Aug 20, 2010

The 72 Melakartha Ragas

This is one of the most basic lessons taught to any Carnatic Music student, or is it? I am not sure, but, yes definitely any student of our system of music must get educated about this at least within a year or two after commencement of training. I mentioned that this is a basic lesson, but comprehending and internalizing these 72 ragas is not a joke by any means. A musician’s Swara Jnana will be put to test without any mercy. To theoretically grasp the significance is one thing but it’s an entirely different ball game when it comes to bringing out its nuances in practice. However, the first step is to understand the science in theory.

The 72 melakartha system, is simply unique, unparalleled and the most COMPREHENSIVE system there was, there is and there ever will be. These ragas contain the summum bonum of anything that can be called Music. Any permutation and combination of notes audible to the human ear will have its source traced back to the Melakartha.

Carnatic music has classified the swaras into:

Sa – Shadjam
Ri- Rishabham
Ga- Gandharam
Ma- Madhyamam
Pa- Panchamam
Da- Daivatham
Ni- Nishadam

This is of course popularly known as the Saptha Swras. The Saptha Swaras are further divided and I am listing it down here:

This is the adhara Shadjam or the Shruthi in which we sing

a. Shudha Rishabham

b. Chathushruthi Rishabham

c. Shatshruthi Rishabham

a. Shudha Gandharam

b. Sadharana Gandharam

c. Anthara Gandharam

a. Shudha Madhyamam

b. Prathi Madhyamam


a. Shudha Daivatham

b. Chathushruthi Daivatham

c. Shatshruthi Daivatham

a. Shudha Nishadham b Kaishiki Nishadham

c. Kakali Nishadham

It must be practically demonstrated for one to understand and appreciate the classification of the Swaras. However to start with, this represents the different notes within a particular octave (from Adhara Shadjam to Melsthayi Sa that is).

The Shadjam and Panchamam are eternal and unshakeable, so to say, they represent Godhead. The revered sage of Kanchi, Shri Paramacharya refers to this point while He explains the meaning of the charanam in the famous Thyagaraja krithi Nadathanumanisam. There is a line in the charanam which starts with “Sathyojyathadhi Pancha Vakthraja”, which means the swaras have originated from the five heads of Siva. However, the Sage noted that if we ascribe one swara to each head, then there could be only five and not seven swaras!!! The Sage further observed that this is because Sa and Pa were ever present or eternal and did not have to be created. The remaining five swaras came out of Parameswara’s five heads. This is also the reason why we start the music class with Sa Pa Sa , every other note is contained within this.

However, I am planning to write more about the Melakartha system in the near future. The system, once understood, can be of immense help to identify ragas , to attain proficiency in Swara Jnanam and Swara Singing, and it could open up endless space of creative brilliance for any musician, notwithstanding which genre of music he belongs to.

Warm Regards,
Srikrishna Mohan (Trichur Brothers)


Siva Ramamurthy said...

Looking forward to the melakartha post. I have listened to your renditions on youtube. I like it a lot.

jayanthy said...

You have left Sudhdha Nishadam and the total is 16.Please check. Also to @ Mr.Siva in esnips we can get umpteen of their songs in public concerts.

Trichur Brothers Srikrishna Mohan & Ramkumar Mohan said...

Hi Jayanthi,

Thanks for the correction. Yup. that slipped off.
Will edit it soon.

Trichur Brothers Srikrishna Mohan & Ramkumar Mohan said...

@Siva, thanks, check out our website, where we plan to upload songs for download.

Anonymous said...

Great article, thank you very much!

akila venkat said...

Namaskaram. I have a query. Aren't there 3 Ni's?
Apart from that, i am very much interested in improving and updating my knowledge in ragas. This formulation as you said seems to be of a great help in identifying the ragas! I am grateful MUSIC itself!


Ravi said...

Good intro, you mentioned that you will be posting more on the Melakartha ragas...looking forward to it :-)

Trichur Brothers Srikrishna Mohan & Ramkumar Mohan said...

@ Ravi, yes sir, its pending for sometime. Waiting for the Inspiration!!!!!

Jokes apart, I will write soon.Thanks.!!