Glossary of Indian classical Music


N.I. = North Indian / Hindustani

S.I. = South Indian / Carnatic



aadhaara shadja S.I. the key note, basic swara, the fundamental note on which a raga is built.
aadi swaras S.I. the most ancient swaras known in the indian music. the swaras are udaatta, anudaatta and svarita of the vedic hymns. panini refers to these 3 notes as the aadi swaras.
aalaapana S.I. the richest area of music and is a area where a musician reveals his musical, intellectual and spiritual capabilities. it is the development of a raga through improvisation in such a way that raga's form and spirit are revealed, while observing all the laws that govern the raga. Hindustani alap
aasthana vidwaan S.I. state / court musician. a scholar
abhyaas S.I. repetition and practice of music, (eg., practice of a raga so that its bahutwa swaras are brought to perfection). Hindustani Riyaz.
achala swaras S.I. the notes that do not admit varieties. these have no sharps or flats.
achyuta shadja S.I. the tonic note - shadja. the chyuta shadja is slightly lower in frequency when compared to the tonic shadja.
addha tintal N.I. name of a tala of sixteen counts (4+4+4+4)
akaarasaadhakam S.I. the practice of music using the intonation, aa. it is among the basic vocal exercises in indian music. these exercises help in acquiring a sweet, round, beautiful and pleasant tone and strenghtens the voice. Hindustani akar.
akaar N.I. vocal improvisations using the long vowel 'a'
aksharakaala S.I. is a unit of time in music. it is relative and not an absolute measure.
alankaara S.I. are scale exercises illustrating the seven principal swaras and their varieties and describes the decorative figures that adorn a raga.
alankara N.I. ornamentation, elaboration'; a particular melodic figuration used as an exercise
alaap N.I. the introductory, non-metrical part of a performance in which the raga is slowly and systematically unfolded; it elaborates the musical ideas on the melodic axis, in a Raga. Carnatic Aalaapana.
anakshara aalaapana S.I. is the aalaapana, when no words, syllables  are used.
andolan N.I. a slow and delicate oscillation on a single tone
ang N.I. 'limb, part'; a characteristic phrase or movement of a raga; part of an octave; a particular style
anhad N.I. Cosmic Silence
antara N.I. 'intermediary'; the second section of a composition, usually including and emphasislng the upper tonic
anubandham S.I. the final and concluding section of a composition. it serves to give a greater sense of finality.
anuloma S.I. a term to signify the singing or performing a theme in three degrees of speed, while keeping the basic tala constant. the kriti is thus first sung once at its basic speed, then twice at double its speed and at double that or four times the basic speed in the third stage.
anupallavi S.I. the second section of a kriti, varna, padam in carnatic music.
anuvadi S.I. all ragas have two pivotal swaras called vadi & samvadi, while the other swaras are neither. these are called anuvadi swaras.
apaswara S.I. a swara whose pitch has poor focus. it is a note that is off-key.
archika S.I. means singing to one note. eg., certain passages in the rig veda where the recitation should be in one note.
aroha N.I. ascending note pattern. Carnatic arohana
arohana S.I. is a series of notes in the ascending order of pitch. Hindustani aroha
ashtakam S.I. a song consisting of eight sections and each section being sung to the same music.
ashtapadi S.I. is the name given to the poetry by jayadeva in the geeta govindam consisting of 26 ashtapadis. Literally eight verses.
ati komal N.I. very flat
auchar N.I. a brief non-metrical melodic introduction preceding the section in meter
audav N.I. pentatonic
avaroha N.I. descending note pattern. Carnatic avarohana.
avarohana S.I. is the descending scale of notes of a raga. Hindustani avaroha.


