Gitas are the simplest of melodies. The term gita literally means a 'song' but in music it signifies a particular type of somposition. The music of the gita is a simple melodic extension of the raga in which it is composed. Its tempo is uniform. It is a continuous composition without the sectioins, pallavi, anupallavi and charana. The gita is sung without repetition from beginning to end. Some gitas have two sections (khandikas) and some three. Some gitas are concluded by repeating a portion of the opening part. Gitas are set in medium tempo. There are no sangatis or variations and the flow of music is natural. Neither intricate combinations not terse sancharas are found in its music. The raga svarupa is well brought out in each case. For each note of the dhatu, there is usually a syllable in the sahitya. The theme of the sahitya is praise of God. (Gitas in praise of musical luminaries and Acharyas also exist: for Example, the sapta tala gita in Nata raga beginning with the words: Gana vidya dhurandhara in praise of Venkatasubbayya, by Paidala Gurumurti Sastri). Sometimes meaningless phrases like a iya, ti iya, a iyam, va iya, called matrika padas are found interspersed in it. These quaint syllables called gitalankara phrases lend a characteristic beauty to the sahitya of gitas. They are introduced for ornamentation only. These syllables remind one of similar syllables, occurring in Sama ganam.
These are instances of famous sanskrit slokas which have been cleverly introduced as sahityas for sanchari gitas. The gita in Bhairavi raga, Sri Ramachandra and the gita in Nata raga Amari kabari are well known examples.
There are gitas in sanskrit, bhandira and kannada. Students learn the gitas after a course in the preliminary svara exercises and alankaras. There are gitas in all the sapta talas and their varieties. In the pre-Tyagaraja period, many composers delighted in composing gitas.
Gitas are of two kinds:
Samanya gita is the ordinary gita and is also called by other names as Sadharana gita, Lakshya gita and sanchari gita.
The points of lakshana mentioined above for a gita hold good in the case of the samanya gita. But in a lakshana gita, the sahitya, instead of being praise of God, enumerates in so many words, the lakshana of the raga, in which it is composed giviing amongst other details, its varja and vakra svaras, graha, nyasa svaras, its audava, shadava or sampurna character and lastly its parent raga, if it is a janya raga lakshna gita; and the anya svaras, if any, if it is a bhashanga raga lakshana gita.
There are lakshana gitas for most of the current ragas and for a few obsolete ragas. At a time when the art of printing was not known and copies could not be multiplied in thousands, lakshana gitas were of great value in helping students to remember the lakshanas of ragas. The Raganga raga lakshana gitas are a special class by themselves.
In a gita, the number of svaras present in an avarta is equal to the number of aksharakalas forming the avarta-the dirgha svara being reckoned as two svaras. This being so, a gita in chaturasra jati dhruva tala should not be reckoned in the tisra triputa tala, reckoning two svaras for each count; and likewise a gita in chaturasra jati rupaka tala should not be reckoned in the tisra jati eka tala, with two svaras for each count and so on. This will not be in keeping with the rhythmical construction of the composition.
Gitas are compositions in Ati chitra tama marga. They are in Ekaksharakalam it., with one svara for each count. Ghana raga gitas are gitas in ghana ragas like Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Sriraga and Varali.
Purandara Dasa's introductory gitas in praise of vighnesvara, Mahesvara and Vishnu are sometimes referred to collectively as Pillari gitas. The significant introduction of the vowels: a, e, i, o, u and m in the very first gita is noteworthy and testifiles to the genius of the composer.
Paidala Gurumurti Sastri was prolific composer of gitas after Purandara Dasa. He is referred to as veyi gita (1000 gitas) Paidala Gurumurti Sastri. After hhim no noteworthy composer has attempted sanchari gita Ramamatya, the author of Svaramela kalanidhi has also composed gitas. Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamakhi are credited with many lakshana gitas. Ragamala gita is a miniature ragamalika after model of a gita.
Gita prabandha is a gita composition, containing in it the features of a prabandha. Gita prabandha also means a vocal form, as opposed to Vadya prabandha (instrumental form) and Nritya prabandha (dance form).