Sanskrit meters are primarily based on trisyllabic feet. The short sound is called a laghu, a long sound is called a guru. A guru is twice as long as a laghu. A guru is usually represented by a '-–' and a laghu by a '⌣'.
For easy specification of meters, the laghu's and guru's are grouped into feet (called ganam) as follows:
|⌣ - -||yaganam||ya (യ)|
|- ⌣ -||raganam||ra (ര)|
|- - ⌣||thaganam||tha (ത)|
|- ⌣ ⌣||bhaganam||bha (ഭ)|
|⌣ - ⌣||jaganam||ja (ജ)|
|⌣ ⌣ -||saganam||sa (സ)|
|- - -||maganam||ma (മ)|
|⌣ ⌣ ⌣||naganam||na (ന)|
Additionally, individual gurus are also identified by 'ga' or 'gam' and laghus by 'la' or 'lam'.
For example, the definition for the meter 'Kalyani' is 'three thaganam + two gurus' indicating "- - ⌣ - - ⌣ - - ⌣ - -".