Ancient and Modern Ragalakshana

Ancient Ragalakshana: Jaati Gaayan


Jaati gaayan came into prevalence after Margisangeet. It originated from the folksongs. Jaati gaayan was in existence even before Ragapadhati. We can find proof of the same in Bharat’s ‘Natyashastra’. Hence it is believed that the genesis of Ragasangeet is Jaati gaayan. Simply defined, Jaati gaayan is the creation of a musical composition using swar and taal rules.


In ancient times, the vedic mantras, devotional songs, epics, ballads and folk songs were recited as using swar-taal rules. This was the foundation of Jaati gaayan. It was mandatory to follow a certain set of rules in Jaati gaayan. The rules are as follows:


  1. Graha swar: It is the starting or opening swar in Jaati gaayan.
  2. Ansh swar: The swar which enjoy a special place or importance in Jaati. Presently, they are known as Vadi swars. There can be one, three or five Ansh swars in a Jaati.
  3. Nyasa swar: The note on which a musical piece ends. There can be multiple Nyasa swars in one Jaati.
  4. Apanyasa:  The swar on which the middle portion of a musical piece ends. One Jaati can have more than one Apanyasa swars.
  5. Alpatva-Bahutva : The word ‘alpa’ means less. The swars which are less in usage and importance or are omitted in a Jaati are known as Alpatva. There are of two types of Alpatva swars – Langhan Alpatva and Anabhyasa Alpatva. Bahutva is when a swar is given a prime place or is often repeated (vadi swar) in a Jaati. There are two types of Bahutva - Alanghan Bahutva and Abhyaas Bahutva.
  6. Odavatva-Shadavatva: These are related to the Swar sankhya (count). Odav means 5 swars and Shadav means 6 swars. When we use 5 or 6 swars in a Jaati, it is known as Odatva or Shadatva.
  7. Mandra and Taar:  Every Jaati has a defined limit. In Mandra, one can go from the Ansh swara to the Nyasa swar or Apanyasa.  In Taar, one can go from the Ansh swar to the 4th, 5th or 7th swar.
  8. Sanyasa: It is the last swar of the first charan(stop) of a song. If there are three lines in a sthayi, the last swar of all the three lines is Sanyasa.
  9. Vinyasa: The last swar of each charan in a song is Vinyasa. Every song has four charans (divisions) – Sthayi, Antara, Sanchaari and Aabhoga. The last swar of each charan or khand is Vinyasa Swar.


Modern  Ragalakshan


  1. A melodious composition of swars, which cheers the mind, is interesting and colourful at the same time  is known as a Raga.
  2. It is mandatory for a raga to have a minimum of five swars and a maximum of seven swars.
  3. The raga must originate from a Thaat.
  4. The Shadaj swar cannot be omitted.
  5. The raga must have the Madhyam or Pancham swar or both.
  6. Every raga has a decided Aroha, Avaroha, Pakad, Vaadi swar, Samvaadi swar, Varjit swar and Gaan samay.
  7. Two different roops (forms) of a single swar cannot follow each other in the raga - like komal Rishabh following shudha Rishabh or shudha and teevra Madhyam together one after the other. But ragas like the Lalat, Malhaar, Shuddha Sarang are exceptions to this rule. Pt. Kumar Gandharvaji, in his ‘Madhusuraja’ raga has used both the Madhyams one after the other.