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RAgam, ThAnam, Pallavi - fascinating facts!

Raji Ram

Well-known member

Carnatic music gives the artists freedom to exhibit their talents in many ways. RAgam ThAnam Pallavi, now-a-days known as RTP,

gives the maximum freedom! Sruthi bEdham in singing the rAgam, the beauty of different patterns in thAnam, the thALam intricacies

and lyrics of the pallavi are a few specials.

We can say that a Pallavi is a one line composition - either taken from an already existing krithi or just the one line composed

by an artist. The rAgam of the pallavi is indicated sometimes in the lyrics of the pallavi. A famous one is 'SankarAbharaNanai

azhaithOdi vAdi KalyANi DharbArukku'. This has four different rAgams - SankarAbharaNam, ThOdi, KalyANi and DharbAr.

The two number system of swarams, which the beginners learn, is denoted by the twelve basic notes, namely

R1 - shuddha Rishabham, R2 - chathusruthi Rishabham, G1 - sAdhAraNa GAndhAram, G2 - anthara GAndhAram,

M1 - shuddha Madhyamam, M2 - prathi Madhyamam, P - Panchamam, D1 - shuddha Dhaivatham, D2 - chathusruthi

Dhaivatham, N1 - kaisiki NishAdham and N2 - kAkali NishAdham.

Since the vivAdhi swaram shatsruthi Rishabam is same as G1, suddha GandhAram is same as R2, shatsruthi Dhaivatham is

same as N1 and suddha NishAdham is same as D2 the three number system came into existence.

It is S; R1; R2; R3 = G1 in two number system

R2, G1, G2 in the two number system becomes G1, G2 and G3 in the three number system

D1; D2; D3 = N1 in two number system

D2, N1, N2 in the two number system becomes N1, N2 and N3 in the three number system

The position of swarams are like this:

S R1 R2 R3
.......G1 G2 G3 M1 M2 P D1 D2 D3
......................................N1 N2 N3

Thus the twelve basic notes became sixteen swarams!

And, the beginner's rAgam MAyAmALavagowlA has these swarams: S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S'

To be continued....... :)

Raji Ram

Well-known member

Since only two Madhyamams exist, they are denoted by M1 and M2 in both two number and three number systems to denote the swarams.


Well-known member
Smt. RR,

Your effort is very good. But it appears to me as though, after all these theories, the Carnatic Music ultimately is built upon the way each of these 12 notes, 16 swarams, etc., ultimately have to undergo yet some more transformations in each of the ragas. I am told that thereefore many of the instruments cannot bring about the "true" flavour of the ragas and one has to depend on some very flexible vocal artiste only to learn real Carnatic music.

A number of years ago, the Sruthi magazine had published an article of the 1930's which said that in the ultimate analysis Carnatic music is built upon musical phrases which are the trade marks of each raga and all the hullabaloo about janaka, janya, melakartha system, etc., were unnecessary appendages to take Carnatic music away from the masses.

I would like if you give your comments/rebuttal of these opinions also.

Raji Ram

Well-known member

Dear Sangom Sir,

Thanks for your feed back. Yes! RAgams in Carnatic music are based on phrases and a each rAgam has specific phrases

which should not be used in other rAgams. 'kELvi gnAnam' is very essential to develop the knowledge. Those who are

able to reproduce phrases just by listening, can learn Carnatic music with ease. But there is grammar for Caranatic music.

The ArOhaNam - avarOhaNam is the basic grammar. The janya rAgams have the swarams same as their janaka rAgam but

some have 'anya swarams' which are not in the janaka rAgam and those swarams add beauty to the rAgams! Also, all the

janya rAgams of the same janaka rAgam do not have the same phrases. That is why each rAgam is distinct and a competent

artist can bring out the essence of a rAgam with in a few seconds.

Actually Carnatic music is a vast ocean and I want to just take a glimpse of the beauty by discussing about 'Pallavi'.
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Raji Ram

Well-known member

Just an example:

Anandhabairavi and Reethigowla are similar rAgams and janya rAgams of KharaharapriyA.

Anandhabairavi has ArOhaNam: S G R G M P D P S' and avarOhaNam: S' N D P M G R S.

