Components

 

In a Thaalam there are a total of ten various components or dynamic forces. These are collectively termed as the Thaala Dhasa Pranas (Dasa means ten and Prana means vital air or character in Sanskrit). These are detailed below.

 

1.  Kaalam

 

Kaalam literally means time which is the fundamental aspect of the Thaalam. It is the basis of any music. Kaalam can be further divided into 10 sections/units, of which the first 3 are not perceivable by humans. The ten units of Kaalam and their relationship are detailed in the table below.

 

  

2.  Maargam

 

Maargam is a term used for the application of Thaalam. Basic sub unit of Maargam, the Thakshanam, consists of 8 Maathirai (minor units) in one Aksharam (Thaala unit or one beat) and make up the speed, Kalai, of the Thaalam. There are six ways that determine the tempo or speed of music, these are detailed below.

 

 

3.  Kriyai

  

Kriyai is a physical action that symbolise the Thaalam. It is further sub divided into two, one is Maargam (different from that detailed earlier) and the other is Desiyam. The Maargam is of two kinds Nishabdha and Shabdha which are both further divided into four. Desiyam is further divided into eight.

 

 
All the Thaalam actions detailed in the Nishabdha Maargam are performed without producing any sound.
 
 
Thaalam consisting of the Shabdha Maargam are mainly used in folk dances called ‘Kummi Aattam’.
 
 

These varieties of Thalam are used in folk dances called ‘Koothu Natanam’. Except for Dhruvaka all the 7 Kriyas from Sarpini to Pathitham do not produce any sound (Nishabdha Kriyai) and are also termed the ‘Bhaava Samignya Thaalam’. These Thaalams do not have practical relevance now and are detailed for the purpose of preserving the antiquity of the Thaalam system.

 

4.  Angkam

 
Angkam means "limb" or "Parts" and represents the divisions of Thaalam into Kriyas (hand gestures, i.e. clap, finger counts, or turns of the palm) and Adcharam. These limbs or parts constitute a Thaalam and may be of different length. It is a practical application of the perceptible Thaalam mentioned in the category Kaalam that is, from Nimisham to Kaahapaatham.

 

There are three main Angkams in common use – Laghu, Dhrutham and Anudhrutham. These Angkams are found in the 35 basic Thaalams. Although there are many more Angkams, they are not found in common usage today. The following six Angkams are collectively called Shadangam (Six parts):

 
  
In addition to these six Angkams there are a further ten Angkams collectively called the Shodasangam (16 Angkams). These are as follows: 
 

 
 

5.  Graham  

 
Graham is the place in a Thaalam where the song begins. This is also known as “Eduppu” which means starting point in Tamil. Eduppu is of two varieties, one is “Samam” and the other is “Visamam”. Samam is when a song begins at the first beat of a Thaalam and Visamam is when the song begins either before or after the stroke of the Thaalam. Vishamam is further classified into two categories which are detailed below.
 
 

When a song has both the Athitham and Anaagatham it is called “Usi”. 

 

6.  Jaathi

 

Jaathi is used to calculate the number of Aksharam in a Thaalam. "Laghu" part of the Thaalam is dependent on the Jaathi and the number of beats vary according to it. In total there are five types of Jaathis, these are detailed below. 

 
 

7.  Kalai

 

Kalai, it is critical to understand the aspect of Gathi, which is the fundamental sub unit of the Aksharam, and Aavarthanam before understanding Kalai.

 

Gathi is the fundamental sub unit of an Aksharam (beat) and is also of five types which have the same names as that of Jaathi detailed above. Gathi is called Maathirai (literally Tablets) or Nadai (literally walking pace) in Tamil and is a sub unit that forms a particular rhythm or duration of each Aksharam. For example, Thishra and Chathushra Nadai will have three and four Maathirai in each beat respectively.

 

Aavarthanam is the term used to denote one complete cycle of a rendered Thaalam. For example, Aathi Thaalam has eight Aksharams in one Aavarthanam and sixteen Aksharams in two Aavarthanams.

 

One Aavarthanam of Chathushra Gathi (Nadai) Aathi Thaalam has eight Aksharams and thirty two Maathirais (8 x 4).

 

When each Aksharam of a Thaalam has only one count of sub unit (for example, Thakathimi), it is called "One Kalai", when the sub unit count doubles for each Aksharam it is called "Two Kalai" and so on. In Tamil it is known as "Oru Kalai" and "Rettai Kalai" respectively. For example, in Aathi Thaalam, Oru Kalai will have eight beats and Rettai Kalai will have sixteen beats.

 

8.  Layam

 

Layam is the unified dynamic force in a particular rhythm, i.e. the tempo or speed, and can be expanded to anything that is unified and concentrated to establish equilibrium. It is primordial in nature and existed before Thalam manifested. In its universal form it can be explained as the movement of objects in the universe, from the movement of electrons around the nucleus to the movement of planets around a star, all have a unique tempo.

 

The rhythmic noise produced from the burning sun, the movements of planets around the sun and the sea waves hitting the shores are all good examples of the universal existence of layam.

 

These are all guided by subtle forces that drive them in the universe in a particular rhythmic nature. This subtle rhythmic force is layam. When this force manifests into a material form to give music it can be said that the music has layam (i.e. it has rhythm).

