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

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

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.  

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

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

Please visit our Orkut community Forum at for further study.


Session 42- Introduction to Panchanadai/ Thattimettadavu

If you did watch the previous video carefully, you would have observed a few variations in beats while performing the nattadavu. This is referred to as a varaiation in nadai.

Nadai (meaning gait) refers to the rhythmic flow of the composition. Carnatic Music upon which Bharathanatyam is based, recognizes 5 basic nadais( Pancha nadais). Hence this adavu is also referred to as Pancha Nadai.

The Panchanadais their nomenclature, number of beats and sollukattu are as follows:-

  • Chatushram– 4 beats-Tha-ka-dhi-mi
  • Tisram-3beats-ta-ki-ta.
  • Misram(Putting a Chatushram and Tisram together)-7beats(4+3)-Ta-ka-dhi-mi-ta-ki-ta
  • Kantam-5 beats-ta-ka-ta-ki-ta.
  • Sankeernam (putting a chatushram and kantam together)-9 beats-Ta-ka-dhi-mi-ta-ka-ta-ki-ta.

Each nadai has its own flow that can be harnessed to potray a particular mood or feel. These adavus are usually used as a wrap up portion of the end of sahitya (lyrics) portions in the varnam to enhance and emphasize the tempo and rhythmmic content. This is referred to as Thattimetti. (Thaati-means to tap, metti- means to hit the floor with the heel while being rooted on the toes ). During the thattimetti , the dancer uses hand gestures and facial abhinaya to convey the meaning of the lyrics and simultaneously performs the relevant tattimettu (or an intricate combination). This requires a lot of concentartion and dexterity.

Let us look at a tattimetti that occurs in a video featured in You Tube…

Watch this

In this clip the dancer performs a varnam . While for the first 20 seconds she mimes the songs out with gestures, you can see her perform the tattimetti from the 20 second onwards..(till around the 3oth sec or so). You may notice that the thattimetti performed in this particular clipping is set to 4 beat/chatushram.

Observation Exercise…

In this session let us watch a video from the You Tube very carefully..

You see a student perform the adavus packaged slightly differently.

You should be able to identify atleast 3 sets of adavus that you have learnt. Try. You may send in your answers as comments

Can you identify the adavus?

Session 41-Kartari Adavu

Hi students! How are you doing? Have you been practising during the break? I have been having challenges of my own in making an international move from Indonesia to Malaysia. While it would still need time for me to process the pictures and animations I will start off slowly… Please bear with me:)

The kartari (meaning scissors) is a criss sross adavu. Here the hands and the feet trace criss cross patterns in space. This can also be considered to be  aprt of the paidhal adavu, since it involves leaping too!

Sorkattu: Tai-taiyum-tatta (as in paidhal)

Hastas: kartarimukham

Utplavana Bedha used: Kartari(this type of leap is classified as kartari)

Start position: Araimandi, with both hands in kartarimukham facing downwards. Right hand stretched out and the left bent at elbow in front of the chest

Stage 1

Tai: Leap to you left(Fold your right feet so it is now it is not in contact with the floor). Move the right outstretched hand in a V shape,towards the front of your chest . The left hand remains in front of the chest.

Taiyum-tatta: place right feet accross and in front of the left feet.The right hand is now stretched all the way accross to the front towards the left. The right palm now faces the roof (uttanam). Bend at the waist to your right.

Stage 2:

For the next set of tai-taiyum tatta, mirror the above movement to left.

Stage 3:

Tai-Leap backwards slighlty to the left with the left leg (right feet is still kept folded and dosent reach the floor). Move left hand backwards towards the chest. Right hand is now stretched in front. Both hands hold kartarimukhams with palms towards the audience.


taiyum-tatta: place right feet behind the left as in swastikam.Bend backwards slightly towards the left.

Both kartarimukhams are now held facing the audience, the right hand sretched out and the left placed in front of the chest.

Stage 4:

Tai: jump back with the right feet starting to the stretch the left kartarimukham towards the front.

Taiyum tatta: Place left feet behind the right in swastikam.. Both hands hold kartarimukhams (palms) towards the audience  . The right hand is in front of the chest and the left is stretched to the front .