“|| गीयते इति गीतं||”

Geetha generally means a song. The union of Dhatu and Matu is known as Geetha, i.e., the union of music and words (swara and sahitya) is said by the learned to constitute a Geetha.

“||धातु मातु समायुक्तं गीतमित्युच्यते बुधै:||”

Geethas are the simplest of melodies. The term Geetha literally means a song. But in music it signifies a particular type of composition.

The music of the Geetham is simple melodic extension of the raga in which it is composed. Its tempo is uniform. It is continuous composition without the sections of Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam. The Geetha is sung without repetition from beginning till the end. Some geethas have two sections (khandikas) and some have three. Some geethas are concluded by repeating a portion of the opening part.

Geethas are learnt after a course in the preliminary swara exercises and alankaras. There are geethas in all the sapta talas and their varieties. Geethas are of 2 kinds.

They are: 1. Sanchari geethas 2. Lakshana geethas

  1. Samanya (Sanchari / Sadharana/ Lakshya) Geetha:

Samanya Geeethas are usually in praise of God, Musical luminaries and Acharyas. Eg. Sapta Tala Geetha in Nata ragam – ‘Gana Vidya Durandhari’ – by Pydala Gurumurthy Sastry.

Geethas are set in medium tempo. There are no sangathis or variations and the flow of music is natural. Neither intricate combinations nor terse sancharis are found in its music. The raag swarupa is well brought out in each case. For each note of the Dhatu there is usually a syllable in the sahitya.

Sometimes meaning less phrases are found interspersed in it. They are called Matrika padas or Geethalankara phrases. Eg. ‘Rere Sri Rama’ in Arabhi ragam. These phrases lend a characteristic beauty to the sahitya of the geethas. They are introduced for ornamentation only. These syllables remind one of similar syllables occurring in same ganam. There are instances of famous Sanskrit slokas which have been cleverly introduced as sahityas for sanchari geethas. The Geetha in Bhairavi raga ‘Sri Ramachandra’ and the Geetha in Nata raga ‘Amari Kabari’ are well known examples.

In a Geetha the number of swaras present  in an avarthas is equal to the number of aksharas forming the avartha. The deergha swara being reckoned as two swaras will have two aksharas in the sahitya or a deerga three also this being so, a Geetha in Chaturasra Jaati Dhruva taala should not be taken as Trisra Jaati Triputa tala considering two swaras for each count. Likewise a Geetha in chaturasra Jaati rupaka talam should not be taken as Trisra Jaati Eka tala with two swaras for each count and so on. This will not be in keeping with the rhythmical  construction of the composition.

Geetha are compositions in Ati Chitra Tama Marga. They are in Ekakshara kalam (one swara for each count).

Ganakrama (Order of singing a Geetha):

Geethas are sung from the beginning till the end without repeating the avarthas. If a Geetha consists of two sections (khandikas) as in Kalyani –‘Kamala Jadala’, the second section is sung after the first.

There are different categories of Sadharana Geethas:

  • Pillari Geetha: Geethas written in praise of God like Vigneswara, Maheswaraa, Maha Vishnu etc. are called Pillari Geethas.

Eg: Sri Gananadha – Malahari raga, Rupaka tala

  • Ghana raga Geetha: Geethas written in Ghana ragas like Nata, Gowla, Arabhi, Sri, Varali are called Ghana raga Geethas.

Eg: ‘Re re Sri Rama’ – Arabhi ragam, Triputa tala

  • Rakthi raga Geetha: They are set to Rakthi ragas like Mohana, Kalyani etc.

Eg: Vara veena – Mohana raga

  • Raga malika Geetha: These geethas contain more than one raga.

Eg: Mudakarakta modakam – Ganesha Pancharatnam in 5 ragas.

Notable composers who wrote geethas are:

  • Purandara Dasa
  • Pydala Gurumurthy Sastry
  • Govindacharya
  • Venkata Makhi
  • Rama Mathya
  1. Lakshana Geetas:

Lakshana gita, a musical composition of the gita type, wherein the sahitya instead of being in praise of God, enumerates the lakshana of its raga.

There are lakshana gitas for most of the current ragas. At a time when the art of printing was not known and copies could not be multiplied in thousands, lakshana gitas were of great value in helping students to remember the lakshana of ragas. The raganga  raga lakshana gitas are special class by themselves.

Lakshana gitas describe the following lakshanas of the ragas:

  1. Mela janyam: Is the raga melakartha raga or a derivative raga?
  2. Bhashanga or Ubhanga raga
  3. Whether the raga is Audava, Shadava or Sampurna raga
  4. Arohana and Avarohana of the raga.
  5. Vakram/Varjam – In Arohana/Avarohana of the raga
  6. Jiva, Nyasa (ending note) and Graha (starting note) swaras of the raga

Pydala Gurumurthy Sastry was a prolific composer of geethas. He is referred to as ‘Veyyi Geethala’ Pydala Gurumurthy Sastry. Rama matya, the author of Swara Mela Kalanidhi’ has also composed gitas. Govinda Dikshitar and Venkata Makhi are credited with many Lakshana gitas.

Eg: ‘Kamsasura’ – Sahana – Mathya – Gurumurthy Sastry

‘Ripubala Khanda’ –  Mayamalava gowla – Mathya – Venkata Makhi