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Moods of Carnatic ragas

Brief Introduction to Carnatic Raga Structure

The first classification of Carnatic ragas into MeLakarta system dates back to 17th century, pioneered by Sri Venkatamakhi. The classification was made, considering 16 shades or variants of saptaswaras (unlike the 12 variants of Hindustani system) and hence as much as 72 distinct melakarta or Janaka/parent ragas were formed. Each parent/ Janaka raga has a number of Janya ragas or derivative ragas. It is estimated that there are as much as 75000 or even more different and distinct ragas in Carnatic system.

Ragas mapped to Chakras of the Human Body

What astounds me is the intelligence that classified the ragas into 12 chakras, 6 ragas attributed to each chakra, thus making a total of 72. It’s not a sheer coincidence that a human body has a total of 12 chakras (7 active and 5 latent) and that each chakra of human body could be mapped to each chakra of the raga system. Moreover Indian scriptures say that there are 72,000 nadis in a human body that end in the navel, comparable to nerve endings on a physical plane. Chakras are supposed to be those energy centers where the three main nadis/nerve cells cross over. The nerve cells or neurons are the basic messengers that carry signals between brain and other nook and corners of the human body. Thus any sound, vibration, feeling or emotion that a sound creates, also gets transmitted via these nerve cells. Hence the number of ragas coined so far as 75,000 is a real close approximation to the nadi number of 72,000.

Moods/Emotions of Carnatic Ragas

The question is how does the effect of a sound or music create different moods? The ragas are so composed that the notes or Swaras are arranged in a particular fashion. For ex: in a melakarta raga, all seven notes appear in order both in the ascent and descent as well. Whereas, in the janya ragas, it may so happen that one or more Swaras may be either excluded or appear in zigzag form or it might borrow an alien Swara too. Thus we have a complex combination of Swaras which in turn produces different vibrations. When vibrations differ, the corresponding mood/emotion differs too.

Emotions or moods are the interpretation of physical changes in our body, in response to an external stimuli, as per James-Lange theory of emotion. The Carnatic ragas are such external stimuli and hence interpreted as responsible for mood changes in an individual. A combination of Swaras in a particular fashion induces an emotion in an individual. It may be a peaceful, joyous, sad/intense, blissful or many such experiences, depending on how the combo of Swaras go.

According to Bharata’s natya shastra, there are nine predominant moods or emotions, namely:

  • Sringaara: Related to love, eros
  • Hasya: Humorous/comic
  • Bheebhatsa: disgust
  • Raudra: Fury or anger
  • KaruNa: Compassion or sympathy
  • Veera: Heroic
  • Bhayaanaka: Terrible/horrifying
  • Adbhuta: Wonderment/ amazing

The emotions that emanate from these basic moods are numerous. The following chart depicts a few of them.

list of emotions

The ragas with their distinct combo of Swaras can stimulate one or more of the above mentioned moods.

Ex: raga Kamavardhini, as the name suggests is basically a sensuous raga, kama meaning love, vardhini meaning increase or upliftment. The effect of a raga does not cease to a single emotion as in the case of kamavardhini too. It is also sung to evoke devotion. The tempo, phrases used, pitch, lyrics and the instrument through which the raga is played are a few parameters that contribute significantly, to the effect, the raga produces. A few more examples that I would like to quote are:

  • Kharaharapriya: 22nd melakarta raga. This raga evokes bhakti rasa as well as karuna rasa.
  • Hamsadhvani and mohana, janya in 29th melakarta, evokes Veera rasa and creates a happy mood.
  • Vakra (zig zag) or varjya (omited notes) ragas like kamaach, kambhoji, hindola, vasanta etc., are called rakti raagas for the raga shines basically due to their popular intricate phrases and has a potential to evoke mixed positive emotions.
  • Certain ragas like saavEri, in which the jeeva swara(‘G3’) triggers a deep emotion of connecting with the higher universal plane and possess the potential to take one to ‘Samadhi’ stithi (transcendental state)

Having mentioned all the above, I would like to conclude with a note that the capability of enjoying a raga is highly subjective. Or in other words, it plays a placebo effect on the performer as well as the listeners.

