• 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 more! [out 2023-24]

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 •
Sa | Re | Ga | Ma | Pa | Dha | Ni

Megalist (365+ ragas) •
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

Abheri Todi | AbhogiAdana | Adarangi Todi | Adbhut Kalyan | Adi Basant | Ahir Lalit | Ahiri | Ahiri Todi | Alhaiya Bilawal | Ambika Sarang | Amiri Todi | Amirkhani Kauns | Amrut Ranjani | Anand Bhairav | Anjani Kalyan | Annapurna | Arun Malhar | Asa Bhairav | Bageshri Bahar | Bahaduri Todi | Bahar | Bairagi | Bairagi Todi | Bangal Bhairav | Baradi | Barwa | Basant | Basanti Kanada | Bhairav Bahar | Bhankari | Bhatiyar | Bhatiyari Bhairav | Bhavani | Bhavmat Bhairav | BheemBhinna Shadja | Bhupali Todi | Bibhas | Bihad Bhairav | Bihagara | Bihagda | Bihari | Bilawal | Champak | Chandni Bihag | Chandni Kedar | Chandrakauns | Chandrakaushiki | Chandramadhu | Chaya | Chaya MalharChayanat | Dagori | Dakshinatya Basant | Darjeeling | Deen Todi | Deepak | Des Malhar | Deshkar | Desi | Dev Gandhar | Devata Bhairav | Devgandhari Todi | Devgiri BilawalDevranjani | Devshri | Dhanashree | Dhani | Dhavalshree | Din ki Puriya | Durgawati | Ek Prakar ki Kauns | Enayetkhani Kanada | Gagan Vihang | Gandhari | Gangeshwari | Gaoti | Gara | Gaud Malhar | Gaud Sarang | Gaudgiri Malhar | Gauri | Gauri Basant | Gaurimanjari | Gopika Basant | Gujiri Todi | Gunakri | Gunji Kanada | Gunkali | Hameer | Hansa Narayani | Hansadhwani | Hanskinkini | Harikauns | Hem Bihag | Hemant | Hemavati | Hemshri | Hindol | Hindolita | Hussaini Kanada | Hussaini Todi | Imratkauns | Jaijaiwanti | Jaijaiwanti Nat | Jait | Jait Kalyan | Jaitashree | Jaiwanti Todi | Jaldhar Kedar | Jansammohini | Jaun Bhairav | Jaunpuri | Jayant Malhar | Jogeshwari | Jogeshwari Pancham | Jogiya | Jungala | Kabiri Bhairav | Kalashri | Kalingada | Kambhoji | Kameshwari | Kamod | Kaushik Dhwani | Kedar | Kesari Kalyan | Khamaj | Khambavati | Khat | Khat Todi | Khem Kalyan | Khokar | Kirwani | Kukubh Bilawal | Lachari Kanada | Lachari Todi | Lagan Gandhar | Lakshmi Kalyan | Lakshmi Todi | Lalit Pancham | Lalita Gauri | Lalita Sohini | Lanka Dahan Sarang | Lankeshwari | Lilavati | Madhukant | Madhukauns | Madhumad Sarang | Madhuradhwani | Madhuranjani | Madhurkauns Madhusurja | Madhuvanti | Malashree | Malavi | Malay Marutam | Malayalam | Malgunji | Maligoura | Malti Basant | Maluha | Manavi | Mand | Mangal Bhairav | Mangal Gujari | Mangal Todi | Manj Khamaj | Manjari Bihag | Maru Bihag | Medhavi | Meghranjani | Meladalan | Milan Gandhar | Miyan ki Sarang | Mohankauns | Monomanjari | Mudriki Kanada | Nagadhwani Kanada | Nand | Nandkauns | Narayani | Nat | Nat Bhairav | Nat Bihag | Nat Kamod | Nayaki Kanada | Neelambari | Niranjani Todi | Noor Sarang | Pahadi | Pancham | Pancham Malkauns | Pancham se Gara | Pancham se Pilu | Paraj | Paraj Kalingada | Pat Bihag | Patdeepaki | Patmanjari | Prabhakali | Prabhat Bhairav | Prabhateshwari | Purba | Puriya Kalyan | Purva | Rageshri | Rageshri Bahar | Rageshri Kanada | Raisa Kanada | Raj Kalyan | Rajeshwari | Ramdasi Malhar | Ramkali | Rampriya | Rang Malhar | Rangeshwari | Rasaranjani | Rasikpriya | Rati Bhairav | Reva | Roopkali | Saheli Todi | Sakh | Salagavarali | Samant Sarang | Sampurna Malkauns | Sanjh Saravali | Sarang | Saraswati | Saraswati Kedar | Saraswati Sarang | Saurashtra Bhairav | Savani | Sazgiri | Sehera | Shahana | Shankara | Shankara Karan | Shivawanti | Shivmat Bhairav | Shivranjani | Shobhawari | Shree Kalyan | Shuddha Basant | Shuddha Kalyan | Shuddha Malhar | Shuddha Sarang | Shukla Bilawal | Shyam Kalyan | Simhendra Madhyamam | Sindhura | Sohini | Sohini Pancham | Sonakshi | Sorath | Sughrai | Suha | Suha Todi | Sundarkali | Sundarkauns | Surdasi Malhar | Swanandi | Tankeshree | Tanseni Madhuvanti | Tilak Bhairav | Tilak Malhar | Tilang | Tilang Bahar | Tivrakauns | Triveni | Tulsikauns | Vardhini | Vihang | Vijayanagari | Virat Bhairav | Viyogavarali | Zeelaf | Zila Kafi

