Glossary of Indian Classical Music Terms

Aaroh-Avroh:

Aaroh of a Raag is the sequence of the notes in ascending order between Madhya Shadja (S) and Tar Shadja (S'). Avroh of a Raag is the sequence of notes in descending order between Tar Shadja (S') and Madhya Shadja (S).

Alankar:

Alankars literally meaning jewels, are combination of the notes of a Raag. Alankars follow a particular pattern of combination of notes like an ornament and are very effective while rendering Taans.

Alap:

It is the development of a Raag through improvisation while observing all the laws of the Raag.

Antara:

It is the second stanza of a composition, usually including and emphasizing the upper notes of the Raag.

Avirbhav-Tirobhav:

Avirbhav is to make visible the original form of the Raag and Tirobhav is deviating from the original form of the Raag by showing glimpses of a nearby Raag.

Bada Khayal:

The first composition of a khayal performance in slow tempo.

Bandish:

A composition in Indian classical music, usually with two parts corresponding to the sthayi and antara.

Brij Bhasha:

A dialect of Hindi which was used in Brij where Lord Krishna was born and spent his childhood days. This is the most prominent language for compositions in Indian classical music.

Chaturang:

Chatur means four and anga means parts. A chaturang has four parts: khayal, tarana, sargam and tirvata.

Chota Khayal:

A composition in medium to fast tempo that usually follows the bada khayal.

Gamak:

Taan Renendering with Meend for Vakra Swaras. It can be heavy or light. e.g mgmRS in Raag Darbari Kanada.

Gharana:

The tradition and a particular style of singing of a musical family.

Jati:

It is the classification of a Raag based on the number of notes employed in its Aaroh and Avroh. Sampurna is all 7 notes, Shadhav is 6 notes, Audhav is 5 notes and Surtar is 4 notes. In some cases the rendering becomes Vakra (with a turn around that note). The different Jati combinations are given below in a table.

Sr.No
Aaroh
Avroh
Jati
Example of a Raag
1
7
7
Sampurna-Sampurna Yaman, Aheer-Bhairav
2
7
7
Sampurna-Sampurna (Vakra) Puria-Dhanashri, Dev-Gandhar
3
6
7
Shadhav-Sampurna (Vakra) Kausi-Kanada, Adana
4
6
6
Shadhav-Shadhav (Vakra) Nayaki-Kanada, Gurjari-Todi
5
5
7
Audhav-Sampurna Sindhura
6
5
6
Audhav-Shadhav (Vakra) Shuddha-Sarang, Desi
7
5
5
Audhav-Audhav (Vakra) Gunkali, Deshkar, Megh-Malhar
8
4
6
Surtar-Audhav (Vakra) Gorakh-Kalyan
9
5
7
Audhav-Sampurna (Vakra) Kamod, Basant, Khambavati

Jugalbandi:

A duet in performance or two artists performing together.

Khatka:

If several notes are rendered in one stroke it's called a Khatka.

Komal Swar:

a soft or flat note.

Matra:

The basic counting unit of a taal.

Meend:

A particular form of embellishment/ornamentation that involves smooth flowing passage from one note to other in ascending or descending order. It delivers the most authentic flavor of Indian Classical music.

Mukhya-Ang or Pakad:

This includes very essential notations without which the Raag can not menifest as such.

Murki:

In rendering a note if we simultaneously derive it from both upper and lower note as in e.g. ,NSRS or RS,NS giving a rounded note. It is called a Murki. It's a kind of tonal embellishment. It is natural to many voice types and adds beauty to renderings.

Naad or Nada:

A musical or cosmic sound.

Poorvang-Uttarang:

Poorvang is the lower half of the octave i.e. S R G M and Uttarang is the upper half of the Octave i.e. P D N S'.

Raag or Raaga:

The melody with an overall mood or environment producing a lasting impression while entertaining or recreating the audience. A combination of different musical notes or Swaras in a particular sequence of ascending and descending makes a Raag.

