Category Archives: Indian Raga

Why Raga Music is more Therapeutic than other Music-Cultures?

raga impact on brain

raga impact on brain

Music in India has great potential in this study because Indian music is melodic and has somewhat different pitch perception mechanisms. Western classical music which is based on harmonic relation between notes versus the melodic mode (raaga) structures in the Indian Classical Music System (ICM) within the rhythmic cycle music may demand qualitatively different cognitive engagement. The analysis of EEG data to determine the relation between the brain state condition in the presence of ICM and its absence would therefore be an interesting study. How rhythm, pitch, loudness etc. interrelate to influence our appreciation of the emotional content of music might be another important area of study. This might decipher a technique to monitor the course of activation in the time domain in a three-dimensional state space, revealing patterns of global dynamical states of the brain. It might also be interesting to see whether the arousal activities remain after removal of music stimuli.

There are a few unique aspects of raga music which may be considered more therapeutic and recommended for healing. However, there is a scarcity of rational researches in the field, whereas, west music has been researched and has gained pretty much authenticity. But there are various unique elements in raga music or Indian music which can be considered as the medium of more explorations and analysis and further for healing.

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Re-introducing Dhrupad

Pursuing the music therapy course these days, is making me listening to every music according to that perspective. My mind subtly enters into the questioning zone while listening to any music, whether this piece is healing or not.

The other evening, I was listening to Pt. Uday Bhawalkar’s raga Bhimpalasi Dhrupada piece, and I felt I was captivated physically. While listening to his fast-paced rhythmic, versatile, superfluous, rendition of the Bhimpalasi notes, I was as if witnessing my brain knots unleashing my breath mollifying. I wanted to move from my place, but was totally mindful and entangled. I could feel my hormones and senses getting balanced. I stayed in that state for 20 minutes till when it got over. After which I stared at the things surrounding me; I went to the balcony and greeted all the sounds of nature. I could concentrate in the chirping and tweaking of birds clearly, (what we don’t do usually). I was absolutely in the present. I gazed at the setting sun, produced a thought, ‘Allz well’, and stepped inside. This was the time I was normalized. But I was reminiscing what it was; What was the factor that made me feel good, albeit I am aware of the power of music.

Defining Dhrupad

Dhrupad too is a vocal style like khyala-gayaki, which is also exhibited and unfolded in a particular raga, although in different style, structure and tonality. It is a highly structured, classicalized way of chanting vedic mantra and hymns. Lets first have a quick introduction of Dhrupad.

During vedic period, when there was nothing dhrupad existed in the name of Prabandh. Then even after many modification and bringing down to simplicity, Dhrupad is still journeying today. Dhrupad is an oldest genre of Hindustani classical vocal music, which exists even today. Apart from the Khyala singing which is also called Ragadari sangeet,

Here are some definitions of Dhrupad given by the maestros.

Dhrupad was originally sung in temples and later thrived under the patronage of the Mughal rulers who were acclaimed Dhrupadias. Almost every gharana or the Music tradition, be it gwalior, or Agra, were initially the Dhrupad Gharana and eventually formed the Khyala school of music. Today, a few number of Dhrupad tradition schools are in the trend such as Vishnupur Gharana, Dagarvani, Darbhanga, Betia, Talwandi, etc..

Dhrupad exponents

Since last 10 decades, the synonymous of Dhrupad Gayaki is Dagarwani or the lineage of Dagar Bandhu (brothers). Eminent figures like Nasir Moinuddin, Nasir Aminuddin Dagar, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar, Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and Ustad Hussain Sayeedudddin Dagar have taken forward on its zenith by their competence and by transferring the pedagogy to the comtempories. All the Dhrupad Singers today like Gundecha brothers, Pt. Ritwik Saniyal, Pt. Uday Bhawalkar are the disciples and torchbearers of Dagar and Dhrupad tradition as well.

Connection with the Cosmos

Considered as the sound of meditation and worship, its mantric recitation comprises of an organised, elaborated and complex grammar and aesthetics. One needs to have a proper pedagogy of voice culture and engineering, as it deals with the cosmic sounds and intonations. Fundamental to Dhrupad singing is the practice of Nāda Yoga, in which, through various yogic practices, the singer develops the inner resonance of the body, and can make the sound resonate and flow freely through the entire region from navel to head. Even the Dhrupad maestros experience very transcending connections through the pedagogy of Dhrupad. 

