“I do not reside in Vaikuntha, nor do I dwell in the hearts of yogis.
There alone I abide, O Narada, where my devotees sing!”
Lord Vishnu to Narada in Narada Samhita 1:17
Indian music is as old as time itself as it dwells in a world of moods and perceptions. It is a realm of beauty where experiences through sound transcend into metaphysics and feelings soar to the point of equation with the sublime. It creates a world of ecstasy, where involvement is spontaneous and perception a matter of total communion with the nuances of sound. Indian music is evocative. It evokes a gamut of moods, feelings, sentiments and emotions and mental cadences that few other forms of performing arts are capable of.
Whether it is the pangs of separation or the joys of reunion, the sublimity of devotion or the recklessness of passion, the haze of summer noon or the mellifluous metronome of the monsoon, the warmth of fire or the softness of the silvery moon beams, it evokes every known sensation, feeling, mood and sentiment. Whether it be classical or flock, filmy or devotional, its range is vast, rich and varied, opening the floodgates to a treasure house of memorable experience that one lifetime is too short to comprehend.
In India, music, painting and drama are considered divine arts. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – the Eternal Trinity-were the first musicians. The Divine Dancer Shiva is scripturally represented as having worked out the infinite modes of rhythm in His cosmic dance of universal creation, preservation, and dissolution, while Brahma accentuated the time-beat with the clanging cymbals, and Vishnu sounded the holy MRIDANGA or drum. Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, is always shown in Hindu art with a flute, on which he plays the enrapturing song that recalls to their true home the human souls wandering in MAYA-delusion. Saraswati, goddess of wisdom, is symbolized as performing on the VINA, mother of all stringed instruments. The SAMA VEDA of India contains the world’s earliest writings on musical science.
The ancient Hindu way of life aimed at a totally integrated system of knowledge covering all aspects of life. The ancient scriptures of India were taught by countless sages, who perceived the knowledge in direct communion with God during meditation.
Gandharva Veda, which is one of the four Upa Vedas, taught the arts of music, dancing and drama. Gandharvas are celestial beings famous for their Gandharva Gana or celestial singing. Many Indian scriptures mention about singing by celestial beings like Devas, Yakshas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras – Deva Gana, Yaksha Gana, Gandharva Gana and Kinnara Gana. Rishi Narada was the most famous for his Deva Gana. Gandharva Veda is extinct now and was supposed to be a scripture which contained 36000 verses. However a shorter version based on it, called Natya Sastra written by Sage Bharata, containing 6000 verses is available.
Gandharva Veda teaches that music is a means of unfolding harmony by enlivening Natural Law through sound. When one listens to music it gives peace, harmony and wholeness. Music also has a healing effect on diseases and can improve ones health. Ayurveda, the ancient science of medicine also deals with the theme of time. Time has many facets – cycle, frequency, changing etc. There are three basic types of human health tendencies, Vata or windy, Pitta bilious, and Kapha or phlegmatic. People with these three different tendencies show different physiologies of the body at different hours of the day. Gandharva Veda advises playing or listening to the appropriate tunes necessary to create balance through the 24-hour cycle. Generally, there are (3) 8-hour periods in a 24-hour day and during each of these 8 periods the style of the music changes. So a particular combination or sequence or style of music is prescribed for each of the periods.
Some time specific recommendations are:
Ramkali & Lalat ragas 3-7 AM; Makansa raga 11-3 PM (for pitta/vata)
Makansa raga 11PM – 3AM (for pitta/vata)
Bhupali & Shri ragas 6-9 PM (for kapha)
In Gandharva veda music is the coexistence of both the changeable and the non changeable. There is an inherent constant structure to the raga and at the same time there is also a spontaneous or creative musical elements with variations. Typically, one hears one instrument that places the same notes/ pattern throughout the raga – called a drone. This represents non-change. This symbolizes the creative and diverse nature of Self / Being and its underlying permanent nature coexisting together. This music is highly spiritual though emphatically sensual. In the playing of the melody the listener will be treated to elegant elaborations on a theme. Further, the full range of a note – not just a narrow interval of it – is another aspect of this music.
