Category Archives: Talam

“More About Suladi Sapta Taalam”


As described in the previous post, the Suladi sapta talam are seven in number.

In Carnatic music “Nadai” or “jathis” are hyperlinked to the Suladi sapta talam . As we know that an avartanam of talam comprises of laghu and dhrutham, “jathi” is linked to that part of the talam which is described as “Laghu”. Laghu is denoted as |and dhrutham is denoted as O.

As we already learnt that there are 5 types of jathis, laghu could also be expressed in 5 different ways as detailed below:

1. Thishra jathi laghu            :   |

2. Chaturashra jathi laghu   :   |4

3. Khanda jathi laghu          :   |5

4. Mishra jathi laghu and     :  |7

5. Sangeerna jathi laghu     :   |9

 Hence each of the Suladi Sapta talam will be having 5 different types depending on the type of jathis hence making 35 types of talams in Carnatic music.The type of jathi determines the type of laghu and thus the type of talam.

For example, lets take the 5 different ways of expressing the Triputa talam (which is basically one laghu and two drutham  – | O O ).

|3 O O – Thishra jathi Triputa Talam           

|4 O O – Chaturashra jathi Triputa Talam  – Displayed as { Hit , Count 1,2,3 Hit , wave, Hit wave }

|5 O O – Khanda jathi Triputa Talam        

|7 O O – Mishra jathi Triputa Talam          

|9 O O – Sangeerna jathi Triputa Talam

The chaturashra jathi Triputa Talam is the most commonly known “Aadi Talam”.

Every composition is rendered at different speeds which is referred as kaalam.

Talam and kalam have great importance in Carnatic music as well as classical dance be it Bharatanatyam or Mohiniyattam or Kuchipudi.

There are basically three different kalam in which a talam could be expressed.

1. First speed      : Vilamba kalam

2. Second speed : Madhyama kalam

3. Third speed     :Duritha kalam

Each of the seven talam is taught in one single jathi in the preliminary exercise called Alankaram and these talas are called the Desitalas. The seven talams in the Alankaram are as follows :
1. Dhruva Talam –
1 laghu 1 drutham 2 laghus – | O | |
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is Chaturashra jathi Dhruva Talam { |4 O |4 |4 }
2. Matya Talam –
1 laghu 1 drutham 1 laghus – | O |
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is Chaturashra jathi Matya Talam { |4 O |4 }
3. Rupaka Talam –
1 drutham 1 laghu – O |
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is Chaturashra jathi Rupaka Talam { O |4 }
4. Jampa Talam –
1 laghu 1 anudrutham 1 drutham – |u O
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is Mishra jathi jampa Talam { |7 U O }
5. Triputa Talam –
1 laghu 2 drutham – | O O
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is Thishra jathi Triputa Talam { |3 O O }
6. Ata Talam –
2 laghu 2 drutham – || O O
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is Khanda jathi Ata Talam { |5 |5 O O }
7. Eka Talam –
1 laghu – |
Type of talam practised in Alankaram is chaturashra jathi Eka Talam { |4 }


” The Concept of Taalam “


Taalam  is a Sanskrit word which means “to clap”.

In Carnatic music , it represents a rhythmic pattern of beats that every song is set, to do a concert. There are songs that are set to multiple rythms.

Physical display of talam is called “kriyai”. There are two types of kriyai.

  1. Sashabda kriyai – Displaying the talam by making a sound ( usually done by hitting the palm on the thigh or on the other palm)
  2. Nishabda kriyai – Displaying the talam (done by not making a sound by waving the palm)

Sashabdha kriyai is subdivided into four types:

1.Druva kriyai – Produce sound by thumb and middle finger

2.Samya kriyai – Beat over the right palm with your left palm

3.Tala kriyai – Beat over the left palm with your right palm

4.Sannipata kriyai – Both palms trike together facing each other

Nishabdha kriyai is subdivided into four types:

1.Avapa kriyai – Display talam by folding the fingers

2.Nishkrama kriyai – Display the talam by opening the folded fingers

3.Vikshepa kriyai – Display the talam by waving the hand to right side

4.Pravesa kriyai – Display the talam by bringing it back

There are basically 7 types of Talam in Carnatic music called “Suladi sapta talam”. They are listed below:

  1. Dhruva Talam
  2. Matya Talam
  3. Roopaka Talam
  4. Jampai Talam
  5. Triputa Talam
  6. Ata Talam
  7. Eka Talam

Every hit or pulse is called “Angam” or “Akshara”. The aksharams are arranged in a particular pattern placed at equal intervals which is then repeated throughout the music/song and is called “Avartanam”. Every Talam is defined by the number and arrangement of the aksharams in the avartanam.

Every Talam is a combination of “Laghu and Drutham” and “anudritham”

Laghu is hitting with your palm and counting the fingers while Drutham is hitting and waving the palms and anudhrutham is just hitting.

Gathi, Kalam and Yathi

The sub units of each akshara in one avartanam of any talam are called Gathis or Matras. They are the same like the the Jaathis mentioned before as the sub countings of a laghu.