(anthara GAndhAramm, sudhdha Daivadham and kAkali NishAdham are anya swarams in this rAgam)

Some musicians say that this is janya rAgam of Natabairavi but since chathusruthi Daivatham is in

both ArOhaNam and avarOhaNam, it is better to consider it as janya rAgam of KharaharapriyA.

Reethigowla has ArOhaNam: S G R G M N D M N N S' and avarOhaNam: S' N D M G M P M G R S

and no anya swaram.
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Raji Ram

Well-known member

A mAmi who is teaching advance music to her students makes me write down the notation for playing rAgams

on the veena. Each rAgam will come to about four pages full of phrases! It was an interesting experience! :D

Raji Ram

Well-known member

Sruthi bEdham:

This is one of the fascinating concepts in the delineation of rAgam. When the AdhAra sruthi is shifted from Shadjamam

any other swaram we get a different rAgam with the same notes. This shifting of AdhAra surthi is known as sruthi

A sampoorNa rAgam has the
same seven notes in ascending and descending order without any twist, which is known as

'vakram'. The best sampoorNa rAgam to understand Sruthi bEdham is SankarAbharaNam. The shift of sruthi to Rishabham

gives KharaharapriyA; to GAndhAram gives ThOdi; to Madhyamam gives KalyANi; Panchamam gives HarikAmbOji and

Dhaivatham gives Natabairavi. The shift to NishAdham gives an invalid mELa rAgam because it will have both M1 and M2!!

The formula to remember these rAgams is: San Khara ThOdi Kal Hari Nata. :thumb:

To be continued .................



Great, this will take a week for me to understand. this is advanced.
My carnatic base is 8 years of vocal and violin when in school, some 10 varnam and 25 keerthana.


Well-known member
hi RR madam,
like in samaveda....we used to recite in arohanam/avarohanam....its called UDATTA/ANUDAYYA/SWARITHAM....i think these

methods are same in music too....like sindhu bhairavi sulakshana....im just jadam in carnatic music....எங்காத்து மாமாவும் கச்சேரிக்கி போன மாதிரி....
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Raji Ram

Well-known member
Dear TBS Sir,

Glad to note that you are viewing this thread! SAma vEdA is supposed to have the best musical form! :thumb:

Veena maestro Sri. Chitti Babu used to play VEdA swarams on veena in all his concerts! :)

Raji Ram

Well-known member

Sri. Chitti Babu's Guru Veena maestro Sri. Emani Sankara Sastri plays vEdA swarams on Veena.

Enjoy this:
Veena-Emani Sankara Sastri

'This great mantra is taken from Taithreeya Aranyakam of Yajur', says the note found along with this video.

P.S: Thanks to my friend who gave me the link for this recital of Matra Pushpam:
Astro Vision - Pramod Sharma - Mantra Pushpam
which is usually done at the end of a pooja in a temple or home - It is TaitrEya Upanishad in Krishna yajur vEda. :ranger:

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Raji Ram

Well-known member

Sruthi bEdham - continued:

Taking all the twelve swarams in an octave in a row, if we write the existing swarams and

leave gaps for the non existing swarams,
SankarAbharaNam can be written as follows:

S - R - G M - P - D - N S'

( I tell the beginners to play Sa; oru gap Ri, oru gap Ga, Ga kittE Ma, oru gap Pa;

oru gap Dha; oru gap Ni; Ni kittE Sa' - to play SankarAbharaNam on the veena )

When we take the octave from R to R' we get this pattern:

R - G M - P - D - N S' - R'. By changing R as Shadjamam, we get this octave

S - R G - M - P - D N - S' which are KharaharapriyA swarams.

Let us take from G to G' of SankarAbharaNam. We get this octave

G M - P - D - N S' - R' - G'. By changing G as Shadjamam, we get this octave

S R - G - M - P D - N - S' which are ThOdi swarams.

