“hastadvayasya sanyoge viyogecaapi vartate
vyaaptimaan yo dashapraanaihi sa kaalastaalasajnakaha”
Process of union and separation of the two hands in accordance with the 10 elements of musical time is called taala. Taala is any rhythmic beat or strike that measures musical time. This rhythmic beat is not arbitrary but in fact it is governed by ten important factors called the Dasha Pranas.
“kaalo maargaha kriyaangaani graho jaati kaLaa layaha
yatihi prastaarakashceti taaLa praaNa dasha smrtaha”
Kaala, Maarga, Kriya, Anga, Graha, Jaati, Kalaa, Laya, Yati and Prastaara are the ten main factors governing the taaLa. Of these the first five from kaala to graha are called Mahapraanas, while the remaining five are called Upapraanas.
In music, the time period in which the music is performed is called Kaal. It helps us understand the duration of each of the kriyas in absolute time. Just as we use hour, minute, second, millisecond etc in modern science to express time, the ancient Indian system had a set of nomenclature. The smallest unit of time was kshana. The definition of kshana is rather meticulous. Hundred lotus petals of similar size and thickness are stacked upon one another and a sharp needle is swiftly pierced through them. The time taken for the needle to pass through one leaf during this process is equal to one kshana.
8 kshana = 1 lava
8 lava = 1 kaashta
8 kaashta = 1 nimisha
8 nimisha = 1 kalaa
2 kalaa = 1 chaturbhaga
2 chaturbhaga = 1 anudruta
2 anudruta = 1 druta
2 druta = 1 laghu
2 laghu = 1 guru
3 laghu = 1 pluta
4 laghu = 1 kaakapaada
[Fun fact: 1 anudruta is 16,384 kshanas]
It holds the most important place in the composition of rhythm. For example: In using a metronome, 16 beats kaal at 60 bpm is the time in which one Avartan fits.
The literal meaning of maarga is ‘route’. In music, when Tala completes its journey by holding a particular speed, from the first beat or maatra to the last maatra of the aavartan, it is called the Maarga. It is of four types:
For example: it is like showing the path with taali and khaali. Hence, the maarga of teen tala is different; four beats in each matra, but could be shown in taali or khaali. Each tala can have a different path. Like the Chaapu talas in South Indian music are different, sometimes up or down, even or odd. All these are different maargas of talas.
It represents the constituent parts of an anga. A kriya represents an individual hand movement. It is a manner of counting time by using a beat or swing [visarjita] or finger counting. They can be broadly classified as sashabdha and nishabdha kriyas. Kriyas like clapping or beating the right hand on the open left left hand etc that produce sound are called sashabdha kriyas. Other kriyas like finger counting, visarjita, sarpini, pataka, patita which involve just movement of the hand without sound are nishabdha kriyas. Based on this one can understand that anudruta is a sashabdha kriya while a druta or a laghu are a combination of both kriyas.
There are four kinds of Marga nishabdha kriyas.
1. Avaapa: lifting the open hand and folding the fingers in a manner of contracting the fingers (pulling up kind of motion)
2. Nirvaapa or nishkaam: unfolding the fingers or bringing the hand downwards by spreading the fingers (Throw down kind of motion)
3. Vikshep: moving the hand towards the right side or from centre towards outside of body for a left handed person.
4. Pravekshak: contracting the hand to the left side, or, from outside the body towards the centre.
There are four kinds of Marga sashabdha kriyas.
1. Dhruva: snapping of fingers while moving hand in downward motion.
2. Shampa: beating the open left palm with the right palm, as opposed to taala.
3. Taala: beating the open right palm with the left palm.
4. Sannipata: simultaneous clap by bringing both hands together to the centre.
Deshya kriyas are as follows.
1. dhruvaka: light snapping of fingers without sound.
2. sarpini: moving the hand to left.
3. krushya: moving the hand from left to right.
4. padmini: moving the hand downwards with fingers down.
5. visarjita: stretching the hand outward as in swinging.
6. vikshipta: folding of fingers.
7. pataka: moving the hand upward.
