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Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam dancer. Happily married to Dileep Kannan. Daughter of Mr. E.M Haridas & Mrs. Girija Haridas. Daughter-in-law of Dr. K. P Kannan & Mrs. Shobhana Kannan

March 11, 2013

THE CONCEPT OF THALAM




Thalam or Taal literally means a clap. It is the term used in Indian classical music and dance to define the rhythmic pattern followed by any composition. It is a known fact that to be a dancer or to even dance,one needs determination as well as energy. The foremost forms of dance are known to be Tandav and Lasya. Some say the word Thalam is a portmanteau of Tandav & Lasya. Thalam is the foundation for music and dance. Shruthi ( pitch of music) is believed to be the mother and Thalam ,the father as Thalam controls music.  Hence if, both the pitch and rhythm is not synchronized properly, one will not obtain any pleasure visually or euphoniously. Dancing, Singing and Instruments together form Music. Sarangadeva quotes in his wellknown book “ Sangeetha Ratnakara”:-

Geetham Vaadhyam Thathaa Nritham
Thrayam Sangeetha Muchyathe

Thalam is divided into ten parts. These are synonymised to Dasaprana (vital constituents)in the human body. The 5 main components or  Mahapranas ; Prana, Apana, Samana,Udana and Vyana is equalised to Kala,Marga, Kriya, Anga and Graha in Thalam. The 5 minor components or the Upapranas; Nagan, Koorman, Krikaran, Devadattan and Dhananjayan are equalised to Jathi, Kala, Laya, Yati and Prasthara.

Below I am giving a small description of the Dasapranas of the human body.
  •  Prana - vital energy; inherent vital force pervading every dimension of matter
  •  Apana - sub-prana, which is located in the lower abdominal region, responsible for elimination and reproduction
  • Samana - one of the five sub-pranas; situated between the navel and diaphragm
  • Udana - one of the five sub-pranas; energy located in the extremities of the body arms,legs and head
  •  Vyana - one of the sub-pranas; reserve of pranic energy pervading the whole body
The five Upa-Pranas regulate important functions in the human body

  • NAGA - Burping
  • KURMA - Blinking
  • DEVADATTA - Yawning
  • KRIKALA - Sneezing
  •  DHANANJAYA - Opening and Closing of Heart Valves

Now I shall give the Components of Thalam i.e. the time measure of a composition. Before that there are certain terminologies which will be seen often in the post below.They are:

  • Avartana (cycle) of a Thalam
  • An Anga ( the part/section of a Thalam)
  • Matra (the external unit of an Anga)
  • Aksharakalas (the internal unit of a Matra)
(Shall illustrate this concept when explaining the various types of Thalam)

Components of Thalams:-

1)  Kaalam - The duration of each Matra, Anga and Avartana of a composition is called Kala. A composition is executed in different speeds. 

  • First speed is Vilamba Kaalam
  • Second Speed is Madhaya Kaalam 
  • Third speed is Dhuritha Kaalam.

2)  Margam – Margam means path. It determines the number of Aksharakaalas or  units in each MatraA Matra usually consists of four Aksharakaslas, unless specified.


3) KriyaThe method how a Thalam is demonstrated. Eg Beating the hand or using fingers while putting a Thalam. The literal meaning of Kriya is gesture or action.

4)  AngaA part or section of Thalam is called a Anga.  They are of 6 types hence are called Shadangas. Shad in Sanskrit means 6. They are:-

Table No:1

Name of Anga
Symbol
Duration
Matra
Kriya
1
Anudrutha
U
1
¼
One beat
2
Drutha
0
2
½
One beat and a wave
3
Laghu
I
4
1
One beat followed by 3 finger count
4
Guru
8
8
2
One beat followed ,the 3 finger count and bring hand down
5
Plutham
)
12
3
Beat, 3 finger count, wave hand towards left & then right
6
Kakapadam
+
16
4
Wave had to left, then right , lift hand up and take it down
(Henceforth to represent the respective Angas , I shall be using the symbols in the table above)

5)      Graha The starting of the song in a Thalam is called Graha. It is not always necessary the song starts at the beginning of a Thalam. It can start in between the Thalam . Graha is divided into 2:-

      a)      SamaWhen the song and Thalam begins together
      b)     Vishama– When song and Thalam does not start together.This itself is divided into two:-
           i)        AtheethaWhen song begins before the Thalam starts
           ii)       Anagatha When song begins after the Thalam starts


According to the modern system in Carnatic music, the terms Kalidam, Arayidam, Mukalidam comes under Anagatha. Let us assume that we have the Aksharakalas in a Matra as 4. It shall be denoted as Tha ka di mi.


