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History of Hindustani ClassicaI Music

(Courtesy: www.itcsra.org)

Indian music has developed through very complex interactions between different peoples of different
races and cultures over several thousand years. Tracing the musical theory of the past makes clear the
position of the present musical system.

The Chronology
For any discussion of cultural matters pertaining to India the following rough chronological sequence or
historical periodization is useful.
2500 BC 1500 BC
1500 BC - 500 BC
200 BC - 300 AD
300 AD - 600 AD
600 AD - 1200 AD
1200 AD - 1700 AD
1700 AD onwards

The Indus Valley Civilization

Little is known of the musical culture of the Indus Valley civilization of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC.
Some musical instruments, such as the arched or bow-shaped harp and several varieties of drums, have
been identified from the small terracotta figures and from the pictographs on the seals that were
probably used by merchants. Further, the famous bronze statuette of a dancing girl, probably
representing a class of temple dancers, clearly indicates the presence of music.
Evidence of Rudra-worship during this period has also been found. Rudra was later to become popular
as Shiva~the supreme deity of dance, drama and music. Vedic Literature The Indus Valley civilization
died with the arrival of the Aryans, who descended into India from the northwest in the first half of the
2nd millennium BC. An important aspect of Aryan religious life was the bard-priest who composed
hymns, in praise of the gods, to be sung or chanted at sacrifices. This tradition was continued in the
Aryans new home in northern India until a sizable body of oral religious poetry had been composed.
This body of chanted poetry grew to massive proportions, and the best of the poems were compiled as
an anthology called Rigveda, which was then canonized. The hymns of the Rigveda, the oldest Veda, are
addressed to the elements of nature personied as deities, and are prayers for protection from
calamities and for attainment of prosperity - material as well as spiritual.
The Rigveda came into being between 1500 BC and 500 BC. lt was not committed to writing, but the text
and the chanting formula were carefully handed down by word of mouth from one generation. to the
next, up to the present period. The poems in the Rigveda are arranged according to the priestly families
who chanted and, presumably, had composed the hymns. ;
The Yajurveda and the Samaveda were composed after the Rigveda The Yajurveda, with portions in
prose, is a manual, describing the procedures to be followed in the sacrifice. The Samaveda contains
hymns to be sung by those who did the chanting. It is this Veda which is specifically connected with
music in India. A fourth Veda, the Atharvaveda, replete with magical chants and incantations, was
accepted as a Veda considerably later and is quite unrelated to the other three.
The Vedas are considered to be revealed literature. Sages and seers (rishis) with extraordinary powers
directly saw and received them - hence their unique authority and influence. In order to ensure the
purity of the Vedas, the slightest change was forbidden, and there has been virtually no change in these
texts for about 3,000 years. Each Veda has two parts: texts of the mantras and Brahmanas, which consist
of rituals and related examples. Moreover, to each Brahmana is attached an Upanishad as well as an
Aranyaka, both having a philosophical content.
The rishis, to whom the hymns of the Vedas appeared as revelations, are the authors of those hymns.
The seven Rishis (saptarshis) are referred to in the Shatapatha Brahmana as Goutama, Bharadwaja,
Vishwamitra, Iamadagni, Vashistha, Kashyapa and Atri. The seven Rishis are represented in the sky by
the seven stars of the Great Bear. The richas or the hymns were often composed on the spur of the