The same logic to be used for shifting Sruthi to M, P, D and N. Only for 'N' we will not get a mELa rAgam,

as mentioned in the earlier post, because M1 and M2 will appear in the octave. This concept is very easy

to understand with Harmonium, Keyboard or Piano which have keys for each swaram and the Veena which

has a fret for each swaram. The violin does not have frets for each swaram and so it may be difficult to

understand. Hence I wrote the swarams with gaps, for easy understanding of the patterns. Hope it is clear! :)




Only for 'N' we will not get a mELa rAgam,

as mentioned in the earlier post, because M1 and M2 will appear in the octave. ear! :)

i got a bit i think, so basically by shifting one note, which is similar to shifting one shruthi, u can get a new raga in both the old shruthi and a new raga in the new shruthi, basically 2 additional ragas, but do we need to change the shruthi box?

related q is:

has it got something to do with the gamakam difference between G3 and M1


Raji Ram

Well-known member

Dear Sandhya,

The sruthi has to be the same throughout the concert and hence the sruthi box too! By shifting the Shadjamam to any other

swaram, another rAgam is derived. It needs a lot of practice because coming back to the original sruthi should be very smooth.

For example, if KharaharapriyA is sung by sruthi bEdham of SankarAbharaNam, then K's Nishadham becomes the original sruthi.

Hence one glide to NishAdam of K will enable the artist to start the original sruthi. Similarly, ThOdi's Dhaivatham will be the original

sruthi and so on. It is not necessary to sing the mELa rAgam while singing Sruthi bEdham. A few swarms could be avoided to get the

janaka rAgams too! But the main point is that while doing sruthi bEdham for SankarAbharaNam, the gamakams change from its

original gamakams to that of the new rAgam derived. If the same gamakams are used, other rAgams can not be noticed and it

will just sound like the original rAgam itself!

G3 is anthara GandhAram and M1 is suddha Madhyamam. They are adjacent notes.

Now about Madhyama sruthi:

A few rAgams which have limits in sanchAram have to be sung of played in Madhyama sruthi, which means the Adhara sruthi

itself is shifted to Madhyamam. A few examples are
Navaroj, Kurinji and PunnAgavarALi. Also, a few songs have only the middle

octave notes only and do not go very high. Those songs will be good to be heard in Madhyama sruthi. The easiest example is

'Shakthi sahitha Ganapathim' which the beginners learn. You take M as Shadjamam and start the song. This has nothing to do

with sruthi bEdham. Hope I am clear! :)

Raji Ram

Well-known member
One more interesting rAgam for fascinating sruthi bEdham is MOhanam.

The swaram pattern in ArOhaNam is: S - R - G - - P - D - - S'

Shifting sruthi to Rishabham we get S - R - - M - P - - N - S' which is MadhyamAvathi.

Shifting sruthi to Gandharam we get S - - G - M - - D - N - S' which is HindhOLam.

Shifting sruthi to Panchamam we get S - R - - M - P - D - - S' which is Suddha SAvEri.

Shifting sruthi to Daivatham we get S - - G - M - P - - N - S' which is Suddha DhanyAsi.

So, MOhanam, MadhyamAvathi, HindhOLam, Suddha SAvEri and Suddha DanyAsi are have the similar pattern of gaps

in the swarams. So any of these rAgams will bring the other rAgams by proper shift of the sruthi! :)

P.S: In the western music, shifting of sruthi is found. But the same notes (rAgam) will continue.

Raji Ram

Well-known member

The two rAgams which can be identified very easily by starting in Rishabham - in higher octave and lower octave respectively are

KEdhAragowLa and SahAnA. Those who are familiar with these rAgams can try these phrases:

R' . . R'. . R' . . m' g' r' s' r' G' . . r' R'......... Yes! KEdhAragowLa!

R . . R . . R . . G M P ........ Yes! SahAnA!

These are the best examples to prove that Carnatic music is 'phrases based' music.

The artist is supposed to bring out the essence of the rAgam he / she sings or plays, within a few seconds. One glide of swarams

up and down will show which rAgam is taken. KalyANi and LathAngi have only one note difference and mostly the gamakams are

similar in other swarams. So, if one sings between base NishAdham to middle octave Panchamam, it will be confusing! Only when

Dhaivadham is hit, LathAngi will be heard! That is why, one 'rocket' sanchAram up and down will show clearly which rAgam is taken! :)

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