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A thaat (IAST: thāt; Hindi: ठाट; Marathi: थाट; Bengali: ঠাট; Urdu: ٹھاٹھ‎;) is a mode in north Indian or Hindustani music.[1] Thaats always have seven different pitches (called swara) and are a basis for the organisation and classification of ragas in classical music.


The modern thaat system was created by Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860–1936), an influential musicologist in the field of classical music in the early decades of the twentieth century.[2][3] Bhatkhande modelled his system after the Carnatic melakarta classification, devised around 1640 A.D. by the musicologist Venkatamakhin. Bhatkhande visited many of the gharanas (schools) of classical music, conducting a detailed analysis of ragas. His research led him to a system of thirty-two thaats, each named after a prominent raga associated with it. Out of those thirty-two thaats, more than a dozen thaats were popular during his time; however, he chose to highlight only ten such thaats.

According to Bhatkhande, each one of the several traditional ragas is based on, or is a variation of, ten basic thaats, or musical scales or frameworks. The ten thaats are Bilawal, Kalyan, Khamaj, Bhairav, Poorvi, Marwa, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairavi and Todi; if one were to pick a raga at random, in theory it should be possible to classify it into one of these thaats. For instance, the ragas Shree and Puriya Dhanashree are based on the Poorvi thaats, Malkauns on the Bhairavi thaat, and Darbari Kanada on the Asavari thaat. Bhatkande's thaats-raga theory is not very accurate and there are quite a few ragas that don't fit into any thaat, but it is nevertheless an important classification device with which to order, and make sense of, a bewildering array of ragas. It is also a useful tool in the dissemination of the music to students.[citation needed]


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In Indian musical system, swara is a Sanskrit word that means a tone of music. The seven basic swaras of the scale are named shadja, rishabh, gandhar, madhyam, pancham, dhaivat and nishad, and are abbreviated 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. The tone Sa is not associated with any particular pitch. As in Western moveable solfège, Sa refers to the tonic of a piece or scale rather than to any particular pitch.

In Bhatkhande's system, the basic mode of reference is that which is equivalent to the Western Ionian mode or major scale (called Bilawal thaat in Hindustani music, Dheerasankarabharanam in Carnatic). The flattening or sharpening of pitches always occurs with reference to the interval pattern in Bilawal thaat. Each thaat contains a different combination of altered (vikrt) and natural (shuddha) notes with respect to the Bilawal thaat. In any seven-tone mode (starting with S), R, G, D, and N can be natural (shuddha, lit. "pure") or flat (komal, lit. "soft") but never sharp, whereas the M can be natural or sharp (tivra, lit. "fast") but never flat, making twelve notes as in the Western chromatic scale. The sharp or flat tones are called vikrt swara (vikrt, lit. "altered"). Selecting seven tones in ascending order, where S and P are always natural whereas five other tones (R, G, M, D, N) can assume only one of its two possible forms, results in 32 possible modes which are known as thaats. Out of these thirty-two possibilities, Bhatkhande chose to highlight only ten thaats prominent in his days.

In effect only heptatonic diatonic scales are called thaats.[4] Bhatkhande applied the term thaats only to scales that fulfil the following rules:

  • A thaat must have seven tones out of the twelve tones [seven natural, four flat (Re, Ga, Dha, Ni), one sharp (Ma)]
  • The tones must be in ascending sequence: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni
  • Whether natural or altered — both versions of a single tone are not allowed
  • A thaat, unlike a raga, does not have separate ascending and descending lines
  • A thaat has no emotional quality (which ragas, by definition, do have)
  • Thaats are not sung but the ragas produced from the thaats are sung

Many thaats correspond to one or other of the European church modes. Bhatkhande named his thaats after the prominent ragas associated with those thaats. They are listed here according to their pitches. Lower-frequency pitches are represented with lowercase letters and higher-frequency pitches with uppercase letters.