The Natya Shastra deals with music, drama and dance. It is a very important scripture to know the history of Indian classical music because this ancient text gives details about the music and instruments of the ancient days. While the Samaveda has a lot to do with the melodious rendering of the ritual verses of the Vedas, the Natyashastra is the only available ancient scripture that deals with music at length and is considered the foundation treatise of Indian Classical Music.
In the Natyashastra, nine chapters are dedicated to music. It describes svara or a musical note and its use in evoking a particular Rasa. The seven notes Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni (longer names are Shadja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Madhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata and Nishada.), which were already there in the Sama Veda, are made use of in creatings the Raga. Shruti or pitch, Svara or tune, pada or composition and tala or beats are the four basics of Natya Sastra music. The Natyashastra classifies music in to different modes or “jatis” based on invoking different emotions like tragedy or Karuna rasa, heroism or Vira rasa etc. Based on this many types of melodies called Ragas emerged.
Natya Sastra also gives details about various musical instruments. Instruments are classified in to four groups. Stringed instruments called Tata, wind blown instruments called Sushira, percussion instruments are called avanaddha and cymbals called Ghana.
The stringed instruments like veena are of different types. Chitra, Vipanchi are major veenas and Ghosha, Kacchapi are the subordinate ones. Human body is also called veena, a musical instrument as it produces musical notes through vocal cords. The stringed and wind blown instruments naturally produce pleasant notes so they get upper hand in musical instruments.
Chitra veena has seven strings and is played by fingers. Vipanchi has nine strings and is played by kona (plectrum). These veenas can be seen in early sculptures of Sanchi, Barhat, Amaravati, Nagarjunkonda etc. In Buddhist literature, there is a mention of a seven stringed veena. It describes there that Buddha broke the seven strings one by one and still the notes continued. It shows that the influence of music lasted even after the actual music stopped. There are other types of veenas having fourteen strings for two saptakas (Mahati) and twenty one strings for three saptakas. (Mattakokila).
The second group is of wind blown instruments like flute. These instruments are hollow and have holes to control the air flow. The flute is the major instrument while conch, tundakini are the subordinate ones. The shahanai is also a wind blown instrument. Flute is the important leading instrument. The magic cast by Krishna?s flute is well known. In many dance panels in ancient Indian sculptures flute is seen though veena is absent. In Khajuraho temple structure, veena is seen with flute, drum and cymbal.
The third group is percussion instruments like drums. They are covered tightly with hide. The tightening or loosening of hide would change the pitch higher or lower. Mrudanga, Panava, Dardura are the major ones and Pataha, Zallary are the minor ones. The face of the drum is called Pushkara which is covered by mud. A drum with three faces Tripushkara is seen in Nataraja temple at Chidambaram. It is said that sage Swati heard the raindrops falling on the petals of lotus. The sound produced by them appealed to him and he created this instrument. In the detailed treatment we get mrudanga (two faces), panava (two heads then thinning in the middle part and fastened with strings) and dardura (drum with one face shaped like a pitcher, i.e. Ghata). Bharata also describes how to play them.
The fourth is group is cymbals, like zanza and manjira. They supplied rhythm, i.e. taal. Taal is derived from tala, i.e. stability. Taal is the foundation necessary for music. It is indicated by clapping of hands also. Bharata describes various taals. He says, ?Music, vocal and instrumental, and dance should be performed harmoniously to give pleasant experience like a fire band (alatachacra). A stick with fire at both ends, when rotated fast enough in a circular movement, creates an impression of a circle of fire. That is called alatachacra.
Many commentaries have enhanced and expanded the Natya Shastra. Another ancient text Dattilam has elaborated Jatis in greater detail. Matanga’s Brihaddesi (5th-7th AD.) is another. Abhinava Gupta’s Abhinavabharati has done a lot to unify some of the divergent musical structures that had emerged over a period of time.
Sharngadeva’s Sangita Ratnakara of the13th century has done a lot to define the structure of the ragas.
The foundation stone of Hindu music is the RAGAS or fixed melodic scales. The six basic RAGAS branch out into 126 derivative RAGINIS (wives) and PUTRAS (sons). Each RAGA has a minimum of five notes: a leading note (VADI or king), a secondary note (SAMAVADI or prime minister), helping notes (ANUVADI, attendants), and a dissonant note (VIVADI, the enemy).
Each one of the six basic RAGAS has a natural correspondence with a certain hour of the day, season of the year, and a presiding deity who bestows a particular potency. Thus, (1) the HINDOLE RAGA is heard only at dawn in the spring, to evoke the mood of universal love; (2) DEEPAKA RAGA is played during the evening in summer, to arouse compassion; (3) MEGHA RAGA is a melody for midday in the rainy season, to summon courage; (4) BHAIRAVA RAGA is played in the mornings of August, September, October, to achieve tranquillity; (5) SRI RAGA is reserved for autumn twilights, to attain pure love; (6) MALKOUNSA RAGA is heard at midnights in winter, for valor.
The ancient rishis discovered these laws of sound alliance between nature and man. Because nature is an objectification of the Om, the Primal Sound or Vibratory Word, man can obtain control over all natural manifestations through the use of certain Mantras or chants. Historical documents tell of the remarkable powers possessed by Miyan Tan Sen, sixteenth century court musician for Akbar the Great. Commanded by the Emperor to sing a night Raga while the sun was overhead, Tan Sen intoned a Mantra which instantly caused the whole palace precincts to become enveloped in darkness.Indian music divides the octave into 22 Srutis or demi-semitones. These microtonal intervals permit fine shades of musical expression, something which is unattainable by the Western chromatic scale of 12 semitones. Each one of the seven basic notes of the octave is associated in Hindu mythology with a color, and the natural cry of a bird or beast- Sa with green, and the peacock; Re with red, and the skylark; Ga with golden, and the goat; Ma with yellowish white, and the heron; Pa with black, and the nightingale; Da with yellow, and the horse; Ni with a combination of all colors and the elephant.
Three scales-major, harmonic minor, melodic minor-are the only ones which Occidental music employs, but Indian music outlines 72 Thatas or scales. The musician has a creative scope for endless improvisation around the fixed traditional melody or Raga. He concentrates on the sentiment or definitive mood of the structural theme and then embroiders it to the limits of his own originality and imagination. The classical Indian musician does not read set notes. He clothes anew at each, playing the bare skeleton of the Raga, often confining himself to a single melodic sequence, stressing by repetition all its subtle microtonal and rhythmic variations. Bach, among Western composers, had an understanding of the charm and power of repetitious sound slightly differentiated in a hundred complex ways.
Ancient Sanskrit literature describes 120 Talas or time-measures or rhythm. Bharata has isolated 32 kinds of Tala in the song of a lark. The origin of Tala or rhythm is rooted in human movements – the double time during walking, and the triple time of respiration in sleep, when inhalation is twice the length of exhalation. India has always recognized the human voice as the most perfect instrument of sound. Indian music therefore largely confines itself to the voice range of three octaves. For the same reason, melody, the relation of successive notes, is stressed, rather than harmony, the relation of simultaneous notes.
The deeper aim of the early rishi-musicians was to blend the singer with the Cosmic Song which can be heard through awakening of man’s occult spinal centers. Indian music is a subjective, spiritual, and individualistic art, aiming not at symphonic brilliance but at personal harmony with the Oversoul. The Sanskrit word for musician is Bhagavatar meaning “he who sings the praises of God.” Man himself as an expression of the Creative Word and sound has the most potent and immediate effect on him, offering a way to remembrance of his Divine Origin.
There are three stages in the rendering of a raga by an artist. They are called Ragam Thanam Pallavi in South India and Raag, Vilambit & Dhrut in North India.
Ragam or Raag
In this first part, the musician starts by creating the mood of raga by playing the basic notes and lays a foundation for composition to follow. It is a solo rendering with out any accompaniments.
Thanam or Vilambit is the second part where the artist expands the raga and shows his skill in playing with the notes and beats. Normally there are some interesting duet-duels between the main artist and the accompanying artists.
Pallavi is the equivalent of a refrain in Western music. The basic style in Pallavi rendition is to sing the Pallavi in different speeds and beat patterns. The Pallavi challenges the musician’s ability to improvise with complex and intricate patterns. The whole exercise is very demanding, both technically and musically, since all the artiste’s musicianship is put to test.
Around the 13th century, the Indian classical music bifurcated into Hindustani classical music in North India and Pakistan, and Carnatic classical music in South India.
Owing to Persian and Islamic influences in North India from the 12th century onwards, Hindustani music and Carnatic music styles diverged.
By the 16th and 17th centuries, there was a clear demarcation between Carnatic and Hindustani music. It was at this time that Carnatic music flourished in Thanjavur, where the Vijayanagar Empire of Andhra Pradesh was at its best. Purandara Dasa, 1484 – 1564, who is known as the father (Pitamaha) of Carnatic Music, formulated the system that is commonly used for the teaching of Carnatic music. Venkatamakhin invented and authored the formula for the melakarta system of raga classification in his Sanskrit work, the Chaturdandi Prakasika (1660 AD). Govindacharya is known for expanding the melakarta system into the sampoorna raga scheme – the system that is in common use today.
Patronized by the kings of Vijayanagaram, Mysore and Tanjavuru, South India produced many noted composers, Vocalists and instrumentalists proficient in playing musical instruments, such as the veena, rudra veena, violin, ghatam, flute, mridangam, nagaswara. Three of the greatest composers and singers of that era are Syama Sastri (1762 – 1827),
Muttuswami Dikshitar (Born March 24, 1775 Died October 21, 1835) and the legendary Tyāgarāja Born May 4, 1767 Died January 6, 1847. They are called the Trinity of Carnatic music. Two famous court-musicians and instrumentalists were Veena Sheshanna (1852-1926) and Veena Subbanna (1861-1939),
The Melakarta Ragas
The Melakarta Ragas refers to the basic 72 Janaka (parent) ragas in Carnatic Music. All of these ragas have seven notes saptaswaras, that is that they have all seven swaras which are- Sa, Ree, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni, and Sa. The system is further divided into two sets of 36 ragams each – The first set with the first Ma and the second with a sharper Ma. This is very similar to the Western concept of scales and the circle of flats.
The Melakarta Ragas are the Janaka (Root) ragas for all of the infinite others Ragas in Carnatic Music. The system is divided into two sets of 36 ragams – one set with the first Ma and the second Ma.
The 72 Melakarta Ragas:
1.Kanakangi S R1 G1 M1 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M1 G1 R1 S
2.Ratnangi S R1 G1 M1 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M1 G1 R1 S
3.Ganamurthi S R1 G1 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M1 G1 R1 S
4.Vanaspati S R1 G1 M1 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M1 G1 R1 S
5.Manavati S R1 G1 M1 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M1 G1 R1 S
6.Tanarupi S R1 G1 M1 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M1 G1 R1 S
7.Senavati S R1 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S * S N1 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S
8.Hanumadtodi S R1 G2 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S
9.Dhenuka S R1 G2 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S
10.Natakapriya S R1 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R1 S
11.Kokilapriya S R1 G2 M1 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M1 G2 R1 S
12.Rupavati S R1 G2 M1 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M1 G2 R1 S
13.Gayakapriya S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S
14.Vakulabharanam S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S
15.Mayamalavagaula S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S
16.Chakravakam S R1 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S
17.Suryakantham S R1 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S
18.Hatakambari S R1 G3 M1 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M1 G3 R1 S
19.JhankaradhvaniS R2 G2 M1 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S
20.Nathabhairavi S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S
21.Kiravani S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S
22.Kharaharapriya S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S
23.Gaurimanohari S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S
24.Varunapriya S R2 G2 M1 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M1 G2 R2 S
25.Mararanjani S R2 G3 M1 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R2 S
26.Charukeshi S R2 G3 M1 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M1 G3 R2 S
27.Sarasangi S R2 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R2 S
28.Harikamboji S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S
29.Dhirasankaraabharanam S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S
30.Naganandini S R2 G3 M1 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M1 G3 R2 S
31.Yagapriya S R3 G3 M1 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R3 S
32.Ragavardhini S R3 G3 M1 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M1 G3 R3 S
33.Gangeyabhushani S R3 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R3 S
34.Vagadhishwary S R3 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R3 S
35.Sulini S R3 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R3 S
36.Chalanatta S R3 G3 M1 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M1 G3 R3 S
37.Salagam S R1 G1 M2 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M2 G1 R1 S
38.Jalarnavam S R1 G1 M2 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M2 G1 R1 S
39.jhalavarali S R1 G1 M2 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M2 G1 R1 S
40.Navaneetham S R1 G1 M2 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M2 G1 R1 S
41.PavaniS R1 G1 M2 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M2 G1 R1 S
42.RaghupriyaS R1 G1 M2 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M2 G1 R1 S
43.GavambhodhiS R1 G2 M2 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M2 G2 R1 S
44.BhavapriyaS R1 G2 M2 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M2 G2 R1 S
45.Subhapanthuvarali S R1 G2 M2 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M2 G2 R1 S
46.Shadvidha Margini S R1 G2 M2 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M2 G2 R1 S
47.Suvarnangi S R1 G2 M2 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M2 G2 R1 S
48.Divyamani S R1 G2 M2 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M2 G2 R1 S
49.Dhavalambari S R1 G3 M2 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M2 G3 R1 S
50.Namanarayani S R1 G3 M2 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M2 G3 R1 S
51.Kamavardhini S R1 G3 M2 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M2 G3 R1 S
52.Ramapriya S R1 G3 M2 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M2 G3 R1 S
53.Gamanasrama S R1 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R1 S
54.Viswambhari S R1 G3 M2 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M2 G3 R1 S
55.Syaamalangi S R2 G2 M2 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M2 G2 R2 S
56.Shanmughapriya S R2 G2 M2 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M2 G2 R2 S
57.Simhendra madhyamam S R2 G2 M2 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M2 G2 R2 S
58.Hemavati S R2 G2 M2 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M2 G2 R2 S
59.Dharmavati S R2 G2 M2 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M2 G2 R2 S
60.Nitimati S R2 G2 M2 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M2 G2 R2 S
61.Kantammani S R2 G3 M2 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M2 G3 R2 S
62.Rishabhapriya S R2 G3 M2 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M2 G3 R2 S
63.Lahangi S R2 G3 M2 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M2 G3 R2 S
64.Vaachaspathi S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M2 G3 R2 S
65.Mechakalyani S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R2 S
66.Chitraambari S R2 G3 M2 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M2 G3 R2 S
67.Sucharitra S R3 G3 M2 P D1 N1 S * S N1 D1 P M2 G3 R3 S
68.Jyothiswaroopini S R3 G3 M2 P D1 N2 S * S N2 D1 P M2 G3 R3 S
69.Dhaatuvardhini S R3 G3 M2 P D1 N3 S * S N3 D1 P M2 G3 R3 S
70.Nasikaabhooshani S R3 G3 M2 P D2 N2 S * S N2 D2 P M2 G3 R3 S
71.Kosalam S R3 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S * S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R3 S
72.Rasikapriya S R3 G3 M2 P D3 N3 S * S N3 D3 P M2 G3 R3 S
I am in the process of compiling complete information about all the Ragas, their notations, a basic MP3 of the Ragas plus some famous compositions by great artists. In the near future this music section will also have details of flock music of India, about the most famous artists, musical instruments.
For the time being you can explore and enjoy the following on this site:
1. Telugu Cini Ragalu – Classical based Telugu film songs details
2. The two great Vocalists – Dr.Balamuralikrishna & M.S.Subbulakshmi