bada khyal N.I. 'big' khyal; the first composition or part of a khyal performance in slow tempo
badhat N.I. elaboration of the raga, also rendered in the context of the compositional section in meter
baj N.I. style of playing an instrument
bandish N.I. a fixed composition, usually with two parts corresponding to the sthayi and antara
bani S.I. the characteristic style of singing or performing associated with a particular school, singer or performer. Similar to gayaki.
bansuri N.I. bamboo flute
bhaarya raaga N.I. literally, this means a wife raga. in hindustani music, ragas are classified into ragas, raginis and putras. six male ragas were recognised and to each of them were assigned five bharya ragas.
bhaava S.I. is the emotion that is portrayed while rendering a raga, without which a raga is a mere scale. Similar to Rasa.
bhagavata mela S.I. is a form of devotional dance and song performances in the presence of temple deities during the temple festivals.
bhagavatar S.I. the name given to performers of kathakalakshepam or religious discourses to the accompaniment of music.
bhajan Common Hindu devotional poem set to music
bhakthi rasa Common the feeling of devotion. this is the tenth rasa.
bin N.I. a fretted stick zither with two gourd resonators, also referred to as rudra vina
binkar N.I. a bin player
bol N.I. 'word'; lyrics of a song; also a mnemonic by which drum strokes and right-hand strokes of plucked
bol tana N.I. words of the song; Musical phrases interlinked with bols (words).
brij bhasha N.I. a dialect of Hindi which was the most prominent literary language for song lyrics and Krishnaite devotional poetry
briga/birka S.I. is a musical phrase sung or played in quick tempo.


chakra S.I. the chakra is the basic unit around which the 72 melakarta raagas are arranged. there are 12 chakras or sections, with each chakra comprising within it 6 mela ragas.
chalan N.I. movement'; a melodic outline of a raga usually containing a number of characteristic ascending and descending movements
charanam S.I. is the third part (the concluding) of any composition or kriti in the carnatic tradition.
chaturanga N.I. (chatur-four, anga-parts) it is descriptive of the four parts of music - khayal, tarana, sargam and tirvata.
chaturbhaaga S.I. is a unit of time equal in duration to half of an anudrutam.
chaturdandi Common the most ancient swaras known in the indian music. the swaras are udaatta, anudaatta and svarita of the vedic hymns. panini refers to these 3 notes as the aadi swaras.
chaturdasa murchchanas Common are the 14 murchchanas or scales that are born out of what is known as grama bheda.
chaturdhatu prabandha Common is a musical form which had all the 4 dhatus or sections - udgraha, melapaba, dhruva and abhoga.
chaturmudra prabandha Common a composition containing any four of the dvaadasa mudras in its sahitya.
chaturtha jati Common is a kind of taan which uses four notes in a single cluster as it moves.
chaturtha kala S.I. fourth degree of speed.
chaturtha raga vardhani S.I. the fourth stage of the main part or the body of a raga aalaapana. murchchana prastara or sanchaara in quick tempo is the main feature of this fourth part of the aalaapana.
chaturtha vidari S.I. the concluding part of that section of the raga aalaapana known as chaturtha raga vardhani.
chatushpadi S.I. devotional music, consisting of four padas.
chauka kaalam S.I. slow tempo. a chauka kaala kriti is one in slow speed.
chaukam S.I. the style of singing raga aalaapana in slow tempo.
chautal N.I. name of a tala of twelve counts (2+2+2+2+2+2) which is mainly used in dhrupad compositions
chikari N.I. drone strings In Sitar, Sarod and such instruments
chitta swara S.I. are a series of set swaras - geometeres usually sung after the anupallavi and the charanam in a composition.
cheez N.I. a vocal composition, usually with two parts corresponding to the sthayi and antara
chota khyal N.I. 'small' khyal; a composition in medium to fast tempo that usually follows the bada khyal


