#17-Study of Ata Tala Varnams

Varnam in Sanskrit means colour and it very aptly defines the form as it brings out the swarupa of a raga in all its colour and dimensions. The sahitya of varnam is of negligible importance and is only used as a vehicle for raga delineation. Varnam stands out distinctly for its ability to show the contour of a raga, its typical gamakas, the pauses, its gait and gamut. The texture of each note and the various shapes it assumes in combination with other swaras can be sensed in a varnam.

In this context, the Ata Tala Varnam in Bhairavi is said to be a master piece as it brings out the different gamakas in Bhairavi. It is  a dictionary of Raga Bhairavi. It is said that its composer Pacchaamiriam Adiappaiah took many years polishing it to perfection. Even today this ata tala varnam is considered incomparable and its rendition at the beginning of a concert lends intellectual weight to the concert.

Bhairavi Ata Tala Varnam

The composer of the Bhairavi Ata Tala Varnam is Pachchimiriyam Adiyappayya who lived in the 18th century.He is the guru of Syama Sasthry, one of the trinities of the Carnatic Music. Adiyappayya is well known for contributing the musical form Tana Varna. For this reason, he is known as the “Tana Varna Margadarsi”. He was also a great Vainika.

Though Adiyappayya has composed many krithis and varnams, his varnam in Bhairavi raga “Viriboni”, set to Khanda Jathi Ata Talam, the first of its kind, remains unsurpassed.

Kamboji Ata Tala Varnam

Among the genius of Swathi Thirunal’s court were Vadivelu and his three brothers Ponnayya [b. 1804], Chinnayya [b. 1802] and Sivanandam [b. 1808] known as the Tanjavur Quartette (Nalvar). Vadivelu was for sure recognized by Swathi Thirunal as a great asset to his court.

Kamboji Ata Tala Varnam was composed by Vadivelu.

Viriboni-Bhairavi-Ata Tala Varnam – Lyrics and Notations

Sarasijanabha-Ata Tala Varnam-kambhoji-Lyrics and Notations

Happy Learning 🙂

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Analysis of Bhairavi Ata Tala Varnam

Analysis of Kalyani Ata Tala Varnam

 Analysis of Sankarabharanam Ata Tala Varnam

39 thoughts on “#17-Study of Ata Tala Varnams

  1. Anu ma’am.. You are doing a wonderrful job in sharing your carnatic knowledge with everyone who is interested to learn. I would like to continue learning carnatic music online. Let me know if if you do take online classes. Else can you recommend an experience carnatic teacher who takes online classes. Thanks in advance

  2. Hi mam,,my grand father was a drama master who expired after teaching only few things .i did not yet found a perfect guru to ask my doubts .i saw ur blobs many times and i like ask somedoubts sir u plz help me .i am now learning music still

  3. Hello Mam,
    I have learnt my carnatic music 15 yrs back.
    now I can recall a bit by seeing my books.
    I want to teach my children the same.
    we don’t have such good teachers in our place.
    can u pls give me online teaching.

  4. Dear ma’am,
    I always had an ardent desire to learn Carnatic music, but I am not able to find a teacher in my area. Please let me know if you take online classes……..
    Thank You.

    • Adi Thala varnams were meant to be easier to handle as far as thala is concerned. Earlier composers then wanted to create more complex varnams with sahityam. Hence they composed Ata Tala Varnams that start 2 aksharam away from sama eduppu.They made sure the sahityam flows accordingly and did not lose its essence and raga bhava.

      Taking a very close look at the structure of these varnams, we can see that there is invariably a sahitya syllable in the third mathra or the ring finger in both the laghus of the avartha to enable a grip in the tala cycle. The anaagata graha eduppu has special significance to play not only in the first avartha but also in the subsequent avarthas in the ata tala varnams. Thus the function of graha seems to extent beyond the point of commencement too.

      Example – In Viriboni Varnam -Bhairavi RAga, take the words “Viriboni Ninne”. Here the sahitya Vi of viriboni and Nin of Ninne falls on the third matra. Same in Anupallavi in the words “Sarasoodau Dakshina” where the sahitya Sa of Sarasoodau and Da of Dakshina falls in the third matra.

      Same is the case of any other varna – Example Kamboji Ata Tala varnam.

      Interestingly the format of the Varnam is such that the charanam starts at the third matra but each Chitta swara line starts on samam and is worked its way to the anagatha eddupu.

  5. I want try to sing bajans but finding difficult to start.I can follow CD player.Can you help me to comeout

  6. Hi Ma’m, I am interested in learning carnatic music and I had learnt the basics 15 years back. Can you let me know if you take classes online ?

  7. Hi Mam, I was learning carnatics for three years and i have discontinued for two years, i have learnt till dhattu varisais, can you please assist me in continuing with next lessons.

    • Hello Gokulakrishnan

      I am caught up with so many projects and assignments and hence may not find time for classes for a while..Kindly find a Guru near your place, as you are in the beginning stage.

  8. Hi My name is Jyothi and I was searching for viriboni atta tala varnam and came across your site, very interesting thanks for posting such detailed information. how ever I was not able to open the Adi tala varnams part 2 I was getting an error message. can you please fix it. thanks a lot.

  9. hello mam,
    i am also a carnatic music teacher regarding atatalavarnams, is it be fair to take atatala varnam after 4-6 aditala varnam or according to the students learning capacity

  10. Dear Teacher,
    I had learn Veena for 3years completed basic level examination and I have some doubts need clarifications. I am from a small town and I want to learn music from you.
    Want to post my doubts with your permission separately to you.

  11. My sons voice cracked 1 year back.He has lost his clarity of voice.His voice is not so powerful as before.Could you please help in this issue mam

  12. I wanted to learn carnatic music. Tried learning through mobile app, but not sure whether i am doing it correct. Pls let me know if you conduct online classes.

    • As you said, the App will not correct you. Specially if you are a beginner, it is best to learn directly from a guru. Online classes are also good, if the teacher is able to clear all your doubts. I have also sent reply to your mail Id.

      Best wishes

  13. Hello mam,I want to study the musical and lyrical analysis of the krithi ” Nijamukha Rama” composed by Ramanadhapuram sreenivasa iyengar.can u help mam?

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