• About the Raga Index •


An open-ended project seeking to bring North Indian raga closer to all who approach with open ears. Combines direct input from dozens of leading Hindustani artists with in-depth insights from music history, global theory, performance practice, cognitive science, and much more! [out 2023]

Overview & Design | Ethos & Principles | Feedback & Future

Raga Index: Home •

—What is the Raga Index?—

Hindustani raga is music’s ultimate ‘interconnected form’: combining everything from melodic and geometric vocabulary to deep cultural, historical, and spiritual associations, while remaining irreducible to any single one of these dimensions. This project is an open-ended attempt to illuminate the fullness of raga, aimed at sharing these unique joys with any who seek to learn more – and also an effort to connect distinctly Subcontinental ideas to a wide range of global sonic traditions.


This is an avowedly non-commercial project: high-quality raga knowledge should be open to all, regardless of financial fortune – and must also remain free from the visual and spiritual pollution of advertising and hidden corporate motive. All resources here will stay 100% open-access & ad-free: who am I to charge others for this ancient knowledge? (Naturally, this attitude doesn’t pay the bills! I put as much into this as time allows, so to expand the project: support the site or try some lessons…)


—Ragascape Resources—
Ragas, while truly mystical in nature, are often unnecessarily ‘over-mystified’. These resources unpack the phenomenon from multiple musical angles, going in-depth (and into new areas) while also building ‘from the ground up’ – with no prior knowledge assumed, and all terms defined. Start from anywhere…

Search: Find your new favourite •
Tags: Classifying the ragascape •
Ragatable: Analytical connections •
Glossary: Raga jargon demystified •
 Tanpuras: Divine overtonal drones •
Quotes: Musings from raga artists •
Murchanas: Swara-set rotations •
Thaat: Bhakhande’s base scales •
Talas: Hindustani rhythm cycles •

Ahir Bhairav | Antardhwani | Asavari | Bageshri | Basant Mukhari | Bhairav | Bhairavi | Bhimpalasi | Bhupali | Bihag | Bilaskhani Todi | Chandranandan | Charukeshi | Darbari | Desh | Durga | Gorakh Kalyan | Jhinjhoti | Jog | Jogkauns | Kafi | Kalavati | Kaunsi Kanada | Lalit | Malkauns | Marwa | Megh | Miyan ki Malhar | Multani | Parameshwari | Patdeep | Pilu | Poorvi | Puriya | Puriya Dhanashree | Shree | Tilak Kamod | Todi | Vachaspati | Yaman
Megalist (365+ ragas) •

—Search the Index—

Raga: The melodic foundations of Indian classical music…To oversimplify, ragas function something like ‘mood recipes’, each presenting their own ‘ingredients’, such as core phrases, note hierarchies, ascending & descending lines, and ornamentations, as well as rules and guidelines for how (and when) to blend them – alongside a wealth of cultural and spiritual associations…particular hours, seasons, or deities. Crucially, ragas are much more about aesthetics than theory, aimed foremost at summoning a unique set of sentiments and colours…”

• Ethos & Principles •
Some guiding principles behind the project…

  • Raga cannot be ‘translated’: Explaining raga requires its own vocabulary, with many core concepts having no clear English equivalent. Thus, raga jargon is preserved and defined rather than hazily approximated – supplemented by etymologies, derivatives, and linguistic context (see Raga Glossary).

  • Interconnect everything! Detailed hyperlinking allows you to ‘choose your own adventure’ through the project – bringing a more intuitive, ‘mind-like’ navigability to the learning process than any book, video, or academic journal could offer (just follow whichever link-chains look most enticing…). I believe this ‘multi-modal fluidity’ is vital to raga itself: in the words of Parveen Sultana, “Each raga is a mirror of all Hindustani music…”

  • Multisensory communication: Best learned by ear, ragas will always evade true written capture – so I’ve sought to illuminate all key concepts with audio clips from high-quality recordings, plus demos on my santoor, tabla, & guitar, videos, charts, diagrams, transcriptions, and other multimedia.

