CLASSIFICATION OF TALAS
In olden days, Talas were classified as Marga and Desi. Ancient texts
mention 5 Marga and 120 Desi talas. There are references to other
classifications like the 108 Talas, (which incidentally includes the
longest tala, Simhanandana of 128 Aksharas or counts mentioned earlier),
72 Talas (based on the 72-melakartas) and Navasandhi (Nine) Talas. These
classifications are however almost obsolete today and are mainly confined
However, the Suladi Sapta (Seven) talas (referred to as just Sapta tala
for the sake of convenience) are the principal talas in vogue today. They
represent a convenient and workable selection from out of the numerous
mentioned in various texts.
The Sapta Talas
Dhruva tala: Comprises a laghu, a drutam followed by two more laghus. It
is represented by the symbol - l O l l
2. Mathya tala: Consists of a laghu, a drutam followed by another laghu.
Symbol - l O l
3. Roopaka tala: Consists of a drutam followed by a laghu. Symbol - O l
4. Jhampa tala: Comprises a laghu followed by an anudrutam and a drutam.
Symbol - l U O
5. Triputa tala: Consists of a laghu followed by two drutams. Symbol - l O
6. Ata tala: Consists of two laghus followed by two drutams. Symbol - l l
7. Eka tala: Consists of just a laghu. Symbol - l
The 35-talas concept
Basically the 35-talas are an extension of the Sapta talas. The only
element that changes is the Laghu. We already came across the fact that a
laghu has five Jaatis (Chaturasra, Tisra, Misra, Khanda and Sankeerna). By
incorporating that, we get a total of 35 varieties (7 Talas * 5 Jaatis).
For instance, consider Dhruva tala with a Chaturasra laghu. A Chaturasra
jaati dhruva tala would have a Chaturasra laghu followed by a dhrutam and
two more Chaturasra laghus (It would be represented as I 4 0 I 4 I 4, the
4 near the laghu indicating a Chaturasra laghu). So we get an external
count of 14 beats in all (4+2+4+4). Now the same Dhruva tala could have a
Tisra laghu, in which case, we render a Tisra laghu instead of a
Chaturasra laghu and thereby get a total external count of 11 beats
(3+2+3+3) (This would be represented as I 3 0 I 3 I 3, the 3 representing
the Tisra laghu). This is applied to all the other talas in a similar
fashion. The important thing to be remembered is that it is always
advisable to specify the Jaati (type) of the laghu to avoid confusion.
(Refer 35-tala Chart)
The 175-talas concept
Before we go into the 175-talas, it is imperative that we introduce
another new concept called "Gati". Gati refers to a
specific but fixed time-interval between any two beats within a tala. It
can again be of five types: Chaturasra, Tisra, Misra, Khanda and Sankeerna.
The important thing to remember here is that the common names for the
types of Jaati and Gati are only indicators of the values 4, 3, 7, 5 and
9. Whereas Jaati refers to the external finger-counting, Gati refers to
the internal count between beats in the tala-cycle. Jaati gives a
structure to the tala and Gati determines the gait of the tala.
Coming to the 175 talas, it's once again a simple extension of the 7 and
35-tala concepts. Let's use the same example given above, Dhruva tala. Now
we already know that it can be of five different jatis. Suppose we specify
the Jaati as Chaturasra, let's see how the gati can affect it.
We know that the Chaturasra Jaati Dhruva tala has an external count of 14.
However, while rendering the tala, how are we to ensure that the
time-interval between each beat is uniform? This is where we introduce
Gati. Now, we could have a fixed interval of 4, 3, 7, 5 or 9 counts
between each beat. Let's take the example of Chaturasra Jaati dhruva tala
with an interval of 4 units per beat, i.e. Chaturasra gati. The external
count of 14 is multiplied by 4 (gati units) and we get a total of 56
internal counts for the tala. The same would change to 42 in Tisra Gati
(14*3). In other words, each of the 35 talas can be rendered in any of the
5 different gatis. Thus the 35-talas become 175 (35*5).
These are a special set of talas used in a special variety of compositions
called Tiruppugazh. The uniqueness of this tala lies in the fact that it
varies according to the stress and rhyme-patterns (called Chanda) in the
In a Carnatic concert we commonly find four talas - Adi, Roopaka,
Misra Chapu and Khanda Chapu. The ratios in which the numbers of
compositions are set to these talas are also in the same order. However in
a concert all these talas have to be used to give a rhythmic variety
to the concert. The other means of bringing out a rhythmic variety would
be to use songs composed in different tempos or speeds. In other words,
Adi tala has several compositions, each in a different tempo and gait.
These could be effectively used to bring out contrast within the concert.
Variety can also be brought out by singing compositions with different
starting points. For example, a composition can start at the very first
beat of the tala. Or it can start at the next beat or after a few counts
within the beats. The starting point is known as eduppu or graha.
Some of the prominent talas include:
Tala: It has eight counts per cycle. It is rendered with a beat and three
finger counts followed by two identical sets of a beat and a wave. (In
technical terms, this is nothing but Chaturasra jati Triputa tala, i.e.,
Chaturasra laghu and 2 drutams)
Roopaka Tala: Six counts but only 3 units are rendered externally. (An
anudrutam and a drutam)
Misra Chapu: Seven units. (Three beats in the ratio of 3:2:2)
Khanda Chapu: Five units. (Three beats in the ratio of 2:1:2)