Rāga-Rāginī Nāda Yoga is a compendium that highlights the musical works of Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji with special emphasis on the healing aspects of music and the role of various components employed by Sri Swamiji during healing concerts. The book starts with a brief introduction by the publishers to Sri Swamiji and his magnificent musical, spiritual, and social works, exemplified with beautiful pictures taken over several decades that stand as a testimony to Sri Swamiji’s musical journey across the world. The pictures and text also highlight the various aspects of Sri Swamiji’s persona. This chapter ends with a note by the publishers thanking Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji for bringing out his personal experiences with music and music therapy which has influenced the global audience in the form of this book Rāga-Rāginī Nāda Yoga.
In the foreword Sri Swamiji explains the musical link between the ancient and the modern, the relation between tradition and technology, and the need to explore and understand nature. Sri Swamiji also highlights the arrangement of various chapters in the book into “Musicology,” “Therapeutics,” and “Miscellaneous” sections.
The book begins with Sri Swamiji’s description of the “Nādabindu Upaniṣad,” verses that describe the importance of oṃkāra, the primordial sound, and the merit of chanting it. This is followed by an introduction to the concept of nāda cikitsā (healing through sound) in which Sri Swamiji describes his journey and experiences with music as a therapeutic tool. Sri Swamiji's musical expression began as a child with the influence of his mother and guru, Mata Jayalakshmi. Over the years, this has included the Vedic mantras, bhajans (devotional chanting), and the instrumental compositions known as Music for Meditation and Healing.
In the “Musicology” section Sri Swamiji describes various aspects of music: nāda (sound), śruti (fundamental note), saṅgīta (music), svara (musical note), rāga (musical scale), tāla (rhythm), gamaka (nuances), musical instruments, and Vaggeyakaras (the great singer-composers who contributed to the growth of Indian music, and in particular Carnatic music). At the end of this section is a display of the various musical works of Sri Swamiji titled “Animutyalu” (selected pearls), and a list of Sri Swamiji’s compositions in rare rāgas.
In the “Therapeutics” section Sri Swamiji describes the relationship of music, yoga, and cakras (energy centers in the body) and nāḍīs (metaphysical energy channels); the neuro-endocrine regulation of the body and mind; the five prāṇas (vital energies); the five elements (nature); the relationship of astrology and astronomy to music; the various mudrās (gestures) that help in therapy; the crystals and their vibration properties; the effect of color on the human mind and body; the role of water in music healing; and the effect of the various herbs (mūlikas) on the human body. At the end of this section is a chapter on the findings of music therapy research.
The “Miscellaneous” section deals with the intricacies of the various musical structures constructed by Sri Swamiji like the Nada Mantapam, the Dharmadhwajam, the Birthday Stūpas (stone pillars) and the list of the various musical scholars who were awarded titles by Sri Swamiji for their exemplary contribution to music. Another attractive feature in this section is the list of various Music for Meditation and Healing Concerts performed by Sri Swamiji across the globe, and the unique concept of the Jna Na Bha Yoga conferences propagated by Sri Swamiji to explain the various schools of jñāna (philosophy, knowledge), nāda (music), bhākti (devotion), and yoga (union). The book concludes with a summarizing chapter, Upasamhara, that highlights the scope for further research in this area of healing through music.
Rāga-Rāginī Nāda Yoga
by Yogini Kaliji
Hailing from India, the ancient land that has graced the world with some of the most prolific and elevated composers, Sri Swamiji shines in this light of excellence in music. He has composed several thousand compositions and is a prolific lyricist, singer and poet in nine languages. Wherever Sri Swamiji travels, His music is His Universal Language.
When Sri Swamiji says “music is my language,” He is not being symbolic. It is the way He communicates most directly, most clearly, most effectively.
Like when one has been translating all day, and it’s a relief to slide back into the mother tongue, like that with music for Sri Swamiji—it’s direct…and divine.
Music brings us together. Music has the power to speak to the soul. Inspired composers are like channels that intuit the higher vibration of sound, manifesting it as song to inspire us, too. Such a composer is among us today in Sri Swamiji.
Sri Swamiji’s music is meditation. It has both rhythmic concentration and melody to still the thoughts.
Music inspires, accompanies, and transforms our lives. It is a light on this journey to OM, the soundless sound.
Rāga is the selection of notes. Each rāga has a scale with specific pitches to be used. Based on the seven-note system, syllables are assigned to each note:
A rāga has a minimum of five notes taken from the octave and will always include Sa, the same as a tonic or root in Western music: it is the note from which all the others are derived.
There is a modal structure, mūrchana, based on the interval relationship between the notes. This is called mela in Carnatic music and that in North Indian music.
Jāti is the number of notes from within an octave included in the rāga. Sampūrṇa (complete) rāgas contain all the seven svaras of the scale in both the aroha (ascending) and avaroha (descending) movements. Śadav are rāgas with six notes, and audav are rāgas with five notes.
The aroha and avaroha of a rāga are the ascending and descending scale structures with various patterns and progressions. In each rāga, aroha and avaroha may differ from one another in the number of notes, which notes from the rāga are included, and how those notes are used.
Vakra (nonlinear) rāgas do not follow the ascending and descending order.
Pakads are phrases that provide the identity of the rāga. One develops the musical ear to hear the recurring melodic motifs and recognize the rāga. Distinct melodic movements, defining a phrase (or a set of phrases), capture the essence of the rāga. Rāgas can be recognized from each other by the prominence of fixed notes, sequences of notes, or phrases. The purpose of the main motif is to bring out the bhava of the rāga.
Musical ornaments within a rāga include: the change of order of notes; the emphasis of a pitch; relative strength and duration of notes; removal of a dissonant note; the use of microtones; different interval patterns between the notes; gamakas (varieties of glissando that glide or slide from one note to the other), and andolan (a sway, not a vibrato).
Tāla is the rhythmic pattern or meter (time signature) of a rāga and ranges from 3 beats to 108 beats per cycle. “Tāl” means “clap”. The variety of Indian drums replaced the clap. The classic method to keep time in Indian music uses patterns of hand movements.
Notes within the rāga have different levels of significance. “Sa” is referred to as vadi, the most important note. The second most important note is called samavadi, the fourth or fifth note apart from Sa. Vadi and samvadi refer to the significance of notes, not the most played notes.
The bhava of a rāga is associated with nine emotions, moods.
The rāga is either associated with the main family of rāgas or is derived from them.
Laya is the tempo (beats per minute) which is set for each rāga.
Pitch movement of svaras will allow slightly different tunings. In western music, there are 12 semitones in an octave. In Indian music, smaller intervals with 22 semitones within an octave are used.
Time of Day
Some rāgas are only performed at certain times of day and during certain seasons, or at certain festivals or other events.
Once the chalan (grammar) has been learned for the rāga, one is ready to expand improvisation.