Scheme of Swarams

Scheme of Swarams

Carnatic music is almost as complex as our life. We enjoy and love the beauty of the music form at the same time trying to comprehend all the myriad grammar that defines it.

When we first learn caranatic music we are taught only the 12 swarams till we complete geethams and the books have only the 1st & 2nd variety (ex:R1, R2) for each swaram.

We see the arohanam & avarohanam  for geethams & varanams in books listing only the swarams that has identifiable physical position.

R1- Suddha Rishabham; R2- Chathusruthi Rishabham; G1 – Suddha Gandharam, G2-Sadharana Gandharam; D1 – Suddha Dhaivatham; D2-Chathusruthi Dhaivatham; N1 – Kaisiki Nishadham; N2- Kakali Nishadham.

Subsequently when we move on to Kirthanais we come across R3, G3, D3, & N3 which baffles most students.

here is an example…

While in the varnam book the arohanam & avarohanam for the ragam Shankarabaranam is given as

S, R2, G2, M1, P, D2, N2, S / S,  N2, D2, P, M1, G2, R2 S

in some kirthanai books and in most websites it is given as

S, R2, G3, M1, P, D2, N3, S / S, N3, D2, P, M1, G3, R2 S

Which is right & which is wrong? Both are correct! Really?

The swarams for Shanakarabaranam are

Shadjam; Chathusruthi Rishabham, Anthara Gandharam, Suddha Madhyamam, Panchamam,  Chathusruthi Dhaivatham,  Kakali Nishadham

Since we do not normally learn any ragams that has Shatsruthi Rishabham,  Suddha Gandharam,  Shatsruthi Dhaivatham,  Suddha Nishadham, until we reach Kirthanais we do not come across the third variety of R, G, D & N.

Carnatic music follows a 16 swarams scheme, though there are only 12 identifiable positions on an instrument like a veena where the frets for each swaram are clearly marked just like a piano. The other 4 swarams share their places with swarams that already has an identifiable position.

Here are the swarams under the 16 swarams scheme

Sa (Shadjam)  -1

Ri (Rishabham) – 3 -Suddha Rishabham;  Chathusruthi Rishabham, Shatsruthi Rishabham

Ga (Gandharam)- 3 – Suddha Gandharam, Sadharana Gandharam;  Anthara Gandharam

Ma (Madhyamam) -2 -Suddha Madhyamam; Prathi Madhyamam

Pa (Panchamam) -1

Dha (Dhaivatham)- 3 – Suddha Dhaivatham;  Chathusruthi Dhaivatham ;  Shatsruthi Dhaivatham

Ni (Nishadham) – 3 –  Suddha Nishadham;  Kaisiki Nishadham;  Kakali Nishadham

The following swarams share the same position …..

Shatsruthi Rishabham &  Sadharana Gandharam

Suddha Gandharam & Chathusruthi Rishabham

Shatsruthi Dhaivatham & Kaisiki Nishadham

Suddha Nishadham & Chathusruthi Dhaivatham

An easy numbering scheme

To make it easier for students, for better understanding , I have started following a simpler method.

R1 – Suddha Rishabham;  R2-Chathusruthi Rishabham, R3-Shatsruthi Rishabham

G – Suddha Gandharam, G1 – Sadharana Gandharam;  G2-Anthara Gandharam

D1-Suddha Dhaivatham; D2- Chathusruthi Dhaivatham ;  D3-Shatsruthi Dhaivatham

N-Suddha Nishadham;  N1-Kaisiki Nishadham;  N2-Kakali Nishadham

This avoids confusion and there is consistency in the learning process. Of course using the names is better than numbers but if we have to use numbers this scheme works!

One less confusion!