mELakartas -A brief explanation of 72 mELa scheme

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Venkatamakhi’s 72 mELakarta (mELa) scheme:


Naming convention:

s: AdhAra shadjamam

ra: shuddha rishabham

ri: chatushriti rishabham

ru: shatshruti rishabham

ga: shuddha gAndhAram

gi: sAdhAraNa gAndhAram

gu: antara gAndhAram

ma: shuddha madhyamam

mi: prati madhyamam

p: pancamam

da: shuddha dhaivatam

di: chatushruti dhaivatam

du: shatshruti dhaivatam

na: shuddha nishAdham

ni: kaisika nishAdham

nu: kAkali nishAdham

s’: tAra shadjamam



Venkatamakhi’s 72 mElakarta scheme, although criticized by some for contributing to the mechanization of the art form of Carnatic music, in my opinion provides a basis for an outsider to understand the method behind the (dare I say madness) seemingly overwhelming raga system of Carnatic music. Such simplification and rational appeal may have contributed to its popularity and its survival. Particularly, I think it has immense value for enabling music appreciation among “non-believers” of Carnatic music (by non-believers I mean skeptics who are threatened by it because they do not understand it).  However, Ramamatya’s “swaramEla kalAnidhi” written in 15th century is considered to be the precursor to Venkatamaki’s scheme proposed in his 17th century book “caturdanDi prakAshika.”


Before we go into the details, there are some things we need to know about the characteristics of mELakarta rAgas. These are the parent ragas which give rise to numerous ragas when their swaras are combined in unique ways. The mELakartas are known as janaka rAga-s while their descendents are called janya ragas. mELakartas have three characteristics: These ragas are


  1. sampUrNa rAgas: These are whole ragas. That is, these ragas feature all 7 notes in the ArOhana as well as the avarOhana as opposed to having only 6, 5, 4 notes or combinations thereof. For instance, kaLyANi is a mELakarta while abhogi is not,
  2. krama sampUrNa ragas: The seven notes occur in the order they are supposed to occur (the order being s r g m p d n s – s’ n d p m g r s). That is, they should be devoid of vakras. For instance, nAtakuranji has all 7 swaras but they are not in an order like in kaLyANi, and
  3. The swarasthAnas featuring in the ArOhaNam have to feature in the avarOhaNam. For instance, although a sampUrNa rAga, bhairavi has chatushruti diavatam in the ArOhaNam and shuddha daivatam in avarOhaNam.


A raga is divided structurally into pUrvAnga (former part) uttarAnga (latter part). The pUrvAnga consists of the swaras shadjamam, rishabham, gandharam, and madhyamam Whereas the uttarAnga comprises of pancamam, dhaivatam and nishadham.


The basic structure of the mELakarta scheme is that each of the saptaswaras, with the exception of shadjamam and pancamam, has variations. We have 3 variations of r, g, d and n as specified above and 2 variations of m.


In order to understand how we get 72 mELa-s let us consider this: apart from the fixed swaras of shadjama and pancamam, let us fix madhyamam to shuddha madhyamam (ma).

Now we have three swaras: shadjama, shuddha madhyamam and pancamam.

Next we take the six possible combinations of rishabham and gAndhAram. For each rishabha –gAndhAra combination, there are 6 possible ways the dhaivatam and nishAdham can be combined. Thus, we get 6 x 6 = 36 shuddha madhyama mELa-s. Repeat the exercise, this time holding madhyama constant to prathi madhyama (mi) to yield another 36 mELa-s. Putting them together gives us the 72 mELakartas.


 The groups of mELa-s that have the r, g, m combination are called chakras and they are 12 in number. Each chakra in turn has 6 mELa-s in it. The chakras are names intuitively according to the following logic:


Chakra 1: indu (one moon)

Chakra 2: nEtra (two eyes)

Chakra 3: agni (three forms of agni - fire, lightning and sun)

Chakra 4: vEda (caturvEdas)

Chakra 5: bANa (manmatha’s five bAna-s)

Chakra 6: ritu (six seasons)

Chakra 7: rishi (saptarshi-s)

Chakra 8: vasu (ashtavasu)

Chakra 9: brahma (navabrahma)

Chakra 10: disi (ten directions)

Chakra 11: rudra (EkAdasa rudra-s)

Chakra 12: Aditya (dwAdasAditya-s)


72 mELakartas

Suddha Madhyamam Prati Madhyamam
No. rAga Scale No. rAga Scale
1.Indu Chakra 7. rishi Chakra


