Raga (singular rag or raga, plural raga or ragas) is a complex structure of musical melody used in India and should not be confused with scales. The main part of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh holy Book and the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs, consists of 31 distinct sections called Ragas. The Holy Granth starts with the non-raga section that begins with the Japji Saahib as the first entry. This is followed by the Rehras Saahib and ends with the Kirtan Sohila.
Then begins the main section consisting of 31 Ragas or chapters. A raga is a musical structure or set of rules of how to build a melody. It specifies a scale, as well as rules for movements up and down the scale; which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly; etc. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies in so that melodies in a certain raga will always be recognisable yet allowing endless variation.
Although the Guru Granth Sahib has 31 chapters called "Ragas", the Gurbani actually is written in 60 ragas as mentioned below.
Indian Classical Music
In the field of Indian classical music, a raga is based on a set of rules of how to build a melody. The rules can be simple but the composition can be a complex structure. The set of rules of how to build a melody which can ignite a certain mood in the reciter and listeners. The Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib mentions 60 ragas not to be confused with the 31 chapters which are also called "Raga". Each raga is a chapter or section in the Guru Granth Sahib starting with Asaa raag, and all the hymns produced in Asaa raag (or variations) are found in this section ordered chronologically by the Guru or other Bhagat that have written hymns in that raga. There are many websites on the internet giving wrong information about raags.
It specifies a scale, as well as rules for movements up and down the scale, which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly, which notes take which ornamentation, which notes must be bent, which notes may be bent, phrases to be used, phrases to be avoided, and so on. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies in so that melodies in a certain raga will always be recognisable yet allowing endless variation.
The underlying scale is a five, six or seven tone-scale. In the seven tone-scale the second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh notes can be sharp or flat, making up the twelve notes in the Western scale. However, ragas can specify microtonal changes to this scale: a flatter second, a sharper seventh, and so forth. Furthermore, such variations can occur between styles, performers or simply follow the mood of the performer. There is no absolute pitch; instead, each performance simply picks a ground note, and the other scale degrees follow relative to the ground note.
Every time of the day, morning, afternoon, evening and night, has its specific ragas.
The 31 chapters of the Guru Granth Sahib
60 Ragas mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib
Following is the list of all sixty Raags under which Gurbani is written, in order of appearance with page numbers.
Part of Rehras and Sohila
- 1. Raga Asa - Ang 8 - SO DAR ~ RAAG AASAA, FIRST MEHL:
- 2. Gujari - Ang 10 - RAAG GOOJAREE, FOURTH MEHL:
- 3. Gauri Deepaki - Ang 12 - SOHILAA ~ RAAG GAUREE DEEPAKEE, FIRST MEHL
- 4. Dhanasri - Ang - 13 - RAAG DHANAASAREE, FIRST MEHL:
- 5. Gauri Poorabi - Ang 13 - RAAG GAUREE POORBEE, FIFTH MEHL:
Mood, Time of Day and Dimension
Raags are used in Sikh music simply to create a mood, and are not restricted to particular times. A mood can be created by the music of the raag regardless of the time of day. There are a total of 60 raags or melodies within the Guru Granth Sahib. Each melody sets a particular mood for the hymn, adding a deeper dimension to it. The Guru Granth Sahib is incorrectly thought by many to have just 31 raags or melodies. Raag data kindly provided by Prof. Surinder Singh from Raj Academy (UK).
1. Raag Aasaa (ਆਸਾ) – Aasaa has strong emotions of inspiration and courage. This Raag gives the listener the determination and ambition to put aside any excuses and to proceed with the necessary action to achieve the aim. It generates feelings of passion and zeal to succeed and the energy generated from these feelings enables the listener to find the strength from within to achieve success, even when the achievement seems difficult. The determined mood of this Raag ensures that failure is not an option and motivates the listener to be inspired.
2. Raag Gujari (ਗੂਜਰੀ) – If there is a perfect simile for Raag Gujari, it would be that of a person isolated in the desert, who has their hands cupped, holding water. However, it is only when the water begins to slowly seep through their joined hands that the person comes to realise the real value and importance of the water. Similarly Raag Gujari leads the listener to realise and become aware of passing time and in this way comes to value the precious nature of time itself. The revelation brings the listener to an awareness and admission of their own death and mortality, making them utilize their remaining ‘life time’ more wisely.
