Swara Abhyasa

This article covers about Naadha abhyasa or Swara Abhyasa. The origin of swara comes into an existence since Vedic period. In Chaturveda, Sama Veda describes about music. The word “Swara” means sound. An array of swara with a predefined frequency is selected for constructing raagas. So, each swara has its own frequency. Lets think about why such notes plays an important role in music. As everyone knows that, our universe is created and will be destructed by the cosmic sound emanates from Lord Shiva’s damaru. We can say Naadham plays a vital role to perform Shrusti, Sththi, Samhara action. The Big Bang theory of universe explains the same thing. The universe is created by cosmic sound, it expands and contracts as a periodic cycle. Agni prabha which covers Lord Nataraja’s Icon symbolizes the truth behind cyclic nature creation and destruction of the universe. The Universe emits sound which is same as the frequency of the well known Pranavakshara “Om” or “Aum”.

So, Sound has a huge impact in the universe as well as humans. Swara plays a vital role to tune the physical body and subtle mind with cosmos. Our country is often called as “Bharatha Kanda” which means Indian Subcontinent. Indian classical music system is well structured. It explains the concept of swara, raaga, thala, etc. There are some difference in North Indian Hindustani music and South Indian Carnatic music.

Divine nature of Carnatic Music:

Carnatic Music is believed to have a divine origin. God and Goddesses used to play this music. Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of Carnatic Music. Lord Shiva created Rudhra Veena which should be played only by Men. Saraswati holds a Saraswati Veena in her hand. Saraswati veena is created by Goddess Parvathi, which is an alternate version of Rudhra Veena. In hindustani music, they use Chitra Veena and Vichitra Veena as an alternative to Sarawati Veena and Rudhra Veena respectively. Each veena has its own construction methods. I will give a detailed information of Veena such as its construction, how to play it and how to write notation for carnatic keerthananaas in an another blog. Saint Naradha holds Tambura, Rishi Nandhi(Basava) holds Mridhangam, Lord Krishna plays flute. All the above instruments has a divine origin and the sound emanates from those instruments are divine in nature.

Goddess Saraswati

In Carnatic Musical system, We have sapta swaras. Each swara has two sthanas except Shadjam(Sa) and Panchamam(Pa). So, totally we have 12 Swarasthaanas which forms a single octave.

Shadjam(Sa), Suddha Rishabham(Ri1), Chatusruthi Rishabham(Ri2), Saadarana Ghandharam(Ga1), Antara Ghandharam(Ga2), Suddha Madhyamam(Ma1), Prati Madhyamam(Ma2), Panchamam, Suddha Daivatam(Da1), Chatusruthi Daivatam(Da2), Kaisiki Nishadham(Ni1), Kakali Nishadham(Ni2)

Carnatic Music is composed in Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam. The above languages are mentioned in the order that the majority of kruthi or keetheranas were composed on that. Shri Purandaradasa is called as Sangeetha Pitamaga. His keertanas were written in Sanskrit and Kannada Language. Shri Thyagaraja’s keerthanas were written in Sanskrit, Telugu and Saurashtra Language. Shri Shyama Sastry and Muthu Swamy Dhikshitar’s songs were composed in Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil Language. Sage Agastya, 12 Alwars, 64 Nayanmars has written a huge compositions which are set to various Carnatic Music Raagas and Taalas. Later, Prince Swati Tirunal from Travancore Kingdom has contributed to multiple Carnatic Keerthanas in Sanskrit and Malayalam Language. Apart from understanding the concepts of Carnatic Music System, One should know at least 3 of the above languages to render the keerthanas of Sangeetha Mumoorthis.

Sangeetha Mumoorthis(Shri Muthuswamy Dhikshitar, Shri Thyagaraja, Shri ShyamaSastry)

Mathematics and Science in Carnatic Music System:

In science, we call these two prakruthi swaras(Sadjam and Panchamam) as fundamental harmonic and fifth harmonic. The frequency of each swaras increases as an arithmetic progression. Assume the frequency of Note Shadjam(Sa) is “f”, then the frequency of Rishabham(Ri) is 2f. There is one more sthanam between Shadjam and Chatusruthi Rishabham is Suddha Rishabham whose frequency is about 1.5f.


Form the above relation between frequency of different raga. In carnatic music we call Shadjam as Aadhara Shadjam which means Shadjam is the base of all swaras, from which other 6 swaras are derived. Say if the frequency of Shadja is 2f, then the frequency of the remaining 6 swaras will be 4f, 6f and so on. This is a second octave. Basically, many musical instruments supports to play more than 2 octaves. In Veena, we can play upto 3.5 octaves.

Raaga is an array of musical notes which brings a beauty to Carnatic Music. Similarly, Thaala plays a vital role to set the raga into time boundary. Which means each raga should comes under a thaala cycle. For example, most of the keerthanas are set to Adi Taala.