Dhrupad Gayaki consists of an elaborated, consistence, flawless, rhythmic nom-tom Alap in a raga, followed by a Dhrupad bandish, Layakaris (Bandish rendered with magical rhythm and incredible meter of the same tala and tempo which is going on), Bol baant, Gamak, and finally the fast-paced overly extended, highly skilled nom-tom rhythmic cycles.

How It Heals

Chanting of mantras and hymns, as in Dhrupad, can be thought of as tools that liberate the mind. Mantra is a Sanskrit word which means ‘mental liberation’. It awakens the life forces that exists in the human souls and directs the mind towards the transcended state. Constant listening and rendering of these cosmic sounds delivers the mind from its worldly conditioning and brain limitations.

Aum sound is unnecessarily associated with Hinduism albeit it has been taken up in the Sanskrit shlokas and mantras Hinduism being the oldest culture. But Om is just a sound which exists in the cosmos. Sun makes a sound that never reaches earth. NASA laboratory in space captured sound and recorded. Most astonishing that the sound resembles “Om”. Scientists are still trying to correlate why ancient Hindu mantra and sun’s sound are same. I might not want to enter into this segment as this is another wide area, but Dhrupad incorporates all these cosmic sounds and its oscillations, which gradually enhances the cognition by its ultimate ability of developing mindfulness. In fact, Dhrupad rendition is more systematic and calculative procedure of these mantras intermingled with the Raga aesthetics and classical improvisation.

In the journey of self improvement, wellness, and moving inward, it is good to be in confusion rather than fixing a conclusion, because everything has to be self-realized rather than read or preached. Therefore, in this abstract concepts, let’s try this another experiment of internal healing by listening to the mantras in the form of Dhrupad. May be you are very far from exploring a new ray of bliss and intellect.

Ragas: My new course


Indian classical music mainly concerns about Ragas. The more you dive deep down in this ocean, you attain some valuable ambrosia of new knowledge and perceptions. But before that, we need to understand some basic knowledge of the fundamental Ragas, which are the stepping stones in this journey of bliss.

Welcome to my new course on udemy, which introduces Ragas. In this course you will be able to master five Ragas which belongs to the Thaat Kalyan: Yaman, Kedar, Bhoopali, Nand, and Hansdhwani. Here is the introductory video. Please have a look.

Niladri’s Magic with Strings!!

The first time I heard Niladri Kumar was at kamani auditorium, Delhi, but was unable to perceive the uniqueness of his playing as he was super fast. The gat was going literally out of anticipation for me; tala was racing with my mind  and went far beyond the sam till I realized. Therefore, my final judgement of him was, “too fast”. The next time I heard him was in the advertisement of Taj mahal tea when again he seemed to demonstrate the tidal waves but I observed the kids danced at the ad. Then I realized why he is popular among the youngsters. Sometimes one needs to plummet down back to kids thinking level to inculcate any art among them. Niladri Ji did the same. Kids and youths are fascinated with the fast tempos and that’s exactly what he is up to.

The other day I heard him in a video floated through whatsapp and I was just mesmerized. He was endorsing an event tieing up with Madhuri Dixit and he played her movie songs like dhak-dhak, Mera piya ghar aaya, Ankhiya milau, and all her rocking ones. He made the audience and Madhuri so engrossed that nobody could make out what instrument he was playing. Have a look:

Zitar was the instrument he was playing which is his own creation. Zitar is the  cool combo of sitar and guitar (electric) having a beautiful maroon color. This indicates the passion, perseverance and lifetime practice of the maestros with which they land up to their innovative inventions of instruments transcending the level of classical music.

Guru Pt. Ravi Shankar might be smiling proudly above to watch his student being compared with him indirectly in the concert last evening in the Vishalakshi Mantap, Bangalore. His scintillating performance uplifted immensely with the lethal combination of Padmashree Pandit Vijay Ghate on Tabla. The concert titled ‘Soul to soul’, unfolded the Raga charukesi with its startling approach towards aalap and superfluous, beyond anticipation, fast renditions on higher octaves.

Apart from Charukesi, they both extended the event by presenting some fast track medleys maintaining the comity of the deep-rooted classical art. The intricate versatile and doughty rhythms by Pt. Ghate injected the natural bliss and metanoia among the audience.



