I was asked to come up with an explanation of how the ragams are formed, and here is a simplified explanation of the same.
Any ragam consists of a maximum of seven swarams. The ragams that consist of all seven swarams are called Melakartha Ragams. Any ragam that has less than seven swarams, is a derived ragam, from one of the melakartha ragams. The focus of this post is melakartha ragams
Many people find it confusing as to how the ragam system works. Let me explain the melakartha ragams first. I have provided a mapping document for Indian notes to western notes at the end of this post.
The Swarams are-
Shadjam – Sa
Of these swarams, the Sa and Pa are constant.
Ri, Ga, Da, and Ni have three varieties.
Ri could be Shuddha, Chatusruthi,, or Shatsruthi (Ri1, Ri2, Ri3)
Ga could be Shuda, Sadharna or Anthara (Ga1, Ga2, Ga3)
Da could be Shuda Chatusruthi or Shatsruthi(Da1, Da2, Da3)
Ni could be Shudha, Kaisiki, Kakali.(Ni1, Ni2, Ni3)
Ma has two varieties, Shudha, and Prati(Ma1, Ma2
The Ragams are broken down into a very distinctive pattern. There are seventy two melakarthas. They are split into half by the madhyamam. In simple words, the first 36 Ragams are shudha madyama ragams(Contain only ma1), and the second 36 are prathi madyamam ragams. If we take a close look at the sudha madhyama ragams, it is easy to understand the prathi madhyamam ragams as they are replicated using the second ma.
The 36 ragams are broken into groups of six, giving us 6 ragams in each chakram.
Lets take a look at the first ragam. Kanakangi is melakartha 1.
Sa, Ri1, Ga1, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni1
Second Ragam : Ratnangi
Sa, Ri1, Ga1, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni2
Third Ragam, Ganamoorthe
Sa, Ri1, Ga1, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni3
Fourth Ragam Vanaspathi
Sa, Ri1, Ga1, Ma1, Pa, Da2, Ni2
Sa, Ri1, Ga1, Ma1, Pa, Da2, Ni3
Sa, Ri1, Ga1, Ma1, Pa, Da3, Ni3
Thereby Completing the first chakra.
There is a pattern followed where the swarams are increased one by one.
If one were to use a guitar to understand the same, the first ragam has the pa, da and ni, in consecutive frets.
The second ragam would have the pa and da together, but the ni would move to the fret above the original spot.
The third ragam has the ni right below the melsthai Sa (upper sa).
Fourth ragam, increases the da, second ni
Fifth ragam has da and third ni
And sixth ragam has da and ni, rite next to sa.
The next chakram, would follow the same format for the swarams above pa, increasing only one swaram in the swarams below ma, in the same pattern.
For eg. The seventh ragam is Senavathi.
Sa, Ri1, Ga2, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni1
The first ragam in the Next Chakram would be
Sa, Ri1, Ga3, Ma1, Pa, Da1. Ni1
First Ragam in the Fourth Chakram:
Sa, Ri2, Ga2, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni1
First Ragam in the Fifth Chakram
Sa, Ri2, Ga3, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni1
First Ragam in the Sixth Chakram, Sa, Ri3, Ga3, Ma1, Pa, Da1, Ni1
Hence, each chakram increases only one swaram before pa, and follows the pattern of increasing the swarams after pa.
The second thirty six follow the same pattern, with the exception of M2 instead of Ma1
Confusing, but try playing it on the guitar, it should make more sense. Im open to any questions...
Swaram Notation Western
Sadjamam Sa C
Suddha Rishabam Re1 C #
Chathusruthi Rishabam Re2 D
Shatsruthi Rishabam Re3 D #/ E b
Suddha Gandharam Ga1 D
Sadharana Gandharam Ga2 D # /E b
Anthara Gandharam Ga3 E
Suddha Madhyamam Ma1 F
Prati Madhyamam Ma2 F #/G b
Panchamam Pa G
Suddha Dhaivatham Da1 G #/A b
Chathusruthi Dhaivatham Da2 A
Shatsruthi Dhaivatham Da3 A #/ B b
Suddha Nishadam Ne1 A
Kaisiki Nishadam Ne2 A #/B b
Kakali Nishadam Ne3 B