dadra N.I. name of a tala of six counts (3+3); a light-classical vocal genre and type of song set to dadra
darbar N.I. the royal court
dardila N.I. is used to describe a voice or music touched with anguish.
dasavidha gamaka S.I. are 10 kinds of gamakas - avaroha, dhalu, sphuritha, kampitha, ahata, pratyahatha, tripuchcha, andola, murchchana.
datu prayoga S.I. a musical phrase containing datu swaras. a raga admits of only those datu swara prayogas which reveal and establish its melodic individuality.
datu swara S.I. a note removed from another note by some steps.
datu swara varisai S.I. swara exercises involving datu swaras. the practice of these exercises develops swarajnanam.
deshi N.I. 'regional, provincial'; in music history this term is used to refer to regional musical traditions and ragas
dhaivat (Dha) N.I. name of the sixth scale degree
dhamar N.I. name of a tala of fourteen counts (5+2+3+4); a vocal genre and type of song which is set to dhamar tala and related to dhrupad
dhatu S.I. the technical term signifying the music of a composition as distinguished from the term 'maatu', which signifies the sahitya of the composition..
dheergha(long) S.I. a long note lasting atleast two units of time as opposed to a swara which lasts only one unit beat of time.
dhrupad N.I. the oldest surviving vocal genre in Hindustani music and a type of composition which usually has four parts corresponding to four musical sections
dhruva S.I. a kind of musical composition referred to by bharatha in his natya sastra, used in dramas.
dhun N.I. a type of song or instrumental genre which is based on folk and popular music; A light tune, free from the discipline of a Raga.
dhvani S.I. literally, means sound.
dhyana N.I. contemplation'; a short pictorial description of a raga in the form of a contemplative poem
deepchandi N.I. name of a tala of fourteen counts (3+4+3+4), mainly used in thurnri
divya prabandham S.I. the 4000 verses of shlokas composed by vaishnava saints in tamil.
divyanaama kirtana S.I. literally, a song containing the names of the lord & his praises and intended for being sung in bhajans.
divyanaama sankirtanam S.I. practice of divyanaama kirtanaas.
drisya gaanam S.I. singing from sight. musical passages given in notation.
drut N.I. sast tempo or laya. It is perform and marks the climax of the performance
dvaadasa mudra S.I. the 12 kinds of mudras figuring in musical compositions. mudras are names introduced into the sahitya of a musical composition to signify facts like its composer, raga, tala, type, etc.,
dvidhatu prabhanda S.I. a musical composition which has 2 sections; udgraaha nd dhruva. jayadeva's ashtapadi are examples.
dvimudrakaara S.I. a composer who has used two kinds of mudras in his compositions.
dvitiya ragavardhani S.I. the second section of the main part of the body of the raga aalaapana. the sanchaaras in this section are confined to the madhya sthayi, with occasssional flights in the other octaves. the sanchaaras in this section in particular reveal the individuality, creative talents and imaginative skill of the performer.


ekakaala S.I. one of the 10 elements of musical time; wherein for each taala akshara or count, there is only one kaala.
ekamudrakaara S.I. a composer who has used only one type of vaggeyakaara mudra in his compositions.
ektal N.I. name of a tala of twelve counts (2+2+2+2+2+2)
erra jaaru S.I. ascending glide.


gaana gita S.I. compositions which are the contribution of composers as opposed to folk songs or songs of unknown authorship.
gaana krama S.I. is the style of singing various movements in a composition. the gitam is sung right through without repeating any line. in the kriti each sangati is sung twice. the anupallavi is sung after the pallavi and the charanam follows the anupallavi.
gaana shastra S.I. the science of music.
gamak / gamaka Common any ornament; more specifically referred to as a heavy shake on a single tone; A tonal embellishment, a grace. A note with a touch of the preceding or the succeeding note. It gives a vibratory effect.
gamaka swara Common a graced note, the opposite of shudha swara or plainly uttered note.
gamana geeta S.I. a march tune.
gandhar (Ga) N.I. name of the third scale degree
gandharva geeta S.I. the music that developed spontaneously (gandharva- heavenly singers mentioned frequently in the indian puranas and mythologies).
gat N.I. gait'; a fixed composition used in kathak dance, tabla, sitar and sarod, in which the melodic or rhythmic patterns are defined by bols
gayaki N.I. style of singing.
ghana raag S.I. a raga whose melodic individuality is easily revealed through tana style of exposition. nata, gaula, arabhi, varali and sri are examples.
gharana N.I. the tradition and lineage of a musical family; a stylistic school; A school of music representing a specific musical lineage or tradition
ghazal N.I. a Persian or Urdu poetic genre; in music it is a type of song which expresses both spiritual and worldly love
geetam S.I. a musical composition learnt by students after a course in the preliminary swara exercises and alankaaras..
grama N.I. a basic scale in ancient Indian music
grama raga N.I. an ancient mode
guru N.I. spiritual mentor, teacher.


