By I.V.L. Sastry
[ Indian music has a glorious history as it has originated from time immemorial. It evolved over the centuries right from the Vedic period and its vital tradition is carried on even today by Bhaktas (devotees) singing in praise of God. Surprisingly little attention is paid to the historical evolution of Indian music by learned men. A noted musician and scholar, Mr. IVL Sastry in a series of articles made sincere attempts to present the historical growth of Indian music over the years. The present article focuses the Vedic period and the development of music in this subcontinent.
- Editor ]
The history of Indian music can be broadly divided into three periods: 1) From the ancient times, i.e., Prehistoric period 2000 B.C. to 500 B.C; 2) From the Medieval Period, i.e.,500 BC to the time of Purandara-dasa 1500 AD, and 3) From Purandara dasa to the time of post - Thyagaraja period i.e., the Modern period.
(1) Ancient Music :
Between 2000 BC and 500 BC Vedic literature developed. This literature can be divided into main sub-heads. a) “Samhita” which was written in poetry and (b) “Brahmana” which was written in prose. The “Samhita” portion contains sacred hymns which were either narrated or sung during religious performances. The “Brahmana” portion described the rules and regulations of various religious rites, and is further divided into (1) “Aranyaka” and (2) “Upanishad”. Besides these parts, Vedic literature comprises portions called “Vedanta”, “Siksha”, “Prati-Sakhya” etc., The literature of the Vedas was very rich, and the language and the system of grammar were far superior to languages prevailing during that period. Vedic literature is divided into 4 heads. (a) Rig-Veda (b) Sama Veda ( c ) Yajur-Veda, and (4) Atharvana-Veda.
This is the oldest source, and contains various Rigs (Poems) in praise of deities such as Indra, Varun, Agni, Vayu etc. Eminent Rishis such as Viswamitra, Athri, Bharadwaja, Vasishta are among the chief composers, to whom the hymns were revealed.
It is said that the Vedas were created by Brahma, the creator of the Universe. This means that this literature dates from time immemorial, and no human being is credited with the authorship of this vast and rich literature. Rig-Veda is also called “SRUTI”.
Sama - veda and music :
Ancient Indian music is to be found in Sama-Veda. This is the oldest text of music in the world. The word “Sama” means sweet note, or tune based on harmony. “Sama” also contains the sol-fa letters, of Indian music “Sa” and “Ma”, which are harmonical and very important notes in the Indian and world music systems. Sama Veda is suitable to be sung to the accompaniment of instruments both tonal and percussion.
This is also a part of Rig-Veda, sung in a style unique to “Stavam” or eulogy. Sama Veda is also divided into two main parts i.e., “Samhita” “Brahmana”. The “Sama-samhita” has two further divisions called the “Archika” and “Stavika” There are 585 Rigs or Suktas (poems) in the Archika part and 1223 Suktas in the “Stavika” part. Out of these, 539 and 794 Suktas were taken from Rig Veda and the balance was the creation in Sama Veda. Samaganam was related to religious performance and was sung by “Ritwiks” or priests. Separate tunes and rhythms were employed to perform different kinds of religious rites. Apart from religious performances, Sama-gana was part of social ceremonies also and made the occasions graceful. Sometimes dances and percussions accompanied vocal music in varied metres and rhythms. Generally men used to take part in percussions and women in dances. The names of the various percussion and stringed instruments used in the functions are mentioned in the Vedas. The Sama Veda was sung according to strict rules.
In the Vedic period two main classes of music were in vogue. They were “Aranya” gana and Gramageyagana. The first one was used in religious performances and the second one in social functions connected with the village people. Aranya Gana was sung by Vedic Rishis who were generally called Samagas. They officiated in the ritual roles known as “Hota”, “Adwaryu”, “Udgata” and “Brahman”. “Brahman” was regarded as the director of the party and the whole musical performance was conducted under his guidance. In the modern times this systems is still followed as in the case of Brinda Ganam of Keertanas.