Vedic Music
Vedic religion was based on performing sacrifices in order to propitiate the gods. Music formed an
important part of the rituals, which structured the sacrifice. In fact, singing, instrumental music and
dance were described as divine in Vedic literature; it was believed that they propitiated deities. Vedic
music is the earliest instance of the deep relationship between religion and music in India. Many
features of this music later percolated in various ways and in different proportions into different kinds
of Indian music, including Hindustani Art music. The Rigveda relied on recited hymns (richa). The
musical chanting of the Samaveda employed more notes (finally settling on seven notes), and is said to
be the source of the later secular and classical music. In fact, the word sama itself is a compound
expression and includes two entities: the first component sa refers to hymns, i.e. richa, and the second
component, ma refers to the musical notes. Vedic music also included instrumental music of various
types. Music was used mainly for two functions: to propitiate deities and to accompany sacrificial
offerings. Both solo and choral music were in vogue. Four major forms of music were prevalent in Sama-
gayan, taken as a whole. Each kind of music effected different changes in Vedic mantras as were
perceived to be necessary by the concerned musician. The veena, tunav, dundubhi, bhoomi-dundubhi
and talav were the prominent instruments - representing the four major instrumental categories,
autophones, membranophones, aerophones and chordophones.
The singing of sama was accompanied by the veena in accordance with a procedure that connected body
- movements, gestures and correct intonation in singing. Seated properly, the singer was to touch the
middle phalanx of the fingers of the right palm with the right thumb according to the pitch of the note
intended. A disciple learnt this procedure by imitating his preceptor in pitch, intonation as well as in
finger movements.
No Vedic ritual was complete without the drinking of a sacred intoxicating liquor called soma. Soma was
an integral part of Vedic sacrices After first being offered as a libation to the gods, the remainder of the
soma was consumed by the officiating priests (Brahmins). Soma-ras (soma juice) raised to the status of a
deity in Rigveda, was endowed with hallucinatory effects and extraordinary powers to heal diseases.
Soma drinking was held legitimate only after attaining a certain status in social and spiritual matters.
The Shiksha literature
As the early Indian music was based on ritual and mantra, correct pronunciation was of great
significance. Often, even a slight mispronunciation signified death instead of life! And yet, music
makers in the Sama-gayan did not hesitate to bring about changes in the words of the mantras they
sang! Freedom was so liberally enjoyed that rules were made to regularise these deviations because
they added to the quality of music produced. Shiksha is the first branch of Vedic learning. It deals with
the science of correct pronunciation of vowels, consonants and syllables. Basically six aspects are dealt
with: Varna (syllable), Swara (notes), Matra (duration), Bala (articulation), Sama (a kind of balance in
the total utterance) and Santana (the spacing of the words). Some of the well-known Shikshas are
Paniniya, Yagnyvalkya Vashisthi, Katyayani, Manduki and Naradiya, the last being associated with the
sage, Narada.

Guru-Shishya Parampara
Music in India has been passed on in a tradition best described as Guru-Shishya Parampara (preceptor-
disciple tradition).This method has occupied an important place in Indian culture. A guru is regarded as
the metaphysical father of his disciple and is ranked higher than biological parents.
The Gurukul (gurus dynasty or family) system dates back to the Vedic period. In the gurukul system of
education, a pupil or shishya, after his initiation (sacred thread ceremony), lived in the house of his guru,
or teacher, and studied the Vedas and other subjects under his guidance, for a period of 12 years. Gurus
were expected to teach everything they knew to the disciple. The institution was accessible only to the
upper classes. The gurukuls were well supported by kings who considered it their duty to make them
financially viable.
There were four kinds of gurus: Acharya, Pravakta, Shrotriya and Adhyapak. It is from the samhita
period that we have names of Acharyas such as Angiras, Garga, Atri, Brihaspati and Vasishtha. There
were two types of shishyas: one, who paid fees to the Guru was known as acharya-bhaga; the other, who
learnt by performing domestic chores in the gurus house, was described as dharrna-shishya.
The Gurukul was the direct precedent of the concept of gharana in Hindustani music. of course, in a
gharana the learning was confined to the scholastic and the performing arts, and there was no religious

500 BC 100 bc
Ramayana and music
The first Indian epic, Ramayana, was composed by the sage Valmiki. It was written in shloka form. The
word shloka refers to a particular kind of metrical composition known for its brevity, easy tempo and
lilting rhyme. From the lavish use of musical metaphors in the epic, it is evident that the precise concept
of music or sangeet had been adequately established and appreciated. For example, when Rama
describes Kishkindha, Sugreevas kingdom, to Laxmana, he refers to the lute-like resonance of the bees,
the rhythmic croaking of frogs and the mridang-like sounds of clouds. Rama was an expert in gandharva,
the classical music of the time.
The term Marga sangeet is also used in the epic to denote the accepted and prestigious mode of music.
There were three important features of Marga Sangeet. It was created and propagated by Brahma and
other deities. It was not meant for entertainment. It was presented before the Gods to please them.
The epic tells us that musical instruments were collectively mentioned as atodya. Four major types of
instruments were identified. A wide variety of instruments were used such as the Veena, Venu, Vansha,
Shankha, Dundubhi, Bheri, Mridang, Panav and Pataha.
The knowledge of music was widespread. Ravana the demon-leader was proficient in music. So was
Sugreeva, the monkey- leader. Occasions of festival music were known as samaj. There were
professional classes of musicians such as Bandi, Soota, Magadha and others, whose repertoire included
songs in praise of heroes, their deeds, their clans or dynasties. Ramayana, as an oral epic, was also
propagated according to the musical norms perfected in the oral tradition. This was the pathya mode of
music making, ideal for narration. This was the form employed by Ramas sons Kush and Lava, when
they sang a narrative song in Ramas praise at his court accompanied by only a lute. Even today, the
story of Rama, when traditionally narrated in India in different languages and regions, follows the norms
laid down by the ancient Sage.
The use of technical terms in popular literature signifies that knowledge in the concemed field of study
is widespread in society. Musical terms such as pramana, laya, tala, samatala, kala, matra and shamya
regularly feature in the epic.

