“Tala” is to Indian music what “meter” is to western music.In Indian classical music,Tala means a "clap.
Traditionally, Carnatic music vocalists mark the“talam” by tapping their laps with their palm.Violinists and flutists who use both hands to play their instrument mark the talam by tapping their feet on the ground.
A musical composition is set to a tala, and as it is rendered by the main artist(s),the percussion artist(s) mark time by playing the pattern repeatedly. This also adds to the appeal of the performance.
Some talas are very common and some are rare.The Tintal tala is the one most commonly used in Hindustani music.
The tabla is the instrument commonly used for keeping rhythm in Hindustani music whereas in Carnatic music,the mridangam is used in vocal,violin, veena and flute concerts.