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Gamaka-s

Adapted from Chapter 8 of 'Kṛtimaṇimālai, English Adaptation, Part III' by Padma Varadan

A note or svara acquires colour and capacity for appeal when it is stretched to another (anusvara) compatible note on its either side. The notes are dovetailed into one another through a variety of delicate links forged by uncanny musical ingenuity. These links are called Gamaka-s - in effect, a clever combination of auxiliary notes. While over 60 Gamaka-s have been identified, 10 are more commonly used. There is no consensus on their nomenclature or method of execution as the technical and stylistic specialities too differ between vocalists and instrumentalists. Gamaka-s or embellishments may be broadly understood to involve one note or two or more adjacent ones or a glide from one note to another anywhere along the scale.


The following table presents the set of Gamaka-s used in this publication...
Gamaka Symbol Description
Āhata α Double note with an immediately lower note in the scale bringing up the rear. Usually employed in the ascent.
Āndōlita Oscillation of a note.
Jāru Up Ascending glide.
Jāru Up Descending glide.
Kampita ~ A steady wave; a shake.
Khaṇḍippu Stress and a tug on a note suggesting a higher note during descent.
Nokku w A strong jerk on a note to give it a stress.
Odukkal Deflection of a close lower note in the scale to yield an immediately higher note and covering the end with nokku or kampita.
Oṭṭudal Reaching out to the next higher note in the scale for a quarter of the value (suggesting the higher note as grace) and returning to original position.
Pratyāhata + Double note in descent executed with the help of the tonic note immediately following the note sought to be presented as double note.
Sphurita Achieving a razor-sharp effect on a note within a phrase. Also useful in emphasizing a repeat note similar to āhata

This table is a compact version of the one in the book. For examples of usage of gamaka-s please refer to the full table in the book.



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