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  • Writer's pictureNaman's Music

What is alankar ( ornaments) or palta in Hindustani Classical Music?

In the realm of Hindustani music, we encounter a range of fundamental musical ornaments known as "alankar." To grasp the essence of these ornaments, it's essential to explore their various forms:

1. Meend: Meend involves connecting one musical note to another, creating a melodic bridge between them. Meend exhibits diverse types, and once you grasp this concept, you'll discern it in various songs and compositions.

2. Khatka: Khatka is a musical ornament where a single note is embellished with neighboring notes. The central note remains the focal point, and you can interchange it with the khatka without altering the core melody.

3. Murki: When you sing or play a group of more than two notes together, it's referred to as murki.

4. Gamak: In Hindustani music, gamak serves as a technique employed by both vocalists and instrumentalists to infuse their performances with emotion and ornamentation. It involves skillfully gliding between neighboring musical notes, often executed with speed and intricacy, enhancing the music's depth and aesthetic appeal.

5. Andolan: Andolan is a technique where a gentle oscillation is applied to a note. It's typically found in ragas that incorporate microtones and is applied to the specific notes within those ragas that use microtones. Microtones are unstable pitches that fall between two standard notes and can be challenging to sustain. Musicians utilize the andolan technique to delicately oscillate the note in a controlled manner, much like a skilled tightrope walker maintaining balance.

6. Jamjama: Jamjama involves creating a cluster of many notes.

There are more as well. Will talk about them some other day.

Ornaments represent the fundamental aspects of Indian music, but it's worth noting that each category contains numerous variations and intricacies. Indian music offers a vast and diverse landscape with numerous types of murkis, meends, khatkas, and more to explore. The objective of learning these ornaments isn't limited to rote memorization; rather, it involves appreciating the depth and diversity of musical expression they offer.

In essence, what we commonly regard as alankars can be understood as patterns:


- S R G

- R G M

- G M P

- M P D

- P D N

- D N S


- S N D

- N D P

- D P M

- P M G

- M G R

- G R S

These patterns serve as the starting point for delving into ornaments. However, it's crucial to recognize that ornaments in music transcend mere structures; they convey a profound artistic dimension. Alankar, or as it's more aptly called, "palta," is essentially about crafting combinations. "Palta" can be understood as a continuous sequence of notes with diverse combinations and permutations. For example, S-R-G, R-G-M, G-M-P... These combinations exhibit a structured pattern, somewhat akin to a numerical sequence (e.g., 1-2-3, 2-3-4). Palta is a tool that aids in comprehending the broader concept of alankar.

In the world of music, Palta serve multiple functions, extending beyond mere aesthetics. They assist in understanding the relationships between notes, honing improvisation skills, modulating one's voice, and grasping the essence of different ragas. The choice of which alankars to focus on depends on individual perception and understanding. Starting with basic alankars is recommended, gradually progressing to more intricate ones across all three octaves.

In summary, as musicians progress along their musical journey, their understanding of each musical term deepens. Indian music thrives on continuous practice, analysis, and learning, allowing musicians to delve deeper into its intricacies.

Few alankars example in numbers and sargam
Example of some alankars/ palta

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