8. patita: moving the hand downwards with fingers pointing up
The different parts of a tala are called Angas. In the North Indian tala system, Vibhaag has been created to show the structure of Tala. In the Carnatic Music system, the three main Angas which are used are the Laghu, Dhrutam and Anudhrutam. It has three more angas which are not used much- Guru, Plutam and Kakapadam. The laghu is represented by a clap and a few beats on the fingers. It changes according to the jaati of the tala. Therefore, it can have 3, 4, 5, 7 or 9 beats depending on tisra, chatusra, khanda, misra or sangeerna jaati. Its symbol is 1. The dhrutam is represented by a clap and a wave. It always has 2 beats. Its symbol is 0. The anudhrutam is represented by just a clap. It always has 1 beat. Its symbol is U.
The place of commencement of the song with respect to the taala avarta is called Graha. It is broadly of two types-
1. Sama graha: When the beginning of the song and the taala sync or coincide
2. Vishama grah: One can notice that beginning of the song and the taala do not sync. It is when the starting place of the song is not on sam but on some other beat. Vishama graha are further divided into two types:
a. Ateeta graha: The song starts after the sam.
b. Anaagata graha: The song starts before the sam.
In music, the type of laya of the taala is considered as Jaati. Socially, jaati is referred to as ‘caste’ by birth. It is the quality that distinguishes one person from another. In musical terms, it is shown by increasing or decreasing numbers or counts of maatras of a particular vibhaag of any taal. The type of laya is considered its caste or jaati. According to the Natya sastra, Jaati portrays only the style of singing, not of dancing or instruments. Arrangement of syllables against the number of maatras in measuring the musical time is jaati. In Natyasastra, only two jaatis exist- Tisram and Chatusram. These two primary Jaatis work as the base to form new ones.
It means score or unit. It stands for quantity. The maatra or vibhaag or gun, which shows quantity or number, is called Kalaa. It is of 3 types:
a. Ekakala has one swara per kriya( Ekgun)
b. Dwikala has two swaras per kriya ( Dugun)
c. Chaturkala has four swaras per kriya( Chaugun)
The rhythm, tempo, speed, pace etc are called laya. Equal and regular distribution of speed is called Laya. The process where sounds are separated by time. One can say that laya cannot be decided by the beats, but the silence between the beats. Hence, music exists because of this silence. The movement from one musical note to the next has a sense of time to it. Laya can be of three types:
1. Vilambit: It is the introductory slow tempo of any tala. The laya which follows a very slow pace is Vilambit.
2. Madhya: It follows a medium pace; it is neither too slow nor too fast.
3. Dhrut: The laya which follows the fastest speed is called Dhrut laya.
The rhythmical design or pattern of rhythm of the constituent angas of a taala or the swara or sahitya of the composition is called yati. It is of six types-
1. Sama Yati:
When laya of bandish is uniform or pace remains consistent, in the beginning , middle and end
2. Gopucha yati:
Just like the shape of a cow’s tail, it progressively becomes smaller from bigger. For example, it starts in Dhrut, progresses to Madhya and then goes to Vilambit.
3. Srotovaha yati:
The origin of a river is slow and as it progresses the flow also increases. Here we find a progressive increase in the tempo, from Vilambit to Madhya to Dhrut.
4. Damaru yati:
As the name suggests the pattern resembles a damaru. Wider at the ends and narrow at the centre. It may have Vilambit in the beginning and end with Madhya or Dhrut in the middle.
5. Mridanga yati:
It resembles a mridanga with narrow ends and wide centre. It begins and ends with Dhruta and may have Madhya or Vilambit in the centre.
6. Vishama yati:
It has an Irregular pattern.
This prana is only of academic interest. Prastaara literally means ‘to spread out’. It entails the improvisation of the tala. It depends on the dancer’s ability as to how good a hold he/she has over the tala. Just as we play the Peshka in Tabla and even Mridanga artists do similar executions, it is the opening of the tala with different combinations from the main theme of the aavartan of fixed beats. The sequential development of tala based on the artists’ skill like ‘sawaal jawaab’ with or without the use of Yatis – this creative, imaginative technique and process is called Prastaara. It refers to the expansion of a tala by exploring it in different ways.