Acoustical Perspective on Raga Rasa Theory

Item Code: IAB44
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Suvarbalata Rao
Language: English
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 8121508789
Pages: 163 (2 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch 6.0 inch
Weight 360 gm
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
23 years in business
23 years in business
Book Description
About the book

Rasa, as an aesthetic experience, has always been a dominant feature of art and art criticism in India. This study examines rasa as related to Indian music, specially the raga. A new approach has been made for under- standing the complex issue of raga-rasa relation, wherein, theories and tools of modern scientific technology have been employed. This may perhaps be the first work in recent times to examine the aspects of intonation and melodic movement in the actual performance context, using very sensitive computer software.

A specially innovative section of the book deals with a detailed comparison between Indian and Western viewpoints on the issue of music and emotion. The exhaustive literature 'survey presented on the subject of raga-rasa provides excellent source material on the subject. It includes the historical evolution of rasa as applied to various aspects of Indian music. Although no specificity in terms of a particular rasa can be attached to the aesthetic experience associated with a raga, this study reassures that the principles inherent in a raga and their aesthetic capabilities are not mere theoretical norms but a reality leading to the blissful experience of rasa.

About the Author

Dr. Suvarnalata Srinivasa Rao is presently a research scientist and coordinator (music) at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Bombay. An accomplished sitar-performer, she is the disciple of Pandit Arvind Parikh. Dr. Rao has been a visiting faculty for various institutions at home and abroad. A recipient of many national and international fellowship. Dr. Rao has a number of presentations and publications to her credit including several research papers and the forthcoming volume entitled "Raga Guide". Recently, she has been awarded the prestigious Homi Bhabha Fellowship for under- taking research on "Instrument making".


The beginning of scientific and experimental methodology in India can be found as early as 200 Be in the works on Music. Bharata's Natyashastra dating back to this period bears testimony to this fact. However, thereafter the concepts proposed herein and in similar works have never been reviewed in the context of contemporary performance practices.

In recent times, Bharata's formulations regarding Jali-Rasa and the raga-rasa relation resulting from it, have been met with criticism. Different approaches have been adopted by some of the modem musicologists to restate the rasa-theory in the context of contemporary performing practice of raga. Having the basic knowledge of Physics, I thought it would be appropriate to examine the problem of raga-rasa in an empirical manner. The acoustical perspective adopted in the present study has led to an objective evaluation of the raga- rasa relation. The present volume is an edited version of the work that constituted my doctoral dissertation submitted to the S.N.D.T. University, Bombay in 1993. Although several additions to the reference material on raga-rasa have been made, the experimental data remains unrevised since no similar study has hence been conducted to alter radically, the interpretations presented by me. However, a comprehensive review of the experiments and concepts is definitely necessary.

I hope that the present Endeavour has shown a new approach to resolve the complex issue of raga-rasa.


Raga and Rasa, are the two prominent terms that invariably figure in the context of Indian classical music and Indian aesthetics, respectively. Association of a specific rasa (aesthetic emotion) with Svara (note), jati (ancient modal pattern) and Dhruva (Jali-based vocal compositions) as theorized by Bharata, finally culminated in to raga-rasa relation. In spite of the two long millennia that have passed after the postulation of rasa theory, the concept still survives in the literature on music with all its essential details. On the per- forming front, the raga-performances invariably reflect a characteristic 'aesthetic atmosphere'. Further, the ability of the performer to invoke the characteristic aesthetic atmosphere of a raga, is a measure of one's musicianship. Hence, the training, practice as well as the performance related to raga reveal the musicians' efforts being constantly directed towards creation of the aforesaid 'atmosphere', often described using colloquial expressions such as Raga Bhava, Mahaul, Ranga, Prakriti etc.

Nonetheless, when directly questioned, most of the per- formers today hardly ever show any concern towards the aspect of rasa. The music-rasa principle was enunciated in the context of Gana type of music, which constituted an integral part of drama, as it was essentially employed to highlight the mental states involved in a drama. Due to the basic differences in the Jati-based Gana type of music and the raga-based con- temporary music, there are serious limitations in extending the paraphernalia associated with the former to the latter. As a result, musicologists and a minority of academically oriented musicians having insight into the subject have expressed serious reservations about the direct extension of rasa theory to raga-music. Further, in the light of subjectivity involved in raga-performance as well as that related to the performers and listeners; changed socio-cultural values and the aesthetic norms, the specificity attached to raga-rasa relation has become a questionable issue. Hence, the musicians seem to be hesitant in accepting the idea of associating a raga with a specific rasa. This discussion might suggest that the formulations regarding the raga-rasa theory have perhaps reduced to no more than mere theoretical formulae bearing no practical significance at the level of performance. Thus, there appears to be a gap between the textual tradition of raga-music and the per- forming tradition of raga-music, regarding the attribution of a particular rasa to a raga.

The present Endeavour is aimed at abridging the divergence that exists between the theory of rasa and its actual realization in the context of contemporary raga-music. Although a consistent relation between a raga and a specific rasa cannot be logically defended, the fact that a raga projects a characteristic musical idea resulting into a unique aesthetic atmosphere capable of arousing a neuropsychological response, cannot be ruled out. As often experienced by the performers and the connoisseurs of Indian classical music, the highest level of aesthetic experience akin to Brahmananda or the eternal bliss is a reality in music. The present work is based on this premise.

A scientific approach to further our understanding of aesthetic appeal' resulting from a raga-performance ought to include a physical analysis at the level of the source as well the physiological and psychological studies at the level of perception. The present study however, restricts itself to only the physical (acoustical) investigation of the source of music.