 

References
  • Image reference: Google images
  • chakras.net
  • James- Lange theory of emotion, Wikipedia

 

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Mathematics and Chemistry in Music

It is not only Physics that is involved in Music, all forms of basic sciences like mathematics, chemistry, computers and Electronics are used in decoding various aspects of music.

 
Swarakalpana by a musician is nothing but pure mathematical calculation. Why go till swarkalpana, the sarlevarises sung in first second and third speeds involve mathematics in it, in the sense that single note fits in a single beat, in the first speed, 2 notes in a beat in the second speed and 4 of them in a beat in the third tempo. Thus the journey of basic mathematics has already begun. Rhythm is full of complex mathematics, the details of which can be a whole big article by itself. A mridangist plays mridangam with complex calculations of the beats to fit in a given frame of taaLa. Different taaLas have different numbers of notes to be fitted in which is a mere mathematical calculation.

The basic instrument, tambura involves mathematics, as the differences in shruti/frequency are nothing but a complex number chart.

Refer http://www.shadjamadhyam.com/saptak_tanpura_harmonics for detailed numbers.

Not only mathematics, chemistry also enters music in the manufacturing of instruments. Mridangam uses layers of mixture of iron oxide or manganese with cooked rice on its right side, for proper tuning requirements. Violin uses rosin(source:Wikipedia; Rosin, also called colophony or Greek pitch, is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components) to grip the strings and make them vibrate clearly. If one has the interest in studying the making of instruments, a lot of  examples can be quoted.
Needless to mention that today’s technology uses a lot of electronic devices and computers to create a new wave in the field of music, be it Carnatic or contemporary music.

 
Psychology and Music, I must say, are inseparable. Music plays a very important role in changing the moods and emotions of an individual, be it the singer or the listener. The title “Psychology and Music” is a chapter of discussion by itself, which I would like to discuss subsequently under a separate title as it is a topic of special interest to me.

Here are a few references which shed light on the mathematical aspects of music.
 1. http://musictraining.in/korvai-in-mridangam-and-upavadhyam
2. http://korvai.org/book.html
 

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Colours, Chakras and Saptaswaras

As a student of Physics, it has been a habit with me to associate everything to science, though the unseen is unexplained by Science. Here is another analogy of Science connecting colours to chakras to Saptaswaras.

colors n chakra

There can be nothing more complex in nature than our own body. Perhaps that is the reason we all look for how things work outside the body for they are much easier to understand than understanding how stuff works within our body. Well, the context of these statements is that I am completely puzzled as to how be sound waves and electromagnetic waves (Visible Light waves, here) mapped together in understanding the chakras (energy centers) of our body.

I am pretty much sure that sound resonates with different frequencies, around the chakras (energy centers) in our body when air enters through nostrils/mouth. Perhaps that is the reason we called sound as “Nada Brahmam”, to me it means connecting to Brahman or Cosmos through nada: sound. As mentioned earlier it is surprising to see that there are 7 chakras and 7 swaras in music, each one mapped on to a corresponding chakra. This is what is taught in chakra meditation.

Reference for chakra meditation: http://www.osho.com/meditate/active-meditations/chakra-sounds-meditation

It is not just the air that resonates within our body. There is something else too which passes through our body just like air. That is ‘light’. Light is also a wave for all we know. So there should be resonance of light too. Isn’t it?

But, isn’t it all the more surprising to see that there is a number tally between colours(7-VIBGYOR) and chakras(7) of the body. Simple mathematics tell me if A=B, B=C, then A=C. In this context, shouldn’t we map the sapta swaras (7 notes) to 7 colours of the visible light spectrum? In doing so aren’t we establishing a relationship between sound waves and electromagnetic waves in spite of their differences?

Let me also give the basic differences between light waves and sound waves. Though both are waves, carrying energy, having frequency, wavelength etc etc, one of the basic differences lies in their frequency range and so wavelength range enormously. Sound waves fall under audible frequency range (20-2000Hz) whereas Light waves have much higher frequency range of 4-8×10 to the power of 14 Hz, which is way away from the audible range. The frequency of colors VIBGYOR fall under the latter category.

Yet colours are associated with the saptaswaras, which to me, only means that there is something else happening within our body, which is connecting sound waves to light waves, which is beyond my understanding as yet.

I am in fact awaiting an interaction on the same from people out there 🙂

 
 

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