Rasas or Bhavas:

There are 9 Rasas or Bhavas described in the Indian Classical Music/Dance forms: Bhakti (Devotional), Karuna, Veer, Veebhatsa, Vichitra, Hasya (Humour), Virah, Vairagya and Krodh (Anger).

Sargam:

The composition which uses the names of the notes instead of words.

Sum:

The first and most important beat of a Taal. The arrival of sum is often the point where rhythmic tension is released.

Swar or Note:

Swar means a musical note including the Shadja or Sa. An Octave has 7 basic notes which are universally known as Do Re Me Pha So La Ti. In Indian Classical Music the 7 basic (or shuddha) notes are Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. In addition to these basic notes Re Ga Dha Ni have their respective Flat or Komal Notes and Madhyam has a Teevra Note. Shadja and Pancham does not have any Komal or Teevra note. This makes total of 12 notes in the Octave. These 12 notes are represented in English version in the website as S r R g G m M P d D n N and in Hindi version as सा रे1 रे ग1 ग म म! प ध1 ध नि1 नि .

Taal:

The rhythmic and cyclic pattern that defines the repetitive form on which improvisation takes place. Ex. Teen Taal

Taan:

Taan is the combination of notes rendered in a faster speed (More than 2 swaras in a beat or Matra) in ascending or descending order. The Taan pattern should be made beautifully effective through Sapaat Taans, Alankars, Gamak etc. Alankars follow a particular pattern of combination of notes like an ornament and are very effective while rendering Taans.

Tabla:

The main percussion instrument in Indian classical music, which consists of a pair of tuneable hand-played drums.

Tanpura:

A popular accompanying musical instrument which provides the drone while singing.

Tarana:

A composition which doesn't have any words and poem but syllables such as 'ta na na na dere na' are used.

Thaat:

Thaat is a system of organization and classification of Raagas of Indian Classical Music. In past, many musicians tried to classify the Raagas into categories. The modern Thaat system was created by Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), one of the most influential musicologists of Hindustani Classical Music. According to Pt. Bhatkhande, each one of the several traditional Raagas is based on, or is a variation of, ten basic Thaats. These ten thaats are Bilawal, Kalyan, Khamaj, Bhairav, Poorvi, Marwa, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairavi and Todi. While this Raag Classification theory (into 10 Thaats) is not accurate, it still serves as an important classification device.

Thumri:

The most popular light-classical genre of Indian classical music.

Time of Raag:

There is a specific time period for a Raag during which it should be rendered. The Time Cycle employed in Raagas rendering begins at 6 AM and ends at 6 PM for the day (12 hours) and for the night beginning 6 PM and ends at 6 AM next day (12 Hours). Each cycle (day & night) are divided into time periods of 3 hours each called Prahar. So there are 4 Prahars in the Day Time Cycle and 4 Prahars in the Night Time Cycle. Apart from this there are many Raagas which are rendered in specific seasons, for example, Basant, Bahar etc are the Raagas rendered in the Spring Season while Malhar, Megh, Surdasi-Malhar, Gaud-Malhar etc are the Raagas rendered during Rainy Season. There are some Raagas which can be rendered at any time also called Sarv-Kalik Raagas or All-Time Raagas namely Raag Bhairavi, Pahadi etc.

Vadi/Samvadi:

Vadi is the most dominant or important note of a Raag. If Raag is a kingdom, Vadi note can be considered as the King. Vadi is the most used note of the Raag and also used as a resting note while rendering the Raag. Samvadi note is the second most significant note of the Raag. Vadi note, along with the Samvadi note usually brings out the uniqueness of the Raag and its mood.

Varjya-Swaras or Forbidden Notes:

Notes not employed in a Raag are called Varjya Swaras or Forbidden notes. e.g. Raag Hans-Dhwani has Madhyam and Dhaivat Varjya and so its jati is Audhav-Audhav.

Vilambit:

Vilambit means rendering in slow tempo. Bada khayal is rendered in vilambit laya.

Vishranti Sthan or Stoppable Notes:

These are the resting notes for ending Aalaps and Taans while rendering a Raag. Shadja or Sa is obviously a note as Vishranti Sthan. There could be other notes too as Vishranti Sthans in a Raag.