Raga Durga - An Oriental Pentatonic

Posted on 29 May, 20224 min read

Raga Durga is very popular in Indian music. It has an audhava or a pentatonic scale. This scale is also found in traditional music of Chinese and Japanese origin. It is also known as Raga Shuddha Saveri in the Carnatic tradition. An interesting aspect of this scale lies in the fact that every Murchhana (also known as Graha Bheda or scale change) gives rise to another well known pentatonic scale. We encountered this earlier in the case of Raga Bhoopali. Raga Durga showed up as the third Graha Bheda of Raga Bhoopali. Thus, the set of Ragas Bhoopali, Madhmad, Malkauns, Durga and Dhani are mutually related through Graha Bheda. Take a look at the article on Raga Bhoopali for more information.

A Raga by any other name would sound as good!

Given the long history of Indian Classical music with multiple threads of evolution, the names of Ragas can often be confusing. I find the name, Shuddha Saveri, somewhat confusing.

Let me explain what I mean. In the Carnatic system of naming Swaras, the lowest position of a note in the 12 note scale is denoted as a Shuddha note. Now what that means is Shuddha Re means the lowest re or komal re. Now, there is a scale called Saveri whose Swaras are Sa re ma Pa dha SA Ni dha Pa ma Ga re Sa. As you can see, this scale already has the lowest re and dha or the Shuddha re and Shuddha dha.

However, Shuddha Saveri actually uses Re and Dha which are a semi-tone sharper. Now, in North India, in the Hindustani system, the sharper notes are called the Shuddha notes. Does it mean that the nomenclature Shuddha Saveri is a North Indian nomenclature? If so, then what is Durga?

Let me add some more confusion to this. There is a Raga called Karnataka Shuddha Saveri, which is called Shuddha Saveri according to the Dikshitar school of music, with the notes Sa re ma Pa dha SA dha pa ma re Sa. This seems to be consistent with the convention of note nomenclature, but resembles Saveri rather than the currently titled Shuddha Saveri.

Finally, Raga Durga is called Raga Devakriya in the Dikshitar tradition.

Regardless of the name, Raga Durga is a beautiful Raga. The use of the consonant pairing of Sa-ma, Re-Pa and ma-Dha makes this Raga very beautiful.

Program Notes

Alapana in Raga Durga

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 - Durga

Scale - Sa Re ma Pa Dha

Family - Shankarabharanam

Melakarta - Varjit (Ga, Ni) Janya Raga of 29th Melakarta Shankarabharanam (Sa Re Ga ma Pa Dha Ni)

Prahar - 3rd and 4th prahar (equivalent to 3 PM - 9 PM)

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. E.g., Re above. Notes written fully in lower case are called Komal (or flat) notes. E.g., ma above. Sa and Pa are always written with a capitalized first letter.

Varjit Janya Raga

A Varjit Raga is a Janya (derived) Raga of a Melakarta (parent scale) in which one or more notes are dropped from the parent scale. In this case, Ga and Ni are dropped from the parent scale Shankarabharanam.


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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