Pathyo sangeet
Pathya in Indian musicology describes a special mode of making music. Bharata laid down six main
features of Pathya:
1) seven notes (saptaswara)
2) three basic locations for tone-production (sthanas)
3) four fundamental ways of empowering tonal arrangements (varnas)
4) two basic intonation modes
5) six embellishments (alankaras)
6) six aspects (angas).
Pathya sangeet was not expected to entertain. Its aim was to inform and instruct. Even today wandering
musicians create Pathya sangeet.

Mahabharata and music

Krishnadvaipayana Vyasa composed the epic Mahabharata in 24000 shlokas. There is less about music
in the Mahabharata than in the Ramayana. Possibly human life had become more complex and problem-
ridden during the time of the Mahabharata, leaving less time for music.
Mahabharata used the term gandharva instead of sangeet. The epic therefore referred to a more specific
kind of music. Musicology, or the science of music was called gandharvashastra. Superhuman beings
called Gandharvas were the expert practitioners of this music. Both gandharvas and their consorts, the
apsaras were experts in singing, playing musical instruments and dancing.
Arjtma, one of the heroes in the Mahabharata had learnt these musical arts from Chitrasen gandharva.
Kings maintained their own music schools to train princesses and their maids-in- waiting in the
performing arts.
The names of the seven basic musical notes (shadja) have been clearly mentioned in the Mahabharata,
which was composed around 400 BC. The epic therefore bears testimony to the long living tradition of
Indian Classical music.
The use of music in festivals and other social occasions brings out the importance given to music in
human life. There were, in fact, many classes of professional musicians like the gandharvas who catered
to various musical and cultural needs.

Music in Buddhist literature

Valuable insights into the evolution of music can also begained from Buddhist literature and sculpture in
India and in the countries to which the religion spread. In basic religious texts like Thergatha and
Therigatha language was used in a way conducive to music making.
Jatakas are stories written in Pali around 300 BC about the previous births of Buddha. The jatakas
describe Buddhist monks singing and dancing to the accompaniment of instruments like the veena,
vepamei, tunak and panak. They contain a wealth of material of musicological interest.
Sculptures based on Buddhist lore are a major source of information on music. Sculptures in Bharhut
(200-150 BC) and Sanchi confirm that music ourished during the Buddhist period in spite of
theological opposition. The opposition was because music was seen as a distraction.

Music in Jain sources

Jain literary sources interpret the prevalent music in important periods in Indian cultural history. Both
Buddhist and Jain sources often focus on those strata of society otherwise not described in Sanskrit
texts. Hence it is critical to examine the ]ain sources. At the same time, many terms are clearly derived
from the Sanskrit tradition indicating an overall musical continuity. For example, the Sthanangsootra
lists the merits and demerits of vocalists. Interestingly, these nearly tally with Naradiya-shiksha. Iain
texts list many instruments not mentioned elsewhere. Rayappasenaijja lists instruments in 18 classes. In
all 63 instruments are itemised-bhambha, mukund, machal, kadamb and many others. Buddhist and ]ain
texts cover a wider gamut than the Sanskrit texts and very often include instruments used in folk music.

200 BC - 300 AD Harivamsha, Chhalikyq and Hallisqka

Harivamsha is a volume of 16,374 shlokas appended to the great epic Mahabharata between 200 BC and
500 AD to complete the epic. Harivamsha is important because it describes two forms that may have
inspired many composite genres in Indian cultural expression - the Chhalikya, a genre of songs in the
ancient Gandharva mode of music making, and the Hallisaka dance.

