Raga and Taal


Raga is basically the melodic basis of Indian musical forms. In the western world musicians base their compositions on mode and scale, which are considered the equivalent of the Indian raga. There are thousand of ragas that are the basis of Hindustani music, of which six are considered as fundamental. These being:

· Bhairav

· Malkauns

· Hindol

· Dipak

· Megh

· Shree

Carnatic music has 72 fundamental ragas.

Irrespective, whether the composition is that of Hindustani or Carnatic music, the composer is able to create tunes that are soulful and not mechanical. The compositions seem more as though it has been the musician’s personal journey.

The Indian musician generally attempts to use the ragas in a combination to create meditative music, which is music that can take the listener into a trance. Some famous compositions have been known to actually take listeners into a state beyond the conscious, giving them a vision of what exists in the sub-conscious state. The ragas are considered to represent the tunes of the universe, as they were not developed on the basis of mechanical process, but from the sounds around the ancient musicians who gave Indian music these musical notes.

The fact is that raga is an accurate, fine, and aesthetic form of melody having its own distinctive ascending and descending movement. Every raga has its own temperament. In fact each one of these melodic notes of Indian music expresses emotions and feelings. These include peace, bliss, calmness, piety, dedication, solitude, sadness, suffering, valor, strength, etc. The notes were created to bring about a unity between humanity and nature. In fact, composers combined ragas to create music compositions to bring about certain moods in the listeners. The correct play of ragas help people to go through the process of catharsis or emotional cleansing.

Though musicians are taught to follow certain prescribed rules when composing their music, the also have the freedom to improvise on the existing ragas, bringing out their aesthetics. The composer should be able to bring about the appropriate mood in what they have composed. It is said that the ragas were created representing the various times of the day such as dawn, morning, afternoon, evening, dusk, night; as well as the beauty and varied aspects of each season.


Taal is considered the rhythmic basis of Indian music, be it instrumental or vocal. There are common rhythmic patterns that are used in various combinations to create a musical composition.  The taal is defined as a rhythmic structure or time measure, also known as time cycle. Though this is supposed to remain fixed within each composition, it can be repeated in cycles and each cycle can be divided into either equal or unequal parts.

The cycle of a taal can consist of any number of beats with the minimum being 3 and the maximum 108. Sum or the first beat of the cycle is the most important part of a taal. In fact maximum stress has to be placed on the sum.

The setting of the taal into a composition is based on the belief that as there is a perfect balance in the universe, there should be balance in music too. The compositions based on rhythm are generally divided into simple and complicated meters. It is usually independent of the music that goes along with it and moves in bars. The smallest unit of a taal is the matra.

Musicians consider the taal to be the pulse of Indian classical music. The following are some of the taals that are usually used by musicians:

· Dadra is a cycle of 6 beats

· Rupak is a cycle of 7 beats

· Jhaptal is a cycle of 10 beats

· Ektal is a cycle of 12 beats

· Adha-Chautal contains 14 beats

· Teen-Tal is comprised of 16 beats