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.
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.
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.
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