by David Courtney working tools

Ragmala Painting of Durga
Ragmala Painting of Durga


Durga is a very popular late evening rag.  However there is sometimes confusion.  The confusion stems from the fact that an unrelated rag known as Madhuradhwani is also sometimes called Durga.  In this page we will only be concerning ourself with the common form, and leave any discussion of Madhuradhwani for another time.

The name Durga is derived from the name of the goddess Amba or Parvati.  She is the wife of Shiva, and is associated with great power.  She is also referred to as "Ma Durga" or "Durga Mata", which means "Mother Durga".  She is said to represent patience and fearlessness.

The origin of rag Durga is obscure.  It has been suggested that this rag is derived from the south Indian Shuddha Saveri.  This is certainly possible, for it is very common for North Indians to "borrow" rags from the South.  But in such cases, they usually retain their south Indian names (e.g., Charukesi, Kalavati).  Why would Durga acquire a new name?

We must be open to the possibility that this scale may simply be a basic part of the larger South Asian musical culture.  It could have been circulating for a long time, and when I mean long time, I mean millennia.  As such, it is possible that it was only recently formalised by North Indian classical musicians.  The close relationship that Durga has to other pentatonic rags (e.g., Malkauns, Bhupali), coupled with the almost world-wide presence of these scales, certainly means that it is a possibility.  The structure is so simple, and the harmonic relationship is so fundamental, that scales with these intervals show up internationally, apparently with independent origins.

Rag Durga is based upon Bilaval that.  From this that, the Ga and Ni are omitted, therefore this is an audav rag.

Identification of this rag in lighter songs is sometimes difficult.  This is because Durga is linked to other common rags such as Malkauns and Bhupali by a process known as murchchana.  Although this is not the time to go into the details of murchchanana, let it suffice to say that if you take Durga and start the scale from Ma you get Bhupali.  Furthermore, if you take Durga and start the scale from Dha, you get Malkauns.  The best way to keep these rags separate is with a good clear drone; this may be provided by the tanpura or a similar source.  Since such drones tend to be missing in the lighter forms of music, the distinction between these rags is occasionally obscured.  One well known film song in Durga is "Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne".

It is fairly easy to perform and compose in rag Durga, because it does not share its modality with any other north Indian rag.  Unlike the Bhupali/ Deshakar mode which is very cramped and crowded, you do not have to worry too much about Durga spilling over into a different rag.  That being said, there are some common phrases and a pakad which makes Durga's the character more identifiable.

Here is the basic form of Durga:


Ascending structure for Durga
(general discussion of arohana) - (general discussion of notation)


Descending structure of Durga
(general discussion of avarohana)


Audav - (general discussion of jati)


Late Night - (general discussion of time and rag)


Bilawal that - (general discussion of that)


pakad for Durga
(general discussion of pakad)


Sa - Pa - (general discussion of drone)

For more information check out "Elementary North Indian Vocal"



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For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at david@chandrakantha.com