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:
|⌣ - -
|- ⌣ -
|- - ⌣
|- ⌣ ⌣
|⌣ - ⌣
|⌣ ⌣ -
|- - -
|⌣ ⌣ ⌣
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 "- - ⌣ - - ⌣ - - ⌣ - -".