3. Raag Gauri Deepaki (ਗਉੜੀ ਦੀਪਕੀ) – In the Guru Granth Sahib, there is one shabad (hymn) under the title Raag Gauri Deepaki. In this shabad, Sohila is a lorrie (lullaby), which is narrating a kind of bedtime story. This Raag generates feelings of warmth and security, just like a mother singing a lullaby to her child. Lullabies were traditionally used not only as a way of comforting a child, but also as a means in which mothers shared their past experiences and knowledge. Similarly this Raag enlightens the listener through knowledge and experience and brings them to the realization that to gain the truth, you must first realize that you are in darkness. This enlightened state gives the listener a feeling of certainty, fearlessness and a new hope for the future.
4. Raag Dhanasari (ਧਨਾਸਰੀ) – Dhanasari is a sense of being completely carefree. This sensation arises from a feeling of contentment and ‘richness’ from the things we have in our lives and gives the listener a positive and optimistic attitude towards the future.
5. Raag Gauri Purbi (ਗਉੜੀ ਪੂਰਬੀ) – Gauri Purbi contains strong emotions of experience along with feelings of preparation, in order to go further and to achieve more. Although there are confident feelings in this Raag, there is a sense of uncertainty as there is a heartfelt request for help to achieve the desired goal. The sentiments of this Raag are well considered assessments of the circumstances, without excess confidence or extreme helplessness.
6. Raag Siri Raag (ਸਿਰੀ ਰਾਗੁ) – The basis of this Raag is steeped in the traditions of mainstream Indian Classical music. Siri Raag is serious and thought provoking in its nature and creates an atmosphere where the listener is led to heed the advice given therein. The listener (the mind) is made aware of the truth of the message and with this ‘education’ is given the strength to face the future with both humility and the ‘gained’ knowledge.
7. Raag Majh (ਮਾਝ) – Raag Majh was composed by the Fifth Sikh Guru (Shri Guru Arjun Dev ji). The Raag’s origins are based in Punjabi Folk Music and its essence was inspired by the Majha regions traditions of ‘Ausian’; the game of waiting and yearning for the return of a loved one. The feelings evoked by this Raag have often been compared to that of a mother waiting for her child to return after a long period of separation. She has an anticipation and hope for the child’s return, although at the same moment she is painfully aware of the uncertainty of their return home. This Raag brings to life the emotion of extreme love and this is highlighted by the sorrow and anguish of separation.
8. Raag Gauri Guarairi (ਗਉੜੀ ਗੁਆਰੇਰੀ) – Gauri Guarairi contains a mixture of calmness and control in feeling, however the emotional message of the Raag is open and truthful in its approach. The emotions are conveyed in a direct and disciplined way. The balanced and focused character of this Raag is evident in its structure, in that its scale is restricted to ‘madh saptak’ (middle scale).
9. Raag Gauri (ਗਉੜੀ) – Gauri creates a mood where the listener is encouraged to strive harder in order to achieve an objective. However, the encouragement given by the Raag does not allow the ego to increase. This therefore creates the atmosphere where the listener is encouraged, but still prevented from becoming arrogant and self-important.
10. Raag Gauri Dakhani (ਗਉੜੀ ਦਖਣੀ) – Gauri Dakhani has a similar nature to Gauri; however, the South Indian style of this Raag, including the taal (rhythm) highlights the strict and disciplined aspect of Gauri.
11. Raag Gauri Chayti (ਗਉੜੀ ਚੇਤੀ) – Gauri Chayti generates a deliberate sensation of fear by creating a conscious reminder of what may occur if we loose the things we take for granted. It awakens feelings of panic and regret, by exposing the listener to the possible outcome of what might happen should this warning not be heeded.