Carnatic music recognizes 5 types of Ghati’s or nadai which forms part of the Talam. Mridangams (Drums) are one of the major percussion instrument used in bharatantyam music that uses the Ghati’s as the drum syllables. They are listed below:

  1. Thishram                    – 3 beats ( Ta ki ta )
  2. Chaturashram           – 4 beats ( Ta ka dhi mi )
  3. Khandam                    – 5 beats (Ta ka ta ki ta )
  4. Mishram                     – 7 beats ( Ta ka dhi mi Ta ki ta )  Combination of chaturashram & Thishram
  5. Sankeernam              – 9 beats (Ta ka dhi mi Ta ka ta ki ta ) Combination of chaturashram & Khandam

When each akshara has just one count (say for eg.Ta Ka Di Mi) of the Gathi, then we call it as One Kalai and when it has two counts of Gathi foreach akshara it is called Two Kalai and so on.

Gathi is also known as Nadai.

Chathurashra nadai has four mathras for each akshara of a talam. For example, in Adi Talam if it is chathurashra nadai the total mathras in one avartanam is 32 (8 x 4) and if it is Thishra nadai the total mathras will be 24 (8 x 3) and so on.Hence each of the 35 Talas as described in the post“More about Suladi Sapta Talam” has variations with the above 5 nadais and thus making it to have 175 talas (35 x 5).

is nothing but arranging the symbols of the talam (Like Tha , Thi , Thom , Nam etc)to get a beautiful combination that synchronize with the music.

When all the syllables are equal in number for each akshara as its Gathi then it is called Sama Yathi. For example, in Adi Talam with chathurashra gathi, sub units of each akshara are implemented as Ta Ka Di Mi whereas in Thishra gathi sub units of each akshara are implemented as Ta Ki Ta and so on.

When the syllables are arranged in a jumbled way as one’s own imagination then it is called Vishama Yathi. For example in Adi Talam with Chathurashra Gathi, there should be 32 (8 x 4) mathras. Hence the Yathi could be in the form of (5 + 4 + 9 + 7 + 3 + 4) that makes it a total of 32 mathras or in any other combination which will add up to 32 mathras.

Apart from these two Yathis there are also other types like Mridanga Yathi, Damaru Yathi (Veda Madhyama Yathi), Gopucha Yathi and Srotovaha Yathi).

When the syllables are arranged in the shape of a mridangam it is called a Mridanga Yathi. 

When the syllables are arranged in the shape of a damaru it is called a Damaru Yathi.For example Takadimi Takajanu Taka Takajanu Takajanu Taka Takajanu Takadimi Takajanu

The equivalence of few of the syallables in terms of matras is given below:
Ta – 1
Ta a – 2
Ta m – 2
Ta ka – 2
Ta ki ta – 3
Ta ka di mi – 4
Ta ka ja nu – 4
Tadimginatom – 5
Tadi..mginatom – 6
Ta..di..mginatom – 7

Chaipu Talas

Chaipu talas do not fall into the category of the Suladi Sapta tala. However they are used in conjunction with the Suladi sapta talas with corresponding teerumanas. They are talas that consist of only beats without having any anghas (laghu and drutham) of the suladi sapta tala system. They are called Chaipu talam because the tala distribution is having “chaiv”(slant) towards one side. In other words, we cant divide the tala syllables definitely or equally.

There are four Chaipu talas in use and they are the following:

• Thishra chaipu tala – Ta Ki Ta (One and half aksharas that equals to six matras)
• Khanda chaipu tala – Ta Ka Ta Ki Ta (Two and half aksharas that equals to ten matras)
• Mishra chaipu tala – Ta Ki Ta Ta Ka Di Mi (Three and half aksharas that equals to fourteen matras)
• Sankeerna chaipu talam – Ta Ka Di Mi Ta Ka Ta Ki Ta (Four and half aksharas that equals to eighteen matras)

Chaipu denotes that the cycle is not uniform. For example in Khanda chaipu the cycle is one – two, one – two – three where there is a sub division of the cycle into two parts that are not equal. The first part with two beats duration and the second part with three beats duration. Viloma chaipu talam is a variation of chaipu where the pattern is reversed. In this example it is Ta Ki Ta Ta Ka Di Mi in order to get a three – four beat cycle unlike mishra chaipu where it is a four – three beat cycle.

The matra representation of the above four Chaipu talas are as below:

  • Thishra chaipu talam : Takadimi Taka
  • Khanda chaipu talam :  Takadimi Takadimi Taka
  • Mishra chaipu talam  :   Takadimi Taka Takadimi Takajanu
  • Sankeerna chaipu talam: Takadimi Takajanu Takadimi Takadimi Taka

Most commonly used talas

Though we have seen and understood from the above descriptions, that there are so many types of talas which add up to a big number as a conclusion, we can notice that only few of the talas are very commonly used by musicians and composers. Let’s see these talas:

• Chaturashra nadai chaturashra jaati triputa talam which is the most commonly used Adi Talam. Many kritis and most of the varnams are set in this talam.
• Chaturashra nadai chaturashra jaati rupaka talam that eventually becomes a 24 beat cycle. Many kritis are set to this talam.
• Chaturashra nadai khanda jaati ata talam which is a 14 beat cycle. There are many varnams set to this talam.
• Thishra nadai chturashra jaati triputa talam also known as thishra nadai adi talam which is 24 beat cycle. Compositions in this talam can also be sung in rupaka talam.
• Khanda chaapu and Mishra chaapu talams are also very commonly used. There are many padams and kritis set to these talams.