a raga in terms of melody ( phrases , key notes, tone range, etc.). The main part is called Gat . The rhythm instruments then set in , and the raga is then fully exploited and freely improvised within its framework.


In the ancient Indian music theory Gandharva on religious music, which Bharata Muni first brought together around the turn of the century in his work Natyashastra , some basic terms are mentioned that are still in use today in Indian music. The basis was the comprehensive time unit tala , the pitch svara and the sung text pada . The term raga does not appear here, it is mentioned for the first time in the work Brihaddeshi (6th – 8th centuries) attributed to Matanga Muni . From the 14th century, the ragas were divided into a clear scheme based on their similarity, based on six male ragas and six female raginis. Since there were female and male names for individual ragas much earlier, the division according to gender could have started before Matanga Muni's time. The other ragas were derived from this.

Around 1620, Venkatamakhin developed a scale system for South Indian music that contains 72 melakartas (basic heptatonic scales). At the end of the 19th century, the music theorist Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande rejected the previous classifications and laid the foundations for the classification that is still valid today and is based on a new musical notation.


The scales of western music use a maximum of 12 notes per octave . Indian music, on the other hand, is based on the Shrutis (micro-intervals), which divide an octave into 22 steps. There are 7 main tones, so-called Svaras, for each scale (scale) used :

Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa

The "Sa" has the role of the root and the Svaras always refer to the "Sa". The Svaras essentially correspond to the solmization syllables of Western music Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La and Si. However, a one-to-one assignment is not possible, as the pitch depends on the one hand on the raga used and on the other hand every musician has his own "Sa". Sometimes the C in Western music is used as "Sa", but the "Sa" can also be higher or lower. When several musicians play together, all instruments are tuned to the keynote of the dominant musician. Especially in vocal music , the "Sa" is often shifted by several whole tones. For group lessons, the teacher often uses the G sharp as the keynote from experience, since in a heterogeneous group for all singers the most pleasant intersection of the keynote, which everyone can level off, is usually the G or G sharp.


The Indian music has no real polyphony . She puts less emphasis on chords , but attaches more importance to the individual tones, whose relationship ( interval ) to one another and to the root note is essential. That is why the successive tones (melody) play the more important role, in contrast to the simultaneity of the sounds ( harmony ) in western music.

Usually the fundamental tone sounds like a kind of "sound carpet" ( drone ) during an entire piece of music, so that the tension between the individual tones can be felt very well with a little practice.

Indian notation of ragas

Since the compositions are generally passed on orally, there is no precise notation in Indian music . The tones are only recorded in letters. To distinguish the 22 different Shrutis, the Svaras are notated differently, e.g. B. by upper or lower case, underlining or trailing numbers.

In the following, two Indian notations of ragas are shown, one after Ali Akbar Khan and one after Amjad Ali Khan . The C is assumed as the root:

European notation Indian notation
Ali Akbar Khan Amjad Ali Khan
C. Sat Sat
Of ri Ri
D. Ri Ri
It ga Ga
E. Ga Ga
F. ma Ma
F sharp Ma Maa
G Paa Pa
As there There
A. There There
B. ni Ni
H Ni Ni
C. Sa ^ Sa ^

Another notation (with numbers after it) is described in the article Shruti .

Raga scale system

A binding scale system was developed in northern India at the beginning of the 20th century. Its current version is due to the musicologist Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande . The scales of ten ragas seemed to him sufficient to classify all North Indian melody types. The following list of That group builders results from his work Kramika Pustaka-malika (6 volumes, 1919–1937):

1. Kalyāṇa (कल्याण) c d e f sharp G a H c (corresponds to the Lydian mode )
2. Bilāvala (बिलावल) c d e f G a H c (corresponds to the major or ionic mode )
3. Khamāja (खमाज) c d e f G a b c (corresponds to the Mixolydian mode )
4. Bhairava (भैरव) c of e f G as H c (corresponds to gypsy major )
5. Pūrvī (पूर्वी) = Śrī (श्री) c of e f sharp G as H c (no equivalent)
6. Māravā (मारवा) c of e f sharp G a H c (could be referred to as "Lydian b9")
7. Kāphī (काफी) c d it f G a b c (corresponds to the Doric mode )
8. Asavari (आसावरी) = Jaunpūrī (जौनपूरी) c d it f G as b c (corresponds to the pure minor or Aeolian mode )
9. Bhairavī (भैरवी) c of it f G as b c (corresponds to the Phrygian mode )
10. Toḏī (तोड़ी) c of it f sharp G as H c (no equivalent)


  • Friedrich Glorian: Indian Ragas - Content and Structure. In: Harmonik & Glasperlenspiel. Posts '94. Munich 1995, pp. 41-98
  • Josef Kuckertz : Form and melody formation of the carnatic music of South India - in the vicinity of the Near Eastern and North Indian art music. (Series of publications by the South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University) Volume 1, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1970, pp. 81–226, ISBN 3-447-00011-2
  • Hans Neuhoff : Modal Melody Concepts. IV. Raga. In: MGG Online, November 2016 ( Music in the past and present , 2nd edition, 1997)
  • Marius Schneider : Râga-Maqam-Nomos . In: Music in the past and present. 1st edition, Volume 10, Kassel 1962, pp. 1864-1868.

See also

Web links

Commons : Raga  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. R. Satyanarayana: Raga Iconification in Indian Music. ( Memento from August 22, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Vivekananda Kendra Patrika, Vol. 13, No. August 2, 1984
  2. Subramaniam Seetha: Venkatamakhi and his 72 Melakarta Raga Scheme. ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Excerpt from ders .: Tanjore as a seat of Music, during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. University of Madras, 1981