12. Raag Gauri Bairagan (ਗਉੜੀ ਬੈਰਾਗਣਿ) – As the title suggests Gauri ‘Bairagan’ is a Raag of bairaag (sadness of separation). The listener is left with an intense feeling of sorrow and emptiness. However, the balance of Raag Gauri ensures that this sense of loss and sadness motivates the listener to try to discover exactly what is missing. Gauri Bairagan therefore evokes feelings of sadness, which become a lesson, as opposed to creating a sense of depression.
13. Raag Gauri Purbi Deepaki (ਗਉੜੀ ਪੂਰਬੀ ਦੀਪਕੀ) – The tone of this Raag is that of self-assessment with a positive attitude of improvement. It creates an atmosphere of constantly progressing with confidence and experience, as well as instilling a positive belief of enduring achievement.
14. Raag Gauri Majh (ਗਉੜੀ ਮਾਝ) – Gauri Majh is a well-planed emotional ‘act’, which reaches out to fulfil a yearning created by the Raag. This yearning is similar to that of Raag Majh’s regret, hope and anticipation, however in this instance it is created deliberately in order to sway the listener to react to the longing.
15. Raag Gauri Malva (ਗੌੜੀ ਮਾਲਵਾ) – Gauri Malva is based on Punjabi Folk music and is influenced by the ‘Malva’ region of Punjab and the Malvaee hospitality. The nature of this Raag can be compared to the thoughtful, very serious, yet caring advice given by a true friend. The Raag persuades the listener with such truth and friendliness, that it is impossible to disagree, even if the listener does not like the advice being given.
16. Raag Gauri Mala (ਗਉੜੀ ਮਾਲਾ) – The essence of Gauri Mala is a combination of good, pure, true and positive thoughts added together one by one. There is a feeling of having worked hard and an increased energy, which encourages more devotion towards the truth.
17. Raag Gauri Sorath (ਗਉੜੀ ਸੋਰਠਿ) – Gauri Sorath has a definite feeling of attraction and appeal, which woos the listener’s attention to the subject matter or target. However, the feelings of being enticed and lured are balanced with a sense of duty and realisation, of needing to obey the warning given.
18. Raag Aasaa Kafi (ਆਸਾ ਕਾਫੀ) – Aasaa Kafi has a carefree and self-assured nature. It is confident in its outlook and does not hold onto any false hopes. The feelings of boundless energy, along with the confidence gained by previous experiences, create an inspirational atmosphere for the listener.
19. Raag Asavari (ਆਸਾਵਰੀ) – Asavari has an atmosphere of real energy and enthusiasm, which encourages the listener to complete the necessary tasks. However, the mood of this Raag is genuine and there is therefore no pretence of showing off its hardworking nature.
20. Raag Aasaa Asavari (ਆਸਾ ਆਸਾਵਰੀ) – Aasaa Asavari provides a sense of assurance to achieve your desired goal with courage, love and confidence. It is a precise direction toward achieving a set outcome, with confidence and positivity fuelled with a burst of energy. The nature of this raag is to produce a strong sense of capability in the listener, converting energy into passion with the motivation to repeat this positivity. The strength of this raag churns out the best of a personality providing the individual with the necessary knowledge to bring thoughts into action.
21. Raag Devgandhari (ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ) – Devgandhari conveys the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making an achievement. These emotions make the listener feel empowered to do more and diminish any feelings of laziness. This state of satisfaction is that of extreme happiness and contentment, and leaves the listener with the feeling of being in paradise.
22. Raag Bihagara (ਬਿਹਾਗੜਾ) – The mood of Bihagara is that of extreme sadness and pain, which gives rise to the need to find peace and understanding. The heightened emotional state of sadness is only harnessed by the craving for truth and meaning.
23. Raag Vadhans (ਵਡਹੰਸੁ) – Vadhans is based on Punjabi Folk music and is set in the traditions of ‘Ghoreea’, ‘Suhag’ and ‘Alohnian’. The feelings instilled by this Raag can be compared to those of a bride on the day of her wedding; she is happy and sad. Although she is going to her groom, who fills her with hope and joy, she is also sad to be leaving her family.
