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The usage of the two words swara and raag in music are the symbols of delight. For the simplest of definitions, swara is the interaction of breath with musical notes and tone.
The correct swara is an infallible weapon that pares a path for emancipation. The concepts of swara are applied to the Indian khayal system. Deep like an ocean and omnipresent like a sky, swara plunges into the depth of imagination of the singer.
According to Patanjali, “swayam rajante iti swarah” which means “swaras are those which embellish themselves.”
Sharngadeva while defining the swara states “swatah ranjayati shrotractittam sa swara uchyate” which translates to “that which spontaneously muses the minds of the listeners is called swara.”
When the soul wishes to express its thoughts, it prompts the mind. Subsequently, the mind ignites the fire of the body and this fire propels the air. This air situated in Brahamagranthi in ascends to the heart, throat, and head ultimately reaching into the mouth from where this air merges in the form of sound. This sound is none other than Swara.
Swara is very subtle. It contains a secret meaning hence its manifestation of sentiments can not be grasped by just anyone. Just as the sound of the mystical Om is heard only by a person having divine or superb knowledge so he only can relish the gravity of the swara.
Defining swara is beyond the expression of words.
The swara, as integrated with the feelings of high order sentiments, elevates the pleasure of the singer and the listener. Similarly, if these swaras are composed with inferior and graded words, they degenerate the singer and the listener, alike. The wise go beyond the expression of words, delve into the depth of swara and rejoice like a saint who in deep meditation (Samadhi).
The swaras of a raag adopt a number of forms. In a bandish, there is gravitation, anti-gravitation, and contraction of one swara with the other.
For the creation of art, most important for a musician is the concentration of mind; s/he is visualizing the secrets of swaras and establishing a sequence and coordination.
In the art of music, raag is an embodiment. To compose a raag, the musician practices the swaras. S/he establishes a sequence among the swaras. With these salient features, the composition of a raag is the aesthetic beauty of music.
Dr. Abhay Dubey is an Assistant Professor of Indian Classical Vocal Music for 10 years at The M.S. University of Baroda in Gujarat, and previously as a Lecturer at Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidhyalaya. He has performed for many years and published 4 books on the topic of Indian Classical Music. Contact him here: 91 -9510244455 .