Carnatic Music and Meaning

We initiated exploring what music is and now lets continue to understand some of the basic terms in Music and their meaning.

Dwadasa Swara Sthanas:

As discussed here ,sa,re,ga,ma,pa,da,ni are called Saptaswaras.These swaras excluding sa and pa (shadjamam and panchamam) in turn have 2 more swaras each as detailed in Shruthi.


Singing or playing swaras in an ascending order with any swara as reference is called Aarohana.

Example : sa,re,ga,ma


Singing or playing swaras in descending order with any swara as reference is called Avarohana.

Example : Sa,ni,da,pa


Tone of swara is Sthayi,divided as below:
  1. Madrasthayi 
  2. Madhyasthayi
  3. tharasthayi
  4. anumandrasthayi
  5. athitharasthayi

When number of beats in a particular tala is followed from start to end in one cycle,it is said one aavarthamu is completed.

Example : tisra jathi triputa talam
 Laghuvu-1 drutam-1 drutsm-1
  s  r   g      |       s   r     |       g   m  ||


Swara aavarthamu in a Raga is called Dhathuvu .

Example m p | d S S R ||          (sri gananadha geetham)


Sahithya of above music is called Mathuvu.

Example : Sri gananadha

Prathama,dwithiya,tritiya Kalam (first,second,third speeds) :

    1. Prathama kalam(first speed)  : Singing one swara for one beat ,ex: sa
    2. Dwitiya kalam(second speed) : Singing two swaras for one beat , ex: sa re
    3. thritiya kalam(third speed)     : Singing four swaras for one beat , ex: sa re ga ma

Tala shows the rhythm or pace of Musical writings.

Ta - Tandavam (Lord Siva)
La - Lasyam       (Power)


Divisions of Tala is Talangamu
Talangamu also represents the gap between letters or swaras.They are-

  1. Anudrutham - represented as U ( 1 beat )
  2. Drutham - represented as o ( 2 beats )
  3. Laghuvu - represented as I ( 4 beats for chatusrajathi laghuvu)
Sapta Tala:

Druva Tala IOII
Matya Tala IOI
Rupaka Tala OI
Jhampa Tala IUO
Triputa Tala IOO
Ata Tala IIOO
Eka Tala I

Pancha Jathi:

'Jathi' is represented by number of 'letters of laghuvu'.
  1. Chathusra jathi - I4
  2. Tisra jathi - I3
  3. Misra jathi - I7
  4. Khanda jathi - I5
  5. Sankeerna jathi - I9

What is Music

We often hear that Raga,Tala,Swara are important in 'Music'.But What exactly is Raga? Tala? Swara?Does the meaning change from one form of music to another? Oh, and What is Music?


"Geetham vadhyamcha nruthyamcha trayam sangeetha muchyathe"

Song,Rhythm,Expression(through dance also) when combines ,is called Music(Sangeetham).


"RaagaSwarascha Talascha Thribhi Sangeetha muchyathe"

Raga,Swara,Tala together is called Music(Sangeetham)

Sruthi :

"Sruyantha ithi sruthayah"

Sthaayi or tone or notes (without highs-lows) that are soothing to ear is called Sruthi.

Example : sa - Pa - Sa   ( where sa represent lower shadjamam and 'Sa' ,higher)


"Swathoramjayati srothu chitham suswara vuchyathe"

And this is beauty --> Swa              - ram
                                        swayamuga  ranjimpachesedi is Swaram .

musical note
Musical note

7 swaras which are sa,re,ga,ma,pa,da,ni are called Sapthaswara.Each Swara has a name as discussed HERE

This isn't everything.There are some more carnatic music terms which explain the actual meaning of 'Music'.We will explore more in the next post. :)