Gamaka notation

Gamaka symbols used in carnatic music system!

The gamaka symbols that are used in Sangeeta Sampradhaya Pradharsini (1), a book on carnatic musicology, written by Sri Subbarama Dikshitar are as follows:

kampita Gamakam:

“Kampitam” means a shake in sanskrit language. Keeping the fingers of the left hand on any svara sthana in the veena with the meetu and shaking the string is kampita. The string can also be shaken with the left index finger and the middle finger in a svara sthana.


It is similar to Vibrato in western music.

the shake is of different kinds, which ranges from a small vibrato to touching the next note.!

There are three varieties of kampita gamakam:

  • Leena
  • Aandolita
  • Plavita

Technique: Meandering of a svara/note between the adjacent svaras/notes, before and after the svara with which this gamaka is expressed.

The beauty of this gamaka is that the pitch value(frequency) of the svarasthāna is not specifically sounded, but the svara is sung as an oscillation between the notes adjacent to it, before and after the svara. [2]

Example-1: In this the kampita gamakam is on N2 svara in raaga Todi.

Sung by: Vignesh Ishwar

Example-2: In this recording, done at IIT Madras in India, the artist performs the Kampitam gamaka several times in a raaga Kalyani.

Spuritha Gamakam:

In each of the double notes in the aarohanam, hitting the second note (in the voice or in the veena) is sphuritam.

Starting on a svara higher than its own position and quickly descending to its position which is repeated

More details:

While holding the double note s ∴s in veena, keeping the index finger on the position of nishada and the middle finger in the position of shadja at the same time and plucking the first shadja note without removing the index finger in the nishada position and removing only the middle finger and with a pluck hitting the middle finger at position of shadja. This is the method for playing the other double svara sphuritas.


    Example :

           S NS , R S R

Example-1: Here the Sphurita gamakam is on M svara in raaga Arabhi.

Sung by: Vignesh Ishwar

Example-1: In this recording, done at IIT Madras in India, the artist performs the Spuritha gamakam in a raaga Kalyani.

Pratyaghata Gamakam:

In the twin notes that occur in the avarohanam, plucking (striking) the second note is called pratyaghata.

More details:

In the veena while playing the twin notes in descending movement ∵s, keeping the left hand index finger alone on the shadja position with a pluck and while the index finger is traversing to the position of nishada below ,the middle finger should be placed on the shadja position with a pluck(lit. hit). While hitting this way, the index finger that was moved to the nishada position should not be removed. In the same way the techniques of playing the other twin notes in the descending sequence should be known. In the veena, while playing the twin notes like s ∵s, due to vibration (tremor) the note above it will be heard minutely.

It is traditional that in these pratyaghata for svaras that go in the ascending sequence instead of pressing (nokku) the lower svara, the separate svaras are played with pratyaghata in the avarohanam for the sake of melody.


             m G, R m P D p m, R g s.

In these cases pratyaghatas are played for svaras in the ascending sequence. These sphurita pratyaghatas can be played with one pluck meetu. For vocal this pratyaghata is the same as sphuritam.


    Example :

           S R S , N S N

Tirupa (or) Nokku Gamakam:

While playing a group of svaras pressing (nokki) a svara is tirupa or nokku.



Aahata Gamakam:

Either in the forward or backward direction, hitting a note quickly and returning is called Aahatam.

There are two types:

(i) ravai when hitting on the forward note and

(ii) khandippu when hitting on the previous note


Positioned on a svarasthana either with a meetu or with uta meetu, playing the lower svara with the left hand middle finger is called raavai.




From one, two or three svaras, with plucking going down from one svarasthana to another lower svarasthana and plucking and immediately descending to another lower svarasthana without a pluck is called kandippu


A second variation of kandippu:

In the manner described for kandippu above, from two, three or four svaras, with a pluck immediately after descending from one svarasthana to another lower svarasthana, the string is stopped to make it semi-audible and then instantly with a pluck descending to another svarasthana below with a jaaru would constitute the second variety of kandippu




Positioned on the same svarasthana deflecting the string in a circular manner and producing the shade(s) of one, two or three svaras is called vali.



