Manodharma is a form of improvised Carnatic music and is created on the spot during the performance, but within the confines of strict grammar of music, as codified in the raga and/or the tala. It can be likened to speakers resorting to impromptu speech while reading from their prepared texts[original research?]. Every carnatic concert has one or many music pieces that showcases the singer's prowess and intellect in the form of Manodharma sangeetham. It serves as an important and integral aspect of Carnatic music.
Based out of Manodharma, Individual styles are developed. Manodharma has many aspects and performers develop distinct styles based on his/her musical values, interpretation and understanding. There is ample scope for manodharma when rendering raga alapana, tanam, neraval, pallavi, swaram and also kritis. The manodharma is cultivated after several years of constant learning, assimilating and experimenting with various forms of compositions like varnams, kritis, javalis, etc. and also by listening to consummate artistes. Manodharma plays such a significant role that a capable artiste may never render a raga the same way twice. To bring out the quintessence of a raga, one has to resort to the exclusive and distinct raga prayogas of the raga which are mostly taken from the 'set compositions' like varnams, kritis etc. Unless, these prayogas are brought out in the raga alapana, the identity of the ragam can seldom be established[original research?]. For a beginner to identify a raga, these "exclusive" prayogas are of immense assistance. Keeping in mind, the "lakshana" (swarupa) of the raga, its jeeva swaras and also the special prayogas, the artistes develop the raga, weaving patterns after patterns, using various combinations of swaras.
The caliber and finesse of a musician is often judged by his/her ability to bring out the excellence of a raga. Many musicians of the recent past, such as G. N. Balasubramaniam, Madurai Mani Iyer, Rajarathnam Pillai, Karukurichi Arunachalam, excelled in their application of manodharma bringing in many a sweet combination of notes of melodies, while limiting themselves to the confines of the raga concerned, embellishing the raga with their ability to produce melodic prayogas.
- "Manodharma dominates the performance". The Hindu. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-07-31.