Samagana used to be sung on the basis of Seven Bhaktis with twenty-two “Aksharas” as detailed below :
S.No. Name of the Bhakti No. of Aksharas
The process of singing and the category of the singer were predetermined for different Bhaktis. For example Himkara-Bhakti which was a chorus song was first sung by all “Ritwiks” to sanctify the atmosphere of the pujasthali or place of worship. Other Bhaktis were sung to summon the deity, to install Him to worship, for praise and to take leave of Him after seeking his blessing. The allocation of Aksharas in these Bhaktis conforms to that of Sruthis in Gandhara-Grama which was in vogue in the Medieval period. Before the beginning of the Samagana, there was he custom of meditating upon the feet of the God who was going to be worshipped. In the medieval period this gave rise to the interpretation of ragas through appropriate, evocative , pictorial sketches.
Aranyagana is aristocratic in nature and was sung in Tapovan or hermitage only. The ancient Rishis did not lose sight of the requirements of the village people also. For that purpose they created Gramageyagana. As this was to be sung by villagers for the villagers the rules were not stringent. Among its chief expressions are (1) “Vegna”, involving distortion of systematic musical structure without following grammar and theories (2) “Prakriti-Gana” in conformity to the surrounding nature, and (3) Yoni-Gana, concerned with birth and development.
“Gramageyagana” was indigenous in nature. After the arrival of the Aryans, the Rishis made many improvements in the subject and refined it into Aranya-Gana which was latter called “Marga-Sangeet”. The involvement of several scales in music was first mooted by the Aryans in their Aranya-Gana.
It was said that the aboriginal Indians of the hunter class used to charm wild animals and birds by applying Gandharagrama in their music and kill them for their own selfish needs. The Aryan Rishis imposed many restrictions on the propagation and practice of these classical arts so that they were not misused by the illiterate and the purity of the science was preserved. This created defections among the people of that time and an inferior variety of Veda was called “Atharvana Veda” was created later on. It was rather harmful to human society instead of being beneficial.
The work of the Aryans paved the way for the emergence of several musical scales in the medieval period which were founded on pure scientific principles. The system evolved subsequently was so great that the musicians all over the world acclaimed this as the best science based on sound principles.
In the Vedic period several kinds of musical instruments were in vogue. These include (1) Tata (String), (2) Sushir (Wind), (3) Ghana (Metallic - Symbol type), (4) Avanatha (Membrano Phone).
Many types of Veenas and percussion instruments were popular during that period. Veena and Flute find their place in the Pre-Historic times. Some varieties of Veena are (1) Ektara (with one string) Chitra Veena (Sitar) with Seven Strings and other varieties called as Vipanchi Veena, Phani Veena, Karkari Veena, etc. Percussion instruments of that time are Mridangam, Dumdubhi, Bhumidumdubhi, Damarukam etc.,
In the Rig, Yajur and Atharva Vedas only 3 notes called Anudatta (Nishada), Swaritha (Shadjama) and Udatta (Rishabha) were used. But in Samaganam 7 notes Ma Ga Ri Sa Ni Da Pa were used in the order of descent (Avarohana). These notes correspond to the notes of Hara-Priya (Modern Kharaharapriya). Subsequently the full scale of Hara Priya both “Arohana” and “Avarohana” was developed. Thyagaraja, in his krithi, “Nada Thanumanisam” defined the “Sama Saptakam” (SA-RI-GA-MA-PA-DA-NI) of the above notes.
Further developments occurred after 500 BC, i.e., the period of Narada, the Medieval period.
A brief history of IndianMusic - II
by I V L Sastry
At the end of the Vedic period, the contemporary munis wrote some books called Sikshas and Pratisakhyas detailing the rules of grammar involved in Vedic literature in respect of its language and music so that the purity of the original Vedic literature is not mauled by raw and immature Pandits.
The first of its kind can be found in Naradiya-Siksha supposed to have been written in the 5th century BC. There were some other books also said to have been written by “Narada” but in different subsequent periods. They are 1) Sangeetha - Makarandam 7th-11th centuries A.D., 2) Ragini-Roopam, Swarnaravam and Naradeeyam 16-18th centuries A.D. There was also another ancient book called Sangeetopanishad written by “Narada” the period of which is not known. From the above it is assumed that in the ancient times musicologists used to be called “Naradas” till the period of Muni “Bharatha”. Subsequent Musicologists were called either “Bharatha” or “Narada” where the original name of the writer of a book was not traced.
