A publication of the Batish Institute of Indian Music and Fine Arts

Tabla Lesson 8 - Some Popular Tabla Thekas

by Ashwin Batish

About fifteen years ago, my father, Pandit Shiv Dayal Batish and I were sitting around and discussing how difficult it is to find a good tabla player to practice with. Sitting here in the West, in Santa Cruz, California, away from the buzy buzz of the larger cities where the probablity of finding other good caliber Indian musicians was a bit higher although at that time not by much.

Also, my father was embarking on a large project encompassing around 2500 Carnatic ragas which he had started to practice and compose on. He needed some tracks to create and practice these compositions so he suggested why don't I record some thekas for this project and also have these available for the students at the Institute. I quickly fired up my recorders. It took over three months to record all the thekas. But we sat there are My father would sing songs and I would play a drum machine and note down the BPM for best tempos on each tala. Before long we had some really good recording of these thekas. We decided to give three tempos of the same theka Slow tempo (vilambit laya), Medium tempo (Madhya laya) and Fast tempo (drut laya). We chose 10 of the most popular thekas for the project.

  1. Tintal - 16 beat cycle
  2. Jhaptal - 10 beat cycle
  3. Dhamar - 14 beat cycle
  4. Rupak - 7 beat cycle
  5. Dadra - 6 beat cycle
  6. Keharwa - 8 beat cycle
  7. Deepchandi - 14 beat cycle
  8. Jaltital - 16 beat cycle
  9. Jhumra - 14 beat cycle
  10. Ektal - 12 beat cycle

These latter became the set whose image is shown above called Tabla for Accompaniment and Practice. We decided to sell this as a 32 casette or a 10 CD set.

We have had a lot of requests to write down what I am playing on these thekas. This is a task that has taken me a while to get to for one reason or another. Bu I am trying to get this information into the magazine so that all the students that have purchased this set of tapes or CDs will have a better handle on the tabla bols played.

Let me start off by providing you with the basic theka bols. If you have my Tabla Tutor #2, you will already be familiar with how to produce them on your tabla. The difference between what you read and what you generally hear on a performance is the syncopation and fills that make the theka come alive.

Slower tempos give you much more time and to avoid boredom it is usual for the tabla player to fill the space with some cleverly manipulated fills. But watchout, overdoing can lead to ex communication by th lead artist. Well, that's putting it mildly :)

As the tempo increases, there is far less time for fills and so you start hearing the standard theka emerge. At a certain point, you'll only hear the basic theka as there is very little room to improvise.

It takes a while before these fills sink in and sometimes it is best to listen to these again and again to get a handle on how they are squeezed into the playing. There are a few standard ones that you will hear every tabla player do. Then there are others that are typical of each tabla player's hands. In any case, to be good at these quick fills one has to attain a certain level of mastery of the tabla.

So here are the ten basic thekas. Memorize them and them the next lesson, I'll present some theka variations called Theka Prakars.


Dadra - 6 beat cycle

X 0
Dha Dhin Na Dha TIn Na

Keharwa - 8 beat cycle

X 0
Dha Ge Na Ti Na Ka Dhi Na

Jhaptal - 10 beat cycle

X 2 0 3
Dhin Na Dhin Dhin Na Tin Na Dhin Dhin Na

Jhumra - 14 beat cycle

X 2 0 3
Dhin -Dha TiTaKiTa Dhin Dhin DhaGe TiTaKiTa Tin -Ta TiTaKiTa Dhin Dhin DhaGe TiTaKiTa

Jaltital - 16 beat cycle

X 2 0 3
Dha -Dhin -- Dha Dha -Dhin -- Dha Dha -TIn -- Ta Ta -Dhin -- Dha

Rupak Tal - 7 beat cycle

0 2 3
Ti Ti Na Dhi Na Dhi Na

Deepchandi tal - 14 beat cycle

X 2 0 3
Dha Dhin - Dha Dha Dhin - Ta Tin - Dha Dha Dhin -

Tintal - 16 beat cycle

X 2 0 3
Dha Dhin Dhin Dha Dha Dhin Dhin Dha Dha Tin Tin Ta Ta Dhin Dhin Dha

Dhamar - 14 beat cycle

X 2 0 3
Ka Dhi Ta Dhi Ta Dha - Ge Ti Ta Ti Ta Ta -

Ektal - 12 beat cycle

X 0 2 0 3 4
Dhin Dhin DhaGe TiTaKiTa Tu Na Ka Ta DhaGe TiTaKiTa Dhi Na

There are a number of other thekas that are in vogue. Some that come to mind are


Ada Chautala



I will add them in a special article of rare talas..

When studying the thekas given above, learn to vocalize them. I will soon add real audio clips of vocals for each tala so you can just repeat along. Remember, the Tali symbols shown above every tala should be followed when keeping time.

  1. X = Sum. This signifies the first beat of the the tala and is usually the first clap. The exception to this rule might be in tal called rupak where the sum and the
  2. 2, 3, 4, ....etc ara the clap symbols for the rest of the measures after sum.
  3. 0 = called Khali meaning empty. So you have a no clap here. Simply wave both the hands open.

In Tintal above, there are 3 claps and one Khali. So you go Clap - 2 - 3 - 4, Clap - 2 - 3 - 4, No Clap - 2 - 3 - 4 and Clap - 2 - 3 - 4

Now go practice and have some fun :)

Ashwin Batish

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