The clap of the hands is an important part of both the science and practice of North Indian music. It has a hoary past. An elaborate system of clapping and hand movements is mentioned in the Natya Shastra (circa 200 bc) where it is part of the system of timekeeping known as "kriya".
The clap of the hands is very important for the conceptualization of Indian rhythms. North Indian musicians use the claps to designate the measures (vibhag) which are highly stressed. The most stressed measure is the beginning of the cycle. This is called the "sam", and is the most important beat in the whole cycle.
The clapping of hands is also of great practical importance. It is a convenient means for the singers and other musicians to communicate with the tabla player (tabalji) without having to break the performance.
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