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Ragas and Raginis

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Item Code: NAO777
Author: O.C.Gangoly
Publisher: Shubhi Publications, Gurgaon
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788182904262
Pages: 248 (11 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 400 gm
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Book Description

In this volume, an humble, though a pioneer attempt has been made to trace the beginnings and the later evolution of the raga-system of Indian Music—from authoritative sources, many of which are still buried in unpublished and rare manuscripts. Orthodox music practitioners, opposing any manner of new developments and innovations—on the belief that Indian Music is a stereotyped system hide-bound by strict rules and conventions prescribed by ancient musical Sages, to depart from which is to assail the individuality of Indian Musical thought--and, therefore, a musical crime, may find in this Volume much material which will contradict such a belief. Indeed, the history of the ragas, of which a bare outline, is, here presented de-monstrates that in all periods of its development—Indian Music has grown and progressed by assimilating new ideas from non-Aryan and aboriginal musical practices—and that the Classical Raga-System is firmly based on and is heavily indebted to Primitive Folk-music, having never disdained from borrowing and assimilating new data from alien or foreign sources. Yet the Indian Raga-System—has a structure of peculiar form—having fundamental rules and conventions of its own—which must be understood— in its essential character—before any innovation or a new development can be initiated. In the coming new order of things, Indian Music is destined to play a great part in vitalizing national culture. It is hoped that the free liberalizing role of music should not be restricted and subordinated by being harnessed to political propaganda. Both the necessity of saving Indian Music from such slavery and of extending its role—in a larger expansion of national life—in forms of new applications to newer needs—it is necessary for all kinds of votaries,—the Practioners, the Connoisseurs, the Innovators, the Reformers, and the Students—to have a thorough knowledge of the basics of Indian Music, its grammer and conventions, the secrets of its peculiar charm, and its power of intense emotional expressiveness---both in its thematic and abstract applications. It is believed that from this point of view—this monograph may offer valuable educational data. In many of the Indian Schools of Music— the syllabus in-cludes not only a knowledge of the practice of the Ragas—and their differentiations—but also of some rudiments of the theories on which they are based. But very often authoritative data is not readily available to the average teacher—who has no time to undertake independent , re-searches to dig out the facts bearing on the history of Indian Music-theories. It is humbly claimed---the data put forward in this Volume may go in some way to provide this essential materials for the study of Indian Music. The Political Life --and the freedom to coin our new political destiny--may be imitated in the sphere of Music. As the history of Indian Music demonstrates—our musical authorities have never opposed innovations—but have welcomed fresh ideas—and have assimilated them according to the fundamental principles of Indian Music. In this conception, it is useful to recall the remark of Plato in his Republic: "The introduction of a new kind of music must be shunned as imperilling the whole State; since styles of music are never disturbed with-out affecting the most important political institutions."

This work has been respectfully dedicated to the great musical Savant the late Pandit V. N. Bhatkhande—whose services to Indian Music are invaluable Unfortunately, the work could not be placed in his hands—until a short time before his death, when he was laid up with paralysis. It is reported that when the book was placed in his hands he sat up with great curiosity and enthusiasm and as he turned over the pages---m speechless silence—tears tracled down his cheeks—in affectionate appreciation of a tribute to the study of a subject of which he was a lifelong devotee, and an indefatigable exponent blessed with inexhaustible erudition.

Owing to circumstances beyond the control of the Author the work had to be published—in an extremely limited edition of only thirty-six copies which were subscribed for, two years before the actual date of publication,--so that the work was out of print and was un-available from the date of its birth, not only to the general reader but to an everwidening circle of friends of Indian Music and Specialists. This was a crime which has been crying for atonement ever since 1935—the original date of its publication. The Author is therefore grateful to Nalanda Publication for coming forward to rescue the work from practical oblivion

It is to be regretted that it has not been possible to revise and improve the text, and it is sent out in its original form with all its imperfections and blemishes—for a wider circulation which was not possible to secure in its first edition. This is not, therefore, a new edition, --but a cheap re-issue. The only addition made-- is the Supplementary Bibliography setting out a list of publications and articles which have appeared since the year 1935.


