Easing notation creation using substitutions

Jan 2, 2018  

For most compositions, the “svarasthana” notation which uses the letter SrRgGmMPdDnN for the 12 svara sthanas serves pretty well. For ragas which treat R as “ga”, for example, this doesn’t work as it creates a difference between how the svara is written and how it is sung. This also creates difficulties with typing out svaras where you know the raga isn’t going to change.

The “substitutions” feature in the Patantara editor helps with these situations and this post is about how to use it.

Expanded svara names

Patantara now uses an extended svara name system in addition to the svarasthana notation -

0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12
S  r  R  g  G  m  M  P  d  D  n  N  S+
s  r1 r2 r3    m1 m2 p  d1 d2 d3    s+
      g1 g2 g3             n1 n2 n3

Furthermore, when using the numbered svara names, you’re free to use lower case or upper case letters. They mean the same thing to Patantara.

With just this much, the range of ragas and compositions that can be faithfully represented in notation is expanded to the full set, since whenever there is any discrepancy between the pitch that a svara corresponds to and how it is expected to be sung, you can always use the numeric suffixes to clarify to the editor.


While the numeric suffixes help resolve ambiguity, if you constantly need to use them within a document, it can be cumbersome and error prone - where you can accidentally type a g2 when you meant a g3.

To help with this, Patantara supports a substitutions property using which you can provide a custom interpretation of the letters rgmdn in one place and save yourself the trouble of specifying the number suffixes.


For example, if you have a composition in the “Kanakangi” raga, you can simplify your notation by specifying a substitutions property as follows -

tala pattern = || , , , , | , , | , , ||
substitutions = r/r1 g/g1 m/m1 d/d1 n/n1

> arohanam
s r g m p d n s+

> avarohanam
s+ n d p m g r s

What the above substitutions line is telling Patantara is that when it sees r, you actually meant an r1, when it sees a g, you actually meant a g1 and so on.

Patantara will then interpret the notations to mean the following -

tala pattern = || , , , , | , , | , , ||
substitutions = r/r1 g/g1 m/m1 d/d1 n/n1

> arohanam
s r1 g1 m1 p d1 n1 s+

> avarohanama
s+ n1 d1 p m1 g1 r1 s

If this had been written using the svarasthana notation, it would have to be written as -

tala pattern = || , , , , | , , | , , ||

> arohanam
S r R m P d D S+

> avarohanama
S+ D d P m R r S

… which is not how the svaras are sung, leading to possibility of error in typing out the notation.

Note: As long as you accurately describe the melody in terms of how it is sung as well as the pitch sequence involved, the viewer will be able to accurately show you the right pitch names in the various presentation formats correctly.


The substitutions mechanism cannot distinguish between arohana and avarohana (at least not yet). You can therefore use it for melakarta ragas without a problem, but mixed ragas will need further disambiguation - for example, if “ni” has the pitch n1 during arohana and n2 during avarohana, that can’t be expressed with a single n.

In such cases, you can use substitutions for the common svaras and explicitly use n1, n2, etc. in the notation to avoid confusion with the mixed svaras. Even in this case, irrespective of how you actually type in the notation, Patantara will show the various presentations in the same way as long as the content of what you’ve described is the same.