Tanam is the most attractive and important item, especially in Veena. It is Madhyamakala raga alapana with varieties of rhythmic flow at medium speed. Tanam playing is best showcased when performed on the Veena, as the instrument’s side strings (Tala strings) are particularly suited to this style of music.

In Volume I of the book Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarśini by Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu, it is explained that Tāna is a type of creative singing or playing that involves elaboration or expansion of Mūrcchanā. This is typically done at a middle tempo and involves multiplying or expanding swaras. If these embellishments are done in one raga, it is called Śuddha tāna, while if they are done in two ragas, it is called Kūṭa tāna. However, there is some disagreement over whether Kūṭa tāna can only be done in certain types of raga. The word Tāna is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit word ‘aanantha’ or ‘ananta’, which means happiness. In a Tānam, the word Tāna is repeated many times in a stretched form to create special melodic effects in a raga.

Tānam is an important aspect of Manodharma Sangita, as it involves improvisation and creative expression in Indian classical music. Tanam is also described as MADHYAMA KALA LAYABADDA ALAPANA. The only syllables used to render Tānam are Anantha and Nomtha with vowel elongations, and it is based on different patterns formed with the svaras. Although Tānam is not bound by Tala, there is a rhythmic flow in rendering it. The playing of Tānam involves rakti which helps to keep the listeners alert, and it involved presenting ragam in a quick tempo to prepare for the pallavi. Tānam may be based on both raga and laya, and showcasing a variation in speed/tempo in rendering Tānam in madhyama kāla or occasionally slowing brings out its characteristic. The syllables ta and nam are incorporated alternatively, with emphasis on the meetu, and two, three, four, five, and six phrases are improvised through permutation and combination of these phrases.

The technique and use of the right-hand fingers are crucial when playing taanam. Specific strokes are used for certain letters, and it is important to avoid the simultaneous use of Lo Meetu and Side Meetu, as it can create a sound similar to JHAALA on Sitar. However, this practice is now commonly used. Like ragalapana, tanam also has a systematic pattern that should be followed.

During the playing of tanam, prasthara should be done on the Jiva Swara of the raga being played. The Graha and Nyasa swaras of the raga should also be kept in mind while performing taana prasthara. Understanding the Raga Lakshana is crucial.

Sancharam should start from Mandara Sthayi and proceed to the Madhyama Sthayi, with sancharas being done on the Jeeva swaras and raga chaya swaras only. Then, proceed to the Tara Sthayi, where sancharas should also be done on the jiva swaras before slowly coming down in avarohana order to complete the tanam. Throughout the entire performance, equal talent, raga bhava, and attraction (rakti) should be maintained, and the raga bhava should not be lost until the completion of the tanam.

Different types of tāna exist, and they are categorized based on group patterns of swaras that can be presented in a specific style of exposition. There are eight recognized varieties of Tānam, out of which six of them are named after animals and birds, which reflect their characteristic gaits and are interesting from the viewpoint of rhythm. The eight types of Tānam include Manava tāna, Aswa tāna (Horse), Gaja tāna (Elephant), Marakata tāna (Monkey), Mayura tāna (peacock), Kukuta tāna (Cock), Manduka tāna (frog), and Chatra tāna. This can be distinguished based on the plucking of strings, which is also known as the meetu of strings. The meetu’s are classified into four categories: Sadha meetu, Jalra meetu, Ottu meetu, and Karthari meetu.

Other types of meetu include:

  • Goti:
    • This refers to the downward plucking function of either the index or middle finger.
    • The special name for index downward pluck is redundant.
  • Vali:
    • The SSP English translation, January 2011 edition, specifies only the usage of the index finger.
    • There is no term found for an upward middle finger pluck.
  • Kuta:
    • This is a special meetu in terms of both the number of fingers and strings, bringing a different quality to the resulting sound.
    • Another category of pluck with thumb nails is also included in kuta.
    • The sound quality of the nails would be different from the pluck by the three fingers mentioned.
    • There is no reason why it should be only thumb nails.
  • Kanishtika (Laya pakka):
    • This meetu has an important time-keeping function.
    • The quality is due to the conglomerated sound of the side strings, indicating the strong beats of a tala cycle.
    • The term vidi is described as the individual pluck of the main strings for a special effect.
    • There is no such term for individual plucks for the side strings.
    • Suggestion: vidi could probably include individual plucking of any string for effect.
    • But still, there is nothing special about the quality of the pluck; it simply sounds the tonic and the fifth in different registers.
  • Pattu (Idai, aDDa):
    • This is a unique mittu bringing a distinct sound quality to finger plucking.
    • This includes also a middle finger pluck followed by an index finger stop and pluck.
  • Tunai or Kutra or tODu:
    • This technique only specifies the alternating character of the index and middle finger in the downward plucking mode.
    • It does not affect either the middle or index finger pluck quality.
  • Katri:
    • This is a unique pluck to produce double sounds.
    • Its equivalents, sama and jodu (equal), suggest that the two fingers are together.
    • Though the two fingers are together, there is a time delay in the resultant sound because they are plucked one after another in quick succession.
    • The name karthari or katri, on the other hand, suggests the image of a pair of scissors (its Tamil meaning), and gives the extended meaning of a broken sound quality characteristic of the technique.
  • Abaddha mittu:
    • This does not have any quality to it.
    • It does not have any meaning for a listener who cannot comprehend the language.
  • TaDai mittu:
    • This does not bring any quality to the pluck.
    • It simply describes how a particular phrase is dealt with in terms of plucking.
    • Each one can find his own way to dealing with such phrases.

Varieties of Tanam

  1. Chakra tāna:
  • Combination of swaras taken in a cyclic pattern
  • Example: MPD-PDN-DND
  •  Sa ga ma – ga ma pa -Pa da ni – da ni saga  ma padapa – ma padanida   Pa da ni sa ni
  1. Vakra tāna:
  • Progression of swaras in zigzag pattern
  • Example: MND-GDP-RPM-SMG
  • Sa ga – Sa ma ri pa – Ma ni – Sa da – in pa – ni Ma – Pa ri – ga ri.
  1. Misra Tānam:
  • Combination of swaras in set of three, four, five and six
  • Pa – da pa – ri da pa – pa da pa pa – Pa da pa pa ma – Ma ga ma ma ri sa – Sa ri ga ma pa da ni –
  1. Gambira tāna:
  • Tānam producing a deeper tone rendered in the lower octaves (mandra stayi).
  • Ss – Sa ni sa – Pa Pa Sa – Sa Sa Sa
  1. Malika Tānam:
  • Played in different raga’s (ragamalika tānam)
  1. Viduta tāna:
  • (viduta meaning lightning) Tānam rendered in a fast tempo
  1. Tānam tāna:
  • Playing of tānam in Adhara Sadja using various meetus and gamakas
  1. Ahata tāna:
  • Stress on the first swara of each pattern is played
  1. Pratyaahata tāna:
  • Usage of janta prayogas in playing of tānam (Two swaras)
  1. Gotu tāna:
  • Mainly consists of playing chords using plain notes (3 notes at a time)
  1. Manduka tāna:
  • Tānam rendered jumps like a frog as it means frog
  1. Gamaka tāna:
  • Tāna played using Panchadasavidha gamakas
  • In contrast to Gotu tāna
  1. Kukkuta tāna:
  • Played like the sound of a cock
  1. Bhramara tāna:
  • Sound of a beetle
  1. Mayura tāna:
  • Played like sound of a peacock
  1. Sarpa tāna:
  • Like that of a snake
  1. Aswa tāna:
  • Like the gait of horse
  1. Gajagamana tāna:
  • Tana played in the gait of elephant
  1. Meetu tāna:
  • Playing each swara with a separate meetu
  1. Sanchari tāna:
  • The sancaram of the scale is often indicated while rendering the tāna
  1. Dwandva tāna:
  • The tānam played on one stayi is repeated in the other stayis
  1. Monaka tāna:
  • To produce an enchanting musical effect using the gamakas of different ragas, the tānam is played
  1. Kuta tāna:
  • Combination of variety of strokes is called kuta tānam
  1. Hamsa tāna:
  • Resemblance of sound of swan used in the playing
  1. Sivalasya tānam:
  • This tāna imbibes the essence of all the other tānas in different speeds and tempo.
  1. Sthayi tāna or Makuta tāna:
  • Repetition of a particular set of swaras at the end of tāna in different sthayis.
  1. Chitta tāna:
  • Tānas that are already crystallized and written down that is to be learnt and practiced for aspiring vina students.


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