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Ghar is a musical sign, used at the top of the Shabad in the SGGS. It gives a hint to Raagees as to what musical clef (beat) to sing the Shabad in. In other words, "Ghar" binds music and poetry in their metrical-form. There are up to seventeen "Ghar" mentioned in the SGGS. Musicologists have different interpretations of this term. But the consensus seems to be that it denotes the parts of a Taal (beat). Following is a list of seventeen Taals used in Indian Music with their respective "Ghar". A close observation of the following list indicates that the majority of the modern Raagees generally seem to sing only in the first three or four.

Tala (also written as (‘’Tal’’) in Indian music and Gurbani Kirtan refers to a complete and complex system for the execution and transcription of Rhythms and Beats. There exist over 20 different ‘’Talas’’ or ‘Beat Patterns’. The most common Tala in Classical Indian Music is the Theen Tala. This beat has a cycle of 16 beats divided in 4 sectors. Sectors 1,2 and 4 are full while sector 3 is empty. These beat patterns can also be played at different speeds.

The main instrument for keeping rhythm in Indian Music is the Tabla. In connection with Tala or musical beats/rhythms and the ‘Ghar’ in the SGGS, the following can be concluded :

  • Ghar 1 - Dadra Taal (There are 1 Taalis and the Beat has 6 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 2 - Rupak Taal (There are 2 Taalis and the Beat has 7 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 3 - Teen Taal (There 3 Taalis and the Beat has 16 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 4 - Chaar Taal (There are 4 Taalis and the Beat has 12 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 5 - Punj Taal (There are 5 Taalis and the Beat has 15 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 6 - Khut Taal (There are 6 Taalis and the Beat has 18 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 7 - Mut Taal (There are 7 Taalis and the Beat has 21 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 8 - Asht Mangal(There are 8 Taalis and the Beat has 22 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 9 - Munini Taal (There are 9 Taalis and the Beat has 23 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 10 - Brahm Taal (There are 10 Taalis and the Beat has 28 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 11 - Rudra Taal (There are 11 Taalis and the Beat has 32 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 12 - Vishnu Taal (There are 12 Taalis and the Beat has 36 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 13 - Muchkund Taal (There are 13 Taalis and the Beat has 34 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 14 - Mahashani Taal (There are 14 Taalis and the Beat has 42 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 15 - Mishr Baran Taal (There are 15 Taalis and the Beat has 47 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 16 - Kul Taal (There are 16 Taalis and the Beat has 42 Maatraas)
  • Ghar 17 - Chrchari Taal (There are 17 Taalis and the Beat has 40 Maatraas)
    • Taalee is the pattern of clapping. Taals are typified by a particular pattern and number of claps.
    • Maatraa is the beat, which may be subdivided if required.

There are many other Taals that may or may not have the same number of Taalees and/or Maatraas. For example Punajabi Taal, Chhotee Teen Taal, and Thumri all have the same number of Taalees and Maatraas as the Teen Taal. Both the Jhap Taal and Sool Phaak Taal have 3 Taalees as in Teen Taal but only 10 Maatraas. Both Dhamar Taal and Chnachal Taal have 3 Taalees as in Teen Taal but have only 14 Maatras. Ik Taal has 4 Taalees and 12 Maatraas as in Chaar Taal. Aadaa Chautaalaa, Bhaan Matee Taal (Chaar Taal Dee Savaaree), Jagg Paal Taal, and Jai Taal all have 4 Taalees as in Chaar Taal but not the same Maatraas (14, 11, 11 and 13, respectively). Sikhar Taal has 3 Taalees as in Teen Taal but 17 Maatraas. Talwaaraa Taal has 2 Taalees as in Roopak Taal, but 8 Maatraas. Indra Taal has 6 Taalees as in Khatt Taal, but 19 Maatraas. Deep Chandee or Chaachar Taal and Jhumraa Taal have 3 Taalees as in Teen Taal, but 14 Maatraas, and so on. Evidently the Indian music has developed and expanded in such a disciplined way that it has Taals of a just a few Maatraas to many Maatraas.

Not only music, Taal also pervades every movement of the entire Creation. Days, nights, weeks, months, years, seasons, movement of the planets in orbits, constant spinning of electrons around the center of the atom (called the nucleus where the protons and neutrons are located) etc. are a few reminders.

Other Musical Instruments that are used in Indian Classical Music for Rhythm are Tabla, Dhol, Mridang, Dholki, etc

Another Thought

The idea that ghar indicates the taal can't be entriely true, due to the following line:

ਰਾਗ੝ ਸੂਹੀ ਮਹਲਾ ਪ ਘਰ੝ ਪ ਪੜਤਾਲ (SGGS 746)

Partaal means that when singing the shabad, you change the taal constantly. Normally different taals are used for the usthai and each antra.

If the heading includes "ਘਰ੝ ਪ" and we follow the defintion of taal above, then it wouldn't be possible to do a partaal, because only one taal can be used.

This heading isn't the only partaal that has a Ghar, it is one of many.

Another line to consider is:

ਰਾਗ੝ ਆਸਾਵਰੀ ਘਰ੝ ੧੬ ਕੇ ੨ ਮਹਲਾ ੪ ਸ੝ਧੰਗ (SGGS 369)

In this shabad, there are 2 Ghars, 16 and 2. But if the shabad were to be sung in more than one taal, then it would say Partaal too.

Many people believe the meaning of Ghar to be "lost"

Another note, I'm not entirely sure of this, but doesn't Chrchari Taal only have 14 mantras.

Another Simple Thought

Ghar means simply a "sub section" within a Chapter. As and when content became long, guru sahib decided to assign Sub sections(Ghar) for easy read and keeping similar message sections into same Ghar assignments

Envision all 31 Raagas as simply 31 chapters in Guru Sahib, then we can envision Ghar as sub-sections within a chapter.

E.g. Lets take example of Raag Suhi

Guru Nanak Sahib jee Used in Raag Suhi, Ghar 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10. He didn't use Ghar 5 and 8. This is their independence and approach where they might want to skip numbering or some sub Section.

Now, one must take note that Guru Ramdas jee and Arjan Dev jee did use Ghar 5 within Raag Suhi, to complete the sub section sequence between 4 and 6.

Further, Bhagat Baani is not assigned any Ghars, as it is not very long, that it would need sub section(Ghar) assignment within raagas.

Basically Guru sahib didn't create Bani so complicated that a normal person who has no idea about Ragas and taals don't understand it at all regarding what Ghar and Raag means. For any layman it is simply Raagas = Chapters and Ghar = Sub sections within Chapters!