Prosodic Beauty - II

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Kriti is the most important form belonging to the Sabha Gana group. There is no concert without it. Though the theme is mostly devotional, it can also be secular. The emphasis is more on the musicality and aesthetic content.

Evolution: Kriti is said to have evolved from the older form, Keertana, which was in vogue around the 14th century. The keertana is a simpler form, giving more emphasis to the lyrics, which are usually devotional. The kriti, however, is a more complex form.

Structure: Normally, the kriti has all the three sections: Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam. The performer begins with the Pallavi, which are mounted with additional musical phrases in a progressive manner, called Sangatis and then goes to the Anupallavi, also sung with variations. He then returns to the pallavi again before proceeding to the Charanam. The kriti, however, ends with the Pallavi. It is usually in Charanam that one finds the mudra (signature) of the composer. For example, Tyagaraja used his own name, while Muthuswami Dikshitar adopted Guruguha  and Syama Sastri, Syamakrishna.

Special Features of a kriti:

  • Some kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar have only two sections, the Pallavi and the Anupallavi, where the Anupallavi is called Samashti Charanam. Example: Anandamritakarshini in raga Amritavarshini.

  • Some of Tyagaraja’s kritis have multiple Charanams with different tunes. Example: Endukunirdaya in raga Harikambhoji.

  • Some kritis have Chittaswara or solfa passages and matching lyrics. Example: Marivere in raga Anandabhairavi.

  • There are kritis with Solkattu swaras, where jatis / solkattus are used in the place of swaras. Example: Anandanartana in raga Nata. 

  • Certain kritis resemble the Swarajati in that, before a line of text is sung, the corresponding swara passage is sung. Example: Tyagaraja’s Pancharatna kritis.

  • Certain kritis consist of a passage with lyrics, which is faster than the rest of the kriti. This is known as the Madhyamakala Sahitya. This is typical of Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi's kritis, who pioneered it. Later, Muthuswami Dikshitar profusely used it in his kritis. Example: Dikshitar's Mahaganapatim in raga Nata.

Languages used: There are a number of kritis in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. Examples: Tamil - Eppo Varuvaro - Jonpuri; Telugu - Brocevarevarura - Khamas; Kannada - Mosahodenallu - Subhapantuvarali; Sanskrit - Ekamresha - Karnataka Suddha Saveri. There are also kritis in which the text is in two or more languages (Tamil and Sanskrit). Such kritis are called Manipravala kritis. An example of the latter is Muthuswami Dikshitar's Venkatachalapate in raga Karnataka Kapi.

Popular Composers: Annamacharya, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, Swati Tirunal, Papanasam Sivan, Patnam Subramanya Iyer and a host of others.

Examples: Pancharatna kritis of Tyagaraja, Panchalinga kshetra, Navagraha and Navavarana kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar, O Jagadamba, Marivere, Devi brova, etc. of Syama Sastri.

Purpose: Kritis form the major part of all existing musical compositions. A kriti is a composition based on a particular raga and tala. Kritis bring out the beauty and feeling of a raga as the composer can choose the raga, tala, speed, style and the text that he / she wants. They are ideally suited for neraval and kalpanaswara improvisations.


This musical form was perfected in 17th century. In the earlier days, the term pada was used to denote any devotional song, but now it stands for a particular form of music rendered at a very slow pace. The lyrics are highly romantic in nature. Telugu padams are usually in praise of Krishna, whereas Tamil padams are in praise of Subramanya.

Structure: The Padam, like a kriti, has three sections: Pallavi, Anupallavi and one or more Charanams. Sometimes, the Anupallavi is used as the starting point.

Languages used: Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.

Popular composers: Kshetrajna (known as the Father of the modern Padam), Sarangapani (Telugu), Ghanam Krishnayyar and Subbarama Iyer (Tamil) and Swati Tirunal (Telugu and Malayalam).

Examples: Payyeda (Nadanamakriya), Ninnujoochi (Punnagavarali) etc. of Kshetrajna, Oddupettudu (Anandabhairavi) of Sarangapani, Yarukkahilum (Begada), Yaarpoi (Todi), etc of Ghanam Krishnayyar.

Purpose: Padams are beautiful, scholarly compositions in weighty, classical ragas. Though they belong to the dance repertoire, they are often sung in concerts because of the high musical content. The emotional aspects in a Padam make it a perfect piece for the dancer to do Abhinaya (facial expression of emotions).


The Javali is a lighter composition compared to the Padam, which evolved in the 19th century. The word Javali is derived from the word Javadi, which means lewd poetry in Kannada. The lyrics are simple, colloquial and deal with emotions like infidelity and jealousy.

Structure: There are three sections - Pallavi, Anupallavi and one or more Charanams having the same tune. They are generally set in light ragas, like Kapi, Khamas, Behag, etc.

Languages used: Telugu or Kannada.

Popular composers: Dharmapuri Subbarayar, Patnam Subramanya Iyer, Pattabhiramayya, Swati Tirunal and Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar.

Examples:  Adineepai (Yamankalyani), Marubari (Khamas), Vanipondu (Kanada) etc.

Purpose: Javalis deal with human relationships and are sometimes sensuous and erotic in content. The tunes are light and catchy, making them very popular. Javalis are performed in the second half of music and a dance concert.

Melattur Virabhadrayya was the first person to compose the Tillanas. The Royal-composer, Swati Tirunal and several other post-trinity composers composed this form of music in the 19th century. The Tillana derives its name from the syllables, ti - la - na. Tillanas can be compared to Taranas of Hindustani Music.

Structure: The tillana also consists of three sections: Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam. The Pallavi and Anupallavi usually comprise swaras and jatis (rhythmic syllables), while the Charanam comprises lyrics followed by passages of swara and jatis. Various syllables like nadru, deem, dirana, etc. are employed. These syllables have no particular meaning. Tillanas are set in common talas like Adi, Roopaka, Misra or Chapu, etc. There is also a Tillana in Simhanandana tala.


(1) Those sung in music concerts - These are fast-paced and the emphasis is on the raga.

(2) Those performed in dance concerts - These are medium-paced and the jatis are woven into the composition to allow the dancer to exhibit variations in footwork.

Languages used: Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit.

Popular composers: Swati Tirunal, Patnam Subramanya Iyer, Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar. In modern times, we have composers like Lalgudi Jayaraman, M Balamuralikrishna and Chitravina Ravikiran.

Examples: Dirana tanadeemta (Jhunjooti), Tanom tanata (Paras), Takatajanu (Mohanakalyani)

Purpose: Tillanas are short and lively compositions that give a fitting finale to a concert, be it music or dance.

Related Links

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