  • Primacy of ‘shape-metaphor’: European stave notation – which often goes unchallenged as the ‘default’ mode of intercultural sonic translation – is ill-suited to the nuances of raga. Instead, I use ‘swara wheels‘ to illustrate ‘melodic shapes’: apart from being the cognitively strongest mnemonic method, ‘shape learning’ is also much less culturally specific than the stave (still, geometry is always illustrative rather than prescriptive…).

  • Truly global connections: To further the quest of ‘de-centering’ Western modes of musicological study, I seek to compare and contrast raga concepts in multiple geographic directions (e.g. ‘murchanas‘ in maqam & gamelan, ‘tala‘ in flamenco & Ewe polyrhythm, and the ‘base scales‘ of Europe & Japan – as well as Carnatic and jazz ‘transliterations’ for all 300+ ragas).

  • Don’t tell anyone how to feel: While the Sanskrit conception of ‘rasa association’ (‘taste, flavour, emotional essence’) remains indispensable to modern raga, it is not a prescriptive guide to how any particular listener ‘should’ feel. Emotional responses to music vary wildly according to everything from the individual’s entire lifetime of cultural and social experience to whether they’ve had a good night’s sleep – as well as the time and place of hearing. I showcase multiple reactions, and generally try to favour ‘quasi-objective’ descriptors (‘clustered’, ‘winding’, ‘energetic’) over ‘mood words’ (‘sad’, ‘joyful’, ‘reassuring’).

  • Varied musical sourcings: Valid raga scholarship comes in many forms – sometimes a single remark from an ‘uninitiated’ listener can bring more insight than an expert phraseological breakdown. I’ve sought to blend the best elements from a vast range of sources, from ancient lakshanagranthas to modern analytic methods, alongside reflections from worldwide raga learners and listeners – supplemented by my own playing and teaching experiences in India and the UK.

  • Draw from disparate fields: Necessity isn’t the mother of invention – for me, ‘novel interconnection’ is usually much more vital. Thus, I look beyond traditional zones of study for fresh raga-relevant perspectives, spanning string-vibratory science and South Asian colonial history to the cognitive psychology of effective musical learning. Again, this approach mirrors the ‘multi-modal’ nature of raga itself (e.g. see ragmala).

  • Bring the humans to life: Music means more if presented along with the context of its creation – so I seek to animate these human tales, centering the firsthand accounts of artists and proactively showcasing historically stifled talent (particularly the contributions of women & lower-caste musicians). As covered in my Chandranandan article: what mortal wants to believe that creativity is the rarefied preserve of the gods?

  • Messy meta-musicology: Instead of just presenting the ‘results’ of my research, I want to lay bare some of the real-world joys, frustrations, challenges, and mundanities behind actually doing it – ranging from my own mis-steps and misunderstandings to the practical tribulations of tuning Hindustani instruments in a British climate (also see my fortuitous path to solving to the puzzle of John Coltrane’s ‘Scales of India’).

  • Ragas as ‘living forms’: Ragas are not static phenomena – so any project covering them should also remain adaptible, expanding to absorb new information and fresh directions in the Hindustani future. The Raga Index will therefore remain in constant flux (…help me ‘fine-tune’ it via sharing your insights). Similarly, I’m blessed to have ongoing input from top-tier artists and scholars, who firmly remind me of what I miss!

—Bhatkhande Lecture (Ashok Da Ranade)—

“The phenomenon of raga reflects the special genius of Indian society for balancing continuity with change, conformity with individuality, and discipline within creativity. When manifested in a specific artistic expression…the aesthetic experience enjoys the benefits of familiarity along with novelty. But this is an open-ended historical process, with no predetermined destination – so the tradition accepts that, in time, everything changes…” (Deepak Raja)

• Future Plans & Feedback •
Perpetually improving & expanding the project…

As of [mid-2023], all the ‘core pages’ of the Raga Index are now live: including a Glossary, a multi-modal Tagging system, ‘explainers’ on key concepts (Thaat, Tala, Murchana) and interlinked resources (Ragatable, Tanpuras, Quotes), as well as in-depth contextual explorations of 40 idiosyncratic ragas, and melodic summaries of over 300 more.


