Raag Hindustani
© 2011, Sādhana

Pentatonic Ragas

This and the following two sections will introduce a few different kinds of ragas. I thought you might also find it interesting to learn something about the traditionally prescribed time for performing or enjoying a raga and the mood (rasa) or emotional content (bhāva) associated with it, and have accordingly provided a short description for each raga. My descriptions are mainly based on the mood traditionally assigned to the raga but I also go by my personal understanding and experience of it.

Let's start with pentatonic ragas. It is very easy to come up with pleasant melodies if you're only using five out of the twelve notes in an octave. There are many pentatonic ragas. I'll give you a few examples.

Raag Bhupali

Raag Bhupali (also called Bhoop) uses a scale that has great appeal not just in Indian music, but universally, including in Western and East Asian music. In fact, in Hindustani classical music, Bhupali shares this scale with another raga - Raag Deskar. The two ragas are quite close, naturally, but differ in that Bhupali emphasizes the lower notes and has a more pensive, meditative mood, while Deskar is playful and vivacious, focusing on the upper register. Raag Bhupali is sung in the evening hours, after sundown.

Scale: Bhupali

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute)
Raag Bhupali

Gaana Saraswati Kishori Amonkar
Raag Bhupali

Raag Malkauns

Raag Malkauns has a majestic and solemn mood. It is best sung in the lower pitch ranges at an extremely contemplative, slow pace in the small hours of the morning, just after midnight.

Scale: Malkauns

Vidushi Ashwini Bhide Deshpande
Raag Malkauns (music starts at 0.16)

Ustad Shahid Parvez (Sitar)
Raag Malkauns (music starts at 0.50)

Raag Durga

Raag Durga has the qualities of brightness, innocence and purity. It always reminds me of the hills. The time traditionally prescribed for this raga is late evening to midnight, but I think this is one raga that lends itself beautifully to any time of day and to both slow and lively tempos.

Scale: Durga

Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Durga

Sushree Anuradha Kuber
Raag Durga

Raag Hamsadhwani

Hamsadhwani has become very popular in the Hindustani tradition despite being a relatively new import from South Indian classical music. It is a raga that fills you with positive energy and a sense of well-being. It is sung in the evening hours, after sunset and lends itself beautifully to a medium to lively tempo.

Scale: Hamsadhwani

Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty
Raag Hamsadhwani

Pandita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Hamsadhwani

Raag Shivranjani

Shivaranjani is relatively new to the Hindustani tradition, being originally a Carnatic (or South Indian classical) raga. It is more popular as a semi-classical or light raga. It is sung from late evening to midnight and has a plaintive, hauntingly pretty melodic profile.

Scale: Shivranjani

Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute)
Raag Shivranjani

Prasad Bhandarkar
Raag Shivranjani

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