One svaraprayoga :

In the position (sthana) of dhaivata with a single pluck of the string, pulling it swiftly so as to sound nishada, and then returning to dhaivata and then execute the pluck for the next svara.






The instances (laksyas) of this can be seen in the kırtanas and sancaris of raagas like punnagavarali.

Two svaraprayoga :

In the position (sthana) of dhaivata, the dhaivata should be played with a single pluck along with a nokku and through the deflection of the string in a circular manner the nishada is subtly sounded and the position of dhaivata is reached and then the plucking should be executed on the position of pancama.








For instances of this see raagas like Aahiri

Three svaraprayoga :

Upto the


constituting the long nishada first of all, in the position of dhaivata there should be a single pluck along with nokku and the nishada should be revealed while deflecting the string. The string should be released to come back to the pitch of dhaivata and pulled again to sound shadja and for the two svaras D and p two separate plucks should be rendered. Plucking with a single pluck and nokku and showing the nishada in rotation and bringing the string back to the dhaivatha and then producing the shadja sound by pulling the string and using two plucks for two svaras D and P. 







Examples of this can be seen in raagas such as darbar and atana. For three svara prayogas of this kind please note the use of a big curve symbol and for one svara prayogas a small curve sign.

Ullasita Gamakam:

This is called eetra jaaru when traversing from a lower svara to a higher svara and is known as irakka jaaru when going from a higher svara to a lower svara.

Eetra jaaru:

With a pluck, ascending from one note to the next higher note or to the succeeding two, three or more higher svaras



Irakka jaaru:

In the manner mentioned above descending from a higher note to a lower note with a pluck is called irakka jaaru



Hampita Gamakam:

With a hum syllable humkara and in the manner of kahal .a, a wind instrument producing a gradually increasing(in volume) sound while continuously ascending from a svara to four, five or seven svaras or even to the next register according to context or producing a gradually decreasing sound while descending from a high svara is humpita. This too would be a variation of jaaru.


Kurula Gamakam:

This is of two kinds, odukkal and orikai.



This is accessing the higher svara on the lower svarasthana. It is a practice to access the higher svara on the lower svarasthana on a veena with a pluck and as appropriate to the raagas along with a meetu pull the string and play up to one, two, or three svaras in the lower svarasthana and to return to the lower svara. It is rare to go beyond three svaras. This occurs profusely in aalapanas.



After plucking the string to produce the rshabha, on the same position plucking and pulling the string in such a way as to sound ghandhara on the same position and then sound rshabha. ( r /× m \×g r ).

In this phrase(usage) each note must be accessed with a pluck on the position of rshabha itself. This method of accessing a higher note at the position ofalowernoteisapplicable only to veena and on the voice it is essentially eetra jaaru.




Playing one, two or three notes with a pluck with the strength of practice of the left hand and using the fingers of the left hand accessing through push several svarasthanas and descending is called orikai.



Tribhinna Gamakam:

While playing the veena sometimes this gamaka is employed to create enjoyment by placing the left hand index finger or middle finger or both flat and hard on the fret of any of the svarasthanas of the mandra, pancama and sarani strings and using the fingers of the right hand and plucking on the above three strings either with a single pluck or with separate plucks is called tribhinna.

Mudrita Gamakam:

The graces of notes produced while singing with the mouth closed is called mudrita. It is said that this gamaka applies only to vocal music.

Namita Gamakam:

The graces of notes that are produced when subtle tones are sung or played on the veena by reducing the volume of sound are called namita.

Mishrita Gamakam:

Creating a combination of two or more gamakas mentioned above is known as Misritha gamakam.



  1. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini (English Web Edition)
  2. Freesound

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