As mentioned above, this project will perpetually expand. Now these core resources have been published, the central plan for ‘phase two’ focuses much more on seeking direct input from artists, scholars, and listeners – in order to robustly challenge and radically enhance the information already presented, and also to help guide the future directions of the project. Specific next steps include:

  • Publishing more raga profiles, and building on current pages
  • Fresh input via organising an extensive artist and listener survey
  • Integration of new analytic tools (e.g. PRAAT pitch-mapping)
  • Writing up my solution to the puzzle of Coltrane’s raga scales
  • Expansions and corrections via artist and audience feedback

Inevitably, non-commercial passion projects do not pay the bills. My site – which will always remain 100% ad-free, un-paywalled, and free from corporate influence – is intended as a perpetual haven from these tiresome pollutants. I put as much into the Raga Index as time and finances allow – so if you want to hasten the expansion of these resources, and further the mission of open-access global musicology, you can:

• Support the Raga Index! •
Also consider trying out some raga lessons, hiring me to write or record, or just sharing your own feedback on the project!

‘Double-siding’: a DIY capo-harp

“The dense interactions between vibration, perception, and emotion are not yet well understood…While music can, in many respects, function as a truly universal language, it is still an unpredictable and highly subjective mode of emotional transmission: after all, you can never really know what the person sitting next to you at a concert is really experiencing – or, indeed, quite how you’ll feel the next time you put on a well-worn old record…” (from my Coltrane’s Ragas project)

—Who am I to be doing this?—

Naturally, this project did not just pour forth from my own head. I’m much more like a ‘database admin’, seeking to synthesise the best of existing raga scholarship, and gather fresh knowledge from today’s artists, theorists, and listeners – before usefully organising and presenting it. While I am a dedicated, long-term student of sitar, santoor, and tabla, I lay zero claim to being an expert performer on any of these instruments (…having focused far more on playing ragas on guitars). More than anything, the foundations of this project are built on the generous, first-hand input of top-tier raga practitioners themselves.


I draw on an odd range of raga-relevant immersions: having most recently been Darbar Festival‘s resident musicologist for two years, tasked with demystifying raga for a global audience. Aged 18-19 I lived in Benares, studying sitar & tabla under Pandit Shivnath Mishra, then picked up the santoor a few years later (after sport-related arm injuries left me unable to handle anything more vigorous for a while). I’ve since written about raga for The Wire, Jazzwise, Ragatip, & Guitar World, and in 2022 received acclaim for my ‘World of Tuning‘ project (a systematic survey of global guitar tunings: see video below). I currently teach music in South London schools, as well as giving performances and workshops – and my ‘raga trio’ composition for the ZeroClassikal label will be released in 2023 (in Vachaspati, Bageshri, & Jog). Some raga-themed writings:

The ‘World of Tuning’ (2022)

“There’s perhaps no better guide to alternate tunings than George Howlett’s World Of Tuning: with its compendium of 100 tunings, each helpfully accompanied by recorded samples, details on the intervallic relationships between the strings, and bios of the guitarists who invented or popularised them…” (The Wire: Unofficial Channels, Aug 2022)



Like everything on my site, the Raga Index will always remain 100% open-access and ad-free: however, anti-corporate musicology doesn’t pay the bills! I put as much into this project as time and finances allow – so, if you like these resources, you can:

Support the Raga Index! •

…and hasten the project’s expansion…
—Riyaz-focused notations & bandish—
—Resurrecting rare and ancient ragas—
—Further melodic & geometric analysis—
—Engaging with Hindustani performers—
—Ensuring that high-quality raga knowledge will remain open to all, at no cost: free from commercial motive!—


Hindustani Raga Index

An open-ended project seeking to bring North Indian raga closer to all who approach with open ears. Combines direct input from dozens of leading Hindustani artists with in-depth insights from music history, global theory, performance practice, cognitive science, and much more! [out 2023]

Megalist (365+ ragas)
Search: Find your new favourite •
Tags: Classifying the ragascape •
Glossary: Raga jargon demystified
Ragatable: Analytical connections •
Thaat: Bhatkhande’s base scales •
Murchanas: Swara-set rotations •
Quotes: Musings from raga artists •
Tanpuras: Divine overtonal drones •
Talas: Hindustani rhythm cycles •
[Random Raga]

—Search the Raga Index—

Feedback / Contact •

George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Homepage for more, and hit me up for Lessons!

Learn raga on any instrument! •

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