Saturday, April 26, 2008


The Sound or Dhvani which gives pleasure upon hearing is called SWARA. As is evident, the sound is nothing but the vibration of the air column and is measured in vibrations per second called frequency. Listening to these varieties of sound in succession gracefully played, will be sweet to hear and gives pleasure.

The names of seven Swaras, called Sapthaswaras is given below.

1. Shadjam
2. Rishabam
3. Gandaram
4. Madyamam
6. Daivatham
7. Nishadam

It is to be understood that the Swara Rishabam will be sounding a little higher in pitch level than Shadjam, Gandaram will be sounding a little higher in pitch level than Rishabam and so on…

The Swaram Shadjam [called higher Shadjam]will be sounding next to Nishadam will be of twice the frequency of first Shadjam .Beyond higher octave Shadjam again there are Sapthaswaras having twice the frequency of their corresponding Swaras already discussed.

Combining these Swaras gracefully in succession gives beautiful Sound pattern which can be termed as Melody.

Each of these Swaras are denoted by Symbols and pronounced as follows:

Swaram----------Symbol---------- Pronounced as

Shadjam-------------- S --------------------Sa
Rishabam-------------R-------------------- Ri
Madyamam----------M-------------------- Ma

The Seven Swaras discussed in the first paragraph is called Madhya Sthayi Swaras. The Swaras above [ ie higher in their pitch level] Madya Sthayi is called Thara Sthayi and the Swaras below[ ie lower in their pitch level] is called Mandhara Sthayi.

The Musical pieces use these three Sthayis to make good melody.

Going a little deeper in the subject may help you understand the Swaras better.

Swaras Shadjam and Panchamam are single Swaras whereas the other Swaras viz. Rishabam, Gandaram, Madyamam, Daivatham and Nishadam are having varieties. Here variety means, each Swara will sound in two frequencies yet called with the same name.

To explain further- Each of the five Swaras will sound at lower pitch called Komala Swaras and at higher pitch called Thivra Swara. Hence, the Sthayi with 7 Basic Swaras will have 12 Swarasthanas in an octave.

The following table will explain this in detail:

Swaram--------Komala variety-------------Thivra variety

Sadjam----------No variety
Rishabam--------Sudda Rishaba---------- Chatusruthi Rishabam
Gandaram-------Sadarana Gandaram---Anthara Gandaram
Madyamam------Sudda Madyamam------Prathi Madyamam
Panchamam------No variety
Daivatham-------Sudda Daivatham------Chathusruthi Daivatham
Nishadam--------Kaisika Nishadam-------Kakali Nishadam

The above Swarasthanas can well be understood by looking at the fret board of Veena starting from Shadja Swara on the open first string from left to right representing Madyasthayi and Tharasthayi.
There are further expansion of Swaras and sruthis and their embellishment which will be discussed latter.

It is interesting to note from the krithis of Sri Thyagarajas ‘ Nada thanumanisum” that the saptaswaras have emanated from Lord Shiva’s 5 faces-Sathiyojatham,Vaamadevam,Agoram,Thatpurusham and Eesanam.

Poorvacharyas have compared the Saptaswaras to the sounds of birds and animals which is shown below-

Sadjam-------------The sound produced by peacock
Rishabam----------The lowing of cow
Gandharam--------The bleat of the goat
Madhyamam------The cry of heron
Panchamam-------The note sounded by Kokila
Dhaivatham-------The neigh of horse
Nishadham--------The yelling of elephant

The swaras are not merely sounds but they are being considered by musicians as ‘Swara Devathas’ and worshipped.

Sri Thyagaraja expresses the above in the krithi ‘
Sobillu saptaswara sundararula bajimpavay manasa’ in jaganmohini ragam.

By continuously listening to concerts one can acquire the Swara Gyana.

Swara Gyana is the capacity to identify the pitch of the Swaras with respect to Shadjam, which is Aadara Shadjam.

This could also be acquired by listening to the recordings of Music lessons repeatedly.

This Swara knowledge is very much essential to identify Ragas.

1 comment:

Santhanam Sudhakar said...

Very informative... Thanks for clear explanation.