Bhavadhaarini Anantaraman!

Karpagam Sangeetha Vidyalayam

Music Theory Part 4
Swaras in Carnatic music
The swaras in Carnatic music are slightly different in the twelve-note system. There are three
types each of Rishabha, Gandhara, Dhaivatha and Nishadha. There are two types of
Madhyama, while Panchama and Shadja are invariant.

Position Swara Short name Notation Mnemonic
1 Shadja Sa S sa
2 Shuddha Rishabha Ri R1 ra
3 Chathusruthi Rishabha Ri R2 ri
3 Shuddha Gandhara Ga G1 ga
4 Shatsruthi Rishabha Ri R3 ru
4 Sadharana Gandhara Ga G2 gi
5 Anthara Gandhara Ga G3 gu
6 Shuddha Madhyama Ma M1 ma
7 Prati Madhyama Ma M2 mi
8 Panchama Pa P pa
9 Shuddha Dhaivatha Dha D1 dha
10 Chathusruthi Dhaivatha Dha D2 dhi
10 Shuddha Nishadha Ni N1 na
11 Shatsruthi Dhaivatha Dha D3 dhu
11 Kaisiki Nishadha Ni N2 ni
12 Kakali Nishadha Ni N3 nu

As you can see above, Chathusruthi Rishabha and Shuddha Gandhara share the same pitch
(3rd key/ position). Hence if C is chosen as Shadja, D would be both Chathusruthi Rishabha and
Shuddha Gandhara. Hence they will not occur in same raga together. Similarly for two swaras
each at notes 4, 10 and 11.
Melakartha Chart System

This scheme was invented by Venkatamakhi as a systematic classification of existent Melakartha
Ragas. Let us first understand what a Melakartha Raga is. A Melakartha, also known as Mela or
Janaka Raga, is a set of scales that acts as a derivative for other ragas.

Such ragas are generally Sampoornam by nature, which means they contain all 7 notes. These 7
notes are always in order from shadjam to shadjam ( of the upper octave) and remain the same
in both ascending and descending order.

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It is interesting to note that apart from having its own unique set of notes, a Melakartha also has
its own unique gamaka phrase. But, this can be discussed in a later part.

The classification of the Melakarthas, according to Venkatamakhi’s scheme, can be understood
through a simple experiment:-

Let us not have a definite estimation of all the Melakarthas. Let it be a random number.Now, we
know that all Melakarthas are formed by different combinations of the 7 notes and their different

Hence, we can broadly divide the ragas into Sudhamadhyama ragas and Pratimadhyama ragas
based on the madhyamam they use.

Now let us determine all possible combinations of Rishabham and Gandharam in a melakartha.
There are 9 combinations we can make using the 3 Rishabhams and 3 Gandharams -

Ra Ga, Ra Gi, Ra Gu, Ri Ga, Ri Gi, Ri Gu, Ru Ga, Ru Gi and Ru Gu.

Let it be noted that the Raga format has to be in ascending order of frequencies. Rishabham has
a lower frequency than Gandharam and hence, is always taken first. Now, out of these 9
combinations , 3 are not possible - Ri Ga, Ru Ga and Ru Gi

Ri Ga and Ru Gi are not possible as the Rishabham and Gandharam in these 2 combinations are

Ru Ga is not possible as the Rishabham has a higher frequency than the Gandharam. If taken in
ascending order of frequencies a repetition of the Ri Gi combination occurs.

Hence these 3 combinations are ignored. This gives us 6 possible combinations of Rishabham
and Gandharam. Hence multiplying with the earlier division we get 12 unique combinations of S
R G M. These are referred to as Chakras.

Each chakra will accommodate a unique combination of Daivatam and Nishadam. Repeating the
same Rishabham – Gandharam experiment with Daivatam and Nishadam, we get 6 unique

Hence each chakra accomodates 6 unique combinations of S R G M P D N. Hence, we have 6 * 12
i.e. 72 Melakartha ragas in all.

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The chakras are named to maintain the sequence of the Rishbham – Gandharam combinations
in the following manner -

• The first chakra is named Indu which means moon owing to the fact that the earth has
only one moon.

• The second chakra is called Netra owing to the fact that we have two eyes.

• The third chakra is named agni due the existence of 3 agnis according to our scriptures
(namely fire, lightning and sun light ).

• The fourth chakra is called Veda as the Vedas are four.

• The fifth chakra is called Baana owing to the 5 arrows used by Kamadeva.

• The sixth chakra is called Rutu as there are six seasons in nature.

• The seventh chakra is called Rishi after the Saptharshis.

• The eight chakra is known as Vasu after the 8 sons of River Ganga.

• The ninth chakra is known as Brahma denoting the 9 cycles of universe presided by

• The tenth chakra is called Disi due to the 10 directions.

• The eleventh chakra is called Rudra after the 11 forms of Lord Shiva.

• The twelfth chakra is called Aditya after the 12 Adityas.

Hence the names of the chakras are ordained using the numerical significance of those terms.
This completes a brief treatise on the 72 Melakartha scheme.

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Melakartha Slokam

Eka Indhu! ! Dwi Netra! ! Thri Agni! ! Chatur Vedha
Pancha Baana! Shad Ruthuhu! Saptha Rishi ! Ashta Vasu
Nava Brahma! Dasa Disi! ! Ekaadasha Rudra! Dwaadasha Aadhitya

Ithi Melakartha

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