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Dictionary of Theory

The Dictionary of Theory covers terms relevant to Odia music and literature. Terms pertaining to dance are so far not included but hopefully will be at some later date. The terms are alphabetized according to English.

B C D G K N P R S T

B

bāṇī
A known melody to which a poem can be sung. The name of a bāṇī—i.e., the name of an earlier well-known composition—may appear at the beginning of a poem along with, or lieu of, a rāga name. Also see br̥tta. Alternatively, bāṇī may refer to the basic structure of a tāḷa (similar to a ṭheka in Hindustani music).

bhābāṅga
A style of Odissi music performance in which expression of the sentiment of the song text (bhāba) is primary. Extensive improvisation is avoided and purity of rāga and tāḷa is a lesser consideration.

boli

br̥tta
A term for meter in Sanskrit, in premodern Odia literature it was possibly equivalent to bāṇī. Some br̥ttas are named with earlier compositions, as with bāṇīs, while others appear to have rāga/rāgiṇī names.

C

campū
A literary genre in which prose alternates with verse. In Odisha, campūs were composed in Sanskrit prior to the 19th century. Kabisūrẏya Baḷadeba Ratha’s Kiśoracandrānanda Campū of the early 19th century was a Sanskrit campū combined with Odia songs. Under the influence of this popular composition, a few Odia campūs were composed in the late 19th century and after.

caupadī
A short poetic composition, usually with four to seven verses, with or without a refrain. The subject matter is usually Rādhā-Kr̥ṣṇa or courtly love.

cautiśā
A poem of thirty-four lines or verses. Each line/verse begins with a different consonant, arranged alphabetically (from k to kṣ). Substitutes are used for letters that rarely or never appear at word-beginnings. The full order, which differs somewhat from the modern Odia alphabet, is as follows: k, kh, g, gh, (n or a vowel is susbsituted), c, ch (kṣ may be additionally used), j, jh, ñ (n or a vowel is subtituted), , ṭh, , ḍh, (n or a vowel is substituted), t, th, d, dh, n, p, ph, b, bh, m, (j or y may be used), r, l, b, ś, s, (the three sibilants may be substituted for each other), h, kṣ (ch may be additionally used). Subject matter is highly variable.

chanda
Meter. Premodern Odia meters are almost always based on syllable counts where all syllables are counted equally.

chānda
A section (canto) of a kābya or a single poem composed in that form, i.e., as a series of many verses with no refrain.

D

dhruba/dhrubā/dhrubaka/dhrubapada
The refrain of a song, also denoting permanence. Also see ghoṣā; pada.

dhrubapadāṅga
An apparently obsolete style of music performance. A style of slow devotional/praise singing similar to dhrupad in North India.

G

gadya
Prose. Opposed to padya (verse).

ghoṣā
The refrain of a song. Also see dhruba; pada.

gīta
A general term for song or any literary composition that can be sung.

K

kabitā
Poetry.

kābya
A long narrative poem divided into several sections (chāndas). Subject matter may derive from tales of gods and goddesses, historical incidents, or idealized court life.

koili
Poems in which a character addresses a cuckoo (koili). Often these are laments, as in Keśaba Koili (15th century), in which Yaṣodā laments Kr̥ṣṇa’s departure to Mathurā.

N

nāṭyāṅga
A style of Odissi music performance that accompanies dance; emphasis on rhythm.

P

pada
A verse or stanza of a poem. Also sometimes used to label the refrain (see dhruba; ghoṣā).

pāda
A line of a stanza.

pada binyāsa
Improvisation/variation of melody using a section of song text.

padya
Verse, i.e., a metrical utterance. Opposed to gadya (prose).

paṛi
Sub-refrain. The refrains of some caupadīs may include a paṛi. This section is performed with greater rhythmic density than other sections.

R

rāga
This term has two relevant theoretical meanings. First, it can refer to a melodic entity as defined by Sanskrit music treatises (saṅgīta-śāstras). This meaning is attested in both the Sanskrit music treatises composed in Odisha from the 15th century, as well as in Odia literature from that time on. In this sense rāga refers to a configuration of pitch and intevallic material, along with certain rules and associations, which allows for the creation of melody. Second, rāga can refer to poetic meter. Perhaps the first clear use of rāga in this way is in the 18th-century Baḷabodhinī by Sadānanda Kabisūrẏya Brahmā, which assigns particular syllable counts and caesura patterns to traditional rāga names (as well as bāṇīs and br̥ttas). This understanding of rāga continued into the 20th century, as seen in texts like Kuḷamaṇi Dāsa’s Aḷaṅkāra Taraṅgiṇī (1929) but seems to have been largely displaced by the use of rāga in the first sense (more on this issue). Also see “Guide to Rāgas” (forthcoming).

rāgāṅga
A style of Odissi music performance focused on the elaboration of a rāga.

rāgiṇī
A type of rāga derived from another rāga. Traditionally there were thirty-six rāgiṇīs, derived from six main rāgas. Alternatively this can refer to a poetic meter; see rāga.

S

saṅgīta
A general term for music or song.

swara
Rāgas in the melodic sense consist of a configuration of swaras, which may be very loosely translated as “pitch” or “note” (though these do not capture the flexibility of the swara or its spiritual/emotional connotations). More broadly, swara may also refer to sound or melody/tune.

swara binyāsa
Improvisation/variation of melody using swara names (, ri, , etc.).

T

tāḷa
The rhythmic-metrical cycle in music. A tāḷa name may appear along with a rāga name at the beginning of song texts. There are several tāḷas used in Odia/Odissi music. These have changed over time and there is variation among performers. See “Guide to Tāḷas” (forthcoming).