French Flag


by David Courtney working tools

The word "theka" literally means "support" (Pathak 1976).  Originally the theka was nothing more than a "groove" that is laid down for the accompaniment of other musicians.  However in the last few centuries it has emerged as "the" signature for any north Indian tal.

Theka is generally conceived of as a conventionally accepted arrangement of common bols.  Such bols as Dhaa, Dhin, Taa, Naa, and Tin are the most common.  The majority of common thekas may be played using only these bols.

A very common example is tintal


XDhaa  Dhin  Dhin  Dhaa | 2Dhaa  Dhin  Dhin  Dhaa | 0Dhaa  Tin  Tin  Naa | 3Naa  Dhin  Dhin  Dhaa |


The topic of the theka and its bols is complicated by the pakhawaj.  There are many thekas which are derived from this instrument.  These tend to use very different bols.  It is very common to see phrases such as Dhaa Dhaa Din Taa, or Te Te Ka Ta Ga Di Ge Na.  One very common theka from the pakhawaj is Chautal; it goes like this:


XDhaa  Dhaa  Din  Taa | 2KiTa  Dhaa  Din  Taa | 3TeTe  KaTa | 4GaDi  GeNa |


We may make a few observations about the structure of theka.  There is a tendency for theka to be based upon two symmetrical structures.  Let us look at jhaptal for example:


XDhin  Naa | 2Dhin  Dhin  Naa | 0Tin  Naa | 3Dhin  Dhin  Naa |


In this example the structure Dhin Naa Dhin Dhin Naa is opposed by Tin Naa Dhin Dhin Naa

This symmetry is also illustrated in dadra tal; it goes like this:


XDhaa  Dhin  Naa | 0Dhaa  Tin  Naa |


In this last example the phrase Dhaa Dhin Naa is reflected in the structure Dhaa Tin Naa.

It must be stressed that there are numerous thekas which do not exhibit this symmetrical quality.  Therefore symmetry must be considered a tendency rather than a rule.  Rupak is a very common theka which is asymmetrical; it goes like this:


0Tin  Tin  Naa | 1Dhin  Naa | 2Dhin  Naa |


There is another observation that we can make about the structure of the theka; there is a tendency for the bols to follow the structure of the vibhag.  If we look back at the jhaptal in the earlier example we see that the 2,3,2,3, clapping arrangement of jhaptal is reflected in the bols Dhin Naa Dhin Dhin Naa Tin Naa Dhin Dhin Naa.  Again, the numerous exceptions show that this is merely a tendency rather than a rule.

Closely allied with the concept of theka is the prakar.  The term prakar indicates that there is not just one way to play the theka but there are numerous variations.  Some of these variations are a technical necessity and others are artistic.



© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at