Music and Natyashastra

With its historical and deeprooted religious tradition, Indian mythology holds music to be of Divine
Origin. Narada was the first sage to whom the laws of music were revealed; Tumburu was the first
singer; Saraswati was the goddess of music and learning; and Bharata was the first to draw up rules for
theatre, of which music was a major and integral part. Natyashastra, or the Science of Theatre, a treatise
on dramaturgy, is said to have been authored by Bharata sometime between 200 BC and 200 AD.
Natyashastra devotes itself mainly to theatre, dance and music. It also touches on the related areas of
cultural life of India. It is the foundation on which Indian philosophical thinking squarely rests. It is
composed in prose and verse, though verse predominates. The chapters on music contain descriptions
of various classes of instruments. Gandharva music, the techniques of playing musical instruments and
the rules for talas are explained. Natyashastra also defines the Rasa theory. The theory states that Rasa
arises from a (proper) combination of the vibhavas (the Stimulants), the anubhavas (the physical
Consequents) and the vyabhicharibhavas (the Transient Emotional States). Natyarasa is the primary
emotion generated by the interaction of the various bhavas. It is presented by the appropriate
modulation of the voice, the movements of the body and the involuntary reactions that favourably
impact the aesthetic sensibility of the spectator.
This theory of Rasa enunciated by Bharata and interpreted by his major commentator
Abhinavagupta(10th century), has interested the followers of both the scholastic and the performing
traditions in India for the last 2000 years. It has provided an invaluable aesthetic framework for the
literary arts (chiefly poetry, fiction and drama), the performing arts (mainly dance, theatre and music),
the fine arts (basically painting and sculpture), and the combined arts (like architecture).

300 AD 600 AD
The Gupta period
The period of the Gupta kings shone in literary excellence. It is often described as the Golden Age of
culture, arts and learning in ancient India. Kalidasa, who was in the court of Vikramditya (380-413 AD),
epitomises the artistic accomplishments of the Gupta period. He was a lyrical poet and a writer of epics
and plays. The poem Meghadoot, the epic Raghuvamsha and the play Shakuntala are some of his
creative masterpieces that adorn the Indian literary tradition. The - numerous references to music and
dance in Kalidasas works show the importance accorded to music in mans life during his period.
kalidasas works mention musical instruments like the Parivadini vina, Vipanchi vina, Pushkar, Mridang,
Vamshi and Shankha, different types of songs like the Kakaligeet, Streegeet and Apsarogeeti, technical
terms like Murchana, Swarasaptaka and Tana and qualities of voice like Kinnarkanthi and Valguvagam.
Vatsyayana wrote his famous manual, Kamasutra (400 AD) during this period. In it, he lists 64 Kalas or
arts essential to refined living, which include singing, playing musical instruments and dancing.
The Buddhist monk, Fa-I-lien, travelled far and wide in the country for several years during the Gupta
period. He noted his impressions about the remarkable prevalence of music in social life.
The Gupta king Harshavardhan
(606-648 AD), was himself a singer. There are references to music making in his plays, Nagananda,
Ratnavali and Priyadarshika. A story in the Panchatantra (fifth century), one of the most celebrated
compilations of fables ever produced by mankind, also refers to music.
The tradition of Indian art music ourished in four kinds of performing spaces: sacrificial areas, temple
precincts, stages and platforms and princely courts. The character of each of these spaces determined
the pitch, volume and timbre of music.
The music associated with the sacrificial hall was mainly the mantras, which were recited as well as
sung. The words, their enunciation and their appropriateness for the ritual were the supreme
considerations. Musical instruments were employed, but their role was secondary.
In the closed or semi-closed structures of temple-spaces, the effects of echo and reverberation were felt.
The effect of instrumental and vocal timbres was more pronounced. Hence these were developed. This
comes through in the number of instruments used, and the individual capacity of each to produce a
greater variety of sounds. From the Gupta age onwards varied musical genres were practised within the
The courtyard of the temple allowed another kind of music-making called the samaj. Visiting artists
were also allowed to perform. in these soirees. Yet another format that evolved in the temple space was
the ghata - nibandhan, which was collective dance and music. Temple-spaces have thus fostered art,
folk, - religious and popular music.
The stage or the platform was a space, which was a necessary and important part of an auditorium or a
theatre. Natyashastra elaborately described three kinds of theatre, differing in their size and shape.
Music from the stage had to be heard as well as seen; hence the skilful used of stage space was
necessary. Bharatas detailed instructions about the kutapa or the orchestra bring put the close
relationship between the kind of music performed and the quality of stage space.
The princely court was the most organised performing space. All kinds of music were rendered from the
princely court as all the external conditions could be controlled. Delicate effects and subtle nuances
could be conveyed. There was also a much better interaction between the stage performer and the

