Pronunciation and Phonetics

Learning proper pronunciation can be done without much knowledge of phonetics, actually. A basic knowledge, however, helps to make pronunciation clearer and thus facilitates the process of learning how to speak a foreign language properly.

eAmbalam introduces a phonetic chart which is based on Dhevanagari script. The sounds of vowels and consonants and other speech sounds in Sanskrit and the languages which have completely or mostly borrowed from it can be covered with the help of the chart. A few other sounds common to some languages in this group and outside are also put in. Unique sounds of some languages are specified too.

Diacritical marks are used to aid perfect pronunciation. World over, these marks have been created and propagated by scholars to make understanding of the differences in speech sounds in different languages better. Team eAmbalam also has created a phonetic chart which helps even first timers to pronounce words accurately.

Our Phonetic chart is unique, comprehensive, learner friendly and is divided into four columns wherein:
  • In the first column, the letter is written with the associated diacritical mark.
  • In the second column, an example is given in Dhevanagari language containing the letter.
  • In the third column, an example is given in English, which contains the sound closes to the letter or instructions in few cases, to facilitate better understanding.
  • In the fourth column, an audio button is placed with the help of which you can hear the actual pronunciation of the letter.
An open minded approach with the above introduction and guidelines will definitely enable the user to understand the speech sounds of any language and pronounce it like a native, which is eAmbalam’s aim in this exercise.

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
A or a Aḍavu Arise
Ā or ā Ānanda Vast
I or i Indhira Sing
Ī or ī Īśha Meal
U or u U ṣhā Good
Ū or ū Ū rdhhva Boost
R or r Riṣh i Try
Ṛ or ṛ Ni ṛ uti Grr!
Lr or lr   Pronounce L and R together.
E or e Eka Ate
AI or ai Aikya Sight
O or o Ojas Robe
AU or au Audh ā rya Now
A M or am Śhiva m Drum
A HA or aha R ā ma ha Aha!
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
KA or ka Kavi Car
KHA or kha Khalu Mark -Him
GA or ga Gamana Gut
GHA or gha Ghata Ugh!
Ṅ A or ṅa Tura ṅ ga Ring
CHA or ca Chakra Chart
CHHA or cha Chhandas Branch
JA or ja Jagath Jug
JHA or jha Jhallari Fudge
NYA or nya Gnyana Knew
Ṭ A or ṭ Ṭ anka Top
ṬHA or ṭha Pāṭha Pothole
ḌA or da Ḍ amaruka Dog
Ḍ HA or ḍ ha Mūḍ ha Madhouse
Ṇ A or ṇ a Ga ṇ a Wander
THA or tha Thanu Health
THHA or thha Athha Theater
DHA or dha Dha śha This
DHHA or dhha Dhhana m Dha with an additional H sound
NA or na Namask ā raha Nut
PA or pa   Path ā ka Past
PHA or pha Phala m P with a H sound
BA or ba Bandhhu Ball
BHA or bha Bhadra Abhor
MA or ma Manas Money
YA or ya Yama Yummy
RA or ra Rajas Rub
LA or la Lath ā Lust
VA or WA, va /wa A śh va or A śhwa Water/Valour
ŚHA or śha Śhakthi Shutter
ṢHA or ṣ ha Ṣh a ṇ mukha Shunt
SA or sa Sarasvatī Sun
HA or ha Hari Hum
Ḷ A or ḷ a Ar āḷ a Bold
KṢHA or k ṣ ha Ak ṣh i Try to pronounce Ka, Sa & Ha – all at one time.
Extra Vowels in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada & Malayalam Scripts    
É or é Éṇi Angel
Ō or ō Ō m Ō M
ZHA Exclusive to Tamil & Malayalam Fold the tip of your tongue backwards and try to pronounce it with the aid of the audio button.
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English


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Music and dance have always been considered to be two of the finest forms of expression, combining artistry and refinement in a way which can be rarely portrayed by any other form of art. Knowing the importance of the arts, it is hardly surprising that a culture which has a history and heritage as rich as Karnataka's will also be one of the richest store houses of the arts. Thus, the various performing arts of Karnataka are by themselves one of the greatest tourist attractions of Karnataka and a definite must-see while on a tour to Karnataka.

Music in Karnāṭaka

Music has always been regarded as one of the finest expressions of human emotions. It is used for celebrations as well as a symbol of mourning or for loss. Almost all the civilizations have their own form of music which can claim to have roots deep in the culture and heritage of the land. Thus, it is hardly surprising that a civilization whose origin dates back to as early as the culture of Karnāṭaka does will also be one of the richest store houses of one of the most frequently used forms of cultural expression’ music. Karnāṭaka is generally regarded to be the place of origin of Karnātic Music, one of the most acclaimed expressions of classical music in the world.

  • Karnātic Music

The word Karnātic was used to describe the genre of music which has its origin in the Karnātic region of India. Representative of the South Indian Classical forms of music, the term ‘Karnātic ’started being used after the Sangītha Rathnākara of Sārangadheva during the period of 1210 to1247. However, it was to take as many as the next two centuries for Karnātic Music to be transformed to the state it is today.

The kingdoms of Vijayanagara and Thanjāvūr were the main areas which looked after the promotion of this form of music while the royal families of the kingdoms were regarded as the patrons of Karnātic Music. The emergence of the Haridhāsa movement in the 14th century gave an impetus to the Karnātic music. Among the Haridhāsas, Purandhara Dhāsa played a pioneering role in laying the foundation of Karnātic music. Known as the Pithāmaha of Karnātic music, Purandhara Dhāsa composed around 475,000 compositions in Kannada.

Today Karnātic Music has become such an integral part of the cultural outlook of Karnāṭaka that a tour to Karnāṭaka is considered to be incomplete without a performance of Karnātic Music.

  • Hindusthāni Music

Ragas are the basic building blocks of both Karnātic and Hindusthāni classical music. Rāgas are characterized by their specific ascent (Ārohaṇa) and descent (Avarohaṇa). Karnāṭaka has made substantial contribution to the evolution of the both forms of Indian classical music, Karnātic and Hindusthāni. Prominent Hindustani classical musicians from Karnāṭaka include Gangubai Hangal. Mallikarjun Mansoor, Bhimsen Joshi, Basavraj Rajguru and Nagarajarao Havaldar.

  • Folk Music

Music of Karnāṭaka also encompasses a great variety of folk music. The folk music forms of Karnāṭaka are an integral part of the rural life and possess the distinctive characteristics of the regions where they belong.

Dances of Karnāṭaka

One of the most important genres where the influence of Karnāṭaka has shaped the cultural outlook of India is the several dance forms which have their origin in Karnāṭaka. The dances of Karnāṭaka are not just expressions of art, but are in themselves an expression of the cultural history of the state as well.

The main dances of Karnāṭaka include several variations of folk dances as well as some of the most important forms classical dances in India.

Classical Dances 

Classical forms of dance include forms like the Bharatanātyam, which is perhaps best symbolized by its Mysore form. The other forms of the classical dances popular in Karnāṭaka include Kūchipūḍi and Kathak.

  • Bharathanātyam in Karnāṭaka

Bharathanātyam in Karnāṭaka enjoys great popularity. Bharathanātyam in Karnāṭaka was practiced from as early as the 4th century AD. The royal courts of Karnāṭaka, particularly the Chāḷukyas patronized the dance form extensively. The Vijayanagara empire encouraged the growth of Bharathanātyam at Karnāṭaka. Later on, Mysore became the most important seat in developing the styles of Bharathanātyam of Karnāṭaka. The name of Jaṭṭi Thāyamma and K. Venkaṭalakṣhamma are integrally linked to the growth of Bharathanātyam in Karnāṭaka. Although transmitted on a hereditary basis, at present various art schools and academies work tirelessly to promote and educate interested men and women in the practice and performance of this ancient and highly popular classical dance form of India. Bharathanātyam dance is being taken to great heights by practicing artists who teach and perform around Bangalore and various other cities of the state. 

  • Kūchipūḍi in Karnāṭaka 

Kūchipūḍi at Karnāṭaka enjoys great popularity and is practiced widely by men and women alike. Siddhendra Yogi, a sage of great repute and wisdom is considered to be the founder of Kūchipūḍi. He instructed his students in representing various mythological themes in a dance form built on the lines of the Nāṭya Śhāsthra of Bharathamuni.
Kūchipūḍi in Karnāṭaka has enjoyed great popularity right from the ancient days. Karnāṭaka's Kūchipūḍi shares the appreciation and tradition of the dance form which essentially belongs to Andhra Pradesh. The temple sculptures of many temples of Karnāṭaka attest to this fact. Even now, Kūchipūḍi features prominently in various religious as well as secular programs across the state. Many schools and academies devoted to art and cultural studies presently feature Kūchipūḍi as an integral part of their discipline.

Folk Dances of Karnāṭaka 

There are several ritualistic dances in Karnāṭaka which include forms like Kuṇitha which is basically a popular dance of Karnāṭaka in accompaniment to music. The demands of this dance include a synchronized movement of the dancers to the accompaniment of drum beats.

  • Kuṇitha - A ritual dance

The ritualistic dances of Karnāṭaka are known as "Kuṇitha". folk dances of Karnāṭaka include forms like Dhevara Thaṭṭe Kuṇitha, Yellammana Kuṇitha, Suggi Kuṇitha.