—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 [early 2024], 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)

• Project Contributors •

Full list of direct contributors & corresponders (n.b. inclusion here doesn’t mean someone endorses all my analysis! Feedback always welcome…)

  • Deepak Raja: An Imdadkhani sitarist-scholar of towering renown, Raja’s writings have long been an inspiration to my own, seamlessly combining a dazzling array of analytical approaches: from technical and phraseological summaries to an interconnected range of historical and anthropological reflections. I’ve also gleaned invaluable insights via our detailed email exchanges, in which he has generously demystified various queries I’ve had around the infinite dimensions of raga (as well as cautioning me of how much I do not yet know…).

  • Rupak Kulkarni: As well as providing detail on his own raga creations (and sending in the only available rendition of Annapurna), the Maihar bansuriya has shared broader guidance on raga pedagogy (also a Darbar interviewee).

  • Alam Khan: The sarod star allowed me to publish unseen material from the family archives for my writeup of his father Ali Akbar Khan‘s Chandranandan – as well as sharing invaluable early recordings of the raga, laying bare its original form.

  • Debashish Bhattacharya: The Bengali slide guitarist was one of my earliest Hindustani icons – so, naturally, it’s been a pleasure to have his input on topics from alankar presentation and instrument construction to reincarnation and lifelong modes of sonic learning (also a Darbar interviewee).

  • Abhijith Shenoy K ‘Abhirang’: The prolific rare raga explorer has shared direct insights on his own sonic and archival searching, as well as the melodic characteristics of fascinating seldom-heard forms such as Tivrakauns, Devranjani, and Mangal Gujari (also see his Swar Arpan series).

  • Vishwas Shirgaonkar: The Gwalior-Jaipur vocalist wrote in to offer excellent feedback on areas including the complex, often ill-fitting relationships between murchana and sruti.

  • S Balachander: The DhrupadCarnatic ‘Chandraveena’ player wrote in with a great array of perspectives on such matters as tanpura tunings, scale histories, and sruti pairings (“Sadharani is the style that I follow, which combines the best of many styles mentioned in our musical scriptures…”).

