Carnatic Ragas

Ragas form the bedrock of Indian classical music and are the foundation upon which all compositions and creativity are built on. Even a beginner, who is being initiated into classical music starts with raga-based musical phrases. In a typical Carnatic music concert, one would hear a variety of ragas being rendered to create specific moods and ambiences.

Most Carnatic audiences enjoy challenging themselves.  As soon as the first phrase is rendered by the artist, inevitably, the mind races to identify the raga. So,what is a Raga?

A Raga in the simplest form is a melody made up of a specific sequence of notes rendered with certain characteristic ornamentations (gamakas) and intonations. For a student, a Raga can be understood with the help of an experienced Guru. A Guru will first help the student traverse the scale through a fixed sequence of notes in the ascending (Arohana) and descending scale. (Avarohana) The next step is to learn the key phrases of the raga. Equally important are the dos and don’ts of presenting a raga to ensure it stays true to its nature without encroaching into the territory of another raga. Finally, the Guru will help the student solidify their understanding of the raga by teaching masterpieces of diverse composers. Compositions set the foundation for manodharma (improvisation) or creativity which is a very essential element of Indian classical music.

If a raga can be compared to a personality, then  one must spend time getting to know them better, just like a real person.  Some raga personalities are strong, like Shankarabharanam, Kalyani, Todi etc, requiring a longer time to understand whereas others are relatively easier to get acquainted with like Sriranjani, Abhogi etc. 

The beauty of Carnatic ragas is that one need not necessarily be a student or highly knowledgable to be able to identify them. Many rasikas (knowledgable listeners) develop the ability to identify ragas merely by honing their listening instincts over a period of time. Matching patterns from raga phrases to familiar passages from songs or artists helps them develop this valuable skill. 

Acharyanet wants to make it easier for both students and listeners to understand their favourite carnatic ragas better. On this page, you will find a list of Carnatic ragas. Click on them to listen to a comprehensive explanation of the raga scale and key phrases (raga moorchana) by Sangeet Samrat Chitravina N Ravikiran. We have also provided some listening links to understand how different artists have rendered them with varied styles and personalities. 

Visit this page often to find new raga updates. 

Understanding Carnatic Ragas

Scroll to Top