**Melakarta** is a collection of fundamental ragas (musical scales) in Carnatic music (South Indian classical music). *Melakarta* ragas are parent ragas (hence known as *janaka* ragas) from which other ragas may be generated. A*melakarta* raga is sometimes referred as *mela*, *karta* or *sampurna* as well.

In Hindustani music the *thaat* is equivalent of *Melakarta*. There are 10 *thaats*in Hindustani music, though the commonly accepted *melakarta* scheme has 72 ragas.

**Rules for Melakarta**

Ragas must contain the following characteristics to be considered *Melakarta*.

- They are
*sampurna ragas*– they contain all seven*swaras*(notes) of the octave in both ascending and descending scale - They are
*krama sampurna*ragas – that is the sequence is strictly ascending and descending in the scales, without any jumps or zig-zag notes - The upper shadjam is included in the raga scale (ragas like
*Punnagavarali*and*Chenchurutti*are not*melakarta*as they end with*nishadham*) - The ascending and descending scales must have the same notes

**History**

*mela*system of ragas was first propounded by Raamamaatya in his work Svaramelakalanidhi c. 1550. He is considered the father of

*mela*system of ragas. Later Venkatamakhin expounded in the 17th century in his work

*Caturdandi Prakaasikaa*a new

*mela*system known today as

*melakarta*. He had made some bold and controversial claims and defined somewhat arbitrarily 6

*swaras*from the known 12 semitones, at that time, to arrive at 72

*melakarta*ragas. The controversial parts relate to double counting of R2 (and similar

*swaras*) and his exclusive selection of

*madyamas*for which there is no specific reasoning. However, today the 72

*melakarta*ragas have gained significant following, though to this day this system is being criticized. Venkatamakhin was known to be extremely critical of Raamamaatya.

**Determining the Melakarta**

A hundred years after Venkatamakhin’s time the *Katapayadi sankhya* rule came to be applied to the nomenclature of the*melakarta* ragas. The *sankhya* associates Sanskrit consonants with digits. The digits corresponding to the first two syllables of the name of a raga, when reversed, give the index of the raga. Thus the scale of a *melakarta* raga can be easily derived from its name.

For example, *Harikambhoji* raga starts with syllables *Ha* and *ri*, which have numbers 8 and 2 associated with them. Reversing them we get 28. Hence Harikambhoji is the 28^{th} Melakarta raga.

**Melakarta Scale **

Each *melakarta* raga has a different scale. This scheme envisages the lower Sa (*Keezh Shadjamam*), upper Sa (*Mael Shadjamam*) and Pa (*Panchamam*) as fixed *swaras*, with the Ma (*Madhyamam*) having two variants and the remaining swaras Ri (*Rishabam*), Ga (*Gandhaaram*), Dha (*Dhaivatham*) and Ni (*Nishaadham*) as having three variants each. This leads to 72 seven-note combinations (scales) referred to as the *Melakarta* ragas as follows.

There are twelve semitones of the octave S, R1, R2=G1, R3=G2, G3, M1, M2, P, D1, D2=N1, D3=N2, N3 (see *swaras* in Carnatic music for explanation of these notations). A melakarta raga must necessarily have S and P, one of the M’s, one each of the R’s and G’s, and one each of the D’s and N’s. Also, R must necessarily precede G and D must precede N (*krama sampoorna* raga). This gives 2 × 6 × 6 = 72 ragas. Finding *melakarta ragas* is a mathematical process. By following a simple set of rules we can find the corresponding raga and the scale associated with it.

A raga which has a subset of *swaras* from a *Melakarta* raga is said to be a *janya* (means born or derived from) of that*Melakarta* raga. Every raga is the *janya* of a *melakarta* raga. *Janya* ragas whose notes are found in more than one*melakarta* raga are assigned (or associated) parent *Melakarta* based on subjective notions of similarity. This is obvious for ragas that have less than seven notes. For such ragas it can be associated with a *Melakarta* which has any of the different swaras in that position. For example, Hindolam has Rishabam and Panchamam missing. Hence, it could be considered a janya of *Todi* (also known as *Hanumatodi*) which has *shuddha rishabam* or with *Natabhairavi* which has a *chathusruthi rishabam*. It is popularly associated with *Natabhairavi*.

**Chakras **

The 72 *melakarta* ragas are split into 12 groups called *chakras*, each containing 6 ragas. The ragas within the chakra differ only in the *dhaivatham* and *nishadham* notes (D and N), as illustrated below. The name of each of the 12 *chakras* suggest their ordinal number as well.

*Indu*stands for the moon, of which we have only one – hence it is the first*chakra*.*Netra*means eyes, of which we have two – hence it is the second.*Agni*is the third*chakra*as it denotes the three*divyagnis*(fire, lightning and Sun).*Veda*denoting four*Vedas*is the name of the fourth*chakra*.*Bana*comes fifth as it stands for the five banas of*Manmatha*.*Rutu*is the sixth*chakra*standing for the 6 seasons of Hindu calendar.*Rishi*, meaning sage, is the seventh*chakra*representing the seven sages.*Vasu*stands for the eight*vasus*of Hinduism.*Brahma*comes next of which there are 9.- The 10 directions, including
*akash*(sky) and*patal*(nether region), is represented by the tenth*chakra*,*Disi*. - Eleventh
*chakra*is*Rudra*of which there are eleven. - Twelfth comes
*Aditya*of which there are twelve.

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