Narrative performing arts of North Karnāṭaka

  • Dollu Kuṇitha

One such dance is the  Dollu Kuṇitha  - a popular dance form of Karnāṭaka, accompanied by the beats of decorated drums and has singing. This dance form is mainly performed by the men of the shepherd community known as the  Kuruba  community. The Dollu Kuṇitha is characterized by vigorous drum beats, quick movements and synchronized group formations.

This is a group dance that is named after the Dollu - the percussion instrument used in the dance. It is performed by the men folk of the  Kuruba  community of the North Karnāṭaka area. The group consists of 16 dancers who each wear the drum and beat it to different rhythms while also dancing. The beat is controlled and directed by a leader with cymbals, positioned in the center. Slow and fast rhythms alternate and group weaves varied patterns.

The costumes are simple. The upper part of the body is usually left bare while a black sheet-rug is tied on the lower body over the ` dhothi ' or sarong.

A troupe led by K. S. Haridas Bhat also toured the USSR in 1987, giving performances at  Moscow ,  Leningrad , Vibrog Archangel, Pskov, Murmansk, Tashkent and Novograd.

  • Karaḍimajal

This is a popular folk orchestra of the north Karnāṭaka region. It is performed during various auspicious occasions and in processions. The Karaḍi or Karaḍe is the percussion instrument that is used in the orchestra. It is a palm sized cymbal that produces metallic sounds, while the  Śhehnāi  is used to produce the melody.

  • Jaggalige Kunita

This is a folk art of the Hubbaḷḷi Dhārwaḍ region, particularly of the Byahaṭṭi village. It is performed on occasions such as  Yugādhi  and  Holi . Jaggalige is essentially a percussion instrument made of a bullock cart wheel with buffalo hides wrapped around. The village folk roll out the giant instruments and march in procession. The entire performance is directed by a chief choreographer who himself uses a much smaller percussion instrument called the kanihaligi, made of clay and covered with calf hide. The performance usually involves a group of about 15 people.

  • Gondhaligara Āṭa

It is performed mostly in village shrines dedicated to the Mother Goddess. The art is mostly practiced by the Gangemata community. The dance is characterized by the dancers wearing elaborate masks painted in different colours. The colour of the mask is also indicative of the nature of the deity. A benevolent deity is represented by a red mask while a yellow or black mask suggests the opposite. There are many types of somas or masks, which differ from region to region.

Narrative performing arts of South Karnāṭaka

  • Nāgamaṇḍala

This ritualistic dance form is performed by the people of south Karnāṭaka. It is done to tranquilize the serpent spirit and is an extravagant affair held throughout the night. The dancers called the Vaidhyas are dressed as nāgakannikā. They dance all night long around a huge figure, drawn on the sacred ground with natural colors, in a pandal specially erected in front of the shrine. This ritualistic dance is generally performed between December to April.

  • Somana Kuṇitha

Somana kuṇitha  or the 'Mask dance' is a celebratory form of spirit worship prevalent in South Karnāṭaka region. Somana Kuṇitha is mainly associated with worshipping "Grāma Dhevathe" [Village Deity]. Somana Kuṇitha is a form of folk dance associated with rituals. Somana Kuṇitha is celebrated mainly after Yugādhi and before the onset of  Monsoon  in Jāthre [celebration and worship of village deity and rituals]. It will start from Śhivarāthri itself. Somana Kuṇitha is prevalent mainly in old Mysore region in districts such as Hāsan, Thumkūr, Bangalore, Manḍya, and Chithradhurgā.

On the ceremonial day, offerings of blood of animals are made to the spirits. The masks are made of the 'Indian red tree' (Pterocarpus Santalinus Linn). The other props include a cane or stick and peacock feathers. A mini headgear containing colourful flowers, neem leaves and colourful pieces of cloth is also worn. The music is provided by the Dūnu(percussion), Mauri(wind pipe) and the Sadde(a windpipe to keep the śhruti). The dancer starts his dance from the temple of the Goddess and proceeds in a trance like state singing in praise of the spirit. An offering of the blood of a fowl or chicken is sometimes made to propitiate the Goddess.

  • Bīsu Kamsāle or Kamsāle Nruthya

This is a group dance form performed by the men folk in villages in the  Mysore , Nanjanagūdu, Koḷḷegāla and  Bangalore  areas. It is named after the Kamsale that is used both as an instrument and also as a prop by the dancers themselves. The kamsale comprises a cymbal in one hand and a bronze disc in the other and is used to produce a rhythmic clang.

The Kamsale nrithya is closely connected to a tradition of Male Mahadeśhwara or  Lord Śhiva  worshipped by the hālu  kuruba  community. Most of the dancers are also drawn from this community. The dance is performed to rhythmic and melodious music that is sung in praise of Lord Mahadeśhwara or  Lord Śhiva . The dance is a part of a 'dīkṣhā', or oath and is taught by the teacher or a spiritual leader.

