Glossary of Hindustani Classical Music


  1. Aalap: Introductory phase of composition (without tabla)
  2. Aaroha: Ascending structure of notes in a raga
  3. Alankar: Ornamental structure of notes (Meend, Kan, Gamak, Muraki, Khatka, Andolan, Kamapn)
  4. Anaghat: Taal played on tabla in such a way as to create sum prior (usually by one matra) to the normal first matra. It is used to create interesting rhythmic effect.
  5. Anuvaadi: The other notes of the raga
  6. Atit: Similar to anaghat, except that sum is created delayed by one matra. It is used to create interesting rhythmic effect.
  7. Avaroha: Descending structure of notes in a raga
  8. Bandeesh: Composition (that which has been “bound” in taal, laya and rules of raga) in a taal, composition with tabla
  9. Bol: Words used in solfa. Tabla bols are words used by tabla e.g. dhin, na, ghe, tirkat, tu, kete, dhage, treke, ta, tin etc. Words of sitar are da, ra, dir. Bols of vocal compositions are actual words or names of notes also.
  10. Chalan: A specific characteristic of each raga that describes its “punctuations” of notes
  11. Gat: Portion of composition with tabla
  12. Jati [1] of a raga: Identification of a raga based on number of notes in aaroha and avaroha. There are three jatis: Odav, Shadav, Sampurna, and the combinations there of.
  13. Khali: Not emphasized beat
  14. Komal swara: flat notes (re, ga, dha, ni) [komal = delicate]
  15. Laya: Speed of the flow of music. It can be Vilambit (slow), Madhya (medium) ou Drut (fast).
  16. Madhya saptak: Middle octave
  17. Mandra saptak: Lower octave
  18. Matra: Beat (measure or unit of time)
  19. Murchhana: Transposition of a raga scale to create another raga scale
  20. Nyas: “Resting place”. Particular swara in the raga where you can rest, i.e. end the phrase.
  21. Odav jati: Has five notes
  22. Pakad: Defining or identifying pattern of notes in a raga
  23. Prahar: A subdivision of the day assigned for the proper rendition of a raga. The day is divided in 8 prahars or divisions, each one with 3 hours duration. There are 4 prahars during daytime and 4 prahars during nighttime. The first prahar typically starts at 6am.
  24. Purvanga: First four notes of Saptak (Sa, Re, Ga, Ma)
  25. Raga: Musical framework of rules to aid in making compositions [2]
  26. Rasa: Sentiment. Each raga carries a primary sentiment. There are 9 sentiments e.g. devotion, peace, romance, disgust (used in drama), laughter (for drama), pathos, viira, seriousness.
  27. Samkirna raga, example of: Raga Desh is Odav-Sampurna raga because it has 5 notes in ascend (Sa, Re, Ma, Pa, Ni) and 7 notes (Sa”, ni, Dha, Pa, Ma, Ga, Re, Ga, Sa) in descend. Raga Malkauns is Odav raga because it has 5 notes in ascend (Sa, ga, Ma, dha, ni) in ascend and 5 notes in descend (Sa”, ni, dha, Ma, ga, Sa). It is not a samkirna raga.
  28. Samkirna raga: Raga with different of number of notes in ascend and descend.
  29. Sampurna jati: Has 7 notes
  30. Samvaadi: Second most important note in the raga
  31. Saptak: “Octave” – Group of 7 notes. It can be Mandra (lower), Madhya (middle), Taar (higher)
  32. Shadav jati: Has 6 notes
  33. Shuddha swara: Natural notes (Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni) [shuddha = pure]
  34. Sum (or Sam): The beat in taal where taal cycle and phrase of composition come together in a strong emphasis; it is usually the first beat and is usually tali.
  35. Swara (or Svara; Sur): Notes (Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni)
  36. Taal (or Tala [3]): Rhythmic cycle
  37. Taan: Rapid succession of notes
  38. Taar saptak: Upper (higher) octave
  39. Tali: Emphasized beat
  40. Tarana: A composition that uses bols of tabla, sitar, pakhawaj as its words.
  41. Thaat: Main scale structures (10 of them) or classes of raga defined by musicologist Bhatkhande. They are Bhairav, Asawari, Todi, Kafi, Marawa, Kalyan, Khamaj, Bhairavi, Poorvi, Bilawal.
  42. Theka: Simplified arrangement of the main bols of a taal. It defines the structure and subdivisions of a taal.
  43. Tihai: Repetition of a phrase done three times usually ending in Sum.
  44. Time of performance: Each raga has been assigned a particular time of the day (prahar) for its rendition.
  45. Tivra swara: sharp note (ma) [tivra = soft]
  46. Uttaranga: Last 4 notes of Saptak (Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa”)
  47. Vaadi: Most important note in the raga [4]
  48. Vakra jati raga: “Vakra” means indirect, or convoluted.This type of raga has specific rules regarding how a vakra swara must be approached in ascend or descend. This makes Chalan of raga a bit complicated and careful execution is required, else raga might slip into alternate raga scale. For example, raga Darabari Kanada is a vakra sampurna raga with ni being a vakra swara in descend. The descend of Darabari Kanada is: Sa”, dha, ni, Pa, Ma, Pa, ni, ga, Ma Re Sa. Notice that, in descend, one has to go to dha from Sa” before one can use the note ni.  Bilaskhani Todi is a vakra raga with Pa being a vakra swara in descend. The descend of the raga is: re” ni dha Ma, Pa dha ni dha Ma ga re, re ga Ma ga re, ga re Sa. In descend Pa is taken after going to Ma. Also, Ma is taken after ga (as in re ga Ma ga re phrase), after having travelled through the full scale. In a normal ascend, you can not take Ma after ga. You have to do: Sa, re ga Pa dha Sa”.
  49. Vibhag: Subdivision of a taal. For example, Dadra has two vibhags.
  50. Vivaadi: Forbidden notes in the raga = varjit swara


[1] Literally meaning “race”.

[2] Raga is a musical structure based on which musical compositions are created which are pleasant to hear. Raga means “that which colors the mind”.

[3] The word tala is formed from the initial syllables of tandava and lalita marmika (tala = ta + la).

[4] If vaadi is Purvanga, samvaadi will be in Uttaranga, and vice-versa.