Table No:2
Kalidam
Leaving one beat and starting from 2nd beat.
Kal means ¼. Tha will be silent Starts from ka
Arayidam
Leaving 2 beats and starting from 3rd beat.
Ara means ½. Tha ka will be silent.Starts from dhi
Mukalidam
Leaving 3 beats and starting from the 4th beat.
Mukal means ¾. Tha ka dhi wil be silent. Starts from mi

Songs with Atheetha is rather rare.  On the contrary, songs with Anagatha is found in plenty.
Till now, we dealt with the Mahapranas of Thalam. Next we shall talk about the Upapranas of Thalam.

6)   Jathi – Division of Laghu (read above) is called Jathi. These are divided into 5. These are very commonly seen in South Indian classical dance forms. In fact, the Adavus are set to music according to these Jathis. They are called Panchajathis. Pancha means 5 in Sanskrit.
Table No:3
Name
Aksharakaala
Cholu/Mnemonic Syllable
Kriya /Representation
Thisram
3
Tha Ki Ta
One beat and 2 fingers counts
Chathurasram
4
Tha Ka Dhi Mi
One and 3 finger counts
Khandam
5
Tha Ka Tha Ki Ta
One beat and 4 fingers counts
Mishram
7
Tha Ki Ta Tha Ka Dhi Mi
One beat and 6 fingers counts
Sankeernam
9
Tha Ka dhi Mi Tha Ka Tha Ki Ta
One beat and 8 fingers counts

When these Jathis are set in the various Thalams(will be explained later in this post), the number of units in a Laghu changes accordingly.

7)      Kala The duration of each “Anga” is known as Kala. These are also known as Gathi. These Gathis are also divided into 5 like the jathis mentioned above; Thisram, Chaturasram, Khandam, Mishram and Sankeernam
The difference between Jathi and Gathi is that the former deals with only the Laghu part of Anga whereas Gathi influences every part of Anga.

I  shall explain this with an example. The shortest Thalam which has Dhrutham & Laghu is Roopaka Thalam (Division of Thalams shall be explained in due course).

Roopakam is represented as 0 I
Table No:4
Jathi
Representation
Aksharakala/Number
Thisram
0 I3
2+3=5
Chaturasram
0 I4
2+4=6
Khandam
0 I5
2+5=7
Mishram
0 I7
2+7=9
Sankeernam
0 I9
2+9=11

Now I shall explain Gathi. Taking Thisra Jathi Roopaka Thalam. In the above table we saw that Aksharakala of Thisra Jathi Roopaka Thalam is 5. Here each beat, wave and finger count will be having a duration.
                                                  Table No:5
THISRA JATHI ROOPAKA THALAM – 0 I3  .Aksharakala -5
Gathi
Representation
Kala
Thisram
03 I(3)3
2x3 + 3x3 = 15
Chaturasram
04 I(3)4
2x4 + 3x4 = 20
Khandam
05 I(3)5
2x5 + 3x5 = 25
Mishram
07 I(3)7
2x7 + 3x7 = 35
Sankeernam
09 I(3)9
2x9 + 3x9 = 45

 Similarily, for every Thalam, Jathi and Gathi are set accordingly.

8) LayaSpeed of steps while dancing is known as Laya. They are:-
       a) Choukam- 1st speed i.e when 1 step is placed for one Thalam.
       b) Madhyam- Double speed of Choukam i.e when 2 steps are placed for one Thalam
       c)  Dhrutham- Double speed of Madhyam i.e when 4 steps are placed for one Thalam

9) YathiThese are the rhythmic patterns used for music and dance. Angas are used in different patterns in a Thalam. These are of 6 types:-

      i) SamayathiJust as the name suggests which means straight, where the Anga is consistent and hence has same Matras for the entire Thalam.For eg:-

I4 I4 Ior U3 U3 U3

      ii)VishamayathiHere there is no specific pattern for the Thalam. It can be inconsistent.
I U O I O

Mridangam
     iii) MridangayathiHere the Angas are set in an ascending order and then descending order. The name is such because the Yathi comes like the shape of the Indian Percusion instrument Mridangam.
Damaru
U I 8 I U


 iv)     Vedamadhayam Or DamaruyathiThis is opposite to the Mridangayathi. The Angas are set in decending order and then ascending ordering. It is named such as the Yathi is formed like a Damaru( the instrument in Lord Shiva’s Hand)
8 I U I 8                     
                                                                                      
                                                                         
        v)  GopuchchayathiHere the Angas are set in descending order. Gopuchcha means cow’s tail. Hence like a cow’s tail, the rhythmic pattern tapers down.