Comparison between the Ragas Bhupali and Shuddha Kalyana

Let’s talk about a few ragas covering  the circumference of the Kalyana Family. Like the members of a family, the ragas share the basic traits but still possess their own individualistic nature, attribute and temperament.

Raga Bhupali and Shuddha Kalyana, both belong to the Kalyana Thata or Kalyana parent raga. Both the ragas are similar in some aspects but differ in a few more characteristic features which make them unique from each other.


  • Raga Bhupali and Shuddha Kalyana share the same thaat.
  • The ascend or Aaroh of both the ragas are pentatonic or Audav, Ma and Ni are omitted.
  • The Vadi (Most important note) and Samvadi (Second important swara) of both are Ga and Dha.
  • The time zone of both is second zone of night.
  • The sustained or Hold note i.e., Nyasa swara in both the ragas are Gandhar (GA)
  • The common note-sturcture in both the ragas are: G P Dh P, Dh SA, Dh P, SRG, RG, G P SAA…


Raga Bhupali Shuddha Kalyaan
Jati – Audav-audav (fully pentatonic) Audav sampoorna (Avroh has all the notes present)
‘P-G’ Pairing is present but in a normal manner without stylization ‘P-G’ goes with a meend or glide
P-R swara pair is not important. Its taken rarely P-R swara-sangati is too much and vocalized with glides and murki as in: (P) R S
Bhupali is not meend-pradhan or glide-oriented This raga is active in having meends or the glide ornamentation
Dhaivata (Dh) is used far more compared to shuddha kalyana Dhaivata is used lesser
Lower or mandra notes go like this: S d p, d S, d S R S, p d S. Lower/mandra notes go: S n d p, S, p d S…

Raagmala Paintings Depict Ragas

Ragmala paintings or raag dhyan is again a big reason music enthusiasts visit various painting oriented places. If your field is Indian classical music, one must be aware of Ragamala Paintings, which depicted ragas as a human.

Musicology includes an explanation of ragas in short sanskrit verses called ‘Dhyana’ or meditation of 14th century. ‘As stated in ‘Ragatarangini’ by Lochana, these verses highlight the characteristics, nature, mood, tendency of ragas, injecting life into them, providing them a particular persona or swaroopa as in like a deity, nayak or nayika. This led to the rag-ragini systems and the subsequent creation of the ragamala paintings, which is mainly ragas on canvas. The theme or rasa for these paintings are usually shringar (romance), bhakti (devotional) or baal-kreeda (momism). Here are some examples of the paintings on Raga Bhairav and raga Hindol.

                                                            Raga Bhairava and Raga Hindol:

Ragamala Paintings

Ragamala Paintings


Raga Hindol

       However, Ragmala or rag-ragini paddhati has lost its relevance today but it’s still a sheer interested and aesthetically rich topic for the tourists, music lovers, and paintings who frequently visit places like Madhubani, Ellora, Mewar, Dharwad, Mithila etc. to find the live pictures of the ragas especially the ragas which they love or have already learnt.

Pentatonic Ragas OR औडव जाति राग (Audav-Jaati Ragas) in Indian Ragas

As the name signifies, Pentatonic ragas are the ragas having the five-notes syllables in particular. In Hindustani music, there are primary three Jaati : Audav (Ragas having only 5 notes in ascend and descend both) , Shaadav (Ragas having 6 notes), Sampoorna (Ragas having all 7 notes); and nine sub-categories with all possible combinations of these three categories, like Audav-Audav (Having 5-5 notes in ascending and descending series both), Audav-Shadav ( 5 notes in ascending and 6 while descend), Audav-Sampoorna (5 notes while Ascend and all 7 while descend ) etc.. Pentatonic ragas are called Audav Jaati Raga (औडव जाति के राग). 

 There are many ragas, which are created only by selecting five notes, omitting any two, which are mesmerizing and extraordinary. Creating and vocalizing such scale is challenging, because the phrase-improvisation,  becomes limited as one has to revolve round and round skipping with those five notes.

Some of the Audav-Jaati ragas are:

 Raga Bhoopali (भूपाली ):

Bhoopali is the basic and one of the most populous pentatonic raga. It consists of Sa Re Ga Pa Dha Saa, omitting Ma and Ni.These five notes create wonders with captivating phrases like: 

sa re ga re ga pa, ga pa dha ga pa, Pa(lower) dha(L) sa re ga re dha pa ga re sa re dha(L) sa, ga dha pa ga re,  sa re ga dha(L) sa,  ga pa dha ga dha pa, pa ga dha pa, etc.