hasya rasa Common one of the nava rasas - the rasa of mirth or laughter.
heptatonic N.I. a scale of raga with seven notes.
hexatonic N.I. a scale of raga with six notes.
Hindustani N.I. pertaining to northern India
hori N.I. a vocal genre in dhamat tala; the lyrics express the love-pranks of Radha and Krishna during the Hindu spring and colour-festival of holi
hunkaara S.I. a vareity of sanchari alankaara.


janaka raag S.I. literally, a parent raaga. Also called melakartha.
janaka-janya paddhati S.I. the system of classification of raagas into parent raagas and derivative raagas.
janta swara S.I. double notes.
janya raaga S.I. a raaga born or derived from a janaka or parent raaga.
jathi swaram S.I. a composition with the divisions pallavi, anupallavi and charanam but without a sahitya.
jati N.I. 'class, species, genus'; an ancient category of modes
javali S.I. a song of an romatic nature.
jhala N.I. the fastest section of an instrumental alap or gat in which the melody played on the main strings is accompanied by rapid strumming of the drone-strings
jhaptal N.I. name of a tala of ten counts (2+3+2+3)
jiva swara S.I. the life note of a raaga. it is also called raaga chhaya swara.
jod N.I. 'joining'; usually the second section of an instrumental alap in which a clear pulse is introduced
jugalbandhi N.I. partnership of vocal or instrumental music, a duet in performance.


kaaku S.I. a song of an erotic nature.
kachcheri S.I. the popular term for a music concert.
kaharva N.I. name of a tala of eight counts (4+4)
kajri N.I. folk song from Uttar Pradesh.
kalakshepam S.I. a discourse on a sacred theme to the accompaniment of music.
kampam S.I. a type of gamaka.
kampita swara S.I. the note which is rendered with a shake.
kan N.I. a single grace note or inflection before or after an articulated tone
kathak N.I. story teller'; a caste of professional musician and dancers in eastern Uttar Pradesh; also the main form of North Indian classical dance.
keerthana S.I. a simpler form of musical composition. words are given more importance than the musical content.
khaali N.I. the 'empty' unstressed beat of a tala which is indicated by a silent wave of the hand and usually serves as a counterbalance to the first beat, sam
khandmeru N.I. permutation and combination of notes.
khayal N.I. the prevalent vocal genre in Hindustani classical music, has its origin in the Persian word meaning, imagination or creative thought.
komal Common 'soft'; flat, a note lowered by a semitone
krama S.I. regular (as opposed to vakra).
krama sanchaara S.I. phrases which confirm to the arohana-avarohana gati of the raga.
kriti S.I. said to have evolved from the keerthana where the musical value is higher than the keerthana. it is more technical than keerthana.


lakshana S.I. the science or grammar with respect to raaga, taala or musical form.
lakshana gita S.I. is concerned with the enumeration of the lakshana of the raaga in the sahitya.
lakshya gita S.I. a geetham that is simple in tune and other technical aspects. it is usually meant for beginners. this is an exercise for beginners to correlate sahitya to swara passages and sing.
laya Common rhythm or tempo; The tempo is regulated. The duration of rest between two strokes of 'matra' is laya.
layakari N.I. 'playing with rhythm'; rhythmic variation and improvisation


