This is from an old post on rmic by Professor Ramesh Gangolli:
What is today called Merkhand is a term that goes back to The Sangita
Ratnakara of Sharngadeva. There the word that is used is Khandameru. It
refers to a certain diagram that has a a tapering shape. It is a
mathematical/mnemonic device which I will explain here briefly.
In his chapter on Gramas, murchhanas, krama and tana, SD (Sharngadeva)
attempted a rather exhaustive (and exhausting) analysis of all the note
patterns that one could obtained by permuting a set of notes. Thus for
instance if one took just two notes say S and R, one could obtain two
paterns S R and R S; with three notes S R G, one has six patterns possible,
namely S R G, S G R, R S G, R G S, G S R, G R S. Similarly, four notes
give rise to 24 patterns (permutations), five notes to 120, six notes to
720, and seven notes to 5040 permutations. In a given scale, there are of
course many ways of selecting subsets of two, three, four, etc. notes, and
one begins to appreciate that to literally list all possible patterns
systematically would be very difficult in a limited space. So SD thought up
a mnemonic table which would act like a key that would enable one to
quickly arrive at a particular permutation of a subset of a given size.
This mnemonic table is called Khandameru, and sometimes the whole method is
called Khandameru. The etymology of this word will be commented upon below.
The principle behind the construction of the Khandameru table is to
associate a whole number to each permutation of a set of notes. A procedure
is given in SD to do this. The process of associating the number to the
given note series is called Uddishta. The converse process of figuring out
the note series from the number is called Nashta - evidently referring to
the problem in which the note series has become obscured. (One is reminded
here of the Katapayadi mnemonic scheme of associating numbers to
melakartas, but the Khandamery schema is vastly bigger and therefore much
The precise procedure is not of interest. Those who want to can refer to a
detailed description of the procedure, and the integers obtained by
referring to the excellent translation of the Sangita Ratanakara Vol.1 by
R.K.Shringy and Prem Lata Sharma (Motilal Banarasidas, 1978), pp208-213.
The result is a table of numbers that looks like this :
x x x x x x x
x x x x x x
x x x x x
x x x x
x x x
This is what SD calls the Khandameru. Khanda is taken to mean division, or
analysis, and Meru is taken to mean support or staff (on which rests the
analysis). The meaning of Meru here is derivative, from the mythical
bejeweled magic mountain which forms the support or axis for the universe,
around which all planets revolve,etc. Meru is more generally used as a word
meaning any robust support (e.g. the main staff of the Veena is called
I believe that probably not all the permutations generated by these methods
were used by practising musicians, even for riaz. It would be too dull. But
it seems to me the some of them were probably used for Talim and Riaz. The
practice of using selected permutations is what is today called Merkhand. I
think the original word was Merukhanda, a transposed version of the
The practice of using different permutations of a group of 2, 3, 4, etc.
notes for riaz is supposed to be a special characteristic of some gharanas,
and possibly of certain dhrupad traditions of training. Among the khayal
gharanas, this practice is said to be associated with the Rampur-Seheswan
and the Bhendi Bazar gharanas. I have tried to get answers to the following
questions from at least three very prominent musicians of the former
1. Let's suppose that the budding young aspiring musician is doing riaz in
Raga X. Is the budding musican asked to use ALL the permutations of ALL the
subsets of the allowable notes of that particular raga?
2. If the answer is yes, how long does it take? If the answer is no, what
is the aesthetic principle that is used in order to cut down the number of
patterns to be practised to a reasonable number.
3. Are the patterns practised during riaz used more or less verbatim in
4. If the answer is yes, does this practice interfere with the free ranging
improvisatory nature of a khayal performance?
I am sorry to say that the answers that I have obtained have been rather
imprecise, not to say evasive. Notice that the first question is a leading
one, and it is a kind of trap. But I believe that these questions need to
be asked, and the answers (or lack thereof) need to analysed. There is far
too much exaggeration, bordering on myth, in the way musical practice is
described. (e.g. consider any number of ustads who are said to have done
riaz for "at least eighteen hours each day").
I wish I had discussed these questions with Z. M. Dagarsahib, when he was
here many years ago, in order to find out the role, if any, played by
Khandameru exercises in the talim of dhrupadias. But those were salad days,
when I was green in years, and unaware of this circle of questions.
Ramesh Gangolli (gang...@math.washington.edu)
Dept. of Mathematics GN-50
University of Washington
Seattle WA 98195.
> Rajan P. Parrikar <parr...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
> > s.ram...@indiainfo.com (Rama) writes:
> > >I'd be grateful for any information on what exactly this term means -
> > >I understand Ustad Amir Khan's gayaki was characterised by use of this
> > >technique (is it a technique or a style of singing or a riyaz exercise
> > >or all three or none of the above?) - are some gharanas more prone to
> > >using it than others? Who are some current singers who use this
> > >technique prominently?
At a recent sarangi performance Sarwar Husain used the meerkhand
The Bhendi Bazar gharana is associated with the technique; vocalist
Suhasini Koratkar has a release from Rhythm House.