Adi Taala has 8 counts. Assume a raga which has 8 aksharas, If all aksharas of a ragam is played in a single cycle of Adhi Taala(1 akshara per beat), then its called as Eka kaalam or first speed. If the same raga is rendered with 2 aksharas per beat, Say 16 aksharas per cycle of Adi Taala. Then its called as Dwi Kaalam or second speed. If the same raaga is rendered with 4 aksharas per beat, Say 32 aksharas per cycle of Adi Taala. Then it is called as Thri Kaalam or third speed. So, taala sets a boundary to a raga and its a scale of measurement of each swara in a raga. We have seven basic Taalas ie. Dhruva Taala, Madya Taala, Roopaka Taala, Jampa Taala, Thriputa Taala, Ada Taala, Eka Taala. From the above Sapta Taalas, Other thaalas were born. Say well known Adi Taala comes from Chatusra Jati Thriputa taala. Taala enriches the beauty of Raga. I will exaplain about various taalas and how to play it in Mridhangam in an another blog. Melody refers Raga and Rhythm refers Thaala. In Carnatic Music, Shruthi is Mata and Layam is Pita.

Origin of swaras:

Let us take a look at how the sound of swaras are derived. Basically, the sound of each swara is taken from the nature. It resembles the sound of birds and animals.

  • Shadjama swara comes from the sound of a bird Mayura(Peacock)
  • Rishabha swara comes from the sound of an animal Rishabham(Bull)
  • Gandhara swara comes from the sound of an animal Ajaravam(Goat)
  • Madhyama swara comes from the sound of a bird Councham(Albatross)
  • Panchama swara comes from the sound of a bird Kokilam(Cuckoo)
  • Daivatha swara comes from the sound of an animal Aswam(Horse)
  • Nishadham swara comes from the sound of an animal GajaMukham(Elephant’s trumpet)

Each swara has its own Swara Devata, who exists in the form of the associated sound in the universe. In science, there is a strong relation between the sound, color, freqency, wave length. Each note has its own frequency in such a way there is a color associated with each swara.

Shadjam(Sa), base of the saptaswara. It is having the lowest frequency scale in an octave and represents red color. Its wave length is the highest amongst all the swaras.

Rishabham represents Orange color whose frequency is bit higher than Red color and its wavelength is bit lower than Red color. We can see the difference in term of apperance of red and orange color. Similarly, the sound of Shadjam and Rishabham varies a bit.

Gandharam represents Yellow color, Madhayamam represents Green color, Panchamam represents Blue color, Daivatham represents Indigo color, Nishadham represents Violot color.

Nishadham swara has a highest frequency in an octave. Similarly, Violet color has the highest frequency and the lowest bandwidth amongst all the color in a visible spectrum.

Besides, Musical notes are closely associated with Chakras present in human bodies as well. I will explain about varios chakras and its role in human body in an another blog. This digaram depicts the relationship between Swara, Color and Chakra.

Naadha upsana is the easiest way to realize the subtle nature of the Chakras. Proper practice of swara brings anugraha of the swara devata to understand the subtle nature of the Chakras. Each swara devata(God or heavenly body) has its own appearance as per the vedic hymns.

Swara devatas:

Shadjama devata: Body plump, lotus like complexion, four faces, eight hands, white attire, kumkum in forehead, has sword, sits on swan, gandarva wife, lives in Sambo island, Agni saw this devata first.

Rishabha devata: Slim body,green colour, three faces, six hands, peethambara dress. Blue stone necklace, agaru in forehead. Kundam in his hand. Sits on lion, kinnara wife, lives in Saha island. Brahma saw this devatha first.

Gandhara devata: Fat body, golden complexion, two faces, four hands, red attire, diamond necklace, agaru in forehead, Dandam in hand, Ghanda Berunda bird as vehicle, Yaksha wife. Lives in Kusa island. Moon saw this devatha first.

Madhayama devata: Tall with four faces, eight hands, blue attire, lapis lazule(vaidooryam) necklace, patharas on forehead, holds chakra, sits on deer, Kimpuru wife, lives in Kroucha island. Vishnu saw him first.

Panchama devata: Well proportioned body. Complexion black, four faces, eight hands, red clothes, emarald necklace, Gorojanam on forhead, pindi in his hand, Naga wife, lives in Salmali island. Narada saw him first.

Daivata devata: Tall, blue body, three faces, six hands, pictured cloth worn by him, Gomethagam(sardonyx) necklace, sandal on forehead, holding narasam, sits on parrot, Deva wife, lives in Swetha island. Thumburu saw him first.

Nishadha devata: Very fat, five coloured complxion, two faces, four hands, blue attire, pushparaga(topaz) necklace, kadamba powder on his forehead, holding ankusam, sits on Mynakam, Rakshasa wife, lives in Pushkara island. Thumburu saw this devatha too.

Will explain about Melakartha raga along with its arogana and avarogana in upcoming blogs. Brahmamuhurtha is a perfect time to perform swara sadhagam.

About Brahma muhurtha:

Brahma muhurtha is considered to be an auspicious time as per hindu panchangam. Brahma muhartha varies wrt sunrise timings. Brahma muhurtha kala starts everyday at ~3.75 naligas before suryodhaya and ends at ~2.5 naligas after suryodhaya. Assume, if sunrise is at 6am IST, then brahma muhurta starts at ~4:25am IST and ends at ~7am IST. During Brahma muhurtha, One can perform spiritual activities like yajnam, vedhabhayasa, upakarma, nadhabhyasa, yoga, surya namaskaram, any vidhyabhyasa related activities, etc. One can get more benefits. Waking up before Bhrama muhurtha and perform all our nitya karmanushta makes our life beautiful and successful. It is believed that one can neutralize the effect of tridhosa(vaadha, pitha, kabha) by waking up before bhrama muhurtha. It helps us to maintain a good health and mind.


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