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Melakartha raga system in carnatic music

The melakartha raga system is highly mathematical and logical. For the purpose of formulating the melakartha raga system, the great creators of our raga system redefined the 12 tone swara system into a 16 tone system, listed as under:


 - shadjam      



 -  sudha rishabham



 - chatusruthi rishabham



- shatsruthi rishabham  



- sudha gandharam



- sadharana gandharam



- andhara gandharam



- sudha madhyamam



- prathi madhyamam



- panchamam



- sudha dhaivatham



- chathusruthi dhaivatham



- shatsruthi dhaivatham



- sudha nishadham



- kaisiki nishadham



- kakali nishadham



- Shadjam ( harmonic of the low sa )



Thus the basic 12 swaras ( top Sa excluded ) are renamed with the above names for the purpose of construction/ formulation of the 72 melakartha ragas. As mentioned above, the frequency value of r2 is the same as g1, r3 is the same as g2, d2 is the same as n1 and d3 is the same as n2.

1 2 3 concept:

The basic rule for the melakartha ragas is that all ragas will have all seven swaras in the ascent ( aarohanam) and 7 swaras in the descent ( avarohanam) in increasing order of frequency and decreasing order of frequency , respectively. Thus when r2 is used, g1 cannot be used, since its frequency value is the same. Similarly, when r3 is used, g1 and g2 cannot be used since they are smaller or equal in frequency.

To simplify this concept, take the possible combination of double digit numbers using 1, 2 and 3.

They are 1 1, 1 2, 1 3, 2 1, 2 2, 2 3, 3 1, 3 2, 3 3.

Now on this set, apply a rule that the second digit should be equal to or higher than the first digit. This will result in a combination six set combination of  1 1, 1 2, 1 3, 2 2, 2 3 and 3 3.

Now , prefix the first digit with r and the second digit with g in the six set combination, which leads us to a resultant set of -  r1 g1,  r1 g2, r1 g3, r2 g2, r2 g3 and r3 g3.


Applying the same rule on the six set combination with d and n, we get the following resultant set - d1 n1, d1 n2, d1 n3, d2 n2, d2 n3 and d3 n3.

The 6 combinations of r and g can be combined with the 6 combinations of d and n resulting in 36 possible combinations. For instance the first element of the r and g resultant set - r1, g1 can be combined with d and n resultant set as follows:

r1 g1 d1 n1

r1 g1 d1 n2

r1 g1 d1 n3

r1 g1 d2 n2

r1 g1 d2 n3

r1 g1 d3 n3

Thus there are 36 possible combinations between the resultant set of r and g and the resultant set of d and n. There are two variations of m namely m1 and m2. Hence each variation of m along with the 36 combinations result in the 72 melakartha ragas. In the next blog, we will analyse the classification of these melakartha ragas.








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