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Suladi – Musical Composition In Kannada

Suladi is a unique musical composition in Kannada. What is suladi in music is not clearly defined by the musicologists and composers; but there are many explanations. Aggala (1189 CE) in his Chandraprabha Purana says that Suladi is associated with tala. According to Venkatamakhi, sul means ‘to sing’ in a designated sequence of raga and tala, which are of seven types known as dhruva, maya, rupaka, jampa, tripua, ata, and eka.

Generally, a Suladi consists of not less than five and not more than eight stanzas of fixed talas. The theme of Suladi is usually taken from Vedas or the sayings in praise of Vishnu Bhagavan and places of pilgrimage. It is the general practice to have the same theme for all the seven stanzas. It is a common practice to sing the first stanza in dhruva tala and the second in maya and the remaining stanzas in the other five desi talas. There is no rigid rule as to how many lines each stanza should contain. Suladi ends with a couplet to summarize the whole content, along with a message.

Haridasas have extensively made use of Suladis for their discourses, keeping in mind their simplicity and utility. Noted Suladi composers are Sripadaraja, Vyasaraya, Purandaradasa and Vijayadasa. Purandaradasa is said to have composed about 64,000 Suladis. Some popular Suladis composed by Purandaradasa are sung in many households all over Karnataka.

However, nowadays, the practice of singing Suladis in musical concerts in public places is rare. The probable reason is that the composition of Suladi is long and svarasancara quite elaborate, in addition to the tough tala. It is also mandatory that each Suladi should be accompanied by instruments.