RAGMAIA, lit. a rosary of ragas or musical measures, is the title of a composition of twelve verses, running into sixty lines, appended to the Guru Granth Sahib after the Munddvam, i.e. the epilogue, as a table or index of ragas. In the course of the evolution of Indian music, many systems came into effect, prominent among them being the Saiva Mata, said to have been imparted by Lord Siva, who is accepted as the innovator of music; the Kalinatha Mata, also called the Krsna Mata, which has its predominance in Braj and Punjab and is said to have been introduced by Kalinatha, a revered dehdrya of music; the Bharata Mata which has its vogue in Western India and was propounded by Bharata Muni; the Hanumana Mata; the Siddha Sarsut Mata; and the Ragaranava Mata.
A large number of ragmalas pertaining to these and other systems that developed are, with some variations, traceable in such well known works on Indian musicology as Gobind Sangit Sdr, Qanun Mausiki, Budh Parkas Darpan, Sangit Rinod and Rdga Dipakd. With the exception of the Sarsut Mata which subscribes to seven chief ragas, all other systems acknowledge six chief ragas, thirty (in some cases thirty-six also) “wives” or rdgims and forty-eight “sons” or subragas, each raga having eight “sons.” Thus each system includes eighty-four measures which itself is a mystic number in the Indian tradition, symbolizing such entities as the 84 siddhas or the 84,00,000 yoms or species of life.
Though the details concerning the names of “wives” and “sons” differ in each ragmald, the chief systems, broadly speaking, have only two sets; one including Siri, Basant, Bhairav, Pancham, Megh and Nat Narayan, as in the Saiva and Kalinatha systems; and the other including Bhairav, Malkauris, Hindol, Dipak, Siri and Megh as in Bharata and Hanumana systems. In some systems, the ragas have, besides “wives” and “sons”, “daughters” and “daughters in law” as well. The chief ragas are suddha, i.e. complete and perfect, while the “wives” and “sons” are sanktrna, i.e. mixed, incomplete and adulterated.
Each of the six principal ragas relates itself by its nature to a corresponding season.The ragmala appended to the Guru Granth Sahib is not much different from the others, and, by itself, does not set up a new system. This ragmala is nearest to the Hanumana Mata, but the arrangement of ragas in the Guru Granth Sahib is nearer to the Saiva Mala and the Kalinatha Mata which give primacy to Siri Raga. The only system wherein occur all the ragas and rdgims employed in the Guru Granth Sahib is Bharata Mata.
In the Guru Granth Sahib no distinction has been made between ragas and rdgims and all the measures employed have been given the status of ragas, each one of them recognized in its own right and not as “wife” or “son” to another raga.In practice over a long stretch of time, gurmat sangit, i.e. Sikh music, has evolved its own style and conventions which make it a system distinct from other Indian systems. There being no indication to this effect in the caption, the authorship of Ragmala has been the subject of controversy; more so the point whether it should form part of the recitation of the Holy Text in its entirety. The composition is not integral to the theme of the Guru Granth Sahib, and it has little musicological or instructional significance.
Yet it is entered in the original volume of the Holy Book prepared by Guru Arjan and preserved to this day in descendant family at Kartarpur. By consensus, Ragmala is taken to be part of the Sacred Text and with rare exceptions, notably at Sri Akal Takht, it is included in all full scale recitations of the Guru Granth Sahib. The Rahit Mary add, manual of Sikh practices, issued under the authority of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar, recommends that the reading of the Holy Book be concluded with Munddvam or Ragmala, depending upon local practice, but in no case should the Holy Volume be calligraphed or printed excluding this text.
1. Sabaddrath Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1964
2. Ashok, Shamsher Singh, Ragmala Nimai. Amritsar, n.d.
3. Kohli, Surindar Singh, A Critical Study ofAdi Granth. Delhi, 1961
4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. Oxford, 1909