Tala Dhasa Pranas, the most important in Carnatic Sangeeth - Music

Dhasa means 10 and prana means inherent dynamic force. So, "Tala Dhasa Prana" is 10 stages of the dynamic force inherent in tala. In other words, there are 10 elements of tala. So, tala starts from an invisible stage and naturally attains a visible stage that can be perceived by senses. The invisible stage of tala has to be realized just like we realize our Self -Atma, Almighty, Universe and so on....

I will put it forward like this: "If you can very well determine the shape of Wind or the supreme form of Lord Siva, the expanse of the Universe, magnitude of pleasure of flute or the Essence of Vedas, you can define properly the tala intricacies". This means, definition in material terms is impossible in all these above elements in this universe. One should go beyond the senses to realize the subtle nature. Similarly, the subtle nature of talas must be realized and only the outward manifestation of talas can be defined. This act is similar to drawing a small portion of water from ocean with a small container. This small portion of tala as understood by many stars in this field is explained below. The tala pranas are,

1. Kaalam
2. Maargam
3. Kriyai
4. Angam
5. Graham
6. Jaathi
7. Kalai
8. Layam
9. Yathi
Everything is rhythm. Sunset, Sunrise, Earth's rotation and revolution etc..., is rhythm of nature. Now let us see the rhythm of talas as manifested into 10 stages as listed above. The first four is explained in this part. The others are explained in Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 and Chapter 6.

1. Kaalam: Kalam consists of 10 stages again. They are,
(a). Kanam (b). Lavam (c). Kaashtam (d). Nimisham (E). Thudi (F). Dhrutham (G). Lagu (H). Guru (I). Plutham (J). Kaakapaadham.
Kanam: Time is normally understood in terms of seconds, minutes and hours. Now let us take the "seconds". Let us assume that we divide a second into 8 sub-divisions. Each of this is sub divided by 8 again and this small sub divided unit is further sub divided into 8 divisions. This part of sub divided unit can only be perceived mentally and physical sign of this time cannot be shown. This minutest time is said to be "Kanam".

Kanam is further understood by the following experiment.
100 Lotus petals are taken together and a needle is pierced through the petals. The time taken for the needle to pass through one petal to the other is known as "kanam". When kanam is understood, the other 9 stages can be tabled as below:
8 such kanam = 1 Lavam
8 such Lavam = 1Kaashtam
8 such Kaashtam = 1Nimisham
8 such Nimishams = 1 Thudi
2 such Thudis = 1 Dhrutham
2 such Dhruthams = 1 Laghu
2 such Laghu = 1 Guru
3 such Laghus = 1 Plutham
4 such Laghus = 1 Kaakapadham
Only from "Nimisham" onwards one can physically recon the tala parts. The first three time units shown in the table can only be imagined and understood by going beyond our five senses.

2. Maargam (also spelled as Maarkam, Margam): The way tala is put into applications is called Maargam.
There are six ways that determines the tempo or speed of music. They are,
(a). Thakshanam: For one Akshara main count or tala unit, there are 8 minor units or seconds. The 8 minor units make the speed 'Kalai', that is, 8 Mathras in one tala unit (Kalai).
(b). Vaarthikam: 4 Matharas for one Akshara.
(c). Chithram: 2 Mathras for one akshara.
(d). Chitra Tharam: 1 Mathra for one Akshara
(e). Chithra Thamam: 1/2 Mathra for one Akshara. As tala syllable or swara cannot split, one has to use 2 fast syllables for one akshara.
(f). Athi Chithra Thamam: 1/4 mathara for one Akshara. In this case one has to use 4 fast syllables for one Akshara.

3. Kriyai: Kriyai is a physical action that is sub divided into two. One is "Maargam" (another kind) and the other is "Desiyam". This maarkam is of two kinds. One is "Shabdha Maargam" and the other is "Nishabdha Maargam". Shabdha Maargam is further divided into four types. They are,
(a). Dhruva - produce sound by Thumb and Middle finger (Chitigai).
(b). Samya - Beat over the right palm with the left palm.
(c). Tala - Beat over the left palm with the right palm.
(d). Sannipata - Both palms strike together facing each other.
These kinds of talas are also used in "Kummiaattam".
Nishabdha Maargam is also of four kinds. They are,
(a). Avapa - Folding the fingers
(b). Nishkrama - Opening the folded fingers.
(c). Vikshepa - Moving hand to the right side.
(d). Pravesa - Bringing it back
In Nishabdha maargam, all the tala actions mentioned above are performed without producing any sound.