Music in Puranas
A Purana traditionally treats five ubjects: the primary creation of
the universe secondary creation after periodic annihilation, the genealogy of gods and saints, grand
epochs, and the history of the royal dynasties. Into this core subject a Purana incorporates other
religious accretions like, customs, ceremonies, sacrifices, festivals, caste duties, donations, construction
of temples and idols, and places of pilgrimage. Stories in the Puranas highlight the universal theme of the
receiving of musical. knowledge as a divine boon. The Puranas also bring out the prestige that music was
accorded. in human and social life. The Puranas were passed on from one generation to the next through
the oral tradition. It is believed that all the major Puranas were in circulation by 100 AD. They were
gradually compiled and consolidated between 400 AD and 1000 AD.of the 18 Puranas, three dwell at
some length on music. The Vayupurana is regarded as a very early purana that originated around 300
AD. lt refers to music as gandharva. The music of this Purana deals with the rituals performed during the
different phases of a sacrifice.
The Markandeyapurana is one of the smallest puranas. It came into being between 400 and 500 AD.
Through a dialogue between Saraswati and Ashvatara, a king of Nagas or serpents, it offers interesting
insights into music. Saraswati offers a boon to the King who desires nothing but the knowledge of the
musical notes or swaras.
The Vishnudharmottarapurana, which is traced to 400-500 AD, touches on almost all the arts, although
having very little original material. It devotes one chapter each to Geet and Vadya.

Dattilam: gandharvshastra: moving towards rogo

The music of ragas, as we know it today, is the culmination of a long process of development in musical
thinking that aimed to meaningfully organise melodic and tonal material. A landmark step towards the
evolution of the raga was taken when sama-gayan gave way to gandharva gaan as the mainstiream of the
sacred music of India. Dattilam, dated roughly 400 AD, is the main text for this music.
This text discusses parent tonal frameworks (grama), the 22 micro-tonal intervals (srutis) placed in one
octave-space, the process of sequential re-arrangement of notes (murchana), and the permutations and
combinations of notesequences (tanas).
Dattilain also describes the 18 jatis which are the fundamental melodic structures for the jati-gayan. The
jatis have ten basic characteristics, which closely resemble the structuring and elaboration of the
contemporary raga in Hindustani music. The names of some jatis like andhri, oudichya may reflect their
regional origins, as do the names of many Hindustani ragas today, e.g. Sorath, Khamaj, Kanada, Gauda,
Multani and Iaunpuri. Jati-gayan was entirely pre-composed. However, Hindustani music stressed
improvisation which completely changed its nature. But the approach and concepts of Dattilam made
the transition from sama-music to the contemporary raga-music significant and smooth.

600 AD - I200 AD The Deshi in music

Brihaddeshi (The Great Treatise on the Regional), by Matanga was the first work to describe music in
the period after Bharata, before the advent of Islam began to inuence music. Matanga probably hailed
from south India. Brihaddeshi is the first major and available text to describe the raga, which has been
the central concept in Indian art music for centuries. It also introduced the sargarn, or notation in the
names of notes. In Matangas discussion of musical scales and micro-tonal intervals he clarifies what
Bharata had said in the Natyashastra.
One of Matangas major contributions is his scholarly focus on the regional element in music. Deshi has
to be understood in contrast to Mlargi music, which is sacred and pan-lndian in its scope. According to
Matanga, Deshi is that which is sung voluntarily and with delight and pleasure by women, children,
cowherds and kings in their respective regions. Deshi music captured the flavour of a range of human
emotions from different regions. Through notes it was formalised into ascending and descending scales.