The 'tonal configuration ~ related to a raga is the most significant aspect that has been traditionally accepted to influence the 'aesthetic appeal' or the. rasa at the perceptible level. Since aspects of ' intonation ' and 'melodic movement' together constitute the 'tonal configuration', these aspects have been analyzed. Considering the problems of correlating the physically measured parameter of 'frequency' representing the pitch (intonation), audibly perceived parameter of 'tonal configuration' and visually evaluated element of 'melodic shapes' (through melodic contours obtained on the computer monitor) with the neuropsychological perceived abstract feelings, the scope or this study is limited to ascertain the presence of similar intonation and melodic movements in the performance of a given raga by different performers.

Such similitude, if found, can suggest a correlation between the tonal configuration of a raga and its aesthetic effect. Analysis of alapa in a performance of khayal in Raga Yaman rendered by the late Us tad Amir Khan, Pundit BhimsenJoshi and Dr. Prabha Atre has been carried out using two independent computer set-ups, viz. 'Melodic Movement Analyzer' (MMA) and 'LVS'.

Although the above systems can objectively evaluate pitch its interpretation for aesthetic relevance demands a constant. involvement of a musically trained person, which brings in subjectivity into the study. Considering a fresh approach required for the present study, a working methodology had to be evolved by trial and error method after getting acquainted with the routine procedures involved in operating the system various modes. A pilot study was conducted to test the validity of this methodology. These preliminary procedures aimed at standardizing the technique for analysis of intonation and melodic movement of a raga performed in the north Indian classical tradition (henceforth simply referred to as Indian music) were found to be laborious and time-consuming.

The rasa-theory formulated by Bharata and its application to svara (notes), Jatis (modal patterns) and Dhruvas (songs) was exclusively in the context of drama, which include the art of music. In the later period many lakshana granthas (authoritative treatises on the grammatical aspects) on music have upheld the same associations in the form of raga-rasa. Even when music was recognized as an art independent of the drama, equations relating a raga and a specific rasa continued to flourish. In the absence of visual (histrionics) and or textual element (as in the case of instrumental music, the traditional paraphernalia of cause-effect (Vbhava Anubhava) associated with the rasa theory, can be applied only to the tonal structure. This limitation has been already recognized by the contemporary musicologists like Dr. Premlata Sharma, Acharya Brihaspati, Thakur Jaideva Singh and others. Having realized the truth about the eternal bliss resulting from music, they have suggested new approaches of theoretical nature for restating the rasa theory in the context of con- temporary Raga music.

In the present study, an empirical approach has been adopted for examining the raga-rasa theory. The similitude of tonal configuration comprising intonation and melodic movement observed in the performance of a raga by different vocalists, allows to correlate tonal configuration of the raga with its unique identity and consequently with the aesthetic atmosphere projected through that raga. The findings of this study prove that a raga has a characteristic atmosphere. The elements such as the Sahitya (text) and laya (tempo), together with the variant factors like the tonal quality of voice and instrument, do bring in various shades of moods which are of transitory nature. The traditionally prescribed rasas like Shringara, Karuna, Shanta etc. may be perceived at times in this context. The present Endeavour suggests that the aesthetic effect due to the tonal configuration of a raga, constitutes a core of the total experience or the rasa, while the effect due to the varying elements constitutes its periphery. The wholesome combination of the two aforesaid factors lead to an integrated effect of rasa. However, absolutely no specificity can be attached to this experience in terms of a specific rasa. It can be described as Gana Rasa or the rasa emerging from a musical exposition. Whatever be the nature of transitory moods, the Gana-Rasa. Leads one to an experience which is said to be akin to the Brahmananda or the bliss experienced upon the knowledge of the ultimate reality.


Chapter 1
The Emergence of the Raga-Rasa Concept1
The concept of rasa 1
Interpretations of the term rasa 1
Aesthetic relevance 2
Categories of rasas 3
Subdivisions and interdependence of rasas 4
The raga concept in Indian music 4
Chapter 2
Raga-Rasa as Expounded in Ancient, Medieval and Modern Works12
Raga-rasa as expounded in the ancient Sanskrit works 13
Raga-rasa as expounded in the medieval treatises 17
Raga-rasa as expounded in modern works 21
Chapter 3
Indian and Western Interpretations on Rasa-Emotion39
Western views on music-emotion 41
Similarities and dissimilarities between the Indian and Western views 45
Chapter 4
Approaches used to Study Raga-Rasa in the Acoustical Perspective52
Traditional profile of raga Yaman 61
Melodic Movement Analyser 62
LVS System 65
Methods adopted for acoustical analysis of raga-rasa66
Chapter 5
Results Accrued from the Experiments78
Pitch measurements for individual notes 78
Details of vocal inflections 88
Observations pertaining to the melodic movement of the raga being performed (Yaman) 112
Chapter 6
Appendix 1125
Appendix 2128
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Q. What locations do you deliver to ?
    A. Exotic India delivers orders to all countries having diplomatic relations with India.
  • Q. Do you offer free shipping ?
    A. Exotic India offers free shipping on all orders of value of $30 USD or more.
  • Q. Can I return the book?
    A. All returns must be postmarked within seven (7) days of the delivery date. All returned items must be in new and unused condition, with all original tags and labels attached. To know more please view our return policy
  • Q. Do you offer express shipping ?
    A. Yes, we do have a chargeable express shipping facility available. You can select express shipping while checking out on the website.
  • Q. I accidentally entered wrong delivery address, can I change the address ?
    A. Delivery addresses can only be changed only incase the order has not been shipped yet. Incase of an address change, you can reach us at [email protected]
  • Q. How do I track my order ?
    A. You can track your orders simply entering your order number through here or through your past orders if you are signed in on the website.
  • Q. How can I cancel an order ?
    A. An order can only be cancelled if it has not been shipped. To cancel an order, kindly reach out to us through [email protected].
Add a review
Have A Question

For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy