Rāga (Devanagari: राग) (Sanskrit, lit. “colour” or “mood”) refers to melodic modes used in Indian classical music. It is a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is made. In the Indian musical tradition, rāgas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rāga. Non-classical music such as popular Indian film songs or ghazals sometimes use rāgas in their compositions.
योऽसौ ध्वनिविशेषस्तु स्वरवर्णविभूषितः ।
रञ्जको जनचित्तानां स च राग उदाहृतः ।।
“That which is a special dhwani (tune), is bedecked with swara (notes) and varna and is colorful or delightful to the minds of the people, is said to be rāga” – Matanga in the Brihaddeshi.
Many Hindustani (North Indian) rāgas are prescribed for the particular time of a day or a season. When performed at the suggested time, the rāga has its maximum effect. During the monsoon, for example, many of the Malhar group of rāgas, which are associated with the monsoon and ascribed the magical power to bring rain, are performed. However, these prescriptions are not strictly followed, especially since modern concerts are generally held in the evening. There has also been a growing tendency over the last century for North Indian musicians to adopt South Indian rāgas, which do not come with any particular time associated with them. The result of these various influences is that there is increasing flexibility as to when rāgas may be performed.
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