Rages, talus and

The present system of Indian music stands on two important pillars: raga and tala. Raga is the melodic
form while tala is the rhythm underlying music. Together, raga and tala distinguish Indian music from
many other musical systems or the world. The rhythm. of music is explored through beats in time.
Melody evolved as the raga through several. processes; the tala resulted from a similar evolution in
Thus raga, which means colour or passion, became a framework to create music based on a given set of
notes (usually five to seven) and characteristic rhythmic patterns. The basic constituents of a raga can
be written down in the form of a scale (in some cases differing in ascent and descent). By using only
these notes, by emphasizing certain degrees of the scale, and by going from note to note in ways
characteristic to the raga, the performer sets out to create a mood or atmosphere (rasa) that is unique to
the raga in question.
The idea of the tala is embedded in the concept of time. In Hindustani music it is the artist who bestows
quality on Time. A musician marks the beginning of his tala whenever he wants. He also creates his
divisions in time. He thus creates the first beat. The flow of time is now released channelled and
directed. The artist then creates a beat to mark the first division or segment. With this first division in
time the flow becomes comprehensible. The artist subsequ.ently puts in successive and equidistant
strokes. He thus makes available to us the matra, a measure to compute musical time. The duration
between two matras is known as the tempo. The release of the time flow and the determination of the
measure to compute it are the primary requirements to make a tala.
Cyclical and repetitive time-patterns composed of groups of long and short duration time divisions are
talas, as We know them today. In every tala in Hindustani art music clapping (tali), tapping of fingers
and waving of the palm (khali or kal) are analogous. These weave a pattern of sound and silence. Ancient
treatises enumerate 108 talas. However, contemporary performances are normally restricted to about
15 talas.
Talas gain life and body when instruments play their role. instrumental sounds, when expressed
onomatopoeically, formulate sound syllables. These sound syllables, when fitted suitably to the tala-
divisions, create thekas, the tala-expression that is actually played an.d heard in Hindustani music.
Thus the talas function as accompanying entities in Hindustani music and dance. They also serve as the
basis for solo renditions in rhythm music.

The Muslim Political Backdrop in India

Hindustani art music began to evolve after pre-medieval Indian music passed through certain stages of
transformation and development till the beginning of the 11th century. Many Indian and non-Indian
cultures took an active part in this transformation. Around the 9th century, the Sufis secured a firm
foothold in India with their great love for music and acceptance of many indigenous customs. The
followers of Nizamuddin Chishti (1324 AD) included the Basant and Rang celebrations in their
religious practices. Similarly during the time of Kaikubad (1287-1290 AD), both Farsi and Hindi songs
found a place in performances.
The advent of Islam at the end of the 12th century brought Persian music and culture with it. The
attitude of the Muslim rulers toward Hinduism varied. Some like Aurangzeb (1658-1707) were strongly
anti-Hindu. Others like the great Akbar (1556-1605) were well-disposed towards their Hindu subjects.
Muslim India had a. long, complex and eventful cultural history. Ultimately it became an inextricable
part of the Indian cultural ethos.

1200 AD -1700 AD
The Delhi Sultanate:
Amir Khusro
In 1262, when he was nine years old, Amir Khusro began to compose poetry. I-Ie composed almost half a
million verses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Braj Bhasha, Hindawi and Khacli Boli. He is supposed to have
enriched or invented qawali, qasida, qalbana, naqsh and many others forms of music. Varying degrees of
secularity permeated these musical forms. The zeelaph and sarparcla ragas are also associated with
Khusro lived for 70 years. During 60 of those years, that is, between 1265 and 1325, Khusro spent time
in the courts of as many as ten different Muslim rulers. Each court he stayed in was culturally active and
different from the others. khusros stay in Multan brought him in contact with Persian music, while his
visit to Bengal exposed him to the music of the Vaishnavite tradition.
During his time at the ruler Kaikubads court, Avadh-based music and musicians secured a firm footing
in Delhi. Three Khilji monarchs became his patrons successively. Each signalled a rnusico-cultural
change. Ialaluddin, the first Khilji, was enthusiastic about secular music. Allauddin Khilji worked with
Sufi saints through Khusro, and was instrumental in introducing diverse musical elements in Delhi.
The number of different patrons that Khusro had, and the places he worked in, enabled him to get
exposed to and assimilate diverse musical influences. Khusro is said to have created a new system of
musicology, called Indraprastha Mata or Chaturdandi : Sampradaya. He also brought into circulation
the two specific musical genres of tarana and kaul, which complemented the prevalent array of
musical forms. Neither, however, was novel to the Indian musical scene. This only reinforced the tact
that Khusros Indianisation of the Islamic musical tradition complemented the Hindu tradition.

