Time of Play

One of the unique characteristics of Indian music is the assignment of definite times of the day and night for performing Raga melodies. It is believed that only in this period the Raga appears to be at the height of its melodic beauty and majestic splendor. There are some Ragas which are very attractive in the early hours of the mornings; others which appeal in the evenings, yet others which spread their fragrance only near the midnight hour. There are Ragas associated with the rainy season (Raga Megha and Raga Malhar), the autumn season (Raga Basant) and the spring season (Raga Bahar). Seasonal Ragas can be sung and played any time of the day and night during the season allotted to them. The obligation of time in case of such melodies is relaxed. This connection of time of the day or night, with the Raga or Raginis is based on daily cycle of changes that occur in our own moods and emotions which are constantly undergoing subtle changes in that different moments of the day arouse and stimulate different moods and emotions. The mental and emotional responses in the autumn or winter or during the rainy season are different from the spring.

Scheduling playing times of Ragas has a variety of advantages. It fits the mood of the Raga with our own mood, thus forming a fusion of body and soul. It also creates a definite space of time hence making it possible for various Ragas to get a turn at performance.

Each Raga or Ragini is associated with a definite mood or sentiment that nature arouses in human beings. The ancient musicologists were particularly interested in the effects of musical notes, how it effected and enhanced human behavior. Music had the power to cure, to make you feel happy, sad, disgusted and so on. Extensive research was carried out to find out these effects. This formed the basis of time theory as we know it today.

Aligned with the emotional and psychological effect of music on the human mind, the semitones or Shrutis of the octave were named according to subtle shades of different sentiments, feelings and emotions. The Ragas and Raginis emerge as the suggestive sound images of these sentiments, emotions and passions.

In the beginning, music was confined to rituals, worship and prayers. As specified seasons and hours of day and night were fixed for different religious rites, music relating to them came to be associated with such time and later on these times were crystallized into rigid rules. In time, music ceased to be confined to religion, and with the patronage of kings it took its home in the royal courts. From here, the original rules of time were slackened and revised by the order of those kings. Ragas and Raginis could be performed on the stage by the order of the monarch, without violating the rule.

It is believed that the human body is dominated by the three elements Kaph (rheum), Pitta (bile) and Vata (wind). These elements work in a cyclic order of rise and fall during the 24 hour period. Also, the reaction of these three elements differ with the seasons. Even the respiration changes with time and season. Hence the nocturnal effects of music, and the belief that failure to perform or listen to a raga at the proper allotted time ca affect the health of human beings.

As mentioned earlier, Ragas having their Vadi note in the Poorvang region (Sa - Pa) are usually played during evening and Ragas having their Vadi note in the Uttarang region (Pa - Sa) are usually performed during morning. As an example, Raga Bhairava is an Uttarang Raga. Its Vadi note is Komal Dhaivata (flat 6th), therefore its performing time is during the morning hours.

Ragas to be performed during the hours of twilight and dusk, when neither the day, nor the night dominate, are called Sandhi Prakash Ragas. The approximate allotted time of such melodies is between 4 and 7 in the morning or evening. In both cases, the notes Rishbha (2nd) and Dhaivata (6th) are usually flat and the Gandhar (3rd) is natural.

In the mid-morning Ragas there is frequent use of the natural fourth (Shudha Madhyama), while in the mid-evening Ragas the sharp fourth (Tivar Madhyama) note is frequently employed. The sharp fourth is often described as the guiding note. A description of this note in one of the ancient music books goes like this, " Just as by a drop of curd a jar of sweet milk is converted to a quality of yogurt, so by the introduction of the sharp fourth, all noon melodies are turned into afternoon melodies".

The following schedule will summarize the specific time periods.

The 24 hour period is divided into 8 beats each three hours long, as follows:

  • 1. 7 a.m. - 10 a.m. first beat of the day. Daybreak; Early Morning; Morning;
  • 2. 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. 2nd beat of the day. Late Morning; Noon; Early Afternoon;
  • 3. 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. 3rd beat of the day. Afternoon; Late Afternoon;
  • 4. 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. 4th beat of the day. Evening Twilight; Dusk (sunset); Early Evening;
  • 5. 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. first beat of the night. Evening; Late Evening;
  • 6. 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. 2nd beat of the night. Night; Midnight;
  • 7. 1 a.m. - 4 a.m. 3rd beat of the night. Late Night
  • 8. 4 a.m. - 7 a.m. 4th beat of the night. Early Dawn; Dawn (before sunrise); Morning Twilight; As far as seasons go there are three in particular that have various Ragas allotted: Rainy season called Varsha, Autumn season called Basant, and Spring season called Bahar.

    It is my sincere wish that you make good use of this theory and find it to your benefit. Learn to use it wisely. As you progress you will discover its secrets. To make this system more precise the Ragas and Raginis have been further subdivided into group patterns containing major or minor notes. This subject is comprehensively discussed and explained in another treatise Rasik Raga Lakshan Manjari.

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