 

Layam is thus a unified dynamic force, it is not merely just a sound it is indeed the rhythm of the universe.

 

The Kaalam (Tempo) of music is determined by layam, and is of three kinds:

 

1) Chavukka/Vilamba Kaalam (that which is of slow tempo)

2) Madhiyama Kaalam (that which is of normal tempo and is twice as fast as Chavukka Kaalam)

3) Dhuritha Kaalam (that which is of fast tempo i.e. twice as fast as Madhiyama Kaalam).

 

9.  Jathi

 
Jathi, literally syllables, is the fundamental unit of rhyme in the percussion musical system. It is formed of specific syllables such as 'Tha', 'Thi', 'Thom' and 'Num'. This forms the basis of all Miruthangam lessons. Apart from this, there are other syllables which are unique to the Miruthangam, they are Da, Ri, Thin, Thaam, Theem, Ka, Ku, Ki, Cha, Je, Nu etc. The way the syllables are used and pronounced in a lesson collectively to form a "word" depends on the style or "Paani" of the Miruthangam (as they differ in Tanjavure and, Pudukkottai Styles). The resulting music, however, is almost the same. For example ‘Tharikida’ and ‘Kidathaka’ are said differently but are played in the same manner.
 

Jathi simply is an arrangement of different group of syllables into a beautiful combination that gives particular shape to music. Jathi is of six kinds, they are, Sama Jathi, Vishama Jathi, Miruthanga Jathi, Veda Madhyama Jathi, Gopucha Jathi and Srothovaka Jathi. All examples below are shown with Chathushra Gathi Chathushra Jaathi Thiriputa Thaalam (Aathi Thaalam) which has a total of 32 (8 x 4) Maathiras. However the Jathi may be arranged the total Maathirai (sub unit) must always equal the total count of the applied Thaalam.

 
1. Sama Jathi: When all the syllables are equal in number for each Aksharam as its Gathi, it is termed Sama Jathi.
 

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Je Nu

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Je Nu

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Je Nu

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Je Nu

 
2. Vishama Jathi: The syllables are arranged in a jumbled up way with ones imagination and the outcome can be in any shape is called Vishama Jathi. However the total Maathirai (sub unit) should equal the total count of the applied Thaalam.

 

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ki Da Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Je Nu Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi

 

3. Miruthanga Jathi: So named as the syllable are arranged in such a way so that it takes the shape of the Miruthangam. It can start at any length depending on the type of Thaalam.

 

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ki Da Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ki Da Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi

 

4. Veda Madhyama Jathi: The syllables are arranged in such a manner that it is broad at either sides and tapers at the centre just like the shape of the “Udukku”.

 

Tha Ki Da Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ki Da Tha Ka Thi Mi

 

5. Gopucha Jathi: The syllables are arranged similarly in shape to the tail of the cow, which starts of being broad (from the top) and gradually tapers to the end (to the bottom).

 

Tha Ka Thi Mi Tha Ki Da

Tha Ki Da Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka

  

6. Srothovaka Jathi: The syllables are arranged in such a manner that it resembles the flow of river (river origin and its broad course). So it is short at the beginning and gradually becomes broad at the end. It is the opposite of the Gopucha Jathi.

Tha Ka

Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Tha Ki Da

Tha Ki Da Tha Ki Da

Tha Ka Thi Mi Tha Ki Da

  

10.  Prasthaaram

  

Prasthaaram, meaning permutation, has finite and infinite kinds of Swaram or Jathi. It is how the groups of Swaram or Jathi are arranged in the Thaalam. With the help of Prasthaaram one can determine the structure and serial number of a phrase or the parent Thaalam. There are ten kinds of Prasthaaram which are detailed below.

 

1. Nashtam: Group of Syllables forms a "word". For example, "Thakathimi" is a group of syllables. Finding out how many such groups have occurred in that series of Aavarthanam is called Nashta Prasthaaram.

 

2. Uthishtam: Finding out the rank of the particular group of syllables is called Uithishtam. That is finding the ordinal of the particular group including repetition of the particular group in a series of Aavarthanam is Uthishta Prasthaaram.

 

3. Paathaalam: Finding out how many times the shortest group of syllables has occurred is called Paathaala Prasthaaram.

 

4. Dhrutha Meru: Finding out how many times Dhrutham has occurred is called Dhrutha Meru.

 

5. Laghu Meru: Finding out how many times Laghu has occurred is called Laghu Meru.

 

6. Guru Meru: Finding out how many times Guru has occurred is called Guru Meru.

 

7. Plutha Meru: Finding out how many times Plutham has occurred is called Plutha Meru.

 

8. Samyoga Meru: Finding out how many Angkam of equal number of syllables have come in a Prasthaaram is called Samyoga Meru.

 

9. Kanta Prasthaaram: Interchanging the order of Angkam (without affecting its structure) while keeping the same sub units (Maathiras) and Aksharams within the series of Aavarthanam is called Kanda Prasthaaram.

 

10. Jathi Prasthaaram: Calculation of such symmetrical phrases of Thaala syllables mentioned in the heading "Jathi" is Jathi Prasthaaram.