Janaka Janya Ragas

Parent child relationship is something very unique in nature. It is amazing to see how children resemble their parents in many ways. Some are sheer replicas of their parents, some resemble a few traits and there are some who look very different from their parents. The same applies to music too where we see some ragas bearing a lot of characteristics of their parent ragas and some others which have a colour and shade quite different from their parents.

An outstanding feature of Indian music is its raga system. Every raga is a distinct musical entity by itself and possesses well defined characteristics. The classification of Karnatic ragas into janaka and janya ragas is the most scientific system of raga classification.

Janaka means generic and janya means generated. There are 72 Janaka or parent ragas but the number of janya or child ragas is practically unlimited.

The Janaka raga has four important characteristics features-

  • The Sampurna character of the arohana and avarohana i.e. the full complement of the seven notes being represented in both the ascent and descent
  • The karma sampurna character of the arohana and avarohana i.e. the ascent and descent being regular
  • The homogenous character of the svaras in both the arohana and avarohana
  • The ashtaka (eight notes) character of the arohana - avarohana i.e. taking srgmpdns - sndpmgrs

Whereas the Janaka ragas possess the full complement of the seven notes in both ascent and descent, the janya ragas derived from them may drop one, two or three notes in either ascent, descent or both. Some janya ragas called Bhashanga ragas take one, two or three foreign notes i.e. notes foreign to their parent scale. Janya ragas may be classified into - Varjya ragas, Vakra ragas, Upanga ragas and Bhashanga ragas.

These classifications are however not mutually exclusive. Again, each of these have further sub-classifications.

The janaka - janya system of raga classification need not give rise to the presumption that all janaka ragas are older than the janya ragas. In fact, a good number of these janaka ragas came into existence only during the modern period of Indian music. Many janya ragas like Bhupala, Ahiri, Nadanamakriya, Madhyamavati, Gaula, Mohanam, Kambhoji etc. have been in existence for more than a thousand years.