The conception of Ragas is one of the basic principles of the system of Indian Music. A raga (Vulgo Rag) is generally mis-translated as a tune, air, or key. It is, in fact, a peculiar conception, having no exact parallel in any other system of music. Literally, raga is something that colours, or tinges the mind with some definite feeling,—a wave of passion, or emotion.' In a special sense, a raga is a sonal composition of musical notes (svaras) having a sequence, form, or structure of a peculiar significance. Some of its component notes stand in a significant relationship to one another to give a character to the raga, e.g., the starting, or initial note (graha svara), the predominant or expressive note (amsa svara), and the terminating, or the final note (nyasa svara), has each a peculiar significance in the composition of a raga.

The starting note (graha) and the terminating note (nyasa) have now almost lost their significance. But the amsa (predominant note) is of great importance. It is also called the vadi (lit. the speaker, or announcer) i.e. the note which indicates, manifests, or expresses the peculiar character of the raga, and receives the greatest emphasis in the structure of the raga. It is also called the jiva, or the soul of the raga. Just as the vadi note determines the general character of a raga, the vivadi, or the dissonant note, distinguishes and differentiates it from other forms of ragas, by avoidance of the vivadi note. For, this dissonant note destroys the character of the melody. The vivadi note gives the negative element, and, the other three, the positive determining elements of a raga.' Every raga has its special types of a serial of notes for ascent (aroha) and descent (avaroha) which determines its structure or that. The degree of insistence or importance of particular notes lends flesh, blood, colour, and life to the scale and creates a Raga.

Some definitions are given of the nature of raga by ancient authorities. The earliest is that of Matanga (circa 5th century)—a fairly ancient authority, later than Bharata, but much earlier than Sarngadeva. His definition is repeated by all later authors. According to Matanga, 'A raga is called by the learned, that kind of sound composition, which is adorned with musical notes, in some peculiarly stationary, or ascending, or descending, or moving values (varna), which have the effect of colouring the hearts of men". In this definition a technical word varna (value) is used. Varnas (values) are of four kinds: 'values of duration' (sthayi); 'values of ascent' (arohana); 'values of descent' (avarohana); and 'values of movement' (sancari). This definition of raga may be paraphrased as a note-composition having a peculiar musical significance, in their values of duration, ascent, descent, or movement, capable of affecting the human mind with peculiar feelings.

A secod definition ascribed to Bharata and quoted in the Sangria Narayana (circa 1750) is somewhat more subjective and vague.

" Those are called ragas by Bharata and other sages by which the hearts of all the beings in the three worlds are coloured and pleased."

A third version is also a paraphrase of the last two. `By which all people are coloured, or elated as soon as they hear it, and by reason of giving pleasure to all, that is known as raga." In all the three definitions, the word raga is derived from the root `rafija', "to colour," "to tinge."

Ragas are usually said to have descended from a certain parent stock which is technically known as a that (lit. an 'array', or a `setting'). These thats represent modes, or types of some group of notes, from which distinct forms, or modes of somewhat similar texture can be derived. The difference between a that and a raga consists in the absence of any aesthetic value in the former which is only the ascent and the descent without the distinctive assonant, and con-sonant notes (vadi, anuvadi, or samvadi) and without the capacity of conveying any emotion. That is technically used in the instrumental music system of Northern India to denote the frets of string instruments (Sitar, Vina, Surbahar) for the purpose of playing a given pattern of modes, for, one setting will serve for several modes of the same type,—e.g. Bhairavi that, Kafi that. Thus that is used in a classifying sense, the corresponding Southern or the Karna-tic word is mela-karta—the 'union-maker,' that is to say, the group-maker which groups together several allied ragas.


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