One can arbitrarily designate any pitch as Sa (the tonic) and build the series from there. While all thaats contain seven notes, many ragas (of the audav and shadav type) contain fewer than seven and some use more. A raga need not to use every tone in a given thaat; the assignment is made according to whatever notes the raga does contain (but see note 5). The relatively small number of thaats reflects Bhatkhande's compromise between accuracy and efficiency: the degree of fit between a raga and its thaat is balanced with the desire to keep the number of basic thaats small. Ambiguities inevitably arise. For example, Raga Hindol, assigned to Kalyan thaat, uses the notes S G M D N, which are also found in Marwa thaat. Jaijaiwanti contains both shuddha Ni and komal Ni (and sometimes both versions of Ga as well), which by definition corresponds to no thaat. Bhatkande resolved such cases "by an ad hoc consideration, appealing to musical performance practice" (see Ramesh Gangolli's article, cited in note 4 above).[5]

Basic thaats[edit]

The 10 basic thaats, according to the Bhatkhande system, are as follows:


Bilawal is the most basic of all the ten thaats. All the swars in the thaat are shuddha or all swars in the natural scale. Bilawal as a raag is not rendered these days however a small variation of the raag called Alhaiya Bilaval is very common. This is a morning raag and its pictorial descriptions create a rich, sensuous ambience in consonance with its performance.

Raags in Bilawal Thaat : Deshkar, Hamsadhwani, Bihag, etc.


The next thaat is Khamaj which can be obtained by replacing the Shuddha Nishad of Bilawal by Komal Nishad. The raags of this thaat are full of Shringar Ras (romantic) hence this raag is mostly rendered in the form of light classical thumris, tappas, horis, kajris etc. Its pictorial descriptions in the existing texts are sensuous and even today, the raag Khamaj is considered to be a 'flirtatious' raag. There is a theory which assumes that in the past, Khamaj scale found its way in Ch'in music of the late medieval China.

Raags in Khamaj Thaat : Rageshree, Jhinjhoti, Des, Mishr Khamaj, Tilang, Tilak Kamod, Jaijaiwanti, Khambavati, Kalavati etc.


Kafi thaat makes use of the Komal Gandhar and Komal Nishad. So basically it adds Komal Gandhar to the Khamaj Thaat. raag Kafi is one of the oldest raags and its intervals are described as basic scale of the Natyashastra. Thus in ancient and medieval times, Kafi was considered as natural scale. Kafi is a late evening raag and said to convey the mood of spring time.

Raags in Kafi Thaat : Dhanashree, Dhani, Bahar, Bhimpalasi, Pilu, Megh Malhar, Bageshree, etc.


Add Komal Dhaivat to Kafi thaat and you get Asavari thaat. Raag Asavari is full of tyag, the mood of renunciation and sacrifice as well as pathos. It is best suited for late morning. However important evening/night raags like Darbari and Adana also use notes of Asavari thaat with different styles, stress points and ornamentations.

Raags in Asavari Thaat : Asavari, Desi, Darbari, Adana, Jaunpuri, etc.


Bhairavi makes use of all the komal swars, Rishabh, Gandhar, Dhaivat, Nishad. When singing compositions in Bhairavi raag, the singers however take liberty to use all the 12 swars. Bhairavi raag is named after the shakti or feminine aspect of the cosmic life force, which is personified as a consort to Lord Shiva. Bhairavi is a powerful raag filled with devotion and compassion. Bhairavi is actually performed early in the morning in a peaceful, serious and occasionally sad mood. Traditionally it is rendered as the last item of a program, for its unique fullness of sentiments as well as its wide scope of the tonal combinations. Pictorially, Bhairavi is represented in female form, as the wife of Bhairav.

Raags in Bhairavi Thaat : Malkauns, Bilaskhani Todi, Bhupali Todi, Kaunsi Kanada, etc.


