Swara

The seven notes of the scale (swaras), in Indian music are named shadja, rishabh, gandhar, madhyam, pancham, dhaivat and nishad, and are shortened to Sa, Ri (Carnatic) or Re (Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni and written S, R, G, M, P, D, N.

Collectively these notes are known as the sargam (the word is an acronym of the consonants of the first four swaras). Sargam is the Indian equivalent to solfege, a technique for the teaching of sight-singing. Sargam is practiced against a drone. The tone Sa is not associated with any particular pitch. As in Western moveable-Do solfège, Sa refers to the tonic of a piece or scale rather than to any particular pitch.


Each shuddha swara (i.e., Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni) is traditionally held to have originated in the sound of a different animal, and some have additional meanings of their own. Also, each swara is associated with one of the seven chakras of the body. Just as the swaras ascend through the saptak, so they are mapped onto the chakras in the body in ascending order. Komal notes are associated with the left side of each chakra; the left channel, Ida Nadi, is the side of emotion and intuition. Shuddha and tivra notes are associated with the right side; the right channel, Pingala Nadi, is the side of logic. Ragas, therefore, have more or less of an effect on a given chakra depending on the notes they contain.

Swara

Expansion

Meaning

Animal

Chakra

God

Sa

Shadja (षड्जं)

Sagar (ocean)

peacock

mūlādhāra मूलाधार ([base of spine)

Ganapati

Ri

Rishabha (ऋषभ)

Aparajit

skylark

svādhiṣṭhāna स्वाधिष्ठान (genitals)

Agni

Ga

Gandhara (गान्धारं)

Gagan (sky)

goat

maṇipūra मणिपूर (solar plexus and navel)

Rudra (Shiva)

Ma

Madhyama (मध्यमं)

middle

dove/heron

anāhata अनाहत (heart)

Vishnu

Pa

Panchama (पंचमं)

fifth

cuckoo/nightingale

viśuddha विशुद्ध (throat)

Naarada

Da

Dhaivata (धैवतं)

Dharti (earth)

horse

ājñā आज्ञा (third eye)

Sadasiva

Ni

Nishada (निषादं)

outcast/hunter

elephant

sahasrāra सहस्रार (crown of the head)

Surya (Sun)