Dr Raag

Girl listening to music on headphones

What a festive season it has been here in Mumbai! And what decadent sweets and desserts I’ve indulged in! The guilt of this indulgence encouraged me to hit the gym right away and get back to my “Oh so healthy” lifestyle. But I think my gym DJ wasn’t in the mood to pep us up with his usual fast and energetic workout music. He decided to take it slow with a mushy Tum Hi Ho and followed it up with a very garba style Shubharambh. Didn’t work for me at all for obvious reasons.

Music and our moods have a very deep connection. It’s an integral part of our human culture and experience. Music can make us smile or cry, dance with energy, sleep in peace, calm the mind. There are various theories about this phenomenon. While one solid research states that music affects the brain’s neurons that produce serotonin — a key chemical affecting mood, another theory suggests the connection between brain waves — heartbeats and rhythm — tone. In either case, it is established that music impacts our physiological and psychological well-being.

Hindustani music considers every raag depicting a specific mood (rus), which I elaborated upon in my previous article. A musical note has its own distinct psychological effect or emotion, and is also related specifically to a colour, mood, chakra and time of day. One of the unique characteristics of Indian music is the assignment of definite times of the day and night for performing or listening to raags. It is believed that in this period the raag appears to be at the pinnacle of its melodic beauty. There are some raags which are very attractive in the early hours of the mornings; others which appeal in the evenings, yet others which cast their spell at midnight! This connection of time of the day or night, with the raag or raginis is based on the daily cycle of subtle changes that occur in our own body and mind.

Another fact as per our ancient Vedas is that the human body has 72,000 astral nerves (nadis) which incessantly vibrate in a specific rhythmic pattern. Disturbance in their rhythmic vibration is the root cause of disease. Musical notes help restore their normal rhythm, thereby bringing about and maintaining good health.

I will give you a gist about how the Indian raag system works by dividing 24 hours into 8 time slots of 3 hours each to practise music therapy. At dawn (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.) when the mind is calm, raags which are soft and soothing are sung. For example, raags with Komal (flat) Re and Dha swars like Raag Bhairav, Todi, Lalit, etc., are most apt. As one progresses through the day (9 a.m. onwards) one needs some awakening and energy to accomplish the daily mundane tasks. Hence, raags with livelier swars are preferred, e.g., Raag Deshkar, Jaunpuri, Bilawal, etc. Between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., when the day is at its peak, one needs to cool the mind and body with Raag Sarang, Bhimpalas and the likes.

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Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath
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Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath

Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath is the eleventh generation of her family to be dedicated to the ancient art form of Indian classical music. She has performed in India and abroad, has music albums to her credit and successfully runs her classical music academy all over Mumbai.