The Margazhi music season has just commenced! Let us celebrate his festive start with quick trivia on a musical form that typically marks the beginning of every concert- the Varnam!

 The word varnam means ‘colour’ and ‘division’ or ‘category’ akin to the four varnas, the erstwhile classes of society.

 Varnams encapsulate multiple musical and rhythmic nuances and truly highlight the colour and shades of the raga(s) they are set to!

 They are structured as a pallavi, anupallavi and charanam (also known as the ettugada pallavi) followed by multiple swara passages.

 Varnams can be set to a single raga or span multiple ragas in a ragamalika format, a well known example of which is the Navaragamalika containing 9 ragas.

 Padavarnams are typically rich in long notes and slower in tempo, with each swaram associated with a corresponding sahityam. They are leveraged extensively for the portrayal of abhinayam in Bharatanatyam recitals.

 Tanavarnams, usually faster in tempo, are studded with musical constructs such as yatis, swarams, kaarvais and so forth. They lend themselves well to tanam singing.

 Noted varnam composers of yore include Pachimiriyam Adiyappa, Veena Kuppier, Ramaswamy Dikshitar, The Tanjore Quartet and Patnam Subramanya Iyer to name just a few.

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