24. Raag Vadhans Dakhani (ਵਡਹੰਸੁ ਦਖਣੀ) – The mood of this Raag is very similar to Raag Vadhans, however due to its South Indian style of expression, it is more disciplined in its nature.
25. Raag Sorath (ਸੋਰਠਿ) – Sorath conveys the feeling of having such a strong belief in something that you want to keep repeating the experience. In fact this feeling of certainty is so strong that you become the belief and live that belief. The atmosphere of Sorath is so powerful, that eventually even the most unresponsive listener will be attracted.
26. Raag Jaitsiri (ਜੈਤਸਰੀ) – Jaitsiri conveys the heartfelt emotion of not being able to live without someone. Its mood is preoccupied with feelings of dependence and an overwhelming sense of desperately reaching out to be with that person.
27. Raag Todi (ਟੋਡੀ) – Todi consists of both wisdom and humbleness. It is through these sentiments that the Raag takes a simple approach to explain things that we may be aware of, but fail to ponder upon. The Raag draws the attention of the listener to contemplate these things and gives an explanation with such conviction, that we are compelled to agree.
28. Raag Bairari (ਬੈਰਾੜੀ) – Bairari stimulates the feeling of improving and continuing with a task, which has already been accomplished. It is an unmoving belief that what has been achieved is true and positive, which leads to a hunger and desire to progress to the next stage. Although there is immense confidence in the achievement, there is no conceit or vanity in the accomplishment.
29. Raag Tilang (ਤਿਲੰਗ) – Tilang is full of the feeling of having tried hard to impress, but the feeling that the effort made has not been appreciated. However, the atmosphere is not of anger or upset, but of brooding, as the person you are trying to impress is very dear to you.
30. Raag Tilang Kafi (ਤਿਲੰਗ ਕਾਫੀ) – As with Tilang, this Raag contains the feeling that your effort has been unappreciated, when trying to impress someone. However, in contrast to Raag Tilang, the individual is unperturbed by this feeling. This differentiating aspect arises from the deep love for the person concerned, which prevents the individual from becoming annoyed at the apparent lack of approval.
31. Raag Suhi (ਸੂਹੀ) – Suhi is an expression of such devotion that the listener experiences feelings of extreme closeness and undying love. The listener is bathed in that love and genuinely comes to know what it means to adore.
32. Raag Suhi Kafi (ਸੂਹੀ ਕਾਫੀ) – Suhi Kafi expresses feelings of deep love and security, like that of a child and a parent. A young child feels secure and safe, when surrounded in their parents love. The love felt is so strong that there are no worries and the individual gains a certain confidence from being so secure.
33. Raag Suhi Lalit (ਸੂਹੀ ਲਲਿਤ) – Suhi Lalit contains feelings of emotional resolve. However, there is also a volatile characteristic in that although there is love in these emotions, there is a willingness to step over the line to attain the goal.
34. Raag Bilaval (ਬਿਲਾਵਲ) – Bilaval conveys the emotions of great happiness that come from having attained a goal or achieved an aim. It is an overwhelming feeling of fulfilment, satisfaction and joy, that is experienced when the accomplishments is very important and dear to you. The happiness felt is like laughing out loud, there is no planning or any ulterior motive; it’s just a natural expression of heartfelt happiness arising from a sense of achievement.
35. Raag Bilaval Dakhani (ਬਿਲਾਵਲ ਦਖਣੀ) – This Raag is full of energy, which is shown by the fast rhythm and singing of the South Indian style of expression. The feelings of Bilaval Dakhani are of confidence and happiness, which arises from having achieved the unachievable.
36. Raag Gond (ਗੋਂਡ) – Gond is an expression of triumph, however these feelings are balanced and in perspective ensuring that there is also an aspect of humility. Therefore, although there is a sense of knowing and understanding the achievement, there is not a feeling of becoming obsessed or getting lost in the achievement itself.
37. Raag Bilaval Gond (ਬਿਲਾਵਲ ਗੋਂਡ) – Bilaval Gond consists of emotions of courage and conviction. The atmosphere created by the Raag is that of abstract happiness, however it is still disciplined enough to not be out of control. This Raag expresses its emotions poignantly, with insight and has a thoughtful strategy. It expresses feelings of confidence and happiness, but without any pride.
