In Indian musical theory and practice a melody-type or mode, suitable for expressing aesthetic ethos and religious devotion. A rāga provides the melodic material for the composition of vocal or instrumental melodies and for improvisation. Each rāga is characterized by a variety of melodic features, including a basic scale (perhaps with additional or omitted notes), grammatical rules governing the relative emphasis of different scale degrees and the sequence of notes in ascending and descending contexts, distinctive ways of ornamenting or pitching particular notes, and motifs or formulae from which complete melodies or improvisations can be constructed. Each rāga has a unique aesthetic identity, sometimes described in terms of the classical rasa aesthetic system (see India, §III, 7). Rāgas are normally attributed to divine rather than human origin and are sometimes considered to exist in the form of deities or spirits, or to have magical or therapeutic properties. In North India each rāga is associated with a season or time of day at which it is normally performed. Analysis and classification of rāgas is a central concern of theoretical texts from the Brhad-deśī of Matanga (c9th century ce) onwards.


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