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Indian Classical Music……..Part 4


Now, I guess after a light article on the instruments used in Indian music, everyone now is ready to learn something more about swaras and ragas. Ragas as told before are different permutations and combinations of different swaras which are used in the Indian classical music. As told before in my first article ( there are 7 swaras, namely- Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. Well this concept has to be elaborated further and linked with my 2nd article about that of Achal and vikrit swaras. (  Achal swaras, as told are those swaras which are stable and don’t move from their place (sthaan), whereas vikrit swaras are those swaras which tend to move either up or down from their defined position on the scale. A swara (note) which comes down half a note is known as a ‘komal swara’ which in western music is known as a ‘flat note´. Similarly, a swara which goes a half note (semitone) up from its position is known as a ‘tivra swara’ (pronounced as ‘Tivr’) which in western music is known as a ‘sharp note’. In a single octave, ’Sa and Pa’ are Achal swaras and ‘Re, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni’ are vikrit swaras; further if we go a bit deeper, ‘Re, Ga, Dha and Ni’ have a ‘Komal Swara’ i.e. a ‘flat note’ whereas ‘Ma’ only has a ‘Tivra swara’ (‘sharp note’) and no komal swara. Both the Achal swaras i.e. ‘Sa and Pa’ are also known as the ‘Shudhh Swaras’ (Natural Notes). A dot above the swara denotes the swara of one higher octave and a dot below the swara denotes the swara of the same lower octave. This pattern is followed while writing swaras in Hindi, when writing in English instead of making dots an apostrophe comma is used on the right and left side of the swara to denote a higher and a lower scale respectively. E.g. while writing English, ‘Sa’ of a higher and a lower octave will be written as Sa’, ‘Sa. This was about the higher and lower octave for a note, when writing a komal swara in hindi, the swara is underlined and while writing the tivra swara a small ‘matra’(accent) is placed on the Ma. When in English, instead of the underlining and the accent, case sensitive format is used for denoting the types of swaras. For e.g. while writing ‘Ga’ as a komal swara we write-‘ga’ and the tivra ‘Ma’ is denoted as ‘MA’. Now these notations can be linked to the notations which I have used in my 3rd article while telling you the Aaroh and the Avroh of various ragas. (

Now that I think I have closed all open the ended topics which I started in my previous articles I would like to end this article with one of my favourite topics i.e. of the Taals. A taal is a rhythmic pattern in which the song or a bandish in Indian classical music progresses. A bandish is a song composed in a specific Raga. Each song or bandish has its own taal or a beat. You often find yourself clapping to a song, if you ever notice while clapping; the clap is in a particular rhythmic cycle which is nothing but the taal of that particular song. The most common percussion instruments which are used in Indian classical music for maintaining the taal of a song are tabla, pakhawaj, dholak, etc. etc. on these instruments; a particular set of syllables are played which are known as the ‘bol’. The time cycle of the taal is fixed in a particular set of ‘bols’ which is known as the ‘theka’. It is the signature of the taal and further improvisation can be done in the ‘theka’. A taal is played in a continuous repeating cycle again and again throughout the song and each repeated cycle of the taal is known as an ‘avartan’. Taal can be explained and understood very easily with the help of the following chart

CaptureNow, this is the notation of the most used taal in the Indian classical music i.e. of the ‘Teentaal’. As you all can see, it is taal of 16 beats as numbered in the chart. The taal is divided into 4 equal intervals by the black lines which are known as the ‘vibhag’. The concept of this vibhag can be roughly linked to that of bars in the western music. It is not necessary that the vibhag divides the taal into equal intervals unlike in the concept of bars. Each syllable (for e.g. Dha) is known as the bol, and this whole set is the theka of the taal. When writing this taal in hindi the numbers below the taal are not noted; rather the symbols above the bols are used (X, 2, 0 and 3). The symbol ‘X’ denotes the starting of a taal and is known as the ‘sam’ (pronounced as the English word ‘sum’) of the taal. It marks the beginning of the taal. While showing the taal notations by hand, the first beat of each vibhag is shown either by a clap known as the ‘taali’ or by a sideways waive of the dominant clapping hand known as the ‘khaali’. The symbol ‘0’ represents a khaali and all the other symbols represent a taali. Each taal is ended by showing the ‘sam’ hence the 1st bol ‘Dha’ is used at the end of the taal. Symbols ‘X, 2 and 3’ represent 1st, 2nd and the 3rd taali of the taal respectively.

I guess this was all to know about taal for the time being and as always, please feel free to pass your genuine comments and feedback about this article. You can write if you want an article on any specific concept of Indian classical music preferably Hindustani or the North Indian music.

Thank You.



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