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Origins, sources and history Saraswati , the Hindu goddess of all knowledge, music, arts and science, with her instrument, the veena. The Sama Veda , which is believed to have laid the foundation for Indian classical music, consists of hymns from the Rigveda , set to musical tunes which would be sung using three to seven musical notes during Vedic yajnas. It was at this time that Carnatic music flourished in Vijayanagara , while the Vijayanagar Empire reached its greatest extent.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Carnatic music was mainly patronised by the local kings of the Kingdom of Mysore , Kingdom of Travancore , and the Maratha rulers of Tanjore. During the late 19th century, the city of Chennai then known as Madras emerged as the locus for Carnatic music. Carnatic music itself developed around musical works or compositions of phenomenal composers see below.
It is also used in the sense of graded pitches in an octave. While there are an infinite number of sounds falling within a scale or raga in Carnatic music, the number that can be distinguished by auditory perception is twenty-two although over the years, several of them have converged.
These names are abbreviations of the longer names shadja, rishabha, gandhara, madhyama, panchama, dhaivata and nishada. Unlike other music systems, every member of the solfege called a swara has three variants. The exceptions are the drone notes, shadja and panchama also known as the tonic and the dominant , which have only one form; and madhyama the subdominant , which has two forms.
A 7th century stone inscription in Kudumiyan Malai  in Tamil Nadu shows vowel changes to solfege symbols with ra, ri, ru etc. In one scale, or raga , there is usually only one variant of each note present. The exceptions exist in "light" ragas, in which, for artistic effect, there may be two, one ascending in the arohanam and another descending in the avarohanam. Raga system Main article: Raga A raga in Carnatic music prescribes a set of rules for building a melody — very similar to the Western concept of mode.
In effect, it is a series of obligatory musical events which must be observed, either absolutely or with a particular frequency. There are seventy-two melakarta ragas, thirty six of whose madhyama subdominant is shuddha perfect fourth from the tonic , the remaining thirty-six of whose madhyama subdominant is prati an augmented fourth from the tonic.
The ragas are grouped into sets of six, called chakras "wheels", though actually segments in the conventional representation grouped according to the supertonic and mediant scale degrees. There is a system known as the katapayadi sankhya to determine the names of melakarta ragas. Ragas may be divided into two classes: janaka ragas i.
Janya ragas are themselves subclassified into various categories. Tala system Main article: Tala music Tala refers to a fixed time cycle or metre, set for a particular composition, which is built from groupings of beats. They have specific components, which in combinations can give rise to the variety to exist over , allowing different compositions to have different rhythms.
Tala is formed with three basic parts called angas which are laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam, though complex talas may have other parts like plutam, guru, and kaakapaadam. There are seven basic tala groups which can be formed from the laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam: Ata tala.