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History of Music : Sanskritic Tradition

The music of India and its history are too complex to be described briefly. This brief introduction is intended to help those who are new to Indian classical music; with the hope that a foreknowledge of certain theoretical points may assist their appreciation.  
Aug 7, 2012 12:50 IST
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HISTORY
The music of India and its history are too complex to be described briefly. This brief introduction is intended to help those who are new to Indian classical music; with the hope that a foreknowledge of certain theoretical points may assist their appreciation.
Sanskritic tradition
The Samaveda outlined the ritual chants for singing the verses of the Rigveda, particularly for offerings of Soma. It proposed a tonal structure consisting of seven notes, which were named, in descending order, krusht, pratham, dwitiya, tritiya, chaturth, mandra. These refer to the notes of a flute, which was the only fixed-frequency instrument. This is why the second note is called pratham.
Music is dealt with extensively in the Valmiki Ramayana. Narada is an accomplished musician, as is Ravana; Saraswati with her veena is the goddess of music. Gandharvas are presented as spirits who are musical masters, and the gandharva style looks to music primarily for pleasure, accompanied by the soma rasa. In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, the Naga king Ashvatara asks to know the svaras from Saraswati.
The most important text on music in the ancient canon is Bharata's Natya Shastra, composed around the 3rd century CE. The Natya Shastra deals with the different modes of music, dance, and drama, and also the emotional responses (rasa) they are expected to evoke. 
History

The music of India and its history are too complex to be described briefly. This brief introduction is intended to help those who are new to Indian classical music; with the hope that a foreknowledge of certain theoretical points may assist their appreciation.

Sanskritic tradition

 

  • The Samaveda outlined the ritual chants for singing the verses of the Rigveda, particularly for offerings of Soma. It proposed a tonal structure consisting of seven notes, which were named, in descending order, krusht, pratham, dwitiya, tritiya, chaturth, mandra. These refer to the notes of a flute, which was the only fixed-frequency instrument. This is why the second note is called pratham.

  • Music is dealt with extensively in the Valmiki Ramayana. Narada is an accomplished musician, as is Ravana; Saraswati with her veena is the goddess of music. Gandharvas are presented as spirits who are musical masters, and the gandharva style looks to music primarily for pleasure, accompanied by the soma rasa. In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, the Naga king Ashvatara asks to know the svaras from Saraswati.

  • The most important text on music in the ancient canon is Bharata's Natya Shastra, composed around the 3rd century CE. The Natya Shastra deals with the different modes of music, dance, and drama, and also the emotional responses (rasa) they are expected to evoke.