For those who may seem lost in the world of Indian classical music, Sadarang Archives have compiled a concise glossary containing the most relevant terms connected with classical music. The following terms aim to give a basic understanding to our readers so that they may gain the most from our articles. If there are any terms not included in this glossary, please feel free to write to us at and we will be more than happy to answer any queries.

Aarohi- Avrohi Aarohi refers to ascending order of notes in a raag. Avrohi refers to the descending order of notes in a raag.

Alaap The introductory part of a classical recital which is a contemplative unfolding, elaboration and development of a raag.

Antara The second part of the main composition (asthayi), usually found in khayal and dhrupad compositions. There are several antaras or stanzas in ghazals and geet.

Asthayi The first part of a composition which is followed by the Antara.

Badhat The exposition of the raga which involves development and progression.

Bandish A fixed composition in vocal or instrumental music.

Behlawa A kind of alaap using the words of the composition in order to explicate the meaning and the mood.

Besuraa Out of tune.

Dhrupad A genre of classical music dating back to the 16th during the reign of Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior. The texts are usually of a devotional nature. Ideology is of meditation or contemplation. Dhrupad is based on four parts, the Alaap, Astayee, Sanchari, Antara and Abhog.The Mallik and Dagar families are the leading practitioners of this genre.

Drut Fast tempo.

Gharana School of thought or a family of musicians who are well versed in a particular style.

Ghazal A genre of classical music which involves music set to Urdu poetry. The compositions are based on raags and most themed around unrequited love.

Khayal Literally meaning imagination. Most popular genre in classical music since the 19th century. Allows greater scope for improvisation than Dhrupad.

Lai Rhythm.

Matra Beat.

Qawwali Devotional form of music which uses religious text.

Raag Scale or mode of Indian music. The raag forms the basis of Indian classical music, it is a musical scheme of five, six or seven notes composed logically, the layout of the notes evolves into a significant form. Each raag has its own set of rules which have to be followed strictly.

Sam Sam is the first beat of a time cycle. Great importance is placed on the sam. Generally at concerts, listeners can be seen showing their appreciation of the arrival of the sum by nodding their heads, or clapping.

Samvadi The note which supports the important note vaadi.

Sargam Refers to the rendering of music through naming the notes e.g. Sa, Re, Ga, Ma.

Shruti Microtone.

Taal The rhythm cycle containing a number of beats.

Taan A fast melodic figure taken at least at double the speed in khayal and instrumental performances

Tappa Genre developed by Mian Shori of Lucknow during the 19th century. Involves continuous use of bol taans. The lyrics are often in Punjabi.

Tarana Genre in music, set to rhythmic syllables. Said to be invented by Hazrat Amir Khusrau.

Thaath System devised by Pandit V.N. Bhatkande which systematically classifies raags into groups.

Thumri Light classical genre. The lyrics are often set to themes of love.

Vilambit Slow tempo rhythm.

Vadi The most important note of a raag which is extensively used.


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Last modified: 15th July 2006.