Melodic Aspects
Raganubhava - II

Carnatica Products             Rasika Forum          News-Views-Reviews          Special Features      Events Calendar

HomeMusic Appreciation > Sangeetanubhava > Melodic Aspects


Kutcheri, Raga, Tala, Sahitya
Artistes, Composers, Lyrics
Tributes, Tidbits, Quizzes
Dance, Harikatha, Folk Music



Like the Hindustani and Western music systems, Carnatic music also has seven basic notes called Swaras. They are classified based on the increasing order of their pitch. The seven notes of Carnatic music are given below with their Western equivalents:

The Sapta (seven) Swaras of Carnatic music

Carnatic swara

Western note

Shadja - Sa

Do - C

Rishabha - Ri

Re - D

Gandhara - Ga

Mi - E

Madhyama - Ma

Fa - F

Panchama - Pa

Soh - G

Dhaivata - Dha

La - A 

Nishada - Ni

Ti - B

These basic notes are said to have originated from the Vedic times (Sama Veda). As mentioned earlier, of these seven notes, Sa is taken as the fixed or tonic note. All other notes are in relation to Sa.

The twelve swaras concept

The seven notes are further divided into twelve, which again is a common feature across the globe. These are also known as Swarasthana. (Literally swara means note and sthana, position).

Sa and Pa are the constant notes, (called Prakriti swaras) i.e., their frequencies do not change in a given pitch. But the other 5 notes Ri, Ga, Ma, Dha and Ni (called Vikriti swaras) have variable values.

The sixteen swaras concept

As stated earlier, the octave is divided into twelve parts. Although some of  their melodic values overlap, the twelve Swarasthana-s  are given sixteen names to enable certain combinations. These combinations provide the scope for a  substantial increase in the number of scales one can get. The  scheme of sixteen notes was basically developed for the derivation of the seventy-two melakarta scheme of  Venkatamakhi (1660 AD). The present day melodic concept has evolved and changed considerably, influenced by this scheme.

The following is a table of the sixteen notes in Carnatic music with their Hindustani equivalents:

Carnatic swaras

Hindustani swaras

1. Shadja - Sa


2. Suddha Rishabha - Ri 1

Komal Rishabh

3. Chatusruti Rishabha - Ri 2

Sudh Rishabh

4. Shatsruti Rishabha - Ri 3

Komal Gandhar

5. Suddha Gandhara - Ga 1

Sudh Rishabh

6. Sadharana Gandhara - Ga 2

Komal Gandhar

7. Antara Gandhara - Ga 3

Sudh Gandhar

8. Suddha Madhyama - Ma 1

Sudh Madhyam

9. Prati Madhyama - Ma 2

Teevr Madhyam

10. Panchama - Pa


11. Suddha Dhaivata - Dha 1

Komal Dhaivat

12. Chatusruti Dhaivata - Dha 2

Sudh Dhaivat

13. Shatsruti Dhaivata - Dha 3

Komal Nishad

14. Suddha Nishada - Ni 1

Sudh Dhaivat

15. Kaisika Nishada- Ni 2

Komal Nishad

16. Kakali Nishada - Ni 3

Sudh Nishad

Thus, we have one variety each of Sa and Pa, three varieties of Ri, Ga, Dha, Ni and two varieties of Ma.

The four extra names for the twelve notes

  • When Suddha Rishabha (Ri 1) and Chatusruti Rishabha (Ri 2) occur simultaneously, Ri 2 becomes Ga 1 (Suddha Gandhara).

  • When Sadharana Gandhara (Ga 2) and Antara Gandhara (Ga 3) occur simultaneously, then Ga 2 becomes Ri 3 (Shatsruti Rishabha).

  • Similarly, when Suddha Dhaivata (Dha 1) and Chatusruti Dhaivata (Dha 2) occur simultaneously, then Dha 2 becomes Ni 1 (Suddha Nishada).

  • When Kaisika Nishada (Ni 2) and Kakali Nishada (Ni 3) occur simultaneously, Ni 2 becomes Shatsruti Dhaivata (Dha 3).

Ri 2 = Ga 1

Ri 3 = Ga 2

Dha 2 = Ni 1

Dha 3 = Ni 2


<< Back

More >>

Relevant Links

Music Appreciation
Traditional Aspects
Voice & Instruments
Concert Presentation


Questions or comments? Send us E-mail.
Copyright: Srishti's Carnatica Private Limited