Bhoopali is originated from the thaat Kalyan. It’s an evening raga, which has gandhar (ga) and dhaivat (Dh) as it’s vadi (most important swar) and samvadi (second most important swar of this raga) respectively. As stated before, jaati is audav-audav.

Deshkaar (देशकार): 

Another most similar raga having the same five notes,  swar structure, is DESHKAAR. Only chalan and note tendency makes the temperament and personality different from each other.  Dhaivat or dha swar is given more importance in Deshkar than it is given in the latter. Deshkar is playful and go with fast improvisation by making loops, while bhoopali is more towards mature, serious and nyasa-pradhaan (one can sustain or halt on a note). Deshkar looks like bhoopali when sustained on a note or go slow. Deshkar comes under bilawal thaat because of its important phrase,  ga re ga pa.

Jait-Kalyan (जैतकल्याण):

There is another raga Jait-kalyan, which is same as bhoopali but slightly different from its temperament and structure. But since it can not be performed for a long time maintianing the difference from other ragas in the same family, its not a popular one.

 Raga Vibhaas (विभास ):

Vibhaas has the same five notes as in bhoopali making IInd and VIth flat, i.e., re and dha komal. We can also consider it like Bhairav raag omitting Ma and ni. It goes like: sa re (b) ga pa dha (b)Saa.Saa Dha Pa Ga Re Sa

It comes under the Bhairav category because it gives a dull morning feel which one feels in singing or listening to bhairav. Therefore, it’s a morning or dawn raga with thaat bhairav and re komal and dha komal as vadi-samvadi. This raga is not so popular, may be because of timing, since no concerts are performed  early morning. But the raga is fabulous and vitalizing while listening or singing.

Raga Shivranjini (शिवरंजिनी ):

 Shivranjini is one of the famous instrumental raga, which again has same note-establishment: sa re ga pa dha saa, this time only ga komal (IIIb or flat) and rest all the notes natural. 

There are an ample of old Hindi films songs composed beautifully in this raga. Its not very recognized among the vocalists but surely a splendid piece for performance among the Indian instrumentalists. In fact, after every detailed raga improvisation, they often perform Shivranjini for exhibiting semi-classical or light flavor. There are hardly any classical compositions in this raga but the light music composers and ghazal-composers have created majestic and distinguished songs, some of them fully sticking to only  to these notes.

Raga Bhoop-Todi (भूप-तोड़ी ):

Again same note structure, with the involvement of Todi-ang. Todi is a basic, fundamental raga or one of the ten thaats, from which ragas are created and classified. Todi-ang signifies re ga re sa. Any raga having Re Ga Dha komal (II, III, VI flat) and Ma teevra (IV sharp) comes under the thaat todi and resembles raga todi.  Therefore, bhoopali raga having re ga dha komal (flat), with the flavor of todi as in bringing re ga re sa repetitively,  is bhoop-todi. In other words, raga todi without Ma and Ni is bhoop-todi. Ma being omitted, there is no question of madhyam teevra.  This raga comes under todi category or thaat because it is performed more in todi version. It’s a beautiful afternoon raga, but not so popular as it’s a little hard. I have heard only perfectly proficient maestros singing this raga.

Raga Hansdhwani (हंसध्वनि )

Hansdhwani is the one of the most eminent raga, which is originally a south-Indian (karnatak) but has been also adopted by north-Indian discipline, because of its charisma and inertness. It comes under Yaman family (Thaat) and resembles the same with its prominence. It omits MA and DHA, with the rest all natural (shuddha) notes. Swar structure goes like:

Sa Ra Ga Pa Ni Saa, Saa Ni Pa ga Re Sa. Phrases like: Ga Pa Re Sa, Ga Pa Ni Saa Ni Pa, Ga pa Ni Pa, Ga Pa re, Ni P(L) Sa…. Ga Pa Ni Pa Saaaaaaa….Pa ni Saa  Re(H)   Ga(higher), Ga(H) Re(H) Ni Pa Saa leave an alluring  and peaceful and deep vibration on the listener’s mind.

Raga Durga ( दुर्गा )

Durga is another pentatonic raga, which comes under the thaat Bilawal. It is a beautiful raga, which is named under the divine Goddess Durga, symbolizing fearlessness and tranquility. It’s a late evening raga which has Re and Pa as it’s Vadi and Samvadi. It omits Ga (III) and Ni (VII) with all the natural notes. 

