RĀGMĀLĀ, lit. a rosary of rāgas or musical measures, is the title of a composition of twelve verses, running into sixty lines, appended to the Gurū Granth Sāhib after the Mundāvaṇī, i.e. the epilogue, as a table or index of rāgas.
In the course of the evolution of Indian music, many systems came into effect, prominent among them being the Śaiva Mātā , said to have been imparted by Lord Śiva; who is accepted as the innovator of music; the Kālīnātha Mata, also called the Kṛṣṇa Mata, which has its predominance in Braj and Punjab and is said to have been introduced by Kālīnātha, a revered āchārya of music; the Bharata Mata which has its vogue in Western India and was propounded by Bharata Muni; the Hanūmāna Mata ; the Siddha Sārsut Mata ; and the Rāgāraṇava Mata. A large number of rāgmālās pertaining to these and other systems that developed are, with some variations, traceable in such well-known works on Indian musicology as Gobind Saṅgīt Sār, Qānūṅ Mausīkī, Budh Parkās Darpaṇ, Sangīt Binod and Rāga Dīpakā. With the exception of the Sārsut Mata which subscribes to seven chief rāgas, all other systems acknowledge six chief rāgas, thirty (in some cases thirty-six also) "wives" or ragiṇis and forty-eight "sons" or sub-rāgas; each rāga having eight "sons." Thus each system includes eighty-four measures which itself is a mystic number in the Indian tradition, symbolizing such entities as the 84 siddhas or the 84,00,000 yonīs or species of life. Though the details concerning the names of "wives" and "sons" differ in each ragmālā, the chief systems, broadly speaking, have only two sets; one including Sirī, Basant, Bhairav, Pañcham, Megh and Naṭ Nārāyaṇ, as in the Śaiva and Kālīnātha systems; and the other including Bhairav, Mālkauṅs, Hiṇḍol, Dīpak, Sirī and Megh as in Bharata and Hanūmāna systems. In some systems, the rāgas have, besides "wives" and "sons", daughters"and "daughters-in-law" as well. The chief rāgas are śuddha, i.e. complete and perfect, while the “wives" and "sons" are i.e. mixed, incomplete and adulterated. Each of the six principal rāgas relates itself by its nature to a corresponding season.
The rāgmālā appended to the Gurū Granth Sāhib is not much different from the others, and, by itself, does not set up a new system. This rāgmālā is nearest to the Hanūmāna Mata, but the arrangement of rāg as in the Gurū Granth Sāhib is nearer to the Śaiva Mata and the Kālīnātha Mata which give primacy to Sirī Rāga. The only system wherein occur all the rāgas and rāgiṇīs employed in the Gurū Granth Sāhib is Bharata Mata. In the Gurū Granth Sāhib no distinction has been made between rāgas and rāgiṇis and all the measures employed have been given the status of rāgas, each one of them recognized in its own right and not as "wife" or "son" to another rāga. In practice over a long stretch of time, gurmat saṅgīt, i.e. Sikh music, has evolved its own style and conventions which make it a system distinct from other Indian systems.
There being no indication to this effect in the caption, the authorship of Rāgmālā has been the subject of controversy; more so the point whether it should form part of the recitation of the Holy Text in its entirety. The composition is not integral to the theme of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, and it has little musicological or instructional significance. Yet it is entered in the original volume of the Holy Book prepared by Gurū Arjan and preserved to this day in descendant family at Kartārpur. By consensus, Rāgmālā is taken to be part of the Sacred Text and with rare exceptions, notably at Srī Akāl Takht, it is included in all full-scale recitations of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The Rahit Maryādā, manual of Sikh practices, issued under the authority of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar, recommends that the reading of the Holy Book be concluded with Mundāvaṇī or Rāgmālā, depending upon local practice, but in no case should the Holy Volume be calligraphed or printed excluding this text.