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Tāla Prastāra

Adapted from Chapter 5 of 'Saṅgītaratnākara - A Study' by R.Rangaramanuja Ayyangar, 2nd Ed.

Janya rāga-s are derived from janaka rāga-s. It was the grāma-mūrcchanā concept that later developed into the mēḷakarta - janya rāga system. In like manner, prastāra gleaned shreds of mārga tāla-s and chiselled them into dēśī tāla-s and phrases of rhythm.

Druta (d), laghu (l), guru (g) and pluta (p), with mātrā values of 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 respectively, were elements of mārga tāla. The prastāra listed all the permutation steps - each totalling to the mātrā value of the tāla - as the principal form of the tāla was progressively reduced to a sarva-druta form.

The process of forming the prastāra table is now illustrated by considering an example of the pluta prastāra.

The principal form of this tāla has a single element, the pluta. This is equivalent of 6 druta-s with mātrā value of 3. Start by forming a grid with the number of columns equal to the number of druta-s. In the first row, write the principal form of the tāla, aligning the elements to the right. Then form each subsequent row as follows:

1. Scan the elements in the first row from the left to the right and select the first element that is not a druta.

2. Reduce this element by one level and take it down to the next row, while maintaining the column position. A pluta will reduce to a guru; a guru to a laghu and laghu to a druta.

3. Now duplicate from the first row to the next, all elements that are to the right of the selected element.

4. Gather all the elements written on the second row and determine the mātrā value of the rūpam formed so far. All steps in the tāla prastāra need to have the same mātrā count. With this objective in mind, to the left of the present rūpam, first add the highest tāla element possible and then further druta-s, if required.

5. Repeat the above steps till a sarva-druta stage has been achieved.

The first six steps of the nineteen-step pluta prastāra are derived as shown below:

Sr. Remarks 6 5 4 3 2 1
1. Write down principal elements of the prastāra, aligned to the right.           p
2. Scan from left and select the first non-druta element in row 1, i.e. the pluta in column 1. Reduce this to guru in row 2, column 1. Then add a laghu to the left for balance.         l g
3. The first non-druta in row 2 is now a laghu in column 2. Reduce this to a druta in row 3, column 2. Duplicate element at column 1. Then add a druta to the left for balance.       d d g
4. Reduce guru at row 3, column 1 to a laghu at row 4, column 1. Balance with a guru.         g l
5. Reduce guru at row 4, column 2 to a laghu at row 5, column 2. Duplicate element at column 1 from row 4 to 5. Add laghu to the left for balance.       l l l
6. Reduce laghu at row 5, column 3 to a druta at row 6, column 3. Duplicate elements at columns 1 and 2. Add druta for balance.     d d l l
Continue in the above manner to reach the sarva-druta stage in the nineteenth step of this prastāra.

An alternate way of forming the steps of this prastāra is as follows:

1. First write down the principal element(s) of the prastāra.

2. Reduce the right-most element by one level and add a prastāra to the left for balance. Here, the pluta is first reduced to a guru with mātrā value of 2. To achieve mātrā balance, a two-step laghu prastāra of value 1 is added to the left.

3. Next, reduce the guru on the right to a laghu. This has a mātrā value of 1. Add the guru prastāra of value 2 to its left.

4. At this stage the right-most element is a laghu. Reduce this to a druta of value 0.5 units. Then tag this with a ten-step druta-guru prastāra of value 2.5 to the left for balance.

In summary, the steps are as follows:
Sr. Prastāra   Element
1. Principal elements of the tāla   p
2. 2-step laghu prastāra + g
3. 6-step guru prastāra + l
4. 10-step druta-guru prastāra + d
  Total steps: 1+2+6+10 = 19    



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