madakku S.I. repetition of a word or a line in a musical composition, each time with a different meaning.
madhya N.I. 'medium, middle'
madhyam(Ma) N.I. name of the fourth scale degree
madhyama kaala S.I. medium speed or moderate tempo.
mandalam S.I. a group or collection.
mandra N.I. 'low'; usually referring to the lower register
mangalam S.I. a song of salutation, sacred that is sung at the end of a performance.
manodharma sangeeta S.I. creative music.
marga Common 'path, way'; the ancient musical system
masitkhani N.I. a genre of sitar playing incorporating gats and their extensions in slow or medium tempo, based on fixed stroke patterns, named after the late 18th century musician composer Masit Khan
matra N.I. 'that which measures'; the basic time or counting unit of a tala
mela N.I. 'assembly'; a scale type used for classifying ragas
melakarta S.I. a parent scale from which many janya raagas are derived. Also called janaka.
meend N.I. a gradual slide (portamento) from one tone to another
mishra Common Mixed. When a raga is mixed with another or more of other ragas it is called a Mishra raga.
mukhda N.I. signature'; the cadence that punctuates each section of an alap; the phrase of a composition that leads to the first beat of the rhythm cycle, sam
muktaayi S.I. the final or the concluding part of a raaga aalaapana.
murchchana S.I. one of the ten gamakas.
murki N.I. a fast and delicate ornament involving two or more tones, similar to a mordent


nada N.I. musical sound; cosmic energy.
nadopaasaka S.I. one who meditates on absolute music or nada.
nama sankirtanam S.I. sacred music involving the repeated recital of god's name.
namita S.I. one of the gamakas - singing a part of raaga aalaapana in a slender tone.
natya gaana S.I. music used in dances.
navagraha kirtanas S.I. songs on planets for the seven days of the week.
navarasas S.I. the nine kinds of feelings or emotions.
navaratri kirtanas S.I. nine kirtanas composed, intended for singing during the navarathri festival.
navavarna kirtanas S.I. the 9 compositions composed by muthuswamy dikshitar on kamalamba (tiruvarur temple)
naya S.I. soft
nayak N.I. hero
nayika N.I. heroine
nirgit S.I. a composition without words. eg., jatiswaram.
nishad (Ni) N.I. name of the seventh scale degree
nokku S.I. one of the 15 classical gamakas.
nom-tom N.I. alap using abstract syllables, sung before a dhrupad or dhamar


oudhav N.I. scale of raga with five notes.


pad N.I. 'word'; song lyrics
pakad N.I. 'catch' or key phrase of a raga
pallavi S.I. the opening part of a kirtana.
pancham (Pa) N.I. name of the fifth scale degree
pandit N.I. a person well versed (in theory of music)
parampara N.I. Guru-Shishya Parampara. Sacred relationship between the master and the pupil by which knowledge is transmitted to the next generation.
pentatonic N.I. a scale of raga with five notes.
poorab ang N.I. the 'eastern' school, (usually of Varanasi) of singing Thumri or playing the Tabia,
poorvang N.I. the lower tetrachord Sa to Ma, or pentachord Sa to Pa
prayoga S.I. a technique of expression in raaga.
putra N.I. 'son'; offspring of a raga and ragini, used in old raga classification systems


qawwali N.I. from qual - mystical sayings of sufi saints.


raag N.I. a tonal framework for composition and improvisation; melodic type
raagmaala Common 'garland of ragas'; a set of paintings depicting the raga- ragini images described in dhyanas; also an old genre
ragini N.I. in which a number of ragas are unfolded a feminine counterpart of the 'male' raga, used in old raga classification systems
rasa Common a pervading emotional flavour or aesthetic sentiment; Aesthetic content or emotional appeal.
rasika S.I. a music lover.
razakhani N.I. a genre of sitar playing incorporating gats in fast tempo named after the mid-19th century musician-composer Raza Khan
rishabh (Re) N.I. name of the second scale degree
roopak N.I. name of a tala of seven counts (3+2+2)


