12 Musical forms of Carnatic Vocal Music

The beauty of Carnatic Music lies in its raga system of various musical forms, which intricately captures its soulful essence. At Furtados School of Music, we aspire to extol the cultural attributes of Carnatic Music by providing every aspiring vocalist with a platform to enrich their musical knowledge. Our Carnatic Vocal classes online are an ideal opportunity for every classical enthusiast to explore a world full of rhythmic symphonies. 

As children indulge in Carnatic vocal lessons in the comfort of their own home, they will be introduced to the twelve distinct forms of Carnatic music that continue to color their artistic horizons.

A prominent structure of varishas or practice pieces is used to improve your vocal exercise and voice modulation. After training on those basic lessons, one will start taking the distinct musical forms in rendering compositions like as follows


The musical form of Gitam is a simple melodic extension of the raga with a uniform tempo. It espouses ideas pertaining to devotion along with a few gitas in praise of musical luminaries and acharyas. A notable feature of the gitam is the existence of gitalankara phrases like a iya, a iyam, va iya, etc., called matrika padas, reminiscent of similar syllables occurring in Sama gana. This noble art form has been composed in Sanskrit, Kannada, and Bhandira bhasha. 


Suladi is a talamalika, the sections being in different talas. Lite the Gitam, Suladi’s are also devotional in nature. This musical art is composed in different tempos like the vilambita, madhya, and druta. Purandaradasa has composed many Suladis.


This musical art is pursued after one successfully masters the art of Gitams. It paves the way for the learning of the Varnams. It entails three sections; Pallavi, Anupallavi, and Charanam. The overarching theme of this classical form is devotional, heroic, or amorous in nature.  It originated as a dance form with jatis (tala, solfa syllables like taka tari kita naka tatin gina tam) but later on were lauded for their musical value.


Very similar to the svarajati in its musical structure, this art form has no sahitya or words and is only sung with solfa syllables. It belongs to the realm of dance music and is recognized for its rhythmical excellence and the jati pattern used in it. In some Jatisvarams, the Pallavi and Anupallavi are sung to jatis and the Charanas are sung to a mixture of svaras and jatis. 


The Varman is a distinguished musical form of Carnatic Music that doesn’t find its counterpart in Hindustani Music. It is a beautiful synthesis of artistic craftsmanship of a high order, infused with the characteristic features of the raga in which it is composed. It highlights the theme of bhakti (devotion) or sringara (love). Varnams have been composed in all the major ragas and most of the minor ragas, in all the principal talas. Pachchimiriyam Adiyappayya, Sonti Venkatsubbayya, Syama Sastri, Swati Tirunal, Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer, Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar, and Mysore Vasudevachar were prominent composers of Varnams.


It originated in the latter half of the 14th century. It is highly acclaimed for its devotional content of the Sahitya. This reverential form of art is composed in all the important traditional ragas and set to simple talas, the kirtanas offer soul-stirring music of the highest form of devotion. The Talapakam composers of the 15th century were the first to compose kirtanas with the sections, pallavi, anupallavi, and charanas.


This musical form has evolved from the Kirtana. It evokes the raga bhava that brings out its artistic richness in varied compositions. The pallavi, anupallavi, and charanam are the minimum and essential angas of a kriti. The pallavi is sung first, followed by the anupallavi, and ends with the pallavi. There are kritis in all the existing ragas and in all the principal talas. The kriti as a musical form has many features in common with the Dhrupad of Hindustani music. 


This musical form entails scholarly compositions in Telegu and Tamil. Although primarily composed as dance forms, they are also sung in concerts, on account of their musical excellence and aesthetic appeal. A padam is divided into distinct sections, pallavi, anupallavi, and charana. It perfectly encapsulates the thematic notions of madhura bhakti, which is portrayed as bahir sringara and antar bhakti. Kshetrajana is the most prolific composer of padas.


It belongs to the sphere of light classical music which is celebrated for its rhythmic intricacies. Javalis are songs that are sensuous in nature and they strongly portray divine love. They are generally set in a madhyama kala. The captivating and lilting tunes of the javalis enhance their artistic appeal. Desya ragas like Paraj, Kaphi, Behag, Jhinjhoti, Tilang, etc. have also been used in these compositions. Javalis are composed in Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil. This form resembles the Thumris of Hindustani Music.


One of the liveliest musical forms, Tillanas have originated in the 18th century. Its sahitya is in Sanskrit, Telugu, or Tamil. It corresponds to the Tarana of Hindustani Music and it is performed at a slow tempo. The presence of rhythmical solfa syllables along with its gripping sahitya enhances the beauty of the art. Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar, Pallavi Seshayyar, and Swati Tirunal are some of the prominent composers of Tillanas.


It is a branch of manodharma sangeeta, that provides an artist with ample opportunities to display his creative genius. The term Pallavi is coined from the initial syllables of the three words: Padam, meaning words; Layam, meaning time, and Vinyasam meaning variations.  The Khyal of Hindustani music has very much in common with the Pallavi of Carnatic music. 


The rhythmic patterns infused with the art of Tanam make it one of the most captivating musical forms in Carnatic Music. It is a distinct branch of raga alapana in Madhyamakala. The word 'Anantam ' is dexterously used to merge with the musical patterns. 

Thus, our Carnatic vocal classes provide students with a glimpse into the grandiose world of classical music.