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by David Courtney working tools

Note - This piece was previously published in Percussive Notes, Vol. 32, No 4 August 1994, page 54-64.

COMPOSITIONS (continued)



The literal meaning of mohara is the vanguard of an army (Kapoor no date). As such it represents a flourish culminating on sam. Mohara is defined primarily by function; partially by structure; and not at all by the bol.

Functionally the mohara is a modest assertion on the part of the tabla player in classical styles. In the accompaniment of classical vocal and instrumental music the tabla usually occupies a supportive position. However, there are times when one "trades off", and the tabla player is able to assert himself. Mohara may be used in either case. This works because the mohara is sufficiently short so as not to impinge upon the main artist, yet sufficiently lively so that the percussionist's presence is felt. There is sometimes confusion because the mohara is functionally identical to the tukada. Therefore many compositions may be considered either mohara or tukada.

There is a clear structure to the mohara; it is of two parts. The first part is a small body of material; the second part is a tihai. The body acts as an introduction to the tihai. The mohara is generally short, usually one to three cycles in length. An example of a mohara is shown in figure 9 (Shepherd 1976:174). Since most parans have the same structure, there are many compositions which may be considered either paran or mohara.

Mohara and Tukada
Figure 9. Mohara and Tukada

We may summarize mohara quite simply. It is a short composition, culminating in a tihai, which allows the tabla player to gently assert himself. Such an assertion is gentle enough that it may be considered as an emphasis rather than "trading off". It has a simple structure of a small body followed with a tihai.



This is a special form of tihai. Chakradar may be thought of as three tihais cascaded together. Therefore the tihai is defined entirely by the structure.

The chakradar is so common that there are several subdivisions. A very basic chakradar is shown in figure 10 (Sharma 1975:164).

Chakradar Tihai
Figure 10. Chakradar Tihai

Another type is known as nohakka; the nohakka uses Dha three times in each sub-tihai for a total of nine times. One may also hear the term kamali chakradar. This literally means a "wondrous" tihai. Unfortunately there is very little agreement on exactly what a kamali chakradar is. Therefore we do not need to discuss it further.



This is a common type of cadenza. It is defined both by function and bol. Functionally, it is a heavy assertion on the part of the tabla player in the classical styles. The bol is invariably open strokes from the pakhawaj tradition. A typical example of a paran in a ten beat cycle known as jhaptal is shown in figure 11 (Mridangacharya / Shankardas 1977:26).

Figure 11. Paran

Although the origin of the term paran is obscure, one common belief is that it is a corruption of "parhant". Parhant is the recitation of bols in a kathak dance recital. This could imply that the paran was a composition whose bols were so beautiful that it was suitable for a special recitation.

It is certain that the bols are the defining criterion of paran, with function acting as a strong second. The bols invariable reflect open, resonant strokes derived from the pakhawaj tradition. Bols such as TiTaKaTaGa, DiGeNa, DhuMaKiTaTaKa, or DhaGeTiTa are most common. Functionally, the paran is an aggressive display of virtuosity on the part of the tabla player. It may be used in kathak dance, tabla solos and whenever the "trading off" places control in the hands of the tabla player. This form is not found in light or folk genre and is inappropriate for general accompaniment.

Although structure is not a defining criterion for paran we may make a few observations. Usually it is structured like a mohara (i.e., a small body followed by a tihai). However, there are cases where no tihai is present.

There are various types of parans. An ekhathu paran is one which is played only with one hand. A lalkila paran, sometimes known as dohathu paran uses both hands on a single drum. A bol paran uses words of Sanskrit, Hindi or Persian in place of usual syllables. Sometimes parans are used by dancers for their characteristic greetings known as salam or namaskar. A salami paran is performed by raising of right hand to ones forehead. A namaskari paran is performed by bringing both hands together. A tar paran is one which is used with instruments such as sitar and sarod and has a structure which is consistent with these instrumental styles. A farmaishi paran is used in encores. A kamali paran is one which is considered "wondrous". Finally there is the uthan which is typically used to open a tabla solo or dance performance.

We may therefore summarize the paran as a cadenza which is derived from the pakhawaj tradition. Both etymology and contemporary usage indicate that kathak has had a major influence in the development of this style. It is defined primarily by bol and function with structure playing a negligible part. Many different types of parans have developed over the years.



The word tukada literally means "a piece". Tukada is defined entirely by the bols; in particular it is defined by the use of pure tabla bols. It may be used in any style except for extremely light, or folk music. It is difficult to make any statements about the structure since this is not a defining criterion. It is usually like mohara (i.e., a small body followed with a tihai) (figure 9). However there are a few cases where the tihai is left off (Sharma 1973:31). The name tukada obviously implies something which is not too long. If the tukada is long it is sometimes called toda (H.Shrivastava 1973:84). Very closely allied to the tukada is the pirmal which is found exclusively in the dance forms.


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