  • Rajan Parrikar: While the Gwalior exponent may be sceptical about most Western-authored raga analysis (for good reason, I would argue: see ‘ethnopimp‘), he certainly gave me some generous pointers in the early stages of this project’s design, particularly around raga terminology and phrase-focused definition – as well as being a prolific writer and melodic theorist, following in the footsteps of his illustrious guru Ramrang.

  • Ashish Dha: The vocalist and composer had already derived his own set of ‘32 sampurna thaat‘ before I did similarly, also laying out the intervals in the exact same order – and we’ve since had fantastic conversations spanning scale derivation and bandish transcription to the technical structuring of this project (also hear his own idiosyncratic creations, e.g. Trishnaa).

  • John McLaughlin: The master fusioneer’s Shakti records helped inspire me to take up guitar, and also to start investigating the Subcontinental sources of the sounds. Years later, his positive response to my first ever music article tempted me to continue on this path – as did our 2020 interview on Shakti’s reformation, and our accompanying discussions of raga harmonisation and much more (sometimes, ‘don’t meet your heroes’ is terrible advice…).

  • Jaideep Roy: Important detail on Kaunsi Kanada, as well as highlighting Rajeev Taranath’s interpretations of ragas such as Yaman Kalyan (“Rajeev-ji is a universe of knowledge…”).

  • Ian Ring: General ‘musicological databasing’ advice as well as various scale-name leads to check – from the composer and programmer behind the amazing All the Scales website (for which I am an informal ‘raga consultant’: update coming soon).

  • Jesse Bannister: A pioneer of Hindustani sax, and also an innovator in teaching raga to jazz musicians and uninitiated audiences (…we collaborated on the 2018 track No Kanjira).

  • Hafez Modirzadeh: An unclassifiable composer, professor, and microtonal sax virtuoso, who provided wise insights for my fortuitous solution of Trane’s scale mystery – as well as proactively encouraging my open-access, ad-free mission.

  • ZeroClassikal: Thanks to Artistic Director Hardial Rai for commissioning my guitar/violin/bass clarinet arrangements of Bageshri and Vachaspati, as well as Jonathan Mayer for score feedback – as well as Alice Barron and George Sleighthome for performing them with me (check out their Iyatra Quartet)!

  • Xavi Ganjam: After I posted Tivrakauns on the Chandrakantha forum in Oct 2023, Xavi Ganjam recorded and sent me his slide guitar rendition of the raga. Keep the experiments rolling in!

  • Jack Jennings: My fellow UK-based raga-guitar explorer ran over his method of replacing his Strat’s 6+5str with super-light high Ds, to imitate the setup of a sitar (see Jack’s Chikari).

  • Derek Walmsley: Editor of The Wire magazine, probably the world’s best publication for open-eared musical searchers – who (aside from having me in to write for them) has catalysed vital connections within these oddball zones of sonic inquiry…

  • Michael Astley-Brown: Editor of Guitar World magazine, who helped to prompt my general raga writings by commissioning a pair of articles on adapting alankar to the fretboard.

  • Mark Claydon: Programmer, audio engineer, unclassifiable musical inventor, longtime aficionado of Pythagorean triangles in music, and friend of many years (who knows what I would have missed if not for his astonishingly broad range of musical questions: from the profound to the playfully absurd…).

  • Shivnath & Deobrat Mishra: Eternal thanks to my own gurus: a deeply knowledgeable father-son duo from the Benares gharana, who guided my early immersions into Hindustani raga while I lived at their Varanasi academy learning sitar & tabla. Full tribute to follow…when I’ve returned to Benares!

  • Many more: Including various contributors from the r/icm, RMIC, and Chandrakantha forums, as well as attendees at concerts, workshops, and Bristol Hindu Temple festivities over the years – plus all of my own intrepid students!

• Get in touch! •


Get started with learning raga! •

Share these ragas! My site is 100% reliant on organic visitors (and none of your donations go to ad agencies…) – share this with fellow sonic searchers!


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

Support the Raga Index! •

—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 2023-24]

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

Projects & articles: full list •

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