Murchanas: Raga Rotation

 


Spinning the wheels: Exploring the idea of ‘murchana’ in Hindustani music – including my systematic search for previously undiscovered rotational groupings, revealing some surprising geometric connections!


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–Taxonomy of Murchana–
• 5 swaras: Bhupali | Kalavati | Shivranjani 6 swaras: ShankaraJog | Hemshri | Kameshwari 7 swaras: Bilawal | CharukeshiBhairav | Nat Bhairav | Basant | Kedar | KhokarKirwani | Todi 8+ swaras: Bihag | GaraHanskinkini | Pilu Pairs

–More Murchana Musings–
Self-murchanas: rotational symmetries
Jasrangi jugalbandi: simultaneous scales 
 Ravi Shankar’s swara-swirling car-ride 
Further learnings: scale geometries 


What is murchana? ‘Murchana’ describes the concept of ‘melodic rotation’ in Hindustani music – i.e. ‘relocating the Sa within the same interval pattern’ to form a fresh scale (somewhat akin to the Western idea of ‘modality’). For example, if you treat Bhupali‘s Ga as the ‘new Sa’, Malkauns is produced: as both swara-sets are rotations of the same ‘round-the-octave’ sequence:


• Bhupali set (5) •

2-2-3-2-3




• Kalavati set (5) •

4-3-2-1-2




• Shivranjani set (5) •

2-1-4-2-3




• Kameshwari set (6) •

2-4-1-2-1-2




• Shankara set (6) •

2-2-3-2-2-1




• Jog set (6) •

3-1-1-2-3-2



  • 1 (S-gG-m-P-n-S): Jog
  • 2 (S-rR-G-P-D-S): Jait
  • 3 (S-r-g-M-d-N-S): Gujiri Todi
  • 4 (S-R-m-P-nN-S): Sarang
  • 5 (S-g-m-dD-n-S):
  • 6 (S-R-mM-P-D-S):

• Hemshri set (6) •

3-2-2-3-1-1




• Bilawal set (7) •

2-2-1-2-2-2-1




• Charukeshi set (7) •

2-2-1-2-1-2-2




• Bhairav set (7) •

1-3-1-2-1-3-1




• Nat Bhairav set (7) •

2-2-1-2-1-3-1




• Kedar set (7) •

2-3-1-1-2-2-1




• Khokar set (7) •

4-1-2-2-1-1-1



  • 1 (S-G-m-P-D-nN-S): Khokar
  • 2 (S-r-g-mM-P-d-S):
  • 3 (S-R-G-mM-P-N-S): Shyam Kalyan
  • 4 (S-R-gG-m-D-n-S): Rageshri Kanada
  • 5 (S-rR-g-P-d-n-S):
  • 6 (S-rR-M-P-D-N-S):
  • 7 (S-r-mM-d-nN-S):

• Kirwani set (7) •

2-1-2-2-1-3-1



  • 1 (S-R-g-m-P-d-N-S): Kirwani
  • 2 (S-r-g-mM-D-n-S):
  • 3 (S-R-G-m-dD-N-S):
  • 4 (S-R-g-M-P-D-n-S): Madhukant | Hemavati
  • 5 (S-r-G-m-P-d-n-S): Basant Mukhari
  • 6 (S-gG-M-P-D-N-S):
  • 7 (S-r-gG-M-dD-S):

• Basant set (7) •

1-3-2-1-1-3-1




• Todi set (7) •

1-2-3-1-1-3-1




• Bihag set (8) •

2-2-1-1-1-2-2-1




• Gara set (8) •

2-1-1-1-2-3-1-1




• Hanskinkini set (8) •

2-1-1-1-2-2-2-1



  • 1 (S-R-gG-m-P-D-N-S): Hanskinkini
  • 2 (S-rR-g-m-P-D-n-S):
  • 3 (S-rR-G-M-dD-N-S):
  • 4 (S-r-g-m-P-d-nN-S):
  • 5 (S-R-G-M-P-D-nN-S): Shankara Karan
  • 6 (S-R-G-m-P-dD-n-S): Gunji Kanada
  • 7 (S-R-g-mM-P-d-n-S):
  • 8 (S-r-gG-mM-d-n-S):

• Pilu set (9) •

2-1-1-1-2-2-1-1-1




• Murchana Pairs •

Some other rotational partners I came across via querying the Ragatable (many of which also have their own prakriti forms: see individual raga pages). Let me know if you find any matches I’ve missed!


5: Devshri [Pa=Sa] Madhuranjani
5: Gunkali [dha=Sa] Kaushik Dhwani
5: Rajeshwari [ma=Sa] Chandramadhu
5: Chandrakauns [ma=Sa] Madhukauns

6: Marwa [re=Sa] Tulsikauns
6: Tilang [Pa=Sa] Jogeshwari
6: Lilavati [ni=Sa] Shivawanti
6: Kalashri [Dha=Sa] Saheli Todi
6: Malavi [Dha=Sa] Milan Gandhar
6: Jansammohini [ni=Sa] Raj Kalyan
6: Miyan ki Malhar [Re=Sa] Suha Todi

8: Adi Basant [ma=Sa] Maligoura
8: Virat Bhairav [ni=Sa] Tanseni Madhuvanti

9: Mand [Ga=Sa] Shivmat Bhairav
9: Roopkali [Pa=Sa] Basanti Kanada

  • Chandrakauns/Madhukauns – Ranjani & Gayatri (2017):

“We present two ragas at the same time, through a device called murchana…”


• More Murchana Musings •

T…


—Rotational Symmetries—

Some ragas are also ‘self-murchanas’ – i.e. when rotated through each position, they form at least one scale identical to that of the starting point. This property of ‘rotational symmetry‘ is vanishingly rare: with only two ragas in the entire Index displaying it precisely:




  • Sehera Ghazal – Mehdi Hassan & Sultan Khan (1977):

“Sarangiya Sultan Khan once described Sehera as “the forbidden scale”, and, after pre-recording it for All India Radio, reportedly requested that his session “should not be aired…it is too sad”. Thankfully, he did cut a haunting ghazal with Mehdi Hassan, manipulating a GMdS refrain over ambiguous harmonium drones (…I mean, what would you even tune a tanpura to?)”


—Jasrangi Jugalbandi—

Mewati vocal pioneer Pandit Jasraj used murchana to bring new life to the male-female jugalbandi duet. This zone has long presented great challenge to raga performers – artists are rarely comfortable singing a full octave apart, and Hindustani music provides no explicit ‘harmony’ parts for higher voices. Jasraj sought to overcome this by matching ragas which form near-exact rotations of each other, which could then be sung simultaneously.

 

—Shankar’s ‘Car ki Seat’ Set—

  • Parameshwari:

 

—Further Learnings—

Onward links for my fellow swara-swirling explorers…


  • Murchana history:

  • Header image: ‘Nataraja: Shiva as Divine Cosmic Dancer’, bronze figurine of unknown origin (Commons)

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]

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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!

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