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The Raag Framework

Aaroh (ascent) and Avroh (descent) 

Every Raag has an Aroh-Avroh rule, which specifies the notes allowed in the ascent and those allowed in the descent. Some raags have different notes in ascent vs descent (Shree). The Aroh-avroh shows the gait of the raag and some raags can have a crooked gait (Ex. avroh of Darbari Kanada). Knowing the Aroh and Avroh helps in making phrases that are compliant with the raag.


Jati is the classification of raags by the number of notes in their Aaroh and Avroh. Raags can be divided into 3 main categories:

1.      Audav Raag: a raag with 5 notes. Ex. Bhoopali

2.      Shadav Raag: a raag with 6 notes

3.      Sampoorna Raag: a raag with all 7 notes. Ex. Ahir-Bhairav

As a rule, a Raag must have a minimum of 5 notes.  Raags having 2 versions of the same note ex. komal and shuddh, are counted as one (Raag Lalit). There are also more granular categories based on the number of notes in Aaroh vs Avroh viz. Audav-Audav raag when there are 5 notes in ascending and 5 notes in descending (Deshkar),  Audav-Shadav, Audav-Sampoorna (Shree), Shadav- Audav, Shadav-Shadav, Shadav-Sampoorna (Yaman), Sampoorna-Audav, Sampoorna-Shadav and Sampoorna-Sampoorna (Ramkali).

Vadi, Samvadi, Anuvadi, Vivadi

In addition to the Aroh-Avroh, every raag specifies the importance of each note in the raag. 

Vadi:  The most important note in a Raag is called the Vadi. The beauty of the raag lies in weaving the Vadi note in various phrases frequently or by resting on it frequently. The Vadi note also distinguishes the raag from other raags that have the same notes. There are Raags that have identical notes, but having different Vadi and Samvadi notes changes the sound and feel of the Raags. Ex. Bhoopali and Deshkar have identical notes, but the Vadi of Bhoopali is Ga, whereas that of Deshkar is Dha which contributes to the two raags sounding different. Marwa, Puriya, and Sohni are also a trio of Raags that have identical notes, but different Vadi and Samvadi notes which makes these raags sound distinct.

Samvadi: The 2nd most important note after the Vadi is called the Samvadi.

The Vadi and Samvadi are always 3 or 4 notes away from each other. The consonant notes will be in opposite tetrachords. This creates a balance between the lower tetrachord (poorvang) and the upper tetrachord (uttarang). If the Vadi is in the poorvang, the beauty of the raag lies in the lower and middle octaves (Shuddh Kalyan) and if the Vadi is in the uttarang, the beauty of the raag lies in the middle and higher octaves (Deshkar).

Valid vadi-samvadi pairs are as follows:

·         Sa-Pa or Pa-Sa, Re-Dha or Dha-Re, Ga-Ni or Ni-Ga

·         Sa-Ma or Ma-Sa, Re-Pa or Pa-Re, Ga-Dha or Dha-Ga, Ma-Ni or Ni-Ma

*The swars in each of the above pairs must be either both komal or both shuddh, but never one komal and one shuddh. There are exceptions to this rule ex. Marwa.

Anuvadi: Aside from Vadi and Samvadi notes , all the other notes in the Raag are known as Anuvadi. These are supporting notes necessary to make phrases in a raag.

Vivadi: The Vivadi note is the one that is not present in the Aroh-Avroh, but certain raags permit the use of certain notes to add to the beauty of the raag. Vivadi notes are more freely used in semi-classical music. Ex. The use of shuddh ga and shuddh Ni are allowed in Kafi even though these notes are not present in its Aaroh-avroh. See the Kafi video (at 3:28) for a demonstration. A raag doesn’t give complete freedom to use any note in any manner as a vivadi swar. It prescribes specific notes used in a specific manner.

Varjit: A varjit note must never be used when singing or playing a Raag. All notes other than the Vadi, Samvadi, Anuvadi and Vivadi are known as varjit swars. They will destroy the beauty of the raag if used accidentally.


Once the Aroh-Avroh, Vadi, Samvadi are known, the next step in building one's understanding of a raag is the Pakad of the raag.

Pakad is a signature phrase of the raag that brings out the beauty in the raag and it also uniquely identifies the raag. Pakad means hold and the pakad gives a good hold on the raag. It can be compared to the face of the raag. In samaprakritik raags, hearing the pakad can help you distinguish between the raags. Ex. Bhoopali and Deshkar are samaprakritik but have very different pakads. The pakad can be heard frequently in the presentation of a raag.

Nyaas Swars

The next step in learning and presenting a raag are the Nyaas swars. These are notes that should be rested on. Phrases in the raag should be created in such a way that they end with Nyaas swars. The vadi tends to be one of the nyaas swars, however some anuvadi swars are also designated as nyaas swars.


Samay means the time of the day when the raag should be sung or played at. Every raag creates a unique mood due to the unique combination of notes in it. Every raag also has an inherent tempo and a personality. A combination of all these factors makes the raag sound best at a certain time. Ex. Bhairav sounds beautiful in the morning whereas Gauri which has the same notes as Bhairav is ideally sung at dusk. The day is divided into 8 parts of 3 hour windows starting 7am. Each window is called a prahar.

All raag introduction videos on the Raag Catalog page demonstrate the above terms for every raag. For pronunciations of these terms see the glossary.

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