It’s a haunting and melodious raga which revolves around the phrases like: re ma pa, re ma pa dha pa, ma pa dha pa dha Saa…..Sa re ma re ma pa, ma dha pa, pa dha ma pa, Saa dha pa, re ma re pa, ma dha pa, ma re sa… 

Raga Durga is a purvang-pradhaan raga, meaning, it is mostly improvised in the first half of the octave that’s, Sa re ma Pa dha

Raga Malkauns  (मालकौंस )

Raga Malkauns is one of the most populous pentatonic raga in North-Indian music, which is also considered as fundamental and essential for the music beginners,  when they move from the easy to hard level while training. It is a versatile and full of scope, which can be sung/played for hours, showing unique variations and phrases, making the listeners spellbound. It is based on the Bhairavi Thaat, as Ga Dha Ni are komal, omitting Re and Pa. Madhyam (Ma) and Gandhaar (ga) are the most important note in this raga, vadi-samvaadi being Ma – Sa.  Since pancham is fully omitted in this raga, taanpura is tuned in the base note Ma and Sa. The time of this raga is the late night around 9 PM to 12 AM.  Many old Hindi movies songs, especially bhajans, like the famous Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj,  are composed in this raga. This is a Nyaas-pradhaan raga and demonstrate Ga Ma  as its nyaas swar. It is Purvang-pradhan raga, as it revolves in its lower and middle octave. 

It incorporates:

Ascent: Ni Sa Ga Ma Dha Ni Saaa,  Descend: Saa Ni Dha Ma, Ga Ma Ga Sa. 

Taans like:  nSgS SgMg gMdM Mdnd dnSn nSgS… Sndn ndMd dMgM MgSg gSnS ggS sounds stimulating and refreshing.

Raga Hindol (हिंडोल )

Sa Ga m  Dha Ni SA, SA Ni Dha m Ga Sa… sa, N S G m, S G m, m G, m m G, m G S, S G m D m, G m D m, m D m, m G S G m G S…. S G m D m G, m D G m G S, …S G m D N D m G S,  G m D SAAAA…. Saaa Ni D m G, m G Sa.

Hindol is a gentle, generous, soft raga, which consists of the same note structure as Malkauns, having only Madhyam Teevra and remaining all notes natural, Re and Pa are skipped off. It is a scintillating raga, based on the Thaat Kalyan because of the Madhyam (Ma) teevra. However,  it does not resemble raga kalyan (or yaman). Ma Teevra is the heart note of Hindol, upon which the whole raga keeps revolving, sustaining regularly on Ga and dha. Ga and dha are the vadi-samvaadi and time of this raga is morning. Nishaad (Ni) is a little weak or faded while ascent (aaroh), therefore, mostly higher octaves are reached as m D SAA. m D N SAA is also allowed and looks good though. Since neither Shuddha Ma nor pancham (Pa) is used in this raga, drone swar (base-note to be tuned on the taanpura )is m teevra.

Raga Madhmad Saarang (मधमाद सारंग) 

Ni S Re Ma Pa Ni Saa…. Sa ni Pa  Ma Re Sa

Madhmaad Saarang Ga and dha omitted and Ni komal only while descend. Meaning, both the Ni are used in this raga, having shuddha ni while going up or aaroh and komal ni while returning or avroh. It goes with Pa Ni Saaa, and returns with Saa ni P… remaining all the notes are natural.  This raga belongs the saarang family and based on Kafi Thaat. Saarang is another basic raga which has numerous kinds like shuddha-Saarang, Gaud-Saarang, Vrindavani-Saarang, Madhmaad-Saarang, etc.. Saarang kinds can be identified as romantic or shringaar-rasa pradhaan. All of the types of saarangs come under kafi Thaat, because of its melody and playfulness. These ragas are never serious and are sung or played in the evening.

Raga Abhogi (आभोगी)

This is basically a karnatak raga but popular in Hindustani too. This belongs to kanhara family like darbari-kanhara, Adana etc., omitting Pa NI, and making Ga komal and rest of the notes natural. Kanhara signifies Ga komal, in fact, ati-komal and Aandolit i.e., over-flatted and vibrated, and the phrase g M R S is the indication of all kanhara kinds. In Abhogi, Sa R D R S is the pakad or catch. 

S R g M D Saaa… Saa D M g R S