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Unveiling the Melodic Marvels: Exploring the Classification of Ragas in Carnatic Music

Title: Exploring the Classification of Ragas in the Carnatic Music System


Greetings, music learners! Today, we delve into the captivating world of ragas and their classification within the Carnatic music system. Understanding the classification of ragas is essential for any student of Indian classical music. In this blog, we will explore the definition of a raga, the popular janaka and janya system, and different types of raga classifications. So, let's dive in!

Defining a Raga:

A raga is a melodic framework consisting of a unique combination of swaras (musical notes). Each raga comprises various variants of swaras that form a melody. For example, if we consider the swara "Gandhara," it can have three variants: shuddha Gandhara, sadharana Gandhara, and antara Gandhara. Similarly, different variants of other swaras like rishaba, madhyama, deivata, and nishadha combine to create a distinct scale or melody, which we refer to as a raga.

The Janaka and Janya System: One widely used classification system for ragas is the janaka and janya system. This system categorizes ragas into two types: janaka ragas and janya ragas.

  1. Janaka Ragas: Janaka ragas are fundamental or parent ragas. They serve as the source from which other ragas derive. Examples of janaka ragas include Mayamalavagowla, Bhairavi, and Harikambhoji.

  2. Janya Ragas: Janya ragas are derived or subordinate ragas that evolve from janaka ragas. These ragas inherit certain characteristics from their parent ragas but possess unique attributes of their own. Janya ragas are classified based on two factors: the number of swaras present in the raga and the movement of those swaras.

Classification Based on Swara Count:

In this type of classification, janya ragas are categorized based on the number of swaras they contain. Some ragas may have additional swaras, while others may omit certain swaras in their arohana (ascent) or avarohana (descent). Let's explore a few examples:

a) Varja Raga:

A varja raga is a raga that omits one or more swaras in either its arohana or avarohana, or both. For instance, the raga Mohana Kalyani excludes the swaras ma and ni in its arohana, making it a varja raga.

b) Vakra Raga:

A vakra raga is a raga that does not follow a straight sequential order of swaras. The swara placements in these ragas exhibit unique melodic patterns. An example of a vakra raga is Reethigowla, where the swaras ascend, descend, and ascend again in a non-linear manner.

c) Upanga Raga:

An upanga raga is a raga that does not incorporate any foreign notes or swaras. All the swaras used in the raga belong to its parent raga. Raga Saveri is an example of an upanga raga, where all the swaras used are derived from the parent raga Mayamalavagowla.

Classification Based on Swaras and Movements:

Another way to classify janya ragas is based on the swaras they include and their melodic movements. Let's explore this classification further:

d) Bhashanga Raga:

A bhashanga raga is a raga that incorporates anya swaras or foreign notes in its arohana or avarohana. An anya swara is a note that is not found in the parent raga. Raga Kambhoji serves as an example of a bhashanga raga, as it includes the foreign notes Kaishiki nishada and Kakali nishada, which are not present in its janaka raga, Hari Kambhoji.


The janaka and janya system of raga classification provides a fundamental framework for understanding ragas in the Carnatic music tradition. Exploring the various types of ragas, such as varja, vakra, upanga, and bhashanga, helps music learners appreciate the rich diversity and complexity of Indian classical music. While this classification system remains popular, there are several other systems, such as ghana, naya, deshi, suryamsha, madhyamsha, chandramsha, raga ragini, and many more, which, though less prevalent today, offer further insights into the world of ragas.

I hope this blog has shed light on the classification of ragas in the Carnatic music system. Stay tuned for more fascinating topics in future blogs. Happy learning and exploring the magical realm of music!

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