What is a Raag?

Informally speaking, a Raag is the depiction of a mood. The mood could be spiritual, devotional, romantic or somber. A Raag is also a framework of Swars or musical notes. The framework consists of various rules such as which Swars are sung, which are not sung, which Swars are sung while ascending up the scale, which Swars are sung while descending in the scale, which Swars are emphasized more than others and most importantly the distinctive melody that results when a Raag is sung.

Technically speaking, the definition of a Raag is quite broad. A Raag should have a minimum of 5 Swars. Shadaj (or Sa) has to be present and either Pancham (Pa) or Madhyam (Ma) has to be present, the sequence of ascending and descending Swars has to be defined and the overall combination of Swars should be pleasant to the ear.

In the sense of following certain rules, a Raag is like a recipe which defines certain ingredients and the proportion in which they have to be used. For example, if you are making tea, tea leaves are an essential ingredient, a touch of ginger is good, but salt should definitely not be used. Similarly, the rules of a Raag allow certain Swars while not allowing others.