Music is an integral part of India's culture. It is the one art which is in evidence in all the strats of society. Indian music is one of the living systems of music in the world.
Indian music is a typical example of Modal music ie., music based on modes. The individuality of a mode is established by notes of defined frequencies in its structure. It is not the inter-relationship between the notes that establishes the raga, although this inter-relationship is there, but the relationship of each note to the basic tone note. This tonic note may be actually heard through a drone or even in its absence, a trained ear is able to recognize the raga, bearing in mind the presumed tonic note. Memory thus plays an important part in Indian music.
Raga is the Pivotal concept of Indian music. This concept is India's proud contribution to world music. This concept is of interest to scholars of comparative musicology all the world over. The ideal of absolute music is reached in the concept of raga. The attainment of ragainana is the ultimate aim of all musical studies. The whole structure of Indian music is built around the concept of raga. Indian melodies of the classical type are based on ragas. As for folk melodies, a good number of them will be found to be in some refognizable raga or other. Some folk melodies are in mixed ragas ie., one part of the stanza being in one raga and another part in another raga. The origin of ragas like Kuranji, Punnagavarali, and Nadanamakriya can be traced to folk melodies.
Ragas are aesthetic facts and can be perceived by trained ears. Ragas derive their personality through notes of defined pitch entering into their formation. It is the horizontal arrangement of particular tones and semi tones, in conformity to recognized aesthetic laws that establishes the rupa of form of a raga. Ragas reveal themselves through the twin channels of Kalpita sangita and Manodharma sangita. Kalpita sangita means music already made. This music includes the musical compositions already composed. Both rhythmical come under its scope. Manodharma sangita is music improvised on the spot. It admits of the divisions: Alapana inclusive of Tana or Madhyamakala, Pallavi exposition, Niraval and Swara kalpana. Musical compositions and alapanas are concrete manifestations of the abstract raga.
Manodharma sangita or creative music is the distinctive feature of Indian music. It is this that imparts a dynamic character to Indian music. In a concert, we hear not only the compositions of great composers but also the performer's creative music-music improvised by him and rendered on the spot. Thus we enjoy in a concert not only the creative talents of the musicians but also his powers of interpreting the compositions of great composers. Performers are the links between audiences and composers Alapana is unmeasured music. Alapana had its origin when slokas, padyas and ciruttams came to be sung in a raga.
Raga Sphutam is the process of discovering the individuality of a raga ie., finding its jiva swaras, nyasa swaras, rakti prayogas, etc. A raga once conceived attains its full stature usually at the hands of a subsequent composer or composers. Thus the nadatma form (sound picture) of a raga is a process of gradual unfoldment.
The rich treasure-house of ragas is the glory of Indian music. The ragas form the basis of all melody in India. Raga is the quintessence of Indian music. In the formation of ragas, all possible combinations of notes for creating emotional effects have been utilised. Ability on the part of a person to recognize, distinguish and sing or play ragas indicates a high degree of musical culture. Ragas are based on ranjakatva.
A raga might be defined as a melody mould or melody-type. It consists of a series of notes, which bear a definite relationship to adhara shadja and which occur in a particular sequence. The introduction of notes eschewed in a raga will prove fatal to its melodic individuality. Ragas give pleasure to the listener and are beautified by swara varnas. Raga alapana is the presentation of phrases admissible in the raga in such a manner as to bring out its distinctive characteristics.
The first detail that a student should become familiar with, concerning a raga is its arohana and avarohana and the melakarta to which it belongs. If the raga in question is a janaka raga, its arohana and avarohana will, as already mentioned, be sumpurna.
The arohana and avarohana constitutes the briefest description of a raga and is like a theorem in geometry. It gives in a concise form the outline or framework of the raga. It defines the contour of the raga. The normal sancharas that the raga admits of are directly revealed by its arohana and avarohana. Sometimes a rare prayoga is incorporated in the arohana and avarohana (Ex: Nata raga) and in a few instances, the arohana - avarohana instead of being in a concise form is slightly expanded and presented. Janta swaras, dirgha swaras and kampita swaras figure in the arohana and avarohana of some ragas. All these features serve only to reveal better the melodic individuality of those ragas. Instances of such ragas are however not many.