next important ancient text is the Tamil epic poem "shilappatikAram",
written in the second century A. D. by Ila"ngO aDikaL, a Jain prince
turned ascetic. This work is an elaborate record of the religious,
political, and cultural life of the era, in which music played an
extremely important role. KOvalan, the hero of the epic play, and his
courtesan consort MAdhavi communicate with each other through music,
recording a variety of moods, from somber seriousness to playfulness. A
teasing musical phrase alienates KOvalan from MAdhavi; KOvalan leaves her
company and returns to his ever-faithful wife, KaNNagi; then they make
their fatal trip to Madurai. ShilappatikAram contains much useful
information about the state of Tamil music and fine arts of the period.
Modes, for one, are described as paNNs.
Te process of deriving new paNNs
by modal shifts of the tonic was known at the time. Although its terminology is couched in the Tamil language,
many of its concepts have been adopted from the nATyashAstra. Musical
practice, since the time of shilappatikAram in the Tamil region took the
form of devotional composition. "Tevaram" and "Tiruppugazh"
singing put much of the theory into practice and the Otuvars (hymn singers) have maintained these styles of singing in
temples for generations (although the current renditions of their songs do
not predate the eighteenth century).
oldest musical notations that have come down to us are the brilliant rock
inscriptions of kuDimiyAmalai, in the Pudukkottai district (in Tamilnadu),
carved out during the rule of the Pallava King MahEndravarman in the
seventh century A. D. Most of
the material in the inscriptions is in the grantha
script and somewhat difficult to decipher; but, as the earliest known
source of Indian music in notation, it is invaluable to the study of
Indian music. Notations of seven large compositions in varying lengths,
one in each of the primary grAma
rAgas, are carved on a vertical rock, and the main body of the
inscription contains thirty-eight horizontal lines of musical notation.
Each line has sixty-four characters representing notes, forming sixteen
groups of four each. The inscription is divided into seven large sections,
and the title of each appears in Sanskrit (madhyama
grAma, SaDja grAma, SADava, sadhArita, pa~ncama, kaishiki madhyama,
and kaishika). These may perhaps be sections of abhyAsa gAna (exercises in singing), probably intended for practice
on the vINa. The bottom of the
rock contains unusual writing in a Tamil script vogue during that period.
nATyashAstra and shilappatikAram, the most prominent text of national
stature is "b.rhaddEshi", written in the ninth century A. D. by
Mata"nga Muni. By his time, the term "rAga"
to describe modes had become common practice. The phrase "rAga"
is mentioned for the first time in this work. Mata"nga follows
the work of Bharata very closely. While Bharata concentrates on grAma,
mUrcchana, and jati,
Mata"nga deals with rAgas
as a special subject. Mata"nga recognized SaDja
grAma and madhyama grAma.
From these grAmas are derived shruti, svara, mUrcchana, tAna, jati
and rAga. The ArOhaNa (ascending) and the avarOhaNa
(descending) pattern of svaras,
according to Mata"nga, formed the mUrcchana
of a rAga. MUrcchana, in effect, describes the string of notes that, with
further embellishments, constitutes the core of a rAga. These embellishments were called alamkAras of which Mata"nga lists thirty-three varieties. He
describes them as musical excellence that figure in songs. He gives grAma
rAgas and their derivatives. B.rhaddEshi shows that musical aesthetics
had indeed reached a high level of development. (Even works created as
late as the sixteenth-century compositions of PurandaradAsa might have
been influenced by Mata"nga's work.) The importance of nAda
(musical sound with metaphysical implications) is stressed in his work.
nAdEna vinA gItaM na nAdEna vinA svara.h |
nAdEna vinA n.rttaM tasmAnnAdAtmakam jagat ||
classified into sUkSma, atisUkSma,
vyakta, avyakta, and k.rtrima.
Mata"nga refers to two grAmas,
SaDja grAma and madhyama grAma.
He declares that mUrcchana is
ascent, and tAna is descent. Further, he recognizes seven qualities of gitas
and prabandhas: suddha, bhinna,
gauDi, rAga sAdhAraNi, bhaSA and
vibhASa. The classification of rAgas
into shuddha, chAyAlaga and sa"nkIrNa
led to many classifications of the rAga
system. Tribal ragas like kAmbhOji,
kuri~nji, mArva, ba"ngaLa, etc., can be traced to Mata"nga.