Naradiya Siksha deals mainly with the musical notes and the pronunciation of the words in the Vedic language. Vedic language contained 16 vowels and the Naradiya Siksha gives the details to maintain the sonorousness of the language.
According to Naradiya Siksha, Samagana used to be performed by a combination of vital musical elements comprising of 1. Seven-notes (Saptha-swaras) 2) Three gramas (Shadja, Madhyama, Gandhara grama) 3. Twenty one Murchanas (Scales) and 49 Tanas. Names of the seven notes mentioned therein were 1. Prathama (first) (2) Dvitiya (second) 31 Tritiya (third) 4) Chaturdha (forth) 5. Mandra (low) 6. Krusta (loud) 7. Atiswara (too loud) In Yajnavalkya Siksha the names of the seven were given as SA-RI-GA-MA-PA-DA-NI- which belong to Gandharva-Veda. During that period all these notes were used by the Rishis in the “Aranya Gana”
“Sangeetha Makaranadam” written by another Narada subsequently deals among other things, the classification of Ragas as “Sthree” (feminine)” Purusha (Masculine) “Napumsaka” (Genderless) and the time in which a Ragam has to be sung such as “sandhi-prakasa” “Suryamsa” “Chandramsa” “Udaya” “Madhyahna” “Sayankala” and the mode in which a ragam has to be sung such as “Mukthangampita” “Ardha-kampita” Kampa-Viheena” etc.,
The next important mile stone in musicology can be traced from the renowned work Natya Sastra supposed to have been written in the 4th century. Here too the controversy in respect of the time as well as the existence of more than one Bharatha exists. Various musicologists trace the period of Natya-Sastra from 4th century BC to 3rd century A.D. stretching over a period of 700 years and all the musicologists give valid arguments for their conclusions which can not be dismissed as unsubstantive. Hence the logical conclusion to this controversy is that the works of some musicologists whose names were not available were given the names of either “Bharatha” or “Narada”. So the book Natya-Sastra or the Natya-Veda was associate with the names “Brahma Bharatha”, “Adi Bharatha”, “Druhin Bharatha” or Sadashiva Bharatha” “Muni Bharatha” etc., as its author. At present the Natya-Sastra Compiled by Muni-Bharatha only is available.
Natya Sastra written by Muni-Bharatha dealt with various aspects of drama, i.e., the nature and quality of the actor and actress and their movement, various types of dresses used during action, the system of entrance and exit, formation of stage and its directions, the size and dimension of auditorium, various constituents of drama, the system of rehearsal, various manners of acting, construction of orchestral group and their setting arrangement, etc. Only 5 or 6 chapters have been ted to music. Here an interesting point is that, Muni Bharatha has himself written in Natya Sastra that he collected the material from Natya-Veda created by “Brahma-Bharatha” who compiled the information from Chatur Vedas. The book Natya Veda could not, however, be traced for the purpose of reference.
Regarding music the following aspects were dealt with besides various other matters.
1. Nibaddha Gana i.e. circumvented by rhythm and Anibaddhagana (Not bound by rhythm) i.e. Ragalapana.
2. Various types of songs called “Druva”, “Madraka”, "Vardhamanaka” “Brahmageethi,” “Magadhi,” "Ardha-Magadhi”, “Sambhavita” etc. These were sung either in chorus or solo. So both polyphonic and monophonic music were in vogue in ancient India.
At the end of The Vedic period, the Samagana which was popular till then, went in to the state of oblivion due to various restrictions imposed by The Hindu caste system and the difficulties involved in its performance. Further with the growth of Buddhism religious ritualism and sacrifices received a set back and along with it the Samagana too.
During that period in the state of Gandhara (now in Pakistan) a group of people practised a special type of music as a profession for generations and they possessed and perfected it by hierarchy and heredity. This music was called Gandharvagana which attracted the common man during that period. In respect of Samagana also the common man yelled for a change and Marga-Sangeetha with some relaxations in the Samagana was created.
