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Ragas and Raginis

Sourindro Mohun Tagore on Ragas and Raginis

The most outstanding and unique contribution of Sourindro Mohun Tagore in the domain of Indian ragas is that he was the first one to curate and collate a coherent and complete sequence of the six principal ragas corresponding to the six principal seasons and their corresponding thirty-six raginis—a theory long prevalent in India, along with their pictorial representation in the form of a Ragamala. Sourindro Mohun not only collated the complete list of these ragas and raginis, but also complemented them with their corresponding raga-dhyanas or raga meditations, which are Sanskrit couplets expressing the beauty, mood and other aspects of the particular raga. He further composed refrains on the ragas in Western notation and commissioned his favourite lithograph artiste Krishno Bishto Das from Calcutta to create this complete sequence of 42 ragas and raginis into one complete Ragamala. This work gives an insight into some of the most ancient Indian ragas and talas, their notational details and the ways they could be translated in the form of a composition as Sourindro Mohun learnt them. 

On the seasonal association of the ragas, Tagore writes that "these emblematical representations of the six ragas are expressive of the seasons at which their performance is considered opportune, and of the feelings they are intended to awaken in mind", while also accepting the fact that there are variations in the theory of ragas and raginis.

In his Six Ragas and Thirty Six Raginis of the Hindus where Tagore presented his complete work on the Ragamala, he writes: "We do not, however, like to express any opinion on this head. We only feel it our duty to say that in the present arrangement of the six ragas with their consorts—the corresponding raginis—some liberty has been taken with the recognised authorities. The authority whom we have followed in this treatise mentions six ragas . . . and assigns consorts to the ragas as follows" - 

Raga Sri
(Dewy Season)

Raginis Malavasri, Trivani, Gauri, Kedari, Madhumadhavi and Pahari

Raga Vasanta
(Spring Season)

Raginis Desi, Devakiri, Varati, Tori, Lalita and Hindoli

Raga Bhairava
(Autumn Season)

Ragini Bhairavi, Gujjari, Ramakiri, Gunakiri, Bangali and Saindhavi

Raga Panchama
(Summer/Autumn Season) 

Raginis Vibhasha, Bhupali, Karnati, Barahansika, Malavi and Pathamanjari

Raga Megha
(Rainy Season)

Raginis Mallari, Saurati, Saveri, Kaushiki, Gandhari and Harasringara

Raga Natta Narayana
(Winter Season)

Raginis Kamodi, Kalyani, Abhiri, Natika, Sarangi and Hamviri