Sangeet Ratnakara
The medieval age was characterised by an impressive and varied musical expression. There was an
abundance of musical instruments. Drums and rhythminstruments, in particular were widel y used.
Sharangdeva (1210-1247 AD), the author of the famous Sangeet Ratnakara, explains the construction
and the techniques of playing 14 kinds of drums. This musicological treatise is so highly regarded that
the two important systems of art music in lndia, Hindustani and Carnatic, try to trace their basic
concepts to it. The mention of names of ragas like the turushka todi and the turushka gaud in this text
show the percolation of the Islamic influence into Indian music. Ratnakara emphasised the ever
changing nature of music, the increasing role of regional influences on it and the increasing complexity
of musical material that needed to be systemised time and again. Sharangdeva is firmly tethered to the
prevalent musical practices of his time. His stress is consistently on the lakshya, the music in vogue as
against ancient music.

Raja Mansingh
Raja Mansingh Tomar of Gwalior (1486-1516 AD) was the driving force behind introducing and
consolidating Dhrupad, a genre of Hindustani music that enjoys esteem even today. He replaced
traditional Sanskrit songs by- Hindi songs. He is also credited with composing three volumes of songs:
(i) Vishnupadas (songs in praise of lord Vishnu), (ii) Dhrupads, and (m) Hori and Dhamar songs
associated with Holi. Mansinghs support gave pride of place to these genres. He also thus related music
to the lives and language of the laymen
He was a generous patron of the arts. Both Hindu and Muslim musicians were employed in his court.
With the talent available in his court he initiated a major project to systematise the prevalent music. It
was this project that resulted in the creation of that comprehensive treatise on music in Hindi,
Mankutuhal .

The Bhakti movement

This was a devotional movement emphasising the intense emotional attachment of a devotee towards
his personal god. The term Bhakti is first used around 800 BC in Pali literature. The devotional fervour
of the Alwars and the Nayanars, the saints who lived in South India between the 5th and the 10th
centuries, also travelled north.
In due course Bhakti became a widespread Hindu religious movement and way of life, inspiring copious
volumes of superb religious poetry and art.
The Bhakti cult spread to the north in the 14th and 15th centuries, where it resonated with the Rama
and Krishna devotional cults. Theoreticians like Ramanujacharya and Ramananda and saint-poets like
Kabir and Tulsidas belonged to the Rama tradition. Vallabhacharya and his contemporary Sri Chaitanya
spearheaded two separate Krishna cults in the 17th century. The Vallabha cult directly contributed to
the theory and practice of music. This impacted Hindustani Art Music as well through Ashtachap, Pushti
and Haveli sangeet. By the 15th century, large parts of the areas under the sway of Hindustani Art Music
were well ahead in linguistic and literary development. Using the regional language, Braj, Avadhi or
whatever, as the vehicle, saint-composers were able to reach to people in social strata otherwise
impervious to the inuence of art and music. In the Bhakti movement as in Hindustani Art Music, songs
and composite presentations, using elements of speech, dance and drama, played a major role in
propagating ideas in art and music. The works of composers like Iayadeva (11th century), Vidyapati
(1375 AD), Chandidas (14th15th century), Bhakta Narasimha (1416-1475 AD) and Meerabai (1555-
1603 AD) are ready cases in point.
The Bhakti movement remains an isolated example of a collective use of the structures and stylistic
features of art music. Ashtochop, Pushti and Haveli sangeet Vallabhacharya propounded the
Shudhadvaita Vedanta (pure non-dualism) or Pushtimarga (the road to grace). His sect was known as
the Rudra Sampradaya. The Vallabhacharya cult revived an older stream of music. The religious and
musical procedures of the cult were systematized by Vallabhacharyas son Goswami Vitthalnathji (1516-
1698 AD). The Ashtachap stream of music was thus established (1607-8 AD). It was named after the
eight musical acharyas or preceptors who composed the music of the cult. The legendary Tansen too
came under its inuence. Haveli sangeet was the temple music practised by the Pushti Margi
Sampradaya. Nathadwara in Rajasthan was the main seat of this Vaishnava devotional cult. The cult has
created a rich historical tradition of temple-based music described as Haveli sangeet. Haveli is a
temple visualised as a palace that the deity chooses to live in. The musical history of the post-Ashtachap
period of Pushti-sangeet coexists with many developments in Hindustani Art Music The advent of the
Dhrupad, Khayal and Tappa, the dissociation of dance from music, and the shift from the pakhawaj to the
tabla, all happened during this period.