Desiyam: Desiyam is of 8 kinds. They are,
(a). Dhruvaka - Beat of hand
(b). Sarpini - Waving right palm to the right
(c). Krushya (also spelled as Krishya) - Stretch hand to the right(Waving the right palm from the above left to the right)
(d). Padmini - Turn hand, palm downwards
(e). Visarjita - Waving the hand outwards turning the Palm upwards
(f). Vikshiptham - Closing the fingers and bringing the hand towards Self
(g) Pathaka - Raise hand with hand upwards
(h). Patitta - Bring the hand downwards(back to horizontal position)
These varieties of tala are used in Folk dances called "Koothu Natanam".
Except Druvaka, all the 7 kriyas from Sarpini to Pathitham (Also spelled as Patita) do not produce any sound (nisabda kriyas) and so they are also known as "Baava Samignya Talas". These do not have practical relevance now. These are explained only for the purpose of preservation of ancient works on talas.

4. Anga: Anga is nothing but practical application of perceptible tala mentioned in the category "kaalam" that is, from Nimisham to Kaakapatham. Angam means "limb" or "Parts" of Tala. These limbs or parts constitute a Tala. Angams ( also spelled as Angas) are basically six. See the table below.
or Anudruta
(Crescent Moon)
A beat(Dhruvaka)
DrutaFull Moon Mathi (Full Moon)One beat and a turn of hand
(Dhruvakam and Visarjita)
LaghulKanaiBeat (Druvaka) followed by
counting fingers according
to different units of jaathi
GuruSVillu(Bow)A Beat (Dhruvakam)and
Pathitham each followed by
counting fingers according to Jaathi
AravamA beat (Dhruvakam),Sarpini
and Krishya each followed by
counting fingers according to
different units of Jaathi.
Kaakapaadham +PulladiSarpini, Krishya, Pataka, Pathitham
each followed by counting fingers
according to different
units of Jaathi.
Kaakapaadham is rendered
without sound (NiSabda Anga)

Note that, only the first three Angas are used in "Suladi Sapta Talas" (Commonly known as "Sapta Talas") Combinations totaling 35 Talas, read topic "Saptha Talas". The other Angas namely Guru, Pluta and kakapata are used in talas known as "108 Talas" and other complicated talas that include "Simhanadhana Tala" which is the longest tala having 128 Aksharas. The first 5 Talas of 108 talas are known as "Maarga Talas" and also known as"Pancha Talas". The remaining 103 talas are known as "Desi Talas". There are 72 Melakartha Talas other than these talas. There were numerous combinations and varieties of talas in ancient days. All these talas have become obsolete and only Sapta Tala with jaathis combinations that give rise to 35 talas and Ghathi Bedha of 35 talas that give rise to 175 talas are in vogue today. Other talas are listed in this site just for the purpose of demonstration. There are other talas known as "Nava Talas", "Nava Saandhi Talas", "Abboorva Talas". The "Chanda Talas" are used in "Thiruppugazh" and the specialty of this tala is that, the talas are made to fit the lyrics, rhyme and stress of the song. In other words, the lyrics and rhyme are given importance which form different talas. Sage Arunagirinadhar is believed to have composed over 16000 songs and only 1365 songs have so far been traced. Coming back to Angam, let us see the combinations of Angams as listed in the table below.
The 6 Angams (shown in the table above) in combination with themselves give rise to 10 Angams, totaling to 16 Angams.The Ten Angas are shown, just for the purpose of history and demonstration. According to Talaprastara and its rules, it is said that these 10 Angas should not be rendered at all as tala. The other ten Angams are tabled below.
Ten Angas Chart
Ten AngasExplanationAksharas
1Dhrutha Viraama
Anudhrutham and Dhrutham
2Laghu Viraama
Anudhrutham and Laghu
3Laghu Dhrutha
Dhrutham and Laghu
4Lagu Dhrutha Viraama
Anudhrutham,Dhrutham and laghu
5Guru viraama
Anudhrutham and Guru
6Guru Dhrutha
Dhrutham and Guru
7Guru Dhrutha Viraama
Anudhrutham,Dhrutham and Guru
8Plutha Viraama
Anudhrutham and Plutham
9Plutha Dhrutha
Dhrutham and Plutham
10Plutha Dhrutha Viraama
Anudhrutham, Dhrutham and Plutham

The Aksharas shown in the last column for the last 9 angas, is in accordance with "chatusra lagu". The total aksharas vary with the other kinds of laghus.
Please Note: Technical name Viraama is also spelled as "Viraamam". Alternate spelling is "Viramam". There are two rhythmical forms in the universe. 1. The rhythmical forms which could be rendered. 2. The rhythmical forms which should not be rendered. This is based on Talaprastara and its rules. For example, Talas like 7 Talas giving rise to 35 and 175 Talas and Simhanandana tala can be rendered. Talas like 72 Melakartha Talas and Sharabhanandana Talas with Samyuktangas should not be rendered.

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