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Student Scribe

By Divya Suri and Deepthi Suri

How has Carnatic concerts changed over a period?

Carnatic concerts have evolved significantly, with the contributions of Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, the transition from royal courts to sabhas, the introduction of new instruments, as well as the emphasis on manodharma shaping their modern structure.

How has the Carnatic concert structure changed?


  • 4+ hours long

  • No definite concert structure

  • 4-5 songs were sung in great detail

  • RTP’s (Ragam- Tanam- Pallavi) were the major focus

How has Ariyakudi contributed to the modern concert structure?

  • Placed an equal proportion on Kalpana sangitam and Kalpita sangitam 

  • Rendered krithis of various composers

  • Introduced the concept of singing a Varnam at the beginning of a concert in 1933, and singing different types of compositions such as (padam, abhang, javali, and virutham)

From Courts to Sabhas


  • One of the most important developments which held up our system of music came from the sabhas. In the early 1700s Carnatic music was nourished in Thanjavur. 

  • By the 1790s Thanjavur had reached its peak as a center for musical excellence. King Serfoji II even set up a separate division of the palace administration to accommodate the needs of the court musicians. 

  • Artists were not given a time limit on elaboration. Examples: 4 hours of Begada, 4-hour mridangam solos for nine days, 6-hour Nadaswaram procession for many days


  • However, performing in royal courts came to an end with the establishment of Sabhas in the early 1900s. 

  • Krishna Gana Sabha, Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, and the Rasika Ranjani Sabha were one of the first sabhas established. These Sabhas followed by the Madras Music Academy- established in 1928, played a major role in the propagation of Carnatic music. 

  • This led to a time limit given to performing artists while presenting a concert.

What is the structure of a Carnatic concert today?

Today, a Carnatic concert is presented for around 2 hours. A concert usually begins with a Varnam, or an invocatory item. Following which the artist may choose to render a couple of songs, and include manodharma in between. Before the main item the vocalist and accompanist usually perform an elaborate alapana. During the main item Neraval and Kalpana swaram are done as well. After which the percussion artists play a tani avartanam which is their own solo piece in the concert. The vocalist/instrumentalist also may choose to present a RTP  as the main item or following the main item. Lighter and shorter compositions are sung. Finally to end the concert the performing artist ends with a tillana followed by a mangalam.

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