Session 43- An introduction to Thalam

While we are learning the Panchanadai, it will do good to understand the Thalam in Carnatic Music. Bharathanatyam is traditionally set to Carnatic Music, and an understnading of the system will go a long way in ensuring a wholesome learning of the art form.

Here is an intoduction to Thalam as written by Mannarkoil. J. Balaji at http://www.angelfire.com/mb/mridhangam/

Tala in Indian Carnatic Music is a time measure or rhythm cycle. As heart beat is to life for a man, Tala lends life for whole of a concert. It is said “Sruthi Mata Laya Pitha” which means, the drone emanated from the Tambura is Mother to the music and the Tala is like father. The tala or time in Carnatic Music is a series of counts made by wave of hand or tap of the hand on the lap or by using both the hands in a manner of clap.

There are seven basic talas in Carnatic Music: Suladi Sapta Talas. The Seven Talas form the major oft used rhythms in Carnatic Music. Though there are many tala systems in Carnatic Music, the Suladi Sapta Talas are the most famous since the time of Purandaradasa (1484-1564) and most of the Compositions currently sung are part of the Suladi Sapta Talas

To get an indepth understanding into the Suladi Sapta Thala Structure and its relationship to the Jathis let us look at this write up at http://www.saigan.com/heritage/music/tala1.htm

Each and every talam has a structure, that is governed by the rules pertaining to it. For example, if we take the most common tala – Chatusra Jaathi Triputa Talam (Adi Talam), we can describe the process of the tala thus :  
1 beat of the palm of the hand on the thigh,  
followed by counting three fingers, then beating the palm and turning it over, then beating the palm and turning it over  
If we count a number each for every beat, fingercount or turn of the palm – the number comes to eight. So the tala has eight units. The units are called Aksharams and the Adi talam has 8 aksharams.  

The first part of the tala which consists of the beating of the palm & counting is called Laghu. Here the number of units is 4 (Chatusram) and the laghu is Chatusra laghu. The Jaathi of the laghu determines the jaathi of the tala so the tala is Chatusrajaathi Adi Tala.  

The next process of beat and turning the palm is called Drtham. It is done twice, so the tala has 2 drthams. Thus Chatusra Jaathi Triputa Talam(Adi) has one Chatusra Laghu and two drthams. The symbol for laghu is 1 and the number written beneath it represents the jaathi and the symbol for drtham is 0 and hence, this thalam will be represented thus  

1 4 0 0

Thus, from the above, we understand that a tala has laghu, drtham and these are called Angams (parts) of the tala. In some cases, there may be half of drtham, i.e., just the beat of the palm without turning it and is called Anudrtham. 

There are seven basic talas in Carnatic Music: Suladi Sapta Talas The Seven Talas form the major oft used rhythms in Carnatic Music. Though there are many tala systems in Carnatic Music, the Suladi Sapta Talas are the most famous since the time of Purandaradasa (1484-1564) and most of the Compositions currently sung are part of the Suladi Sapta Talas.

There are seven basic thalas/Suladi Sapta Thalas :  
1. Dhruva talam – 1-Laghu,1-Dhruta,2-Laghus

2. Matya Talam –  1-Laghu,1-Dhruta,1-Laghu

3. Rupaka Talam-  1-Dhruta,1-Laghu 

4. Jampa Talam -1-Laghu,1-Anu Dhruta,1-Dhruta

5. Triputa Talam-1-Laghu,2-Dhrutas 

6. Ata Talam -2-Laghus,2-Dhrutas 

7. Eka Talam -1-Laghu 

Now lets see how the jathis come into interact:-

In a tala, the drtham has two units and anudrtham (if it is part of a talam) has 1 unit and this is a constant. But the units of the laghu vary according to the jaathi.  
 

Jaathi  
1. Thisra Jaathi  
2. Chatusra Jaathi  
3. Kanta Jaathi  
4. Misra Jaathi  
5. Sankeerna Jaathi
  Aksharams  
3  
4  
5  
7  
9

So, depending upon the jaathi, the units of the laghu varies. And the jaathi of the talam is determined by the jaathi of the laghu. Also, depending upon the jaathi of the laghu, the aksharams of the tala vary. For instance, the Triputa talam has the following angams – one laghu and two drthams and symbolically 1 0 0. Now, if the Triputa is Thisra Triputa, the laghu will have three aksharams  
 

1 (3) 0 0

and the thala will have seven aksharams. If the talam is Kanda Triputa, the laghu will have 5 aksharams and the tala will have 9 aksharams 
 

1 (5) 0 0

  
Thus the 7 talams in combination with the 5 jaathis gives 35 talas in Carnatic music. Among these, the Chatusra Jaathi Triputa (Adi), Rupakam, Kanda Chapu, Misra Chapu are the most widely used talam. All the 7 talas in one of the jaathi is taught in the preliminary vocal exercise of “Alankaram”. These talas are called desi talas

 

 Further Reading to enhance comprehension http://www.carnaticindia.com/taala.html

Please visit our Orkut community Forum at http://www.orkut.com/CommMsgs.aspx?cmm=44961401&tid=5201146614654177109 for further study.

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7 Responses

  1. hi,
    have a nice day,
    this is my first time i visit your blog,
    it looks nice and informative,
    you’re welcome to my blog at

    http://khaizee.com

    [Listen Mp3 & Download Lyrics]
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  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  3. Hello! Could i ask 2 questions –

    You wrote

    If the talam is Kanda Triputa, the laghu will have 5 aksharams and the tala will have 9 aksharams

    1 (5) 0 0

    It is mistake or my missundersatanding? Here it is written – the laghu will have 5 aksharams and the tala will have NINE akshramas… Nine or FIVE?

    Answer: The laghu (that is the tap and counting part of tha talam) will have 5 aksharas, namely one beat and count of four from the little finger to the index finger. This will be completed with 2 drutams (tap and trun) , which make up 4 aksharas. So Totally the tala will have 5+4 =9 aksharas. In principle one may see that the talas gait is changed by the jati.

    And 2 question is – could you please continue this sentence (it is at the end of your this lesson –

    All the 7 talas in one of the jaathi is taught in the….

    please continue – very intresting.

    Thank you very much!
    All the best!

    Am correcting that.. Thanks for pointing that out!

  4. Thanks for reply! Now i think i am getting something, but… What about this?… You wrote –

    Now, if the Triputa is Thisra Triputa, the laghu will have three aksharams

    1 (3) 0 0

    and the thala will have three aksharams.

    Question – why tala will have just 3 aksharams?.. It has 3 beats of palms (triputa jathi)+2 laghu = 3+4=7?

    Waiting for reply =)

    Excellent Narthaki
    Now, if the Triputa is Thisra Triputa, the laghu will have three aksharams and the thalam itself 7 aksharams.. you are right. That was written by another author as mentioned in the site, but I should have reread it!!! Sorry for the mistake.
    But you know what hadnt this mistake been there I would have had this feedback of how well you understood:) Well I am so happy for you and for me:)
    Regards,
    Sangeetha
    Regards,
    Sangeetha

  5. Dear Sangeetha,

    I am so happy, it is 100% true that without this mistake i would not understand the topic =)

    So thank you very much that you dint reread this article =)

    Best wishes!

  6. i like this site very much. I want a explaniation of each thalam audio. Please help me. I am a classical dance learner. I want to learn thalam. I love to learn thalam. Please help me.

  7. Hi,
    i like this site.i want to know the meaning and usage of these “Chaapu Tala (also spelled as Chapu Tala) ,Ghathi, and Yathi” please give me the information.

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