What is a Raag?

Classical music is based on the system of scales or modes known as raags. A raag can be broadly defined as a series of musical notes which are systematically organised within a scale. Each raag has a certain set of notes which have to be adhered to. The ascending order of musical notes are called the 'Aaroh' and the descending order is known as 'Avrohi'. Raags can use both flat or sharp notes and the number of notes within each scale can vary. Each raag has a note which is most frequently used and this is known as the 'vaadi', the note which supports the 'vaadi' is known as the 'samvadi'. A Raag may be characterized by phrases of notes known as 'pakar' which describe the movement known as 'chalan' of the raag.

The following five raags are considered to be popular with listeners of both classical and light forms of music.

Aiman or known as Yaman. An  early evening raag which comprises of seven notes. Raag Aiman is derived from the Kalyan Thath.  Its vadi note is Ga and samvadi  is Ni. Its unique feature is the use of the sharp Ma note.


Ascent. Ni Sa Re Ga Ma (Sharp) Dha Ni Sa Descent. Sa Ni Dha Pa Ma (Sharp) Ga Re Sa.
Vaadi. Ga Samvadi.Ni
Chalan. Sa Re- Sa- Sa Re Ga- Re Ga- Ni Re Ga- Re Ga- Ni Re Ga- Re Sa- Sa Re Ga Re Sa- Ni Dha Pa Ma Dha Ni Dha Ni- Re Ga Re Sa. Pakar. Ni Re Ga Re Sa. Ma Re Ga Re Sa (special taan)

Click to hear Ustad Nazakat Ali Khan &  Ustad Salamat Ali Khan performing Aiman.


Malkauns. Malkauns belongs to the Bhairvin thath and consists of five notes. Re and Pa notes are omitted from this raga.Ga, Dha and Ni are Komal Swaras. Its vadi is Ma and samvadi is Sa. The raag is performed during the night.


Ascent. Sa Ga (flat) Ma Dha Ni (flat) Sa. Descent. Sa Ni (flat) Dha (flat) Ma Ga (flat) Sa.
Vaadi. Ma Samvadi. Sa
Chalan. Ma Ma Ga Ni Sa Ni Ma ni Dha Ma Dha Ni Sa Ma Ma Ga Sa. Pakar. Ni dha ni sa- sa ma ga- ga ma- dha ma- ga sa.

Click to hear Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan (Peshawar) performing Malkauns.


Darbari. A very famous raag, said to be created by the celebrated Mian Tansen. Darbari belongs to the Asavari thath, its Vadi is Re and Samvadi  is Pa. Ga is weak in ascent and Dha is avoided in the descent. It is sung mostly in the lower and middle octaves. Its time of performance is late night usually during midnight. The speciality of the raag is that Ga and Dha are performed with "Andolan", in a way which seems that the notes are gliding.


Ascent. Ni Sa Re Ga (flat) Re Sa Ma Pa Dha (flat) Ni (flat) Sa Descent. Sa Dha (flat) Ni (flat) Pa Ma Pa Ga (flat) Ma Re Sa.
Vaadi. Re Samvadi. Pa
Chalan. Re Sa re ni sa re dha ni pa Dha ni Sa Re sa re ni sa re- ga-ga ma re- Sa ni Sa re- dha ni-pa-ni pa-dha-ni sa Pakar. Sa dha ni pa- ma pa- dha ni- re sa ga.

Click to hear Ustad Umeed Ali Khan performing Darbari.


Megh. One of the oldest raags in Indian classical music. Megh belongs to the kafi thath and is associated with the rainy season. Notes Ga and dha are omitted in this raag. Its vadi is Sa and samvadi is Pa. 


Ascent. Sa Ma Re Pa Ma Pa Ni (flat) Sa Descent. Sa Ni (flat) Pa Ma Re Sa
Vaadi. Sa Samvadi. Pa
Chalan. Re Sa Ni Sa- Re-Sa-Re-Pa- Ma Re Re Sa. Sa Re Re- Ma Re- Ma Ma- Ni Pa -Pa Ni- Ma Pa- Ma Re- Pa Ma Re- Sa-Re-Re Sa Pakar. Re Re Sa Ni Sa- Ma Re Pa- Ma Re Ni Sa.

Click to hear Ustad Amanat Ali Khan & Ustad Fateh Ali Khan performing Megh.


Bhairvin. Raag Bhairvin is one of the most popular ragas amongst the masses. It is an early morning raag but due to its immense popularity, musicians perform it at any time of the day. It belongs to the Bhairvin thath and is more associated with light classical genres such as thumris and ghazals. Many folk and film melodies are composed in this raag. The raag uses flat notes but some musicians make use of sharp notes to add beauty.


Ascent. Sa Re (flat), Ga (flat), Ma Pa Ga (flat), Ma Pa Dha (flat), Ni (flat), Sa. Descent. Sa Ni (flat), Dha (flat), Pa Ma Ga (flat), Re (flat) Sa.
Vaadi. Sa Samvadi. Ma or either Pa.
Chalan. Dha Dha Pa Ma Ga Ma Ga Re Sa- Dha Ni Sa Ga Ma Dha Dha Pa Ga Ma Ga Re Sa. Pakar. Ma- Ga- Sa Re Sa- Sa Re Sa- Dha Ni Sa.

Click to hear Ustad Rais Ahmed Khan performing Bhairvin on Sitar.

Recordings courtesy of the Classical Music Research Cell Lahore, Radio Pakistan and Akhtar Raja.

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Copyright 2006 Sadarang Archives.
Last modified: 15th July 2006.