8 I O U

       vi)  Srothovahayathi This is the opposite of Gopuchchayathi. Here the Angas are sent in ascending order. Srothovaham means river. So just like  the mouth of the river is small and gradually widens, the rhythmic pattern widens.

U O I 8

10)  Prastharam - The word Prastharam means permutation. Hence the method the different Angas are assorted and then set is known as Prastharam.



SAPTHA THALAMS- The Seven Thalams

Puranadaradasa,known as the Father of Carnatic Music was instrumental in setting the Sapta-Thalams(also known as Suladhi Saptha Thalams) of Carnatic Music which we still follow to date. 
They are:-
Dhruvam, Matyam, Roopakam, Jhampa, Triputa, Ata & Eka

Table No:6
Thalam
Symbol(See Table No:1)
Dhruvam
I 0 I I
Matyam
I 0 I
Roopakam
0 I
Jhampa
I U 0
Triputa
I 0 0
Ata
I I 0 0
Eka
I

As I have explained earlier, there are 5 Jathis. When these 5 Jathis (Panchajathi)influence the Saptha Thalams ; 5x7 become 35 Thalams. Each of these 35 Thalams have a specific name. These shall be illustrated in detail.

                                I.            Dhruva Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Dhruva
Thisram
Mani
I3 0 I3 I3
3+2+3+3=11
2
Chaturasram
Sreekara
I4 0 I4 I4
4+2+4+4=14
3
Khandam
Pramaana
I5 0 I5 I5
5+2+5+5=17
4
Mishram
Poorna
I7 0 I7 I7
7+2+7+7=23
5
Sankeernam
Bhuvana
I9 0 I9 I9
9+2+9+9=29


                              II.            Matya Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Matya
Thisram
Saara
I3 0 I3
3+2+3=8
2
Chaturasram
Sama
I4 0 I4
4+2+4=10
3
Khandam
Udaya
I5 0 I5
5+2+5=12
4
Mishram
Udeerna
I7 0 I7
7+2+7=16
5
Sankeernam
Raava
I9 0 I9
9+2+9=20

                            III.            Roopaka Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Roopakam
Thisram
Chakra
0 I3
2+3=5
2
Chaturasram
Paththi
0 I4
2+4=6
3
Khandam
Raaja
0 I5
2+5=7
4
Mishram
Kala
0 I7
2+7=9
5
Sankeernam
Bindu
0 I9
2+9=11

                            IV.            Jhampa Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Jhampa
Thisram
Kadamba
IU 0
3+1+2=6
2
Chaturasram
Madhura
I4 U 0
4+1+2=7
3
Khandam
Chana
I5 U 0
5+1+2=8
4
Mishram
Sura
I7  U 0
7+1+2=10
5
Sankeernam
Kara
I9 U 0
9+1+2=12

                              V.            Triputa Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Triputa
Thisram
Shankha
 I0 0
3+2+2=7
2
Chaturasram
Aadi
 I4 0 0
4+2+2=8
3
Khandam
Dushkara
 I5 0 0
5+2+2=9
4
Mishram
Leela
 I7 0 0
7+2+2=11
5
Sankeernam
Bhoga
I9 0 0
9+2+2=13


                            VI.            Ata Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Ata
Thisram
Guptha
I3 I0 0
3+3+2+2=10
2
Chaturasram
Leka
I4 I4 0 0
4+4+2+2=12
3
Khandam
Vidala
I5 I5 0 0
5+5+2+2=14
4
Mishram
Loya
I7 I7 0 0
7+7+2+2=18
5
Sankeernam
Dheera
I9I9 0 0
9+9+2+2=22

                          VII.            Eka Thalam + Panchajathi


THALAM
JATHI
NOMENCLATURE
ANGAS
AKSHARAKALA
1
Eka
Thisram
Sootham
 I3
3
2
Chaturasram
Maana
I4
4
3
Khandam
Ratha
I5
5
4
Mishram
Raaga
 I7
7
5
Sankeernam
Vasu
I9
9

Now we shall see the division of the 35 Thalams according to Gathis (explained above) and hence there are 175 Thalams (35x5). It should be noted that Gathi influences Laghu, Dhrutham & Anudhrutham.

