Tala Concept

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Tala is the rhythmical groupings of beats. These rhythmic cycles range from 3 to 108 beats. It is the theory of time measure and has the same principle in Hindustani and Carnatic music, though the names and styles differ. The musical time is divided into simple and complicated metres. Tala is independent of the music it accompanies and has its own divisions. It moves in bars, and each beat in it is divided into the smallest fraction. Tala is the most important aspect of classical music, and it can be considered to be the very basis or pulse of music. Different talas are recognised like Dadra, Rupak, Jhaptal, Ektal, Adha-Chautal and Teen-Tal. There are over a 100 Talas, but only 30 Talas are known and only about 10-12 talas are actually used. The most commonly encountered one is the one with sixteen beats called the teentaal. The Laya is the tempo, which keeps the uniformity of time span. The Matra is the smallest unit of the tala.

Carnatic music has a rigid thala structure. The thalas are defined on the basis of intricate arithmetic calculations. Thalas always occur in cyclic pattern. The thalas are made up of three basic units, namely, laghu, drutam and anu drutam. The time unit of laghu varies according to the “jaati”. Depending on the jaati of laghu we get 35 thalas. It is again possible to split each time unit or beat into five “ghatis”. This leads to 35×5 = 175 thalas in Carnatic music. The most common thala is the Adi (first, foremost) thala, which consists of a repeating measure of 8 beats. Thalas are also associated with moods just like the ragas. The popular mapping from the thalas (gatis) to the moods is chatusram – devotional and happy times; tisram – festivity; khandam – anger or frustration; misram – romantic and joyous, and sangeernam – confusion.


‘Alap’ is the first movement of the raga. It is a slow, serene movement acting as an invocation and it gradually develops the raga.



‘Jor’ begins with the added element of rhythm which, combined with the weaving of innumerable melodic patterns, gradually grains in tempo and brings the raga to the final movement.


‘Jhala’ is the final movement and climax. It is played with a very fast action of the plectrum that is worn on the right index finger.


Gat is the fixed composition, which is generally divided into two sections. The first part is called “pallavi” (Carnatic) or “asthayi” (Hindustani) while the second part is called the “anupallavi” or “antarai”.

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