Feelings Of Ragas

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Poetry (the form in which Gurbani is written) and music (raags) are two sides of the same coin. They are independent and yet complement each other. Music versifies and provides melody, uniformity and cadence to poetry. The factor that binds music and poetry is their metrical-form (ghar or beat). Music (Raag) is based on sound (swar - notes) and a combination of notes produce distinct musical effects. Poetry is determined by Word (Shabad), which communicates a message to the mind. Music (Raag) on the other hand conveys a feeling to the heart and is therefore universal. Spirituality, after all, is striking the right balance between mind and heart. Therefore, when the poetic Gurbani is complemented with raag (music) and bound by ghar (beat), the resulting effect on mind and heart can become a catalyst for spiritual transformation. The raag conveys a feeling and Shabad a message. Every raag is capable of touching the heart with feelings like joy, sorrow, detachment, etc. Upon studying the structure of Guru Granth Sahib it can be seen that Shabads relating to common themes are generally placed under each raag. When the broad themes of Shabads are overlaid with feelings conveyed by these raags, there emerges a reason behind grouping of Shabads under a broad classification of thirty-one raags.

Common Themes of Shabads placed under Raags of Guru Granth Sahib

1. Soohi - Being away from home. The soul being away from the House of Lord and the joy of meeting the true ‘husband.’

2. Bilaaval - beautification of soul, happiness.

3. Gaund - Separation, union, surprise.

4. Sri - Maya and detachment

5. Maajh - yearning to merge with Lord, giving up of negative values.

6. Gauri - Principles, serious, thoughtfulness, composed

7. Aasa - Hope

8. Gujri - Prayer (Pooja)

9. Devgandhari - Merging with spouse, self - realization

10. Bihaagra - Yearning due to separation of soul and happiness due to meeting the Lord.

11. Sorath - Merits of God

12. Dhanasari - Mixed theme

13. Jaitsree - Stability

14. Todi - Maya, separation

15. Bairagi - motivation to sing praises of Lord

16. Tilang - many words from the vocabulary of Islamic origin are used, sadness, beautification.

17. Raamkali - to give up the life of a wandering Jogi.

18. Nat Narayan - Joy of meeting the Lord

19. Maali Gaura - Happiness

20. Maaru - Bravery, profound philosophy.

21. Tukhari - Separation and union with Lord

22. Kedara - Love

23. Bhairav - Man’s state of hell

24. Basant - Happiness

25. Sarang - Thirst to meet God

26. Malaar - State of separated and united soul

27. Jaijawanti - Vairaag (Detachment)

28. Kalyaan - Bhakti (Prayer) Ras

29. Vadhans - Vairaag (Detachment)

30. Prabhati - Bhakti (Prayer)

31. Kaanra - Bhakti (Prayer)

Feelings communicated by the music of Raags

1. Soohi - joy and separation

2. Bilaaval - happiness

3. Gaund - strangeness, surprise, beauty

4. Sri - satisfaction and balance

5. Maajh - separation, beautification

6. Gauri - seriousness

7. Aasa - making effort

8. Gujri - satisfaction, softness of heart, sadness

9. Devgandhari - no specific feeling but the Raag has a softness

10. Bihaagra - beautification

11. Sorath - motivation

12. Dhanasari - inspiration, motivation

13. Jaitsree - softness, satisfaction, sadness

14, Todi - this being a flexible Raag it is apt for communicating many feelings

15. Bhairaavi - sadness, (Gurus have, however, used it for the message of Bhakti)

16. Tilang - this is a favourite Raag of Sufi Muslims. It denotes feeling of beautification and yearning.

17. Raamkali - calmness

18. Nat Narayan - happiness

19. Maali Gaura - happiness

20. Maaru - giving up of cowardice

21. Tukhari - beautification

22. Kedara - love and beautification

23. Bhairav - seriousness, brings stability of mind

24. Basant - happiness

25. Sarang - sadness

26. Malaar - separation

27. Jaijawanti – Victory (Detachment indicates a victory of spiritual plane)

28. Kalyaan - Bhakti Ras

29. Vadhans - vairaag, loss (that is why Alahniya is sung in this Raag when someone passes away)

30. Prabhati - Bhakti and seriousness

31. Kaanra - Bhakti and seriousness

It’s clear that the Gurus used raags to increase the delivery power of shabad to our mind by invoking complementary feelings in our hearts through usage of the prescribed raags.

Another interesting aspect of raag and Gurbani classification is understood by studying daily time-cycles. A raag has a preferred timing associated with it. There are some morning raags, evening raags, afternoon raags, etc. The timings of raags also complement the changes in human moods and heart during a twenty-four hour time cycle.

Upon classification of thirty-one main raags used in Guru Granth Sahib based on the prescribed raag timings, we find that no raags fall under the time zone 12 AM - 3 AM. It is interesting that the Gurus chose not to use any raag with a time cycle of 12AM – 3 AM, because one would normally sleep between 10PM - 4AM.

See Also