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Varṇam is a type of composition in the Carnatic music system that encapsulates the key features of a raga, and considered as a foundational element in the learning path. Varnams capture the essense of the ragam in terms of typical swara patterns used, vishesha prayogas, highlighting the main notes (jeeva swaras), etc. This forms the basis for creative presentation (manodharma) of the raga in the form of raga aalapana, kalpana swarams and neraval.
Varnams are a fundamental form in Carnatic music.  All varnams consist of lyrics,  as well as swara passages,[ definition needed ] including a pallavi , an anupallavi , muktaayi swaras, a charanam , and chitta swaras . There are different types of varnams, such as taana varnam, pada varnam, daru varnam and ragamalika varnam. They also come in different taalams (beat cycles). Though the most popular varnams are in Aadi and Ata taalas, there are a number of varnams in other talas as well (e.g., jampa tala, triputa tala, matya talam, roopaka talam, etc).
A varnam is traditionally performed as an opening item by musicians in Carnatic music concerts or as a centre main piece in Bharatanatyam dance concerts. As a foundation to Carnatic music,  varnams are also practised as vocal exercises by performers of Carnatic music, to help develop voice culture, and maintain proper pitch and control of rhythm. The melodic patterns in a varnam are considered to be characteristic patterns of a particular raga.
Pallavi|tanam]]-like rhythmic qualities, tana varnams only have lyrics for the pallavi , anupallavi and charanam . 
With rhythmic elements like a padam, pada varnams are generally sung to accompany South Indian classical dance, including bharatanatyam .  Unlike the tana varnam which only has lyrics for the pallavi, anupallavi and charanam and swaras for the rest of the sections, a pada varnam also has lyrics that correspond to the muktaayi and chitta swaras of the varnam, so generally, pada varnams contain more lyrical content than a tana varnam.  The swaras in this type of varnam are suitable for intricate footwork.  Padajathi varnams are simply pada varnams that also contain jatis, making them again more suitable for South Indian classical dance. 
The name varnam (meaning 'letter') was likely given to this form of song due to the prevalence of swara letters in this type of composition. 
Lyrical content of varnams are commonly either devotional or amorous. 
The varnam consists of two parts: poorvadham (first half) - consisting of pallavi, anupallavi and muktaayi swaram and uttarardham (second half) - consisting of charanam and charana swarams. Some of the older compositions have a part called "Anubandham" following this.
Varnams are traditionally rendered in a format that consists of pallavi, anupallavi and chitta swaram (mukthayi swaram) being sung first in a relatively slow pace and repeated immediately after in double the speed. The rest of the composition (charanam onwards) is sung in a madhyama kala or approximately 1.5 times the speed used at the start. Each swara passage is sung, followed by the lyrics of the charanam. Some performers do not follow this, though, preferring to sing the entire composition in madhyama kala or relatively fast pace.
Varnams are generally sung in two varieties of talas, or meter systems, adi tala (eight-beat cycle) and ata tala (fourteen-beat cycle), where ata tala varnams are generally more complicated and advanced. In most of the adi tala varnams, the tala is placed in the two-kalai version, so therefore, each beat and finger count is placed twice.
Adi Tala varnams include:
Ata Tala varnams include:
The Arabhi ragam varnam is supposed to be the only longest piece with jantai and dhatu prayogas.
The "Mathe Malayadhwaja" by Harikesanalloor Mutthiah Bhasgavatar is a unique varnam because the chitta swara has two different types of saahitya arranged according to it. The first is a rhythmic poetry describing the king and has the Raaja mudra and the second is a lilting Solkattu swara which is embodied in expression by bharatanatyam dancers.
Carnatic music, known as Karnāṭaka saṃgīta or Karnāṭaka saṅgītam in the South Indian languages, is a system of music commonly associated with South India, including the modern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka. It is one of two main subgenres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu texts and traditions, particularly the Samaveda. The other subgenre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form because of Persian or Islamic influences from Northern India. The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style.
The Pancharatna kritis are a set of five kritis (songs) in Carnatic classical music, composed by the 18th-century Indian composer Tyagaraja. All the kritis, as is the case with almost all of Tyagaraja's compositions, are penned in Telugu, except the first one, which is composed in Sanskrit. The songs are: "Jagadananda karaka", "Dudukugala Nanne", "Sadhinchene", "Kanakana Ruchira" and "Endaro Mahanubhavulu".
Hanumatodi, more popularly known as Todi, is a rāgam in Carnatic music. It is the 8th melakarta rāgam in the 72 melakarta rāgam system. This is sung very often in concerts. It is a difficult rāgam to perform in owing to its complexity in prayoga. It is called Janatodi in Muthuswami Dikshitar school of Carnatic music. Its Western equivalent is the Phrygian mode. Todi in Carnatic music is different from Todi (thaat) of Hindustani music. The equivalent of the Hindustani raga Todi in Carnatic music is Shubhapantuvarali. The equivalent of Carnatic Todi in Hindustani is Bhairavi thaat in terms of notes, but the two sound very different due to differing uses of gamakas.