THALAM NOMENCLATURE
AKSHARAKALA
Gathi & Kala
THISRAM
CHATURASRAM
KHANDAM
MISHRAM
SANKEERNAM
Mani
11
33
44
55
77
99
Sreekara
14
42
56
70
98
126
Pramaana
17
51
68
85
119
153
Poorna
23
69
92
115
161
207
Bhuvana
29
87
116
145
203
261
Saara
8
24
32
40
56
72
Sama
10
30
40
50
70
90
Udaya
12
36
48
60
84
108
Udeerna
16
48
64
80
112
144
Raava
20
60
80
100
140
180
Chakra
5
15
20
25
35
45
Paththi
6
18
24
30
42
54
Raaja
7
21
28
35
49
63
Kala
9
27
36
45
63
81
Bindu
11
33
44
55
77
99
Kadamba
6
18
24
30
42
54
Madhura
7
21
28
35
49
63
Chana
8
24
32
40
56
72
Sura
10
30
40
50
70
90
Kara
12
36
48
60
84
108
Shankha
7
21
28
35
49
63
Aadi
8
24
32
40
56
72
Dushkara
9
27
36
45
63
81
Leela
11
33
44
55
77
99
Bhoga
13
39
52
65
91
117
Guptha
10
30
40
50
70
90
Leka
12
36
48
60
84
108
Vidala
14
42
56
70
98
126
Loya
18
54
72
90
126
162
Dheera
22
66
88
110
154
198
Sootha
3
9
12
15
21
27
Maana
4
12
16
20
28
36
Ratha
5
15
20
25
35
45
Raaga
7
21
28
35
49
63
Vasu
9
27
36
45
63
81

The Aadi Thalam highlighted in yellow is the most common Thalam. A music student’s first lesson i.e the Sapthaswaras are set to Aadi Thalam. Most of the music compositions one learns like the Geetham, Varnam, Keerthanams & Thillanas are all set to Aadi Thalam. Hence Chathurasra Jathi Triputa Thalam is more commonly known as Aadi Thalam.

CHAPPU THALAM

Chappu Thalam is executed by only putting the beat and Angas like Laghu & Dhrutham are absent. These are of 3 types:-
1.       Misrachappu – This as the name suggests has 7 Aksharakala i.e 3+4. It should be noted the beats are similar to Thisra Jathi Triputa Thalam which 3+2+2. Hence the latter can be substituted by Misrachapu as it is easier .
2.       Khandachappu -  This has 5 Aksharakalas i.e 2+3
3.       Thisrachappu -  This has 3 Aksharakalas i.e 1+2.This can also called Roopaka Chappu as Roopaka Thalam can be represented with 2 beats and one wave and the wave can be substituted by a beat itself.
It should be that when one just mentions Chappu Thalam, then it Misrachappu Thalam as it is the most common Chappu Thalam.

THALAVATTAM  &  AVARTHANAM

Thalavattam and Avarthanam are two very oft-repeated terms by musicians and dancers. The terms can often be confused with one another.
 The length between the first Anga and last Anga of a Thalam is called Thalavattam. The number of time a Thalam is executed in a music composition is known as Avarthanam. The word “Vattam” means circle and Avarthanam means repetition.


Most of the items in Mohiniyattam are choreographed in Aadi ,Roopaka and Misra Chappu Thalam.






3 comments:

  1. very helpful for carnatic music students and teachers

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  2. I am a beginning student of mridangam. Have been scratching my head a lot with concepts like jaathi, gathi, jathi etc. Your article puts the basics together is a very coherent and user friendly way. Many of my doubts got cleared by reading through the above. Thanks for writing in so much detail. - Anand

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    Replies
    1. I am glad my blog could be of help. As a student of dance, even I had quite a head-scratching time to understand the concept of Thalams as a little girl . So much later I was inspired by various experiences to write this blog. :) Anyway, All the best for your lessons.

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