38. Raag Ramkali (ਰਾਮਕਲੀ) – The emotions in Ramkali are like those of a wise teacher disciplining their student. The student is aware of the pain of learning, but is still conscious of the fact that ultimately it is for the best. In this way Ramkali conveys the change from all that we are familiar with, to something we are certain will be better.
39. Raag Ramkali Dakhani (ਰਾਮਕਲੀ ਦਖਣੀ) – The emotions created by Ramkali Dakhani are those of change from old to new and there is a surety that this alteration is advantageous. These feelings are highlighted and emphasised by the South Indian rhythm and style of expression.
40. Raag Nat Narayan (ਨਟ ਨਾਰਾਇਨ) – Nat Narayan consists of feelings of hastiness and impatience, however simultaneously there is stability and control. Although there is control in the Raag, there is still the impression that it is unbalanced and prone to topple at any time.
41. Raag Nat (ਨਟ) – Nat creates the impression of being wild and uncontrollable and appears extreme in its feeling. It conveys the feeling of being out of control and on the edge, however it returns from the brink, by reestablishing control and stability, and hence creating a sense of relief. This Raag uses its expertise in this way to create feelings of suspense.
42. Raag Mali Gaura (ਮਾਲੀ ਗਉੜਾ) – Mali Gaura conveys the confidence of an expert, whose knowledge is self-evident in both their outlook and actions. This knowledge is learned through experience and therefore creates an air of ‘coolness’. However, this sense of ‘coolness’ is an aspect of true happiness because you have learned how to manage things with expertise and skill.
43. Raag Maru (ਮਾਰੂ) – Maru was traditionally sung on the battlefield in preparation for war. This Raag has an aggressive nature, which creates an inner strength and power to express and emphasise the truth, regardless of the consequences. Maru’s nature conveys the fearlessness and strength that ensures the truth is spoken, no matter what the cost.
44. Raag Maru Kafi (ਮਾਰੂ ਕਾਫੀ) – Although Maru Kafi is forceful and blunt in its nature, it still expresses its emotions in a sweet and attractive way. This Raag is uncompromising in its nature, yet it retains the ability and charm to win the listener over with its relaxed and self-assured approach. As the listener, it makes you feel willing to listen even though the sentiments are harsh and direct.
45. Raag Maru Dakhani (ਮਾਰੂ ਦਖਣੀ) – Maru Dakhani expresses feelings of truth and reality in an uncompromising and outspoken way, which is emphasised by the South Indian style of expression and taal.
46. Raag Tukhari (ਤੁਖਾਰੀ) – Tukhari conveys the soul’s strong ambition to highlight the greatness of The Creator to the mind. This goal is of paramount importance to the soul and it will therefore, not give up even if stubborn mind is unresponsive. This Raag illustrates the soul’s focus on its goal, by conveying its message to the mind directly and then adopting a softer approach. The feelings of this Raag are dominated by the soul’s burning desire to convince the mind to follow its plan of enlightenment and hence becoming one with Akaal (God).
47. Raag Kedara (ਕੇਦਾਰਾ) – Kedara expresses and makes the mind aware of the true character and nature of the soul. It conveys the emotions of honesty, integrity and truthfulness in a practical and caring way. This approach highlights the soul’s character and is memorable, so that the mind is made aware, without arousing cynicism.
48. Raag Bhairao (ਭੇਰੳ) – Bhairao embodies the soul’s faith and heartfelt devotion towards The Creator. It is a kind of fanaticism, where there is a feeling of not being aware or caring about anything else. The emotions conveyed are those of contentment and of being absorbed in a steadfast belief or faith. In this Raag, the soul is relaying the happiness that the mind could potentially experience if it joined in with this devotion
49. Raag Basant (ਬਸੰਤੁ) – Basant denotes the changing of the season and the newness of spring. This Raag encourages the mind to brush away its selfishness, just like spring-cleaning removes all the cobwebs and creates a fresh start. There are feelings of hope and expectation of a new beginning and the start of a new cycle. However, these emotions are not dependent on the physical change of the season, but are an encouragement of an internal effort to change.
