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Raga Cds of the months (09/08-09): Alankaras – 10 types of Raga Ornaments (part 1 & 2)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on September 14, 2009

IMC OnAir’s monthly radio shows in August and September for Indian Classical music are concerned with the Alankars. They can be grouped in four main types (with 10 different characters).

The Indian term Alankar or Alankara originates from Sanskrit, the old science language of India. The meaning is various: decoration (jewelry), literary embellishment or decoration. As Sabda Alankara it designates  as ornaments by sound, decorative use of sound or use of decorating words. The last classification in Indian Classics before approx. 100-150 years was known also as Shabdalankar.

dates of broadcasting…
part 117th August 2009 – 10:00 p.m. (MESTZ)
part 221st September 2009 – 10:00 p.m. (MESTZ)
broadcasting plan | streaming (Internet Radio & Mobile Radio) | podCast

Compared with the earlier classification Shabdalankar, in that the Indian schools of music (Gharana-s) exhibited substantial differences. In our current times it is reduced as common clustering to the treatment of the Indian notes, the swara-s. There is:

1. Asthai Alankar – the return to the initial note,
2. Arohi Alankar – a note sequence in the ascending scale,
3. Amrohi Alankar – a note sequence in the descending scale and
4. Sanchari Alankar as a combination of type 1-3.

In the baroque area of Western classics the ornaments served mainly for the decoration of melody lines. Vocalists improvised with the ornaments like we  know it till this day from the Irish music tradition. Indian notes are “not static”, here briefly played Staccato notes (in Italian staccare means “tears off”) or single notes played “stand alone” are not audible.

4 examples of Alankara-s (Source: Sitar Technique in Nibaddh Forms (written by Stephen Slawek, 1987))

4 examples of Alankara-s (Source: Sitar Technique in Nibaddh Forms (written by Stephen Slawek, 1987))

The Swara-s are located in constant connection to each other. Each note is linked with the previous one and following. Such ”grace notes“ –  Kan-Swara-s – are the basis for each form of ornaments, the Alankara-s. They are the core for the development and beauty of Ragas.

The earliest reference to this term can be found in the Natyashastra with 33 Alankars, an elementar work to the visual arts of acient India written by the sage “Bharata”. It is dated between 200 BC and 200 AC. Further important treatises for the classification of the Alankars are the Sangeet Ratnakar of Sharangdev in 13th century and the Sangeet Parijat of Ahobal in 17th Century, in which 63 and 68 types of Alankars are described.

Alankars Technique for the Sitar (video tutorial @ eHow)
by Amelia Maciszewski (Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology) –

Alankars Technique for the Sitar: How to Play the Sitar...

Kan-Sawra-s in a Classic Raag Bhairavi
by violinist Milind


One Response to “Raga Cds of the months (09/08-09): Alankaras – 10 types of Raga Ornaments (part 1 & 2)”

  1. […] one of our previous programs, we dealt with the ornamentation of the ragas, ” Alankaras – 10 Types of Raga Ornaments “. The Alankara-s are the core for the development and beauty of a raga. While in modern […]


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