Indian Ragas

Grade Levels: 5 - 9

Explore Indian ragas and learn the differences between an Indian raga and the Western scale.


  • Students will sing the familiar song "America," first in the Western major scale and then in two Indian ragas (bhairavi and purvi) on a neutral syllable, in order to identify differences in whole- and half-step patterns between an Indian raga and the Western scale.
  • Students will learn that ragas have distinctive names and structures.
  • Students will create a short, improvised composition on the jaltarang in raga bhupaii.


  • “Two ragas” (bhoiravi and purvi)
  • The C major scale on a transparency or on the chalkboard
  • The song “America” on a transparency or on the chalkboard – first in a major scale and then in the ragas bhdravi and punn
  • Overhead projector
  • Seven glass soup or cereal bowls, and a pair of chopsticks


  1. This lesson is for upper-elementary or middle school students. Compare several Indian ragas to the Western major scale. Explain that one of the major reasons why melodies in Indian music sound so different to us is that they are developed from ragas, which are an organized series of pitches from which musical compositions are developed. There are hundreds of ragas, and each has a particular name and structure.

  2. “Figure 9” shows several ragas. Have the class sing each one on a neutral syllable such as "ah" or "loo." Then sing the Western major scale on a neutral syllable. What differences do you see and hear?

  3. Write or project transcriptions of "America" as sung in the Western major scale system and the Indian ragas, bhairavi and purvi (see “figure 10”). Have the class sing and compare the sound of each example.

  4. Improvise short compositions in the ragas thoiravi and pumi on the jaitarang.
    1. The jaltarang is an interesting musical instrument consisting of a series of tuned bowls arranged in a semicircle around the performer. The bowls are of different sizes and are tuned precisely to the pitches of various ragas by adding appropriate amounts of water. The instrument is played by striking the inside edge of the bowls with two small wooden sticks, one held in each hand.
    2. Collect seven glass soup or cereal bowls and devise a jaltarang. Tune the various bowls to the pitches in raga purvi by filling them with appropriate amounts of water. Using a pair of chopsticks as mallets, create an improvised piece of music in flexible or free rhythm. Change the pitches of the bowls to raga bhairavi and create another improvised piece of music in flexible or free rhythm. Compare the sounds produced by ragas purvi and bhairavi and the Western scale by creating an improvised composition on the jakarang in the C major scale.

  5. Add to the bulletin board chart those things that you have learned in this lesson: the ragas purvi and bhairavi and the jaltarang.

Standards Correlations

  • Standard 1a

    : Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Excerpted from Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education, created by MENC.

If you need to teach it, we have it covered.

Start your free trial to gain instant access to thousands of expertly curated worksheets, activities, and lessons created by educational publishers and teachers.

Start Your Free Trial

Follow us on:

Follow TeacherVision on Facebook
Follow TeacherVision on Google Plus


Happy Halloween! Students love this fall holiday; take advantage of it! You'll find everything from costume patterns and printable Halloween masks to counting activities and vocabulary lessons.

2016 Presidential Elections
Election season is here! Help your students understand the process of our national elections (held on Tuesday, November 8), from the President down to local representatives, with our election activities. Read short biographies of presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R), explore mock election ideas, create presidential trading cards, learn election vocabulary, play election bingo and more!

October Calendar of Events
October is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum! Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: Black Tuesday (10/29/1929) and Halloween (10/31). Plus, celebrate Bullying Prevention Month, Computer Learning Month, Diversity Awareness Month, Family History Month, Fire Prevention Month, International Dinosaur Month, Learning Disabilities Month, and School Safety Month all October long!