50. Raag Basant Hindol (ਬਸੰਤੁ ਹਿੰਡੋਲ) – Basant Hindol conveys the freshness and happiness of a new start and expresses the type of contentment, which comes from working hard to make a change. This Raag is full of hope and creates a sense of being at ease and being satisfied because a new chapter is beginning.
51. Raag Sarang (ਸਾਰੰਗ) – Sarangs character is soothing and has the ability to extinguish the minds smouldering selfishness and negative nature. The emotions of Sarang quench the minds burning desires, by expressing and highlighting the soul’s pure and true thoughts. This is a positive and fulfilling change.
52. Raag Malhar (ਮਲਾਰ) – Malhar is a communication of feelings from the soul, to show the mind how to become cool and refreshed. The mind is always burning with the desire to reach its goals quickly and without effort, however the emotions conveyed in this Raag are able to bring composure and fulfilment to the mind. It is able to bring the mind into this calmness, bringing a sense of satisfaction and contentment.
53. Raag Kaanara (ਕਾਨੜਾ) – Kaanara invokes feelings of being overcome by a personality, which is so impressive that its character is difficult to stop thinking about. The personality conveyed has a magnetism, which makes you think of them as your own and is able to win you over with its remarkable qualities and outlook.
54. Raag Kalian (ਕਲਿਆਨ) – Kalian has a forceful, yet flexible nature. It conveys a desire for something and a resolve to attain it, by whatever means possible. Although determined in its desire, Kalian sometimes uses an accommodating approach and at other times has an aggressive approach, in order to reach its goal. This Raag has a determined, forceful, yet persuasive character, through which it fulfils its desire.
55. Raag Kalian Bhopali (ਕਲਿਆਨ ਭੋਪਾਲੀ) – Kalian Bhopali’s nature is direct and insistent. Just as in Kaliyaan, this Raag conveys the feeling of determination to fulfil its desires. However, in contrast it is not flexible in its approach, as the desired goal is tackled head-on and in a regimented fashion. There is no hesitation and it is only focused on its goal.
56. Raag Parbhati Bibhas (ਪ੍ਰਭਾਤੀ ਬਿਭਾਸ) – Parbhati Bibhas expresses the feelings of compromise between the mind and the soul; a common understanding between the selfishness of the mind and the devotion of the soul evolves. The atmosphere created is like the calmness and serenity of daybreak, along with a sense of preparation for the day to unfold. The ‘partaal’ rhythm represents the change in the method, which is induced by compromise, however it also highlights the balance of concentration.
57. Raag Parbhati (ਪ੍ਰਭਾਤੀ) – The emotions conveyed in Parbhati are those of extreme devotion; there is an intense confidence and love for the entity it is devoted to. This affection arises from knowledge, common sense and a detailed study. There is therefore an understanding and a considered will to devote itself to that entity.
58. Raag Parbhati Dakhani (ਪ੍ਰਭਾਤੀ ਦਖਣੀ) – The nature of Parbhati Dakhani is very similar to that of Parbhati, except that the feelings of devotion are more disciplined. This discipline arises from the South Indian style of expression of this Raag.
59. Raag Bibhas Parbhati (ਬਿਭਾਸ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਤੀ) – Bibhas Parbhati has a self-assured character and has a sense of certainty, which arises from the knowledge gained through awareness. It conveys the wisdom achieved from learning, which inspires contentment. However, this wisdom is not arrogant, but is gentle in its persuasion because there is not a need to ‘show-off’ this knowledge, but a desire to share it, so the recipient is able to learn.
60. Raag Jaijavanti (ਜੈਜਾਵੰਤੀ) – Jaijavanti expresses the feeling of happiness and satisfaction of achievement, however it simultaneously conveys the sadness of losing. An apt simile for this Raag is that of a king winning a battle, however he is then told that his son has perished on the battlefield. This Raag conveys a sense of having to put your duty first, no matter what your inner feelings may be. The duality of the emotions of joy and sorrow help to keep you stable and prevent you reveling in your own achievement.