This art-form was showcased prominently in Kannada movies like  Janumadha jodi  and  Jogi  where the protagonist is a kamsale dancer.

Some more Folk dances

  • Gorava Dance (Goravara kuṇitha)

This is a folk dance of Goravas or the Śhiva cult that is popular in both Mysore and North Karnāṭaka regions. While in North Karnāṭaka, the Goravas worship Mylāra linga as their deity, in Mysore region, they worship Mudukuthore mallikārjuna. They hail from the Hālumatha  Kuruba Gauḍa  community.

In the Mysore region, the costume consists of a black and white woolen rug, a fur cap (fur from black bear) and the  ḍamaru  and the pillangovi(flute) are the instruments used. Sometimes a small bronze bell called pārighhanṭe is also used. The costume in the northern regions varies and the dancers wear a costume of a black woolen rug with a black coat and white dhothi.

The dance consists of trance like movements with no fixed choreography. The Gorava also anoints his forehead with yellow powder and gives  Prasādha  to the devotees. .

Performances are usually by a group of 10 or 11 members.

  • Gāruḍi Gombe

Gāruḍi Gombe is a  folk dance  prevalent in Karnāṭaka . Dancers adorn themselves with giant doll-suits made of  bamboo  sticks. The term Gāruḍi Gombe means magical-doll in the native language,  Kannada . This dance is performed during major festivals and also in the procession held during the festivities of the Mysore Dasarā. This dance is also known as Thaṭṭirāya in the coastal districts of  Karnāṭaka . The term Thaṭṭirāya means a person carrying a doll made of bamboo sticks.

  • Joḍu Haligi

The Joḍu Haligi is essentially a performance using two percussion instruments. The Haligi is circular in shape and is made of buffalo hide. The artists use a short stick to produce rhythms of exceptional energy and power. This is also accompanied by rhythmic movements and exaggerated expressions in sync with the high energy rhythms produced. Usually 2-3 artists are involved in the performance.

Dances of the  Koḍavas

The Koḍavas are a unique martial race, different in customs, traditions and religion from the surrounding populace.

  • Huṭṭari Dance

This is the annual harvest dance of the  Koḍavas . The men, dressed in traditional Koḍava costumes with the decorative knife, perform this slow moving dance to background music. The dance is performed to rhythmic tunes provided by wind instruments and percussion. The dance includes certain martial movements that represent some of the techniques used by the Koḍavas in warfare.

  • Bolakāṭa

This is performed by the Koḍava men in front of an oil lamp in an open field. The men hold the chavari(Yak fur) in one hand and the Koḍava short sword "Oḍi-katthi" in the other while performing this dance. Many regional variations of this dance exist. Sometimes performers dance only with the chavari without the use of the short sword. When the Oḍi-katthi is also used, it is called katthiyāṭa. The dūdi, an hourglass shaped drum is used to provide the rhythm for the dance.

  • Ummaṭṭāṭa

This is performed by the Koḍava womenfolk. The women wear the traditional Koḍava dress complete with jewelry, adorn the forehead with  kumkuma  and in a swinging rhythm, dance in a circle, brass cymbals in hand. One woman stands at the center holding a pot full of water to represent  Kāveri  thāyi  or Mother Kāveri, which the Koḍavas worship as their prime deity.

  • Kombāṭa

While the Bolakāṭa and the Ummaṭṭāṭa are of a celebratory and festive nature, the Kombāṭa is a dance performed with religious sentiments. It is traditionally performed in temple premises, but, in recent years, it is also performed in other places. This is a dance performed by the Koḍava men and deer horns are used as a prop, representing the horns of the Kruṣhṇamruga, a spotted deer in Koḍava legend.

Dance Drama 

The various dance dramas of Karnāṭaka are also important forms of the dances of Karnāṭaka.

  • Yakṣhagāna

The most important form of the dance dramas of Karnāṭaka is expressed by the Yakṣhagāna, which is mainly performed in the coastal areas of Karnāṭaka

This unique dance form is a perfect blend of dance, music, songs, scholarly dialogues and colorful costumes. Yakṣhagāna mesmerizes each and everyone in the audience with its enchanting music and colorful performances.

The word Yakṣhagāna literally means celestial music. This dance drama is also performed throughout the night, usually after the winter crop has been reaped.

  • Kriṣhṇa Pārijātha

Kriṣhṇa Pārijātha  is a popular folk theater art form of North Karnāṭaka. It is an amalgamation of  Yakṣhagāna  and  Bayalāta , portraying stories or incidents from the great epic  Mahābhāratha .




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