Tansen, the legendary musician of Akbars court, had his early training in the school founded by Raja
Mansingh Tomar of Gwalior. Among the many works attributed to him are a treatise named the
Ragamala, many Dohas describing the lakshanas or the attributes of ragas, Sangeet Saar, and Shri
Ganesh Stotra. According to some scholars, Tansen reduced the 4000 ragas and raginis of his time into a
system of 400. He also reduced 92 talas to 12. He is said to have createdmany ragas like Miyan Malhar
and Miyan ki todi. Tansens Senia gharana divided into two streams. His elder son Bilaskhan headed the
Rabab-players gharana and his second son Suratsen the sitar-players gharana.

The Mughals - Music in Akbars court

During the Mughal period, and especially under Akbars reign, temple music took a back seat and Darbar
Sangeet came into being. Music was composed mainly to eulogise patrons.
Information about music in Akbars court comes from the Ain e Akbari of Abul Fazl (1551- 1602 AD).
Abul was a courtier in Akbars darbar. There were numerous musicians in the court, Hindus, Iranis,
Kashmiris and Turanis, both men and women. The musicians were divided into seven orders. There was
one for each day of the week. Headed by the legendary Tansen, there were 19 singers, three who
chanted and several instrumental musicians. The main instruments were the sarmandal, bin, nay, karna
and tanpura. The musicians came from far and wide, and the music was rich and varied. Akbars court
was witness to a complete fusion of the Persian and Indian music systems.

Muslim influence on music

India in the sixteenth century was politically and geographically fragmented. There were also multiple
cultural forces at work. More than nine rulers vied with each other to promote their own respective
court cultures. Commoners were allowed freedom in matters like religion. In various courts a
sophisticated court culture evolved and crystallised. This enabled the emergence of a chunk of art or
classical music distinct from devotional or folk music. This court music exhibited a great deal of Muslim
The Kitab-e-nauras of Ibrahim Adil Shah-II (1580-1626 AD) of
Bijapur vividly describe the court music of this period. The work reflects the confrontation between the
prevalent and flourishing musical traditions in the South and the one taking shape under Muslim
influence. Ibrahim Adil Shah was the moving spirit behind the famous Ragamala painting, pictorially
representing the musical modes. Jehangir (1605-27 AD) was genuinely interested in music and
generously patronised the
art. His Jehangirnama describes in detail the music enjoyed by his court. Aurangzeb (1618-1707 AD)
was a puritan unfavourably disposed to music. But he patronised one major effort to shed light on the
music current
in his times.
He enabled the publication of Ragadarpana. This was Fakirullah Saifkhans translation into Persian, in
1665-6 AD, of Raja Mansinghs Mankutuhal written two centuries earlier. It was not a complete
translation of Mankutuhal. But it contained the history of music between the times of Mansingh and
Aurangzeb. It also describes the art music of the 17th century. 1700 AD onwards
The Modern Period Music in India, and especially art music, went through a metamorphosis for four
centuries from the sixteenth, to result in the Hindustani music of today. This modern period saw an
increasing number of musicological works in Persian, Urdu, Hindi and other regional languages, instead
of Sanskrit. All these tell us the story of how Hindustani Art Music, as we know it today, evolved and took
From the beginning of the nineteenth century many Indian scholars began to publish material on
Hindustani music in English as well as in regional languages. This was a welcome addition to the works
of the early British Indologists. The modern period saw the birth of many of the musical forms dominant
today, like Khayal and thumri. With the central Mughal power in Delhi weakening after Aurangzebs
death, there was a quick succession of emperors. One of them was the legendary Muhammadshah
Rangile (1716-1748 AD). He was a loving and generous patron to many musicians. It was in his court
that Nyamatkhan, popularly known as Sadarang, invented a new genre, the Khayal.
The nineteenth century saw the birth of Nawab Wajid Ali Shahs pageants, jogia jashan. In these
pageants the king, his palace maids and his subjects paraded as yogis. These presentations of Krishna-
lore sowed the seeds of Modern Hindustani Theatre. The thumri form of romantic and devotional music
also became popular in the 19th century. The prototype of the thumri is traced to the Chhalikya
presentation in the Harivamsha (400 AD). The Chhalikya genre combined song and dance with dramatic
Ramnidhi Gupta, or Nidhubabu (1741-1839 AD), gave us the Bengali tappa, a new genre. This
assimilated the features of the Tappa in Hindustani music and the lilting rhythm of Bengali music.
Nidhubabus compositions were in Bengali and were secular in content They were different from the
usual devotional model of singing about love through mythological pairs, usually Radha and Krishna.
Another musical stalwart of the 19th century was Sