Rāgabodha: A Śābdabodha-Based Framework for a Theory of Rāga

Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research 36 (3):417-429 (2019)
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Abstract

In Indian knowledge traditions, Vyākaraṇa describes the rules for the formation and use of correct words. The Vākya is postulated as the primary unit of communication. “śābdabodha” deals with the cognition of sentential meaning. Similarly, in Indian music, every rāga has a lexicon and grammar : a rāga only allows some notes and not others, and it has rules for constructing phrases—notes to be highlighted, notes to end phrases on, ornamentation, etc. These phrases of the rāga are comparable to “vākya” which when presented with due regard to certain other considerations generate an apprehension of the rāga. During presentation of a rāga, an artist aims to evoke the rāga-cchāyā or rāga-svarūpa and also an emotive state in the listener. There is a cognitive aspect to the informed listening of a rāga that is parallel to linguistic communication. We seek to understand how these parallels work between śābdabodha and rāgabodha. We postulate that the conditions of expectancy, logical consistency and proximity in combination with the theory of sphoṭa provide a framework to explain how a rāga is expounded and cognised.

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