Bhairav thaat raags make use of Komal Rishabh and Komal Dhaivat. Bhairav is one of the names of Lord Shiva especially in his powerful form as a naked ascetic with matted locks and body smeared with ashes. The raag too has some of these masculine and scetic attributes in its form and compositions. The raag itself is extremely vast and allows a huge number of note combinations and a great range of emotional qualities from valor to peace. There are many variations on raag Bhairav including (but not restricted to) Ahir Bhairav, Alam Bhairav, Anand Bhairav, Bairagi Bhairav, Beehad Bhairav, Bhavmat Bhairav, Devata Bhairav, Gauri Bhairav, Nat Bhairav, Shivmat Bhairav. This raag is usually performed in a devotional mood in the early morning hours. The vibrations of the notes in Bhairav is said to clear one's whole mind. The pictorial depictions of raag Bhairav in the ancient texts are austere as well as awe-inspiring.[according to whom?]

Raags in Bhairav Thaat : Ramkali, Gunkali, Jogiya, Basant Mukhari, Bhairav, etc.


Kalyan thaat consists of an important group of evening raags. Characterized by the teevra Madhyam, this thaat literally means good luck. It is considered to be a blessing-seeking and soothing raag. As a result, it is performed in the evening at the beginning of a concert. This raag creates a feeling of the unfolding of an evening. This thaat is huge and consists of many variations on the basic kalyan thaat including raags (but not restricted to) like Shuddha Kalyan, Shyam Kalyan, Yaman Kalyan, Anandi Kalyan, Khem Kalyan (Haunsdhwani + Yaman), Savani Kalyan etc.

Raags in Kalyan Thaat : Yaman, Bhupali, Hindol, Kedar, Kamod, etc.


Marwa thaat is obtained by adding a komal Rishabh to Kalyan thaat. The mood of the Marwa family raags is strongly and easily recognizable. The Shadja remains in the form of a shadow till the very end, where it almost comes as a surprise. Komal Rishabh and shuddha Dhaivat are very important. The overall mood of this raag is of sunset where the night approaches much faster than in northern latitudes. The onrushing darkness awakens in many observers, a feeling of anxiety and solemn expectation.

Raags in Marwa Thaat : Marwa, Puriya, Bhatiyar, Bibhas, Sohini, etc.


Poorvi thaat adds a komal Dhaivat to Marwa thaat. These thaat raags usually feature komal Rishabh, shuddha Gandhar and Shuddha Nishad along with teevra Madhyam, the note which distinguishes evening from the morning raags (dawn and sunset). The thaat raag Poorvi is deeply serious, quiet and mysterious in character and is performed at the time of sunset. Pictorial depictions in early texts, often mention the poise, grace and charm of Poorvi.

Raags in Poorvi Thaat : Puriya Dhanashree, Gauri, Shree, Paraj, Basant, etc.


Todi has komal Rishab, Gandhar, and Dhaivat, as well as teevra Madhyam. Raag Todi represents the mood of delighted adoration with a gentle, loving sentiment and its traditionally performed in the late morning.

Raags in Todi Thaat : Miyan Ki Todi, Gujari Todi, Madhuvanti, Multani, etc.

Time of performance[edit]

Ragas are normally ascribed to certain periods of the day and night (See Samay). Narada's Sangita-Makaranda, written sometime between 7th and 11th century, gives warnings to musicians against playing ragas at the incorrect time of day. Traditionally, disastrous consequences are to be expected.[6][page needed] Bhatkhande claimed that the correct time to play a raga had a relation to its thaat (and to its vadi).


  1. ^ Benward and Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I, p.39. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  2. ^ Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1909–1932). Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati. Sangeet Karyalaya (1990 reprint). ISBN 81-85057-35-4.  This is the four-volume work in which Bhatkhande, after thorough analysis, makes the case for the ten thaats. Originally written in Marathi, it has been widely translated.
  3. ^ Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1974). A Short Historical Survey of the Music of Upper India. Indian Musicological Society. 
  4. ^ Jairazbhoy 1995.
  5. ^ Ramesh Gangolli (1992-12-23). "Chatura Pandit : V.N.Bhatkhande". Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  6. ^ Kaufmann 1968.


  • Jairazbhoy, N.A. (1995). The Rags of North Indian Music: Their Structure and Evolution. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. 
  • Kaufmann, Walter (1968). The Ragas of North India. Calcutta, New Delhi, Bombay: Oxford and IBH Publishing Company.