sam N.I. the first beat of a tala which is usually accentuated
sampoornajati S.I. a raaga that has all the seven notes.
sampoorna N.I. 'complete'; heptatonic
samvadi N.I. the consonant note which has a relationship of a perfect fourth or fifth with the vadi; The note next in importance to Vadi.
sanchaara S.I. exploration of the terrain of a raaga (with a particular gait, geometry, progression).
sangat N.I. accompaniment; usually of the percussion instruments with the main performer of vocal or instrumental music. Telas organise rhythm, the Sangatia does not only maintain the laya but also makes the concert more enjoyable by applying different subdivisions and tala pattern
sangeet Common music
sankirna N.I. 'combined'; in music it refers to a compound raga
saptak N.I. 'the set of seven'; the heptatonic scale
sarangi N.I. the main bowed lute of northern India
sargam N.I. the seven sol-fa syllables used in oral and written notation; a composition or tana which uses the names of the notes
sarod N.I. the main short lute of northern India
shadav N.I. hexatonic
shadja (Sa) N.I. name of the first scale degree
shishya Common disciple.
shruti Common intonation; the twenty-two divisions of the ancient Indian octave; microtone; In Sanskrit, 'Shruti' means that which is heard. Shruti is a microtonal interval less than a semitone and is determined chiefly through a fine auditory sensibility.
shudha N.I. 'pure'; a natural note
sitar N.I. the main fretted long lute of northern India
sitarkhani N.I. name of a tala of sixteen counts (4+4+4+4)
sthayi N.I. 'standing, constant'; the first section of a composition which is frequently repeated
swara / svara N.I. tone; one of the seven scale degrees; Musical note, a tonal register.
swara bheda S.I. a technique of modal shift of the tonic note.
swara prasthaara S.I. an exercise of phrases of notes in various rhythms and layas.
swaramandala N.I. a harp like instrument constructed with a box and approx. 40 strings. Used by some vocalists for strumming along with their performance


tabla N.I. the main percussion instrument in Hindustani music, consisting of a pair of tuneable hand-played drums
tala Common 'time measurement'; the rhythmic/metric system; a metric type
tana / taan N.I. a fast melodic passage
tanpoora / tamboora N.I. an unfretted long lute which provides the drone
tappa N.I. a type of song and vocal genre related to khyal, featuring rapid and complex tanas with abrupt jumps , It is devoloped from the folk songs of camel drivers of Panjab.
tar N.I. 'high'; usually referring to the upper register
tarana N.I. a composition in which mnemonics are used, which are meaningless syllables that extrapolate the raaga and produce rhythmic delight. Carnatic thillana.
thaat N.I. framework, arrangement'; a scale type used as a basis for raga classification; the correct fret setting (on a sitar) for each raga
theka N.I. the basic pattern of drum strokes which characterises a tala
thumri N.I. the most popular light-classical genre
tihai N.I. a rhythmic or melodic cadence in which a phrase is repeated three times before ending on the sam or just before the mukhda
tillaana S.I. See tarana
teental N.I. the main Hindustani tala of sixteen counts (4+4+4+4)
teevar N.I. sharp; a note raised by a semitone
teevaratar N.I. very sharp


uttaranga N.I. the upper tetrachord Pa to Sa, or pentachord Ma to Sa


vaadi Common the sonant or strongest note which has a consonant relatiofiship of a perfect fourth or fifth with the samvadi ; Dominant note of a raga.
vaadya S.I. any musical instrument.
vaggeyakaara S.I. a composer of music.
vakra Common 'crooked'; referring to a scale or pattern that follows a curved, zigzag path
vilambit N.I. slow tempo. The charm of Vllambit is in grave, temperate sweetness. After Vilambit comes Madhya laya (fast tempo).
vistar Common extension, expansion'; Elaboration and lmprovisation upon the notes, for development of melodic ideas in music ; see badhat
vivadi swara Common a swara which is dissonant to the scale of a raaga.
vrinda gaana S.I. choral singing