Natya Sastra says that Nibaddha and Anibaddhagana can be called Marga-sangeetha. This was used for ritual and devotional purposes for the upliftment of man whereas Gandharvagana used to be performed in Royal courts and sophisticated musical circles only for enjoyment.
Natyasastra further deals with the Shadja-grama and Madhyamagrama and the existence of 22 sruthis in a Swara Saptaka. Though a mention was made of Gandhara-grama, it was not in existence and was supposed to be sung in heaven only. Muni-Bharata carried out some experiments with the help of Dhruvaveena (Immovallotable) and “Chala veena” (Movable) to determine the number of srutis existing in each note.
The next important development in Indian music came during the period of Matanga who existed during the post Bharatha and pre Sarangadeva periods. The book written by him called Brihaddesi was very famous and authoritative in dealing with the subject of musicology. Several aspects were dealt with by him among which were. 1. Decisions on 22 sruthis 2. Several scales 3. Several thans 4. 33 Alankaras 5. The characteristics of Ragas 6. 40 varieties of prabandhas 7. Several wind and stringed instruments, etc.
It was said by Matanga that Nada is the origin of all sounds which over cast the entire universe. It is lying in Brahma grandhi of the human body. It was further said that “Na” means life (air) and “Da” means (Agni-energy) and “Nada” is produced with the combination of internal air and energy. He further divided Nada
1. Atisukshma (extremely delicate) and Sukshma (delicate)
2. Avyakta (inexpressible) and “Vyakta” (expressible) and
3. Kritrima (artificial)
Human voice does not posses musical quality by nature. Great effort has to be made to suit it to musical tune. That is why it was called as artificial Nada though it is very sweet.
The next important stage for the development of Indian music occurred in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. From the 4th century BC to this period all the musicologists concentrated their works mainly on dancing and dealt with music as a secondary item, but hereafter much attention was paid to the subject of Music also.
Saranga Deva (12th & 13th centuries A.D.) was a great scholar in music and literature. He was the Aasthanavidwan” of Devagiri estate (a part of erstwhile Hyderabad state). His book titled Sangeetha ratnakara was very famous and authoritative. He elaborated vividly the formation of twenty two Srutis on the basis of "Shadja-panchama" and "Shadja -madhyama" relationship. Further he has dealt with and explained in detail the contents of the great works of Bharatha, Mathanga, Keerthidhara, Kohala, Abhinavagupta, Someswara etc. Further he devoted separate chapters to “Swara prastara, Ragalapa, Prabhadham, Thalam, “Instrumental Music and Dance.
During this period Indian music was divided into two main branches, i.e. Hindusthani Music and Carnatic Music Due to Mohammedan rule in Northern India Indian music of that region got mixed up with the Persian style of music and was called Hindusthani - Music. So Hindustani Music has many similarities with the Carnatic Music as well as dissimilarities. Subsequently these two styles developed in different routes. Hindusthani musicians concentrated mainly with sruthi, purity of the note by applying the Gamaka to the minimum extent, “Ragalapana” based on prolonged notes, Thalaprasthana based on Aakaram, etc.,. Carnatic Music developed on the application of more Gamakas, Thalaprasthara based on Swara Kalpana Ragalapana in small bits of phrases, and intricate thala patterns etc.
In Sangeetha - Ratnakara The principles of formation of Vikrita swaras were dealt with but these principles underwent several changes in the hands of subsequent musicologists and the present system of Vikrita swaras varies with the principles enunciated in Sangeetharatnakara.
The next important event in the evolution of Carnatic Music in the last lap of the medieval period can be traced to the time of Vidyaranya and Annamacharya. Vidyaranya wrote a book called Sangeetha-Saramu and he was the pioneer for the formation of Mela Kartha and Janya-Raga system now in vogue which was subsequently perfected by Venkata Makhi and "Govinda-mathya". Annamacharya was a great Vaggeyakaraka (composer of music and literature) and created innumerable “Padams” also called as Sankeerthanas. He wrote in Sanskrit a unique book called Sankeerthana - lakshanam” which was translated into Telugu by his grandson China Thirumalacharya. His compositions were preserved in The T.T. Devasthanam in several copper plates. The literary part of his compositions only is available and the music portion of his composition was not available as no notational background to these compositions could be traced. Further the system of writing the notation for the songs created was not developed during that period.