The book is supposed to contain a section on vAdya
(instruments) but this seems to be lost. Mata"nga extensively quotes
the earlier work of KOhala.
next authoritative text after b.haddEshi is the thirteenth-century work
"sa"ngIta ratnAkara". This work was written by
shAr"ngadEva, who lived sometime in the first half of thirteenth
century. This work is of particular interest for two reasons. First, it
was written in the Deccan region under the yAdava
dynasty. Second, it is the last text available that was written before the
onset of Islamic political influence. Shortly after this text was
completed, the yAdavas, based in
Devagiri, were routed. In 1294, Alau-d din Khilji attacked Devagiri and
carried off to Delhi an enormous treasure. A musician named Nayak GOpal
was part of the wealth transferred to Khilji's court. (The yAdava court
ended in 1318 when Prince HarapAla revolted and was flayed alive by the
order of the Delhi court)
RatnAkara has seven adhyAyas
(chapters): svara, rAga, prakIrNnaka,
prabandha, tALa, vAdya, and n.rtta.
The discussion of svara includes
nAda, svara, grAma, mUrcchana,
tAna, svara prastAra, varNAlamkara, and jati.
Details are given about shuddha
svara, SaDja and madhyama grAma,
mUrcchanas, shuddha tAna, gamaka, and so forth. ShAr"ngadEva
records 264 rAgas, fifteen
varieties of gamakas and twelve
types of tALas (rhythmic
cycles). The terminology of twenty-two shrutis,
grAma, mUrcchana, tAna and alamkAra
has all been preserved, but it takes a more advanced form than similar
terminology found in earlier manuscripts. While the framework of rAga
as we know it today was not understood at the time of ShAr"ngadEva,
both b.rhaddEshi and sa"ngIta ratnAkara laid down the foundations for
rAga creation based on grAma
mUrcchana. Among the numerous commentaries on sa"ngIta ratnAkara,
the one that stands out is "kalAnidhi" by KallinAtha; another is
the time between b.rhaddEshi" and
"sa"ngIta ratnAkara", Indian music proliferated, in
terms of both modes and aesthetic practices Yet up to the thirteenth
century, there is no way to find any distinction between karNatik
and HindustAni traditions. There
were different elements and also different terminology, but the theory
seems to be unitary. The development of music in subsequent centuries does
not give any indication that there were any decisive breaks with the past.
What we do find are differences in styles, types of musical compositions,
aesthetic values, and, above all, goals of musical cultivation. Musical
treatises of this long period have recorded the features of India's
practice also underwent considerable change as new forms of compositions
emerged in thirteenth-century and after, an era which also saw the
production of both theoretical and practical works on music. Of texts that
appeared after sa"ngIta ratnAkara, a notable one was the monumental
"sa"ngIta samayasAra" by the thirteenth-century Jain author
PArshvadEva. It consists of 1400 verses spread around 10 adhikAras.
Some parts of his work were lost, except for nine chapters, in
which topics such as nAda
(sound), dhvani (pitch), sharIra
(resonating body), gIta (vocal
music), Alapti (rhythm-free introduction),
varNa (melodic lines) and alamkAra
(ornamentation), various types of compositions, sthAya (melodic phrases), and tAla
are discussed at length.
Other works around the period
1130AD, the cAlUkya king SOmEshvara wrote a huge work, "mAnasOllAsa"
(also known as "abhilASitArttha cintAmaNi"). It is a mixture of
prose and verses. Instrumental
music is given great importance along with a classification of them. His son, JagadEkamalla authored the work "sa"ngIta
cUDAmaNi". During the
same period, another work, "sa"ngItasudhAkara" was compiled
by HaripAla, a King of Gujarat. "Sa"ngItOpaniSad
sArOddhAra" is yet a work on music and dance composed by SudhAkalasha.
of Vijayanagaram made a prominent contribution, "sa"ngItasAra"
in the 1300s. This work
discusses rAga s and rAgiNis at great length. The
concept of time is tied up with the mood of the rAga. Improvisation, or rAga
AlaApana is dealt with in detail.
