Musical Form

Music that is heard in an Indian concert falls under two heads:

  1. Manodharma sangita
  2. Kalpita sangita

In the former, the performer sings or performs his own improvised music-music improvised on the spot without any previous thought. The improvised music is of five kinds:

  1. Raga alapana
  2. Madhyama kala or Tana
  3. Pallavi exposition
  4. Svara kalpana
  5. Sahitya prastara or Niraval

In kalpita sangita, the singer or the performer reproduces the compositions already created or composed by other composers or even by himself. Kalpita sangita is older than manodharma sangita.

Kalpita sangita comprises all the musical compositions. A Musical composition is a piece of music set to time. It is an exposition of the raga in conformity to the chosen rhythm, slokas, churnikas, padyas and viruttams are only instances of literary forms sung to music. They are not set to time.

A musical composition can be compared to a building. What the bricks are to a building the component svaras are to a tune. The different graces linking up the svaras contributed to ornamental effect. These graces can be compared to the cementing medium holding the bricks together and also to the outer decorative work. Just as there are small buildings and big buildings, there are short compositions like the gitas and long compositions like varnas and raga malikas. Tagamalikas and Kritis abounding in technical beauties can be compared to artistically designed, luxuriously decorated and lavishly furnished buildings.

The author of a musical composition is called a Vaggeyakara ie., matu-dhatu kara or the author of the music and sahitya of a composition.


South Indian music in the course of its long history has evolved many musical forms. These might be studied under the heads of

  1. Gita prabandhas (vocal forms)
  2. Vadya prabandhas (instrumental forms)
  3. Nritya prabandhas (dance forms)

Indian music being of the melodic type has evolved many vocal forms. These vocal forms fall under two divisions: sacred forms and secular forms.

Musical forms might also be studied under the heads of : Art music, Sacred music, Dance music, Opera music, Martial music and Folk music. The several forms under these heads possess distinctive characteristics of their own. Some forms like the kriti and varna contain numerous examples while others like the ragamalika and tillana contain fewer examples.

Musical compositions can again be classified into those belonging to

  1. Pure music
  2. Applied music

Applied music embraces all compositions where music is applied or used for a specific purpose. The sahitya is an important factor in this group of compositions and the music which clothes the sahitya serves merely as a vehicle for the better and effective interpretation of the ideas enshrined in it. Religious music, dance music and opera music and the music of the yaksha gana, kalakshepa. nondi nataka and nritya nataka (Bhagavatha mela nataka and Kuravanji nataka) are examples of applied music. Some of these compositions have brilliant music in them and deserve to be placed side by side with specimens of art music.

In compositions belonging to the sphere of pure music the main concern of the composer is the portrayal of the raga bhava, in all its visages and melodic richness. The sahitya in such cases merely serves as a vehicle for singing the music. Music herein is the primary thing and is enjoyed for its own sake. These compositions constitute the repertoire of performers (vocalists and instrumentalists) in concerts.

Musical compositions may also be grouped under the heads of art music and folk music. All that is not folk music belongs to art music and vice versa. In this wider sense of the term, art music includes sacred music, opera music and dance music also. The term art music in practice however is restricted to manodharma sangita and to compositions belonging to the realm of pure music and which evoke gana rasa (aesthetic delight) in the listeners.

Musical compositions can again be studied under the heads of sacred music ( vaidika- ganam) and secular music (laukika ganam).

Heavy, Medium and Light Music

Classical music admits the divisions: Heavy, Medium and Light. Pallavi exposition and advanced Kritis are examples of heavy classical music. Simpler kritis and javalis are instances of medium classical music. Divyanama kirtanas and simple darus are instances of light classical music.

Chitta tanas
Sabda Pallavi

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