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Sangeet Paddhati – Importance In Carnatic Music Concert

Sangeet Paddhati is the order of presentation of songs in a Carnatic music concert. Paddhati means “a road or path”. In musical parlance, paddhati is the order in which musical compositions are presented. The presentation is in a particular sequence, which is based on well-recognized aesthetic principles.

The first principle is that only worthy compositions are to be selected and sung or played in the given sequence. The main guiding principle has been the observance of the ghana-naya-desya pattern. In former times, musicians began with ghana ragas, followed them up with compositions, rendered a pallavi in a naya or rakti raga, and concluded with lighter compositions in desya ragas.

Musicians of the past used to sing tana in ghana ragas before taking up compositions but this practice has now been relegated to the veena instrument. However, tana varnams, which are based on the tana structure, are now rendered at the commencement of concerts to enable the performers to get into form.

Varnams are followed by a few madhyama kala kritis, invariably in ragas with antara gandhara swara, as this ensures the musician gets fully aligned with shruti. Hence, kritis in raga Hamsadhwani, like ‘Vatapi Ganapatim’, are preferred as the opening piece. Ragas with suddha madhyama and prati madhyama are alternated to avoid monotony. After thus warming up, kriti is sung with niraval and kalpana svaras.

Ragam, tanam and pallavi are the ‘piece de resistance’ in a Carnatic music recital and appropriately occupy the central position in a concert. Expert musicians often stretch this item to an hour, as it is considered to be the touchstone of a musician’s caliber.

The post-pallavi session is devoted to softer music like padams, javalis, shlokas, viruthams and tillana. A concert concludes with a mangalam in ragas like madhyamavati or surati. This pattern has been in existence for over a century and has stood the test of time.