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Friday, October 30, 2009


There was constant demand from readers for varnams and since it may be useful to all the students of Carnatic music, I tried to post as many varnams as possible with the variety of artistsVarnam is a form of song in the Carnatic music repertoire. A varnam is a relatively long piece and can range from 30 minutes to up to an hour. It is usually set to Aadi or Ata tala. It is the center piece in a recital of music or dance. The lyrics are simple and consist mostly of long syllables and swara phrases of various lengths which bring out the essential features of the raga. It has two types: Taana varnam and Pada varnam.
Varnams are considered vocal exercises in a particular raga. The patterns in a varnam are considered to be characteristic patterns of a particular raga or scale. Varnams are considered the most complex of the vocal exercises in Carnatic Music. They are designed to help develop voice culture and proper control of rhythm. Indeed, varnams are often practiced in double and triple speeds and proper rhythmic control (tala) must be kept.

Type of varnams

Named for its thanam-like rhythmic qualities, tana varnams only have lyrics for the pallavi, anupallavi and charanam.[1]
With rhythmic elements like a padam, pada varnams are generally sung to accompany South Indian classical dance, including bharatanatyam.[2] Unlike the tana varnam which only has lyrics for the pallavi, anupallavi and charanam and swarams for the rest of the sections a pada varnam also have lyrics that correspond to the muktayi and chitta swaras of the varnam, so generally, pada varnams contain more lyrical content than a tana varnam.[2] The swaras in this type of varnam are suitable for intricate footwork.[2] Padajathi varnams are simply pada varnams that also contain jatis in it, making it again more suitable for South Indian classical dance.[2]

Contents of a varnam

The varnam is subdivided into several sections:
  • Pallavi: The first section of the Varnam, sung with lyrics or sahithyam.
  • Anupallavi: A sort of recapitulation, sung with lyrics or sahithyam also.
  • Mukthaayi Swaram: Sung completely with syllables—or swaras -- (like sa ri ga ma pa da ni sa). In Pada Varnas it is known as Mukthaayi Swaram-Sahithyam.
  • Charanam: Sung with lyrics
  • Chittai Swarams: Sung completely with syllables. In a Pada varnam, there are lyrics which correspond to the Charanam swaras. The swaras occur in several groups or stanzas.
Generally, a varnam is sung as follows:
  • Pallavi
  • Anupallavi
  • Muktayi Swaram
  • Pallavi (in double speed)
Repeat, then Pallavi sung in triple speed, or in original speed.
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 1
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 2
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 3
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 4
  • Charanam
There are generally 3–5 swara groups in every varnam. In a concert, the entire charanam section is sung at approximately 1.5 speed. Sometimes when repeating the Pallavi the Annupallavi and Muktayi Swarams are repeated in double or triple speed.
Varnams are generally sung in two varieties of talas, or metric systems, Adi Tala (8 beat cycle) and Ata Tala (14 beat cycle), where Ata Tala varnams are generally more complicated and advanced. In most of the Adi Tala Varnams the tala is placed in the 2 kalai version. So therefore each beat and finger count is placed twice.
Famous Varnams
Adi Tala Varnams include:
Ata Tala Varnams include:
The Arabhi ragam varnam is supposed to be the only longest piece with jantai and tattu prayogas.
The Valachi vachi varnam is a Navaragamalika composition. The "MATHE MALAYADHWAJA" is a very Unique Varnam due to the fact that the Chitte swara has two different types of sahitya arranged according to it. The first is a rhythmic poetry describing the king and has the Raja mudra and the second is a liting Solkattu swara which is very nicely embodied in expression by bharatanatyam dancers.
Please also see this LINK for many varnams in different talas. I will try to collect as many varnams possible, but the pity is most of the singers are repeating the same varnams in most of the concerts. Why don't they stop repeating the same varnams instead of trying new ones.

