Raga can be mistaken for modes or scales of western music but it is neither. A raga is a precise, scientific, and aesthetic melodic form with its own peculiar ascending and descending movement. One way of classifying ragas , is by their Jaati. A raga can contain either all seven notes, or six or five. The number of notes used in ascending and descending order specifies the “Jaati” of the raga. All seven notes would be a “Sampoorna” Jaati , while six becomes “Shadav” and five is “ Audav.” There can be any combination of these. For example, a raga can contain a “Sampoorna” ascending and “Shadav” descending. Thus, there are nine Jaatis all together. Ragas can be differentiated from one another by subtle difference in the order of notes, an omission of a dissonant note, an emphasis on a particular note, the slide from one note to another, and the use of microtones together with other subtleties. Every raga has a “Pakad” (catch phrase) which is a series of notes used in that raga that brings out the emotion of the raga.
The most important note in a raga is called the “Vaadi”(Sonant /king) followed by the “Samvaadi”(Consonant/Queen). Usually the Vaadi and Samvaadi notes are in simple ratio with each other making them rather pleasant as a pair. Therefore, ideally Samvaadi is the fifth of the Vaadi (ratio of 3:2), though a third or a fourth is the note used in most Ragas. Elaborate patterns are thus woven around these notes and also, they can be used as the stop notes in a musical phrase. The dissonant note is called Vivadhi. The Vivadhi is usually omitted in both ascent and descent but sometimes it is just touched upon. The other notes in the scale that agree with Vaadi are called Anuvaadi. Two Ragas with the same notes can have different Vaadi-Samvaadi-Vivaadi making them different and giving them their characteristic flavor. For example raga Bhupali and Deshkar , both have the same ascent and descent, but different Vaadi and Samvaadi , making them different ragas.
The ragas are associated with a particular time of day. It is said that a raga sounds the best at that particular time. The ragas are classified into “Poorva raga” and “Uttar raga” in accordance with the time they are sung in. Ragas that are sung between noon 12:00 to mid night 12:00 are called “Poorva raga” and ragas that are sung between midnight 12:00 to mid-day 12:00 are called “Uttar raga. ” The ragas that have their Vaadi in the “Poorvaang” or the first tetra chord (sa,re,ga,ma), are Poorva ragas and the ragas that have their Vaadi in the “Uttaraang” or the second tetra chord (Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa)are Uttar ragas. Thus, the Vaadi also determines the time of the ragas. There are some ragas that are bound to a particular season, like, raga Malhaar, Basant etc.
Ragas have been classified in various ways. The earliest classification was into Raga (Male) and Raagini , the female counterpart. Then there were ragas derived from these called “Putra” raga (son/children). This classification has been the base of the famous Raagmala paintings.
The following were the main ragas, raginis and putra ragas:
(1)Raga : Bhairav
Raagini : Bhairavi, Bilawali, Punyaki, Bangli, Aslekhi
Putra Raaga : Pancham, Harakh, Disakh, Bangal, Madhu, Madhava, Lalit, Bilaval
Raagini : Gaundkari, Devagandhari, Gandhari, Seehute, Dhanasri
Putra Raaga : Maru, Mustang, Mewara, Parbal, Chand, Khokhat, Bhora, Nad
(3) Raga : Hindol
Raagini : Telangi, Devkari, Basanti, Sindhoori, Aheeri
Putra Raaga : Surmanand, Bhasker, Chandra-Bimb, Mangalan, Ban, Binoda, Basant, Kamoda
(4) Raga : Deepak
Raagini : Kachheli, Patmanjari, Todi, Kamodi, Gujri
Putra Raaga : Kaalanka, Kuntal, Rama, Kamal, Kusum, Champak, Gaura, Kanra
(5) Raga : Sri
Raagini : Bairavi, Karnati, Gauri, Asavari, Sindhavi
Putra Raaga : Salu, Sarag, Sagra, Gaund, Gambhir, Gund, Kumbh, Hamir
(6) Raga : Megh
Raagini : Sorath, Gaundi-Malari, Asa, Gunguni, Sooho
Putra Raaga : Biradhar, Gajdhar, Kedara, Jablidhar, Nut, Jaldhara, Sankar, Syama
Ragas are also classified by their “Thaats” and we will discuss them next.