Charanam in Carnatic music is usually the end section of a composition which is sung after the anupallavi.
A Tillana or thillana is a rhythmic piece in Carnatic music that is generally performed at the end of a concert and widely used in classical indian dance performances. It was popularised by Dr. M Balamuralikrishna and some other musicians A Tillana uses tala-like phrases in the pallavi and anupallavi, and lyrics in the charanam.
Anandabhairavi or Ananda Bhairavi is a very old melodious rāgam of Carnatic music. This rāgam also used in Indian traditional and regional musics. Ānandam (Sanskrit) means happiness and the rāgam brings a happy mood to the listener.
Manodharma is a form of improvised South Indian classical Carnatic music. It is created on the spot during the performance, while remaining within the confines of musical grammar, as codified in the raga and/or the tala. Every Carnatic concert has one or many music pieces that showcases the singer's prowess and intellect in the form of Manodharma sangeetham. Often the centerpiece of a Carnatic concert will explore all the five types of manodharma. It serves as an important and integral aspect of Carnatic music.
Ragam Tanam Pallavi (RTP) is a form of singing in Carnatic music which allows the musicians to improvise to a great extent. It is one of the most complete aspects of Indian classical music, demonstrating the entire gamut of talents and the depth of knowledge of the musician. It incorporates raga alapana, tanam, niraval, and kalpanaswara. In more elaborate ragam tanam pallavis, a tani avartanam may follow.
In Carnatic Music, Kalpanaswaram, is melo-rhythmic raga improvisation in a specific tala. As part of swarakalpana, the musician delivers increasingly complex, improvised sequences in the Indian music solfege within or towards the end of a composition. Swarakalpana is integral to the Pallavi portion of a Ragam Thanam Pallavi and typically follows the neraval. It is also common for seasoned artists to perform swarakalpana during recitals of various other kritis.
Geetam, (Sanskrit: गीतम्; gītaṃ) the simplest music form in Carnatic music, was created by Purandara Dasa in order to introduce talas with sāhityaṃ (lyrics).
Swarajati is a form in Carnatic music, which is helpful before learning a varnam. It has pallavi, sometimes an anupallavi, and at least one charanam. The themes of swarajathis are usually either bhakthi, love or courage. It is a composition which usually has a pleasing melody and are suitable for singing in early lessons, musical concerts and dance concerts. The most popular and the oldest known Swarajathi is in Huseni raga, hau re raa bhagaya in Telugu by Melattur Veerabhadrayya. Swarajatis have been composed in numerous raagas - Bilahari, Hamsadhwani, Kalyani, Janjuti, Kamas, etc.
Bhairavi is a janya rāgam in Carnatic music. Though it is a sampoorna rāgam, it has two different dhaivathams in its scale making it a Bhashanga Ragam, and hence is not classified as a melakarta rāgam.
Kharaharapriya is a rāga in Carnatic music. It is the 22nd melakarta rāga in the 72 melakarta rāga system. It is possible that the name of the ragam was originally Harapriya but it was changed to conform to the Katapayadi formula. Kharaharapriya has a distinct melody and brings out the Karuna rasam, invoking pathos in the listeners. The Kafi thaat of Hindustani music is the equivalent of Kharaharapriya. Its Western equivalent is the Dorian mode.
Carnatic music terms are briefly described in this page. Major terms have their own separate article pages, while minor terms are defined / described here.
Ramapriya is a rāgam in Carnatic music. It is the 52nd melakarta rāgam in the 72 melakarta scale system of Carnatic music. It is called Ramāmanōhari in Muthuswami Dikshitar school of Carnatic music.
Shadvidamargini is a ragam in Carnatic music. It is the 46th melakarta rāgam in the 72 melakarta rāgam system of Carnatic music. It is called Stavarājam in Muthuswami Dikshitar school of Carnatic music.
Saveri is a Carnatic music ragam. This raga is a janya of the 15th Melakarta raga Mayamalavagowla. This raga brings out karuna rasa, i.e. it brings mood of compassion.
Amr̥tavarṣiṇi is a rāgam in Carnatic music, created in the early nineteenth century by Muthuswami Dikshitar. It is an audava rāgam in which only five of the seven swaras are used. It is a janya rāgam, fairly popular in Carnatic music. There is a belief that Amr̥tavarṣiṇi causes rain, and that the Carnatic composer Muthuswami Dikshitar brought rain at Ettayapuram, Tamil Nadu, India by singing his composition, Aanandaamrutakarshini amrutavarshini.
Niroshta is a rāgam in Carnatic music. It is a pentatonic scale. It is a derived scale, as it does not have all the seven swaras.
Darbar is a ragam in Carnatic music. The raga is a comparatively recent entry to Carnatic Music, possibly in the earlier part of the 18th century.