By Dr. I. Srinivas
On reading a good poem or viewing a well-presented drama, one's heart is filled with as inexplicable joy called Rasa in the parlance of literature. One can understand if this is with reference to a poem or drama where the theme is love. Because love is the most blissful experience in real world also. But one is at a loss to understand the joy that pervades his heart even while reading or viewing a pathetic scene or a frightening episode. Because one's experience in the real world with regard to pathos and horror are not on the same lines. Here comes the term Rasa which explains this phenomenon.
Rasa as used by the poeticians has two meanings one is sentiment. There are nine Rasas in literature, namely Sringara (erotic), Hasya (comic) , Karuna (pathetic), Vira (heroic), Raudra (furious), Bhayanaka (terrible), Bibhatsa (odious) ,Adbhuta (marvellous) and Santa (peaceful). The other meaning of Rasa is the aesthetic experience or the joy aroused in the hearts of the connoisseurs by the proper delineation of a sentiment in a poem or drama. In this sense we come across phrases like "awakening of Rasa", the poem is full of Rasa etc.
It is Bharata, the author of Natyasastra who first explained how Rasa is accomplished in his maxim- Vibhavanubhava- vyabhicari-samyogad Rasa-nispattih. Rasa is accomplished as a result of the conjunction of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhicaribhava.
What are these Bhavas? Let's acquaint ourselves with technical terms first, because these are inseparably associated with the discussion of Rasa.
Vibhava, is the objective condition that causes an emotion hence an excitant. It is of two types. Alambana, the person with reference to whom the emotion is manifested and Uddipana, the circumstances that excite the emotion. For the hero, the heroine is the Alambana and the Moon cool breeze etc. are the, Uddipana.
Anubhava is the consequent i.e., the bodily expression that reveals the emotions. For ex: the enchanting smile of the lady, her bashful glances etc. Eight temperamental states called Sattvikabhavas are also considered as Anubhavas.
Vyabhicaribhavas are the transitory feelings that accompany the emotion, such as anxiety, stupor, delight etc. These are enumerated as thirty three. As these are not permanent and pass in quick succession associating themselves with almost all the sentiments, these are called transitory feelings.
Then there are nine Sthayibhavas corresponding to the nine Rasas. The Sthayis are of the nature of Vasanas and reside in the connoisseur permanently.
Now what is the nature of the conjunction of all these Bhavas? There have been a number of explanations presented by the various commentators and poeticians according to the school of thought they belonged to. The two works Samyoga (conjunction) and Nispatthi (completion or production) are the main sources of contention.
What is the relation between the Bhavas and Rasa? Is it cause and effect? This can't be because in poetry the pathetic environment also causes delight. Then is it that of the created and the created? This also can't be as there is not anything created anew. Rasa is only a manifestation of the inherent emotion.
Abhinavagupta explains the realisation of Rasa in his Abhinavabharati ,a commentary on Bharata's Natyasastra and Locana, a commentary on Anandavardhana's Dhvanyaloka. His explanation is based on the concept of universalisation propounded by his teacher Bhatta Tauta. It can be thus summarized.
The aesthetic composition of a poet because of its being pregnant with suggestive force is comprehended by the connoisseur devoid of all its local character. Thus the Rama on the stage is neither the real Rama nor the actor who played the part. This Rama becomes a universal character who is experiencing the pangs of separation from his love. This universalisation in its turn leads to a new experience that gets connected with the past impressions and memories dormant to the mind and there by lifting the present experience into a transcendental exhilaration that is akin to the spiritual bliss. This is why even tragedy becomes a source of joy to the connoisseur.
This is a presentation of the concept of Rasa in brief to acquaint the lay reader with the concept and show how the Indian mind worked to find a solution on philosophical lines about aesthetic experience.