The phenomenon of coherent Raman beats observed recently by Shoemaker and Brewer is analyzed through solutions of the coupled Maxwell-Schrödinger equations. The effect arises in coherently prepared molecular samples where the level degeneracy is suddenly removed by Stark-pulse switching. The problem divides into two parts: (a) a steady-state preparative regime whereby the initially degenerate quantum levels are placed in superposition by a resonant laser field, and (b) a transient regime in which coherent forward Raman scattering decays in the presence of the same laser field during a nonresonant condition. The laser and Raman light thus propagate together and produce at a detector a coherent beat with a frequency that corresponds to the level splitting between initial and final states. The beat signal possesses the remarkable property of being entirely independent of longitudinal molecular velocity in the case of a plane-wave laser beam and of being almost so for milliradian divergence. It follows that relaxation involving velocity-changing collisions and that Doppler dephasing effects are absent in coherent Raman beats, in agreement with experimental measurements of the decay rate. The effect of off-resonance excitation on the dephasing time and on the period of the beat signal is also discussed, and the possibility of a small rotation of the plane of polarization of the scattered light is included. The subject presents a new aspect of Raman scattering which can now yield precise radio-frequency splittings directly and offers a selective way of examining relaxation phenomena. © 1973 The American Physical Society.