Monday, February 26, 2007

Introducing translipi

English is inadequate to correctly represent Indian-language words. This problem is especially painful for me, since this blog often deals with subjects whose vocabulary abounds in Indic terms. "Mayamalavagaula." "Kadanakutuhalam." "Nadanamakriya." I rest my case.

I could write these terms in (say) Tamil, but this would put non-Tamil readers at a loss. The script each of us is most comfortable in, is different.

This problem is now solved.

translipi (see the side-bar, if you have not noticed it already) transliterates these terms into the language you are most familiar with. For now, there is dEvanAgari, kannaDa, malayALam, tamizh and telugu. For folks like me who are most comfortable in English, there is also the Roman script with enough diacritical marks stuffed in to specify (almost) every Indic character uniquely.

Do let me know your thoughts!
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A doubt: Is the pronunciation of the Tamil characters ந and ன identical (as I have always believed)? If so, is there any grammatical rule which specifies when to use one and when the other? For instance, ன is never used at the beginning of a word and ந never at the end.
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Update [3 Mar]: Once Ambarish (see the comments) pointed out how ந and ன are different, it seemed so obvious and logical that I wished to kick myself for not figuring it out before. So we use:
  • ந at the beginning of words (நலம்) and when immediately followed by a dental consonant (தந்தை).
  • ன elsewhere (தினம்).
But on further cogitation, I am a bit confused. Now, by the rules above, how do we explain குடிநீர் (which is unlike தன்னீர் — or is it தண்ணீர்)? Help!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Audava-Audava Raga Sangraha

The mELa-karttA classification system has served the sampUrNa rAgas well. However, the janya rAgas are still a wilderness; they deserve a Periodic Table of their own.

I have put up a scheme for the Audava-Audava (pentatonic) ragas at

Update [19 Feb]: A question. Can anyone tell me the basis on which a (janya) raga's parent is decided? E.g., why is the janaka-rAga of nAgasvarAvaLi considered harikAmbhOji and not, say, cakravAkam or zaGkarAbharaNam?