Glossary of Hindustani Music

Music: The beautiful blend of three arts – singing, playing, and dancing – is called music. In ancient times, singing was considered the first, followed by playing, and finally dancing.

Sound/Kshriti: Useful sound in music.

Nada: The sound produced by the collision or friction between two objects, which is useful in music, is called Nada. There are two types of Nada:

  • Ahad Naad: The sound that we can hear.
  • Anahad Naad: The sound that only God, sages, and saints can hear.

Swara: A musical sound is called Swara. Swaras are divided by its Purity (Shuddha and Vikrit) and Position (Chal and Achal), while Vikrit Swaras are further categorised as Komal Swara and Tivra Swara, as explained hereunder:

  • Shuddha Swara: The seven main notes, which remain in their fixed positions, are called Shuddha Swara. The seven basic Shuddha Swara of Indian music are: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni.
  • Vikrit Swara: The notes that move slightly below or above their fixed positions are called Vikrit Swara. There are five Vikrit Swara in Indian music, which are of two types:
    • Komal Swara: The four notes that come slightly below their fixed positions are called Komal Swara, such as Re, Ga, Dha, and Ni.
    • Tivra Swara: The only note (Ma) that comes slightly above its fixed position is called Tivra Swara.
  • Chal Swara: The notes that are Shuddha as well as Komal or Tivra are called Chal Swara, such as Re, Ga, Dha, Ni, and Ma, which are Komal, Tivra, and Shuddha as well.
  • Achal Swara: The notes that are always Shuddha and never move from their fixed positions, such as Sa and Pa, which always remain Shuddha.

       Swara, as components of a Raag, are classified as under:

  • Vadi Swara: The main or most important note of a Raga is also called Vadi Swara or Raja Swara. It is emphasized the most and is used repeatedly.
  • Samvadi Swara: The second important note of a Raga, which is used less than Vadi Swara and more than other notes. It supports the Vadi Swara, hence it is also called Mantri Swara. There is a distance of four or five notes between Vadi and Samvadi Swara.
  • Anuvadi Swara: Other notes used in a Raga besides Vadi and Samvadi Swara are called Anuvadi Swara.
  • Vivadi Swara: The note that is not present in the original Raga but enhances the beauty of the Raga when used skillfully is called Vivadi Swara.
  • Varjya Swara: The notes that are not used in singing are called Varjya or Varjit Swara. For example, Ga and Dha in Raga Durga.

Saptak: The group of twelve notes from Sa to Ni in ascending order is called Saptak. A Saptak contains seven Shuddha Swara (Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni), four Komal Swara (Re, Ga, Dha, Ni), and one Madhya Tivra Swara (Ma). There are three types of Saptak: Mandr Saptak, Madhya Saptak, and Tar Saptak.

  • Madhya Saptak: The Saptak in which we generally sing and play is called Madhya Saptak. The notes of this Saptak are used more than the notes of other Saptaks. No symbol is used to represent the notes of this Saptak, such as Ni, Dha, Pa, Ma.
  • Mandra Saptak: This Saptak starts one Saptak below the Madhya Saptak (fixed Shadja for our singing and playing). A dot is placed below the notes to represent it, such as Ni, Dha, Pa, Ma.
  • Taar Saptak: This Saptak starts one Saptak above the Madhya Saptak (fixed Shadja for our singing and playing). A dot is placed above the notes to represent it, such as Ni, Dha, Pa, Ma.

Raga: It literally means ‘colouring’ that signifies a framework of notes having an emotional importance and is associated with season, time and mood. Raags are made of least five notes and maximum seven notes.

  • Raags with Five-notes, in both Aaroh and Aavroh, are known as belonging to “OdavOdav Jaati“, Six-note raags to “Shadav-Shadav Jaati” and Seven-note raags to “Sampoorna-Sampoorna Jaati“. On the other hand, Raag with Five Notes in Aaaroh and Six-notes in Avroh are known are known as of “Odav-Shadav Jaati“, those with Six-notes in Aaroh and Seven-notes in Avroah belong to “Shadav-Sampoorna Jaati“. In reverse order, raags with Seven notes in Aaroh and Five-notes belong to “Sampoorna-Odav Jaati“, so on and so forth.

Aroha/Avaroha: The ascending order of notes – in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni (Sa) direction – is called Aroha and the one in descending order – in (Sa) Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa direction – is called Avaroha.