  1. Aarabhi - T.N. Seshagopalan
  2. Aarabhi - Anadhalakshmi Sadagopan
  3. Amrithavarshini - Dr. Balamuralikrishna
  4. Aabhogi - Ranjani and Gayathri
  5. Aabhogi - P. Unnikrishnan
  6. Aabhogi - Aruna Sairam
  7. Aabhogi - K. J. Yesudoss
  8. Aarabhi - T.K. Rangachari
  9. Andholika - Sudha Raghunathan
  10. Begadaa - Maharajapuram Santhanam
  11. Begadaa - T. N. Seshagopalan
  12. Bhairavi - Maharajapuram Santhanam
  13. Bhairavi - Neiveli Santhanagopalan
  14. Bhairavi - Dr. Balamuralikrishna
  15. Bhairavi - T. N. Seshagopalan
  16. Bhairavi - T. M. Krishna
  17. Bhairavi - Sanjay Subramanian
  18. Bhairavi - T. K. Rangachari
  19. Charukesi - Maharajapuram Santhanam
  20. Charukesi - Aruna Sairam
  21. Dhanyaasi - Bombay sisters *
  22. Durbaar - Kundrakudi Balamuralikrishna
  23. Durbaar - Neiveli Santhanagopalan
  24. Durbaar - Nithyashree
  25. Hindolam - Sanjay Subramanian*
  26. Kaambodhi - R. Ganesh
  27. Kaanadaa - Aruna Sairam
  28. Kaanadaa - Maharajapuram Santhanam
  29. Kaanadaa - Ariyakkudi
  30. Kaanadaa - R. Ganesh
  31. Kaanadaa - T. N. Seshagopalan
  32. Kaanadaa - Madurai G.S. Mani
  33. - Kundrakudi Balamuralikrishna
  34. - M.S. Subbalakshmi
  35. Kalyaani - Maharajapuram Santhanam
  36. Kalyaani - Raajkumar Bharathi
  37. Kalyaani - Sikkil Gurucharan
  38. Kalyaani - Kundrakudi Balamuralikrishna
  39. Kalyaani - K.J. Yesudoss
  40. Kalyaani - Dr. Balamuralikrishna
  41. - Sowmya
  42. Kalyaani - Ranjani Gayathri
  43. Kalyaani - Madurai Somu 
  44. Kalyaani - Sathura kaamini - Binny Krishnakumar***
  45. Kalyaani - T. K. Rangachari
  46. Kalyaani - T. N. seshagopalan
  47. Kamaas - Sudha Raghunathan
  48. Kaambodhi - Raajkumar Bharathi
  49. Kaambodhi - Aruna Sairam
  50. Kedhaaragowla - Nithyasdhree
  51. Maayaamaalavagowla - Aruna Sairam 
  52. Maalavi - Sudha Raghunathan **
  53. Mohanam - Neiveli Santhana gopalan
  54. Mohanam - T. N. seshagopalan
  55. Mohanam - T. M. Krishna
  56. Naattaikurinji - T. M. Krishna
  57. Naattaikurinji - T. N. seshagopalan
  58. Naattaikurinji - Nithyashree
  59. Nalinakanthi - S. P. Raamh
  60. Navaraagamalika - T.N. Seshagopalan
  61. Navaraagamalika - K. J. Yesudoss
  62. Neelaambari - S. P. Raamh
  63. Panthuvaraali - T. K. Rangachari
  64. Panthuvaraali - P. Unnikrishnan 
  65. Ramapriya - Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna **
  66. Ranjani - Sudha Raghunathan
  67. Reethigowla - T. N. Seshagopalan
  68. Reethigowla - Gayathri Venkatraghavan
  69. Saaranga - Sudha Raghunathan
  70. Saaveri - Maharajapuram Santhanam
  71. Saaveri - Neiveli Santhangopalan
  72. Saaveri - T.M. Krishna
  73. Saaveri - Aruna Sairam
  74. Saaveri - T. K. Rangachari
  75. Sahaana - Aruna Sairam
  76. Sahaana - T. N. Seshagopalan
  77. Sankarabaranam - Sikil Gurucharan
  78. Sankarabaranam - T. K. Rangachari
  79. Sri - Abhishek Raghuram
  80. Sri - Sanjay Subramanian
  81. Sri - Ranjani Gayathri
  82. Sri - Hyderbad brothers
  83. Sri - T. N. Seshagopalan
  84. Sudhdhadhanyaasi - Aruna Sairam
  85. Sudhdhadhanyaasi - Maharajapuram Santhanam 
  86. Sudhdha saaveri**
  87. Surutti - T. N. Seshagopalan
  88. Surutti - P. Unnikrishnan
  89. Thodi - Sowmya
  90. Thodi - Sudha Raghunathan
  91. Thodi - M.L. Vasanthakumari
  92. Valachi - Bombay Jayashri
  93. Valachi - M.L. Vasanthakumari
  94. Valachi - Sudha Raghunathan
Apart from those available here, you will find Varnams in all concerts uploaded ( perhaps may not be any thing new) and also under Carnatic music raagas.

If readers have got any varnam which is not in this list, may please give me the link to add to this list so that it can be comprehensive.

*contributed by Ms. Vijay Latha from London
** contributed by Ms.Vijay Latha from London (19.11.09)
*** contributed by Ms. Vijay Latha from London (1.12.09)

Blogger Saraswathan said...
Dear Sir, Namaskaram. It is a pleasure to enjoy carnatic music, more so, when you can appreciate its nuances. Very informative and useful post. R Saraswathan
November 1, 2009 6:31 PM
Anonymous Ram said...
November 18, 2009 8:55 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Woow ... awesome collection !.. kudos!
November 24, 2010 7:38 AM