Listen to SrIgaNanAtham-

Adi- tyAgarAja

s ra ga ma p da na  37 sAlagam

s ra ga mi p da na 

2 ratnAngi s ra ga ma p da ni 38 jalArNavam s ra ga mi p da ni


Listen to gAnamUrtE-

Adi- tyAgarAja

s ra ga ma p da nu  39 jhAlavarALi s ra ga mi p da nu 
4 vanaspati s ra ga ma p di ni 40 navanItam s ra ga mi p di ni
5 mAnavati s ra ga ma p di nu 41 pAvani s ra ga mi p di nu
6 tAnarUpi s ra ga ma p du nu 42 raghupriya s ra ga mi p du nu
2. nEtra Chakra 8. vasu Chakra
7 sEnAvati s ra gi ma p da na 43 gavAmbOdhi s ra gi mi p da na


Listen to rAjuveDale-

rUpakam- tyAgarAja

s ra gi ma p da ni 44 bhavapriya s ra gi mi p da ni


Listen to teliyalEru-

Adi- tyAgarAja

s ra gi ma p da nu 45 shubhapantuvarALi s ra gi mi p da nu
10 nATakapriya s ra gi ma p di ni 46 shaDvidhamArgiNi s ra gi mi p di ni
11 kOkilapriya s ra gi ma p di nu 47 suvarNAngi s ra gi mi p di nu
12 rUpavati s ra gi ma p du nu  48 divyamaNi s ra gi mi p du nu 
3. agni Chakra 9. brahma Chakra
13 gAyakapriya s ra gu ma p da na  49 dhavaLAmbari s ra gu mi p da na 
14 vakuLAbharaNam s ra gu ma p da ni 50 nAmanArAyaNi s ra gu mi p da ni


Listen to dEva dEva-

rUpakam- swAti tirunAL

Listen to the kriti with

short ragam, nerval and

swaram in my concert 

s ra gu ma p da nu 51 kAmavardhini s ra gu mi p da nu


Listen to nAmanavini-

rUpakam- karUr dEvuDayyar

s ra gu ma p di ni

52 rAmapriya s ra gu mi p di ni
17 sUryakAntam s ra gu ma p di nu 53 gamanashrama s ra gu mi p di nu
18 hATakAmbari s ra gu ma p du nu 54 vishwambhari s ra gu mi p du nu
4. vEda Chakra 10. Disi Chakra
19 jhankAradhwani s ri gi ma p da na 55 shyAmalAngi s ri gi mi p da na
20 naTabhairavi s ri gi ma p da ni 56 shaNmukhapriya s ri gi mi p da ni


Listen to ambavANi-

Adi- muttayya bhAgavatAr

s ri gi ma p da nu 57 simhEndramadhyamam s ri gi mi p da nu


Listen to okaparikokapari-

 Adi- annamAcArya

s ri gi ma p di ni 58 hEmavati s ri gi mi p di ni2


Listen to brOva samayamidE-

Adi- karUr dEvuDayyar

s ri gi ma p di nu 59 dharmavati s ri gi mi p di nu
24 varuNapriya s ri gi ma p du nu 60


Listen to mOhanakara-

Adi- kOTIswarayyar

s ri gi mi p du nu
5. bANa Chakra 11. rudra Chakra
25 mAraranjani s ri gu ma p da na 61 kAntAmaNi s ri gu mi p da na


Listen to ADamODigaladE-

Adi- tyAgarAja

s ri gu ma p da ni 62 rishabhapriya s ri gu mi p da ni
27 sarasAngi s ri gu ma p da nu 63 latAngi s ri gu mi p da nu


Listen to unDEdi rAmuDokaDu-

rUpakam- tyAgarAja

s ri gu ma p di ni 64


listen to rAga AlApana

s ri gu mi p di ni


Listen to eduTanilacitE-

Adi- tyAgarAja

s ri gu ma p di nu 65 mEcakaLyANi s ri gu mi p di nu


Listen to sattalEnidinamu-

Adi- tyAgarAja

s ri gu ma p du nu 66 citrAmbhari s ri gu mi p du nu
6. ritu Chakra 12. Aditya Chakra
31 yAgapriya s ru gu ma p da na 67 sucaritra s ru gu mi p da na
32 rAgavardhini s ru gu ma p da ni 68 jyOtiswarUpiNi s ru gu mi p da ni


Listen to a evvarE rAmayyA- Adi


s ru gu ma p da nu 69 dhAtuvardhini s ru gu mi p da nu


Listen to paramAtmudu- Adi

- tyAgarAja

s ru gu ma p di ni 70


Listen to SrI ramA saraswati-

nAsAmaNi- Adi- dIkshitAr

s ru gu mi p di ni
35 shUlini s ru gu ma p di nu 71 kOsalam s ru gu mi p di nu
36 calanATa s ru gu ma p du nu 72 rasikapriya s ru gu mi p du nu

... visit again for kaTapayAdi formula and examples