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Carnatic Glossary A - listed here are terms beginning with A. If you find a Carnatic term that isn't listed, just send a note.


aadi - a common taaLa, which is catusra jaati tripuTa taaLa. It has 8 beats, with a catusra laghu (beat and 3 finger counts = 4) and then two drutams (beat and wave times 2 = 4). It may be also performed with double the beats per cycle, giving 16 beats.

aaditya - the 12th and last cakra, with melakartas that have M2, R3, and G3, comprising numbers 67-72

aahatam - a gamaka or decoration of a note which takes the form of 2 consecutive notes, such as SR RG GM MP ...

aalaapanai - one of the manOdharma sangeetam forms, same as raaga (2)

aananta - meaning "peace" or "ultimate happiness," this is the word used in singing of taanam

aandOLam - a gamaka or decoration of a note which takes the form of going up and down in sequence, as in SRSG, SRSM, SRSP ...

aarati - a song or ritual performed with a flame and/or turmeric to drive away evil spirits. Aarati songs are usually in mangaLa raagas

aarOha - the ascending scale of a raga (S R G ...), consisting of 4, 5, 6, or 7 notes.

aatta varnam - another name for a pada varnam

aavartana - one cycle through the rhythm or taaLa. For example, in aadi tala, one aavartanam is 8 beats. Two aavartanas are 16, etc.

abhyaasa gaanam - a type of music which is often used in practice or musical exercise. This includes the varisais, geetams, swarajatis, jatiswarams, and also varnams

afternoon raaga - a raaga to be performed in the afternoon, from about 1-4 pm, such as mukhaari or bEgaDa

agni - meaning Fire or the God of Fire, it is the 3rd cakra, with M1, R1, and D3, comprising melakartas 13-18

akaaram - using aaaa... to sing raaga or a musical phrase instead of words or swaras. One may also use vowels like eee, ooo, ayyy, aii, ohhh, etc. Aakaaram is usually indicated by dots, ex: ka...ma...kshee...

akshara - a single note, designating the number of notes per beat. Usually there are 2 notes per beat at normal (1st) speed, but at 2nd speed, there are 4, and at half-speed there may be only 1. Other speeds may use 3 or 5 aksharas per beat. (also swarakshara)

aksharakaala - the amount of time it takes for 1 akshara or one swara to be performed. So pdpmgrs is 7 aksharakaalams

alaarippu - a dance style, which uses solkaTTu swaras - it is a beginning piece, often the first taught to dance students. It allows for expert gestures and intricate footwork coordinated in a strict manner in a fast-paced performance. Typically, the songs have no actual words, only solkaTTus

alankaaram (1) - meaning a beautiful arrangement of swaras, it used to be a term for gamaka in the times of Bharata (from Adukku Ani)

alankaaram (2) - refers to the sapta alankaarams, exercises in some of the 35 taaLas (found here)

alpa nyaasa - a swara that is just touched and not stressed within a raaga or phrase. For example, in saavEri, ri is only touched in some phrases

alpatvam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga

alto - the second highest voice in Western harmony

amsam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of raaga

anaagata - a vishama graham in which the music begins AFTER the start of the taaLa

anga - any of several taaLa movements, such as laghu, drutam, or anudrutam

antara gaandhaaram - the highest of the 3 types of ga, G3. It corresponds to E natural of the Western key of C.

antara maargam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga (see maargam)

antiphony - a system where one person sings and a chorus of voices follows, often used in Indian music (especially with bhajans). Palanquin bearers, tribes of Africa, New Zealand, North America, and Egypt use antiphony

anudrutam - a type of taaLa movement which is a beat of the hand on the thigh. Its symbol is U. Considered a small (anu=small) drutam, it is equivalent to 1/4 maattirai

anu mandra staayi - the octave below the mandra staayi (two octaves below the middle octave). Indicated by 2 dots below the note (or here, beside to the right n..n..)

anupallavi - usually the second section of a song, after the pallavi and before the caraNam, often of 2 lines. After this, the pallavi is repeated. Since anu means small, this is like a small pallavi.

anuswara - a grace note or decoration of a note. The small (anu=small, atom) anuswaras bring out the beauty of a raga.

anya - notes taken from the scale of a different raga from the melakarta of the current raga. example: M1 in saaranga. A raga may have up to three anya swaras and no more. Anya swaras are indicated by an asterisk M*

apanyaasam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of raaga

apoorva taaLa - a taaLa that is not in the suladi sapta taaLa system, which uses the other angas, such as guru jhampa

ardha kampita raaga - a raaga in which only some swaras can have kampita gamaka, ex: kuntala varaaLi, compared to muktaanga kampita raagas

arpuda - a particular rasa or feeling in a song or raaga, for example in saaranga or hindustaani behaag

ashTapadi - literally "eight steps," this is a musical form, a type of sabhaa gaanam, also used in dance. Each has eight stanzas, plus one. The most famous is by JayadEva and usually composed in devotion to Krishna.

aTa - one of the sapta taaLas, which has the form laghu, laghu, drutam, drutam (symbol ||00). With the varying 7 laghus, this gives seven forms. When the laghu number is not specified, it is catusra jaati aTa taaLa, which is laghu(4), laghu(4), drutam(2), drutam(2), for 12 beats

aTa taaLa varnam - a varnam set in aTa taaLa, which usually has a repetitive nature to the phrases before the muktaayi swaras and which has many caraNas

ateeta - see atita

aticritratama maargam - a taaLa path that uses 1 swara or 1/4 maattirai, used in kritis

ati melivu - same as anu mandra staayi

atita - a vishama graham in which the music starts before the beginning of the taaLa. Also ateeta

ati taara staayi - the octave above the taara staayi (two octaves above the middle octave), indicated by 2 dots above the note (or, here, an apostrophe on a capital note PDNS''N)

ati valivu - same as ati taara staayi

audava - meaning 5, this indicates ragas which use only 5 notes instead of 7 in either the ascending or descending scale (or both), leaving out 2 notes. mOhanam is an audava-audava raaga because it uses only S R G P and D going both up and down.

audavam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga, dealing with whether it is an audava raaga in either the ascending or descending scale

avarOha - the descending scale of a raaga (S N D ...), consisting of 4, 5, 6, or 7 notes.

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updated on 03/20/2009