Raga Gurjari Todi - a jod Raga?

Posted on 23 May, 20215 min read

Over the centuries, the Indian Raga system has evolved from different sources. Some Ragas have evolved out of modes or Murchhanas of a more basic scale. Today, we refer to such Ragas as a product of the Jati-Murchhana system. Some Ragas were inspired by folk tunes (e.g., Raga Kafi), while others evolved from regional melodies (e.g., Gowla, Saurashtra, etc). These Ragas were then formalised according to the Lakshanas and Lakshyas of Indian Classical music. One such regional melody is Raga Gurjari, which is mostly thought to have originated from the Gurjar community.

Today, Raga Gurjari and Raga Gurjari Todi are used interchangeably. But actually, they were different Ragas. Let us look at what some treatises on Indian Classical music say about Raga Gurjari, and how it is related to Raga Gurjari Todi.

There are a number of Raga classification systems described in Indian scriptures. One of them is the Mela-Janya system which classified Ragas as parent Ragas (Mela) and their derivatives (Janya). Another system is the Raga-Ragini system which groups Ragas as masculine (Raga) and their feminine counterparts (Ragini). According to 17th century literature, specifically, Sangita Saramrta and Raga Lakshanamu, Raga Gurjari is a Janya of the Mela Malavagowla. According to the Raga-Ragini system, Raga Gurjari is considered a Ragini of Raga Bhairav. The scale of Malavagowla and Bhairav is the same. Refer to the Program Notes below for the notation.

Scale - Sa re Ga ma Pa dha Ni

Now, the scale of Raga Gurjari Todi is:

Scale - Sa re ga Ma dha Ni

As you can observer, the notes ga and Ma of Raga Gurjari Todi do not belong to the parent scale of Raga Gurjari. So, where do they come from? Now, let us look at the scale of Raga Shuddha Todi:

Scale - Sa re ga Ma Pa dha Ni

We could argue that ga and Ma in Raga Gurjari Todi come from from the Shuddha Todi scale. But this raises the question: which part is Bhairav and which part is Todi? Can Gurjari Todi be considered the same as dropping Pa from Shuddha Todi?

To understand this better, we need to recognize that Todi is characterised by a very flat re and ga, what we call atikomalatama svar. Based on the Samvaad principle of Indian music, this would entail the corresponding fifths to be very flat. Thus, in Shuddha Todi, dha is very flat. Besides, Pa is already Alpatva (sparingly used). In contrast, in Bhairav, dha is a sharper note with a matching sharper re as well. Further, dha is often played as andolita (shaken or oscillated).

Gurjari Todi retains this aspect of Bhairav which raises the pitch of re and dha, compared to Shuddha Todi. This also forces ga to be a bit sharper as well. As a keen enthusiast of Indian Classical music, you may notice this in the playing. While this differentiates it from Shuddha Todi, it still retains a dominant feeling of Todi more than Bhairav, mostly because of the ga - Ma - Ni triad.

Thus, it is more accurate to say that Raga Gurjari Todi is a mixture of Raga Gurjari and Raga Shuddha Todi. This is what we call a Jod Raga, a mixture of two scales. This is also a Pancham Varjit (fifth dropped) shadav (hexatonic) scale.

I present a Raga Alapana in Raga Gurjari Todi on Chandraveena. Note the unusual Tanpura tuning for this recording. It may bother you or push you out of your comfort zone, and yet, it will match and merge with the Raga Gurjari Todi being played. Hope you enjoy the music.

Program Notes

Raga Alapana in Raga Gurjari Todi

Raga Alapana is an improvisation and a systematic presentation of a Raga. This part has no rhythmic accompaniment. Usually, it has three parts - Alap, Jod and Jhala. This format is also known as Ragam and Tanam.

Here are some notes about the Raga.

Raga - Gurjari Todi

Scale - Sa re ga Ma dha Ni

Family - Todi

Melakarta - Shubhapantuvarali (Sa re ga Ma Pa dha Ni)

Prahar - 1st prahar (equivalent to 6 AM - 9 AM)

Reading the scale

In Indian Classical Music, the seven notes in an octave are called Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni and then Sa comes again. Notes with a capitalised first letter are called Tivra (or sharp) notes, for eg., Ma, Ni. Notes written fully in lower case are called Komal (or flat) notes. E.g., re, ga above. Sa and Pa are always written with a capitalized first letter.


In Indian Classical Music, Ragas are classified into Prahars (time periods of a day or night) which are said to represent the most appropriate time to perform the Raga.



Chandraveena - S Balachander


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The full video recording of this performance is available at https://youtu.be/—OO6cP8cO4.

Purchase CD quality audio of the performance from https://chandraveena.bandcamp.com/album/indian-classical-raga-gurjari-todi.

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