Six a"ngas of an AlApana
are discussed, namely AkSipta, rAgavardhani, vidari, sthAyi, vartani
A list of 16 mELas (parent scales) are provided along with some janyams
derived from them.
Post ratnAkara period – a brief history
India was under the domination of the invading Islamic conquerors from the
13th century. Alau-ud-din Khilji had many court musicians and
poets. Amir Khusro. the
prominent among them, introduced the musical forms, Qual
and TaraNa. Being Persian in origin, he undoubtedly blended Persian and
Arabic forms into Indian Music so well that what emerged was different,
and ultimately more interesting. Muhammad
bin Thuglaq, Ibrahim Shah of Jaupur, Zain-ul-Abidin of Kashmir, and many
other rulers had numerous court musicians.
RAja Mansingh of Gwalior was a renowned composer, who encouraged
the dhrupad style of singing.
Hussain Shah Sharqui of Jaunpur introduced the Khyal
style. Under the Mughals,
musical patronage continued to reach new heights. Emperor Akbar's court
was adorned by many illustrious musicians, the most famous being Miya
these periods, many important musical treatises were written, both by
Hindu and Muslim scholars. The
first Persian work on Indian Music, "Lahjat-I-Sikandar Shahi"
was written under the Sikandar Lodi of Delhi. Ibrahim adil Shah II of
Bijapur composed the "Kitab-I-Nauras" (Nine rasas),
a collection of poems about emotions to be sung in different rAgas.
There is a work, "sa"ngIta mAlika" by the muslim
musicologist, Mohammed Shah, written in Sanskrit with a commentary in
northern India came under Islamic rule in the thirteenth century,
peninsular India and Deccan became the realm of the Vijayanagara empire,
founded around 1336 A. D. by Harihara and Bukka. Most of the energies of
the Vijayanagara emperors were spent in fighting the Bamani sultans. There
were many unholy alliances and much religious animosity. Among the
Vijayanagara rulers, K.rSNadEvarAya, who reigned from 1509-29, stands out,
and his encouragement of religion and the arts has been noted by many
authorities. By 1565, however, the Vijayanagara Empire crumbled, and its
rulers were reduced to local chieftains. Later, the power of the Bijapur
sultans was taken over by the Mughal Aurungzeb. At this time, the Telugu
rulers also founded the NAyak Empire in Madurai, which was later extended
to the Tanjore region. Marattas, who hounded the Mughals all over India,
founded a royal line in Ta~njore, replacing the NAyak rulers. Soon
afterwards, the British became a factor in the region. In the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, musical development in southern India took place
under these historical currents. Undoubtedly, the ebb and flow of
different political powers have left their telltale marks on the musical
development of the region.
and HindustAni traditions
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the compositions of many musical
treaties and compositions, and until around the 1660s, both Hindustani
and karNATik systems of music claim the same texts as their source
material. "SvaramELakalAnidhi" was written in 1550 by RAmAmtya,
a minister of Vijayanagaram's RAma Raja. Then came "RagavibOdha"
of SOmanAtha in 1609. "CaturdanDIprakashika"
was written in 1660 by Ve."kaTamakhin. These writings mark the
beginning of what can be called the karNaTik
tradition. There were also treatises produced in northern India at that
time; noteworthy are "SadragacandrOdaya" by PuNDarIka ViTTala at
the end of sixteenth century; "Ragatara"ngiNi"
by LOcana Kavi (date not well established); "H.rdayakautaka" by
H.rdaya NArAyaNa (c1660); and "Sa"ngIta Parijata" by
AhObila (c1665). In these works, the classification of rAgas
according to a specific parent scale became a well-established practice,
replacing the mUrcchana system.
Even though shruti is mentioned,
it was no longer functional as in "nATyashAstra", the madhyama
grAma having fallen by the wayside. By the end of the seventeenth
century, the message of "nATyashAstra" was largely irrelevant
for actual musical practice, both in southern and northern India.
reached a pinnacle during the Mughal era, musical development suffered in
its later years. Aurungzeb (1658-1707), although fond of music, chose to
follow an Islamic fundamentalist life once he ascended the Delhi throne.
He ordered musicians out of his court, and these unfortunate artists had
to seek their livelihood in less glamorous provincial courts. With this
dispersal, it became difficult to communicate musical knowledge and, over
the years, musical theory and practice separated. The chasm widened due to
lack of knowledge of Sanskrit or Persian by practicing musicians.
Nevertheless, tradition was jealously guarded and passed on. Khyal
singing, due largely to the efforts of Sadarang and Adarang during the
reign of Mughal Shah (1719-1748), came to the forefront of musical
performance. Gradually, gharanas
developed. Music became
professionalized and techniques were guarded as trade secrets. Attempts at
standardization did not begin until the twentieth century when Pandit V.
N. Bhatkhande worked out a system of classification.
the theoretical works of the period, the first one was "SvaramELkalanidhi"
by RamAmATya, written under royal commission in 1550. It is brief and
clearly written, forming an important link with the past (ShAr"ngadEva's
Sa"ngIta ratnAkaram seems to have inspired it) while dealing with the
modern era in karNatik music.
RAmAmAtya upheld the claims of lakSya
(purposeful musical activity) over mere lakSana
(organized sound), a tradition that, to this day, is stressed in the karNATik
musical system. In asserting this, RAmAmAtya sets the grammar of music on
a firm foundation. Using the vINa
as an instrument with which to conduct research into the nature of sound
vibrations, RAmAmatya worked out a group of twenty parent scales which he
called mELa. From these scales, 64 janya
rAgas were derived, classified
into a hierarchical scheme: uttama
(superior), madhyama (good), and
adhama (inferior). They were
also assigned as appropriate to different times of the day and for
different seasons. Eventually, this classification scheme lost currency in
southern India. His generative grammar scheme and the use of vINa for acoustic exploration, however, mark him as a pioneer in the
modern development of karNATik
the wake of RAmAmAtya's work came SOmanAtha's "RagavibOdha",
published in 1609. As the name suggests, this treatise dealt with rAgas.
On fundamental musical theory involving the controversial twenty-two shrutis,
mELas and rAga generation, SOmanAtha had nothing new to say, although he
clarified many points. His main contribution lies in setting down the
technique of writing the exposition of rAgas
in addition, he investigates the nature and role of dEshi (folk) music and its position in relation to classical music.
He clearly held folk music in high regard as a source of emotive
expression and musical forms. Techniques of vINa
playing fascinated him as well. He emphasized the subtleties of the
instrument, giving it pride of place in his treatise.
Parijatam" by AhObila, written in the seventeenth century, is
considered to be the root of the present-day Hindustani
system of music. Under six mELa
categories, this work tabulates 11,340 rAgas
with three subdivisions (pentatonic, hexatonic, and heptatonic). But the
work describes only 122 of those rAgas
in detail. Instead of using specific names for his scales, AhObila uses
phrases like vik.rta svara, kOmal,
tIvra, tIvratara, and so on. His scale of suddha
notes corresponds to the current KAfi
thATh of the
CaturdaNDI PrakAshika, the author Ve"nkaTamakhin clearly attributes
"Sa"ngIta Sudha" to GovindAcArya (Govinda DIkSita) a
minister under the NAyak rulers of Ta~njore (Sevappan, Acyutappan, and
RaghunAtha), contrary to some beliefs that RaghunAtha NAyak was the
author. Of the seven chapters that probably existed, only four are extant,
which mostly discuss "Sa"ngIta ratnAkaram". Ten types of rAgas are described, with a further classification of thirty grAma
rAga, eight uparAga, twenty upA"nga,
ninety-six bhASa rAga, twenty
vibhASa rAga, four antarbhASa rAga, twenty-one rAga"nga
rAga, twenty bhaSA"nga rAga,
thirty upA"nga rAga, and
fifteen kriyA"nga rAga.
Thirteen lakSaNas of rAga are enunciated (graha,
amsha, tAra, mandra, nyAsa, apanyAsa,
samanyAsa, vinyAsa, bahutva, alpatva, antarmArga, SaDava, and auDava).
Fifteen mELas and fifty rAgas are
described according to the scheme of VidyAraNya, and lengthy details on
the concept of AlApana are also
Part III >>