Ragaswaras

Like characters in a play coming in their particular costume, ragaswaras come in the costumes meant for them in a particular raga.

There are no seven swaras or even twenty two shrutis in Hindustani classical music. They are only theoretical constructs. What there are in Hindustani music are “ragaswaras” and there are many of them.

I would like to give a simplified analogy to this. Let us take the pronunciation of two sounds in the English language, namely ‘pat’ and ‘tap’. The pronunciation of both ‘p’ and ’t’ in both the words are different. In actual speech, while saying the ‘p’ of ‘pat’ we open, the lips but while saying the ‘p’ of ‘tap’ we don’t release the lips. Hence, we seem to say “phat” in ‘pat’, ‘thap’ (Indian ‘T’ as in police “Thana’). The same applies to “tap”. The sounds of P and T are different in both words depending on the environment in which they occur.

Similarly, the ragaswaras undergo modification from swaras and shrutis. Like characters in a play coming in their particular costume (as my father-guru used to say), ragaswaras come in the costumes meant for them in a particular raga.

There are many hues to ragaswaras, nuances displaying the pehechan or identity of the raga. The learners’ attention must be drawn towards this richness of the ragaswaras. They must be told to notice such nuances which enrich the understanding of ragas.

These subtle nuances are not merely in terms of shrutis. Other subtleties of ragaswaras are in terms of their timing and weight (wajan) etc. These cannot be quantified, but should be learned by listening to a well informed and competent guru who knows the intricacies involved. The ears of learners and listeners must be so trained to appreciate the fullness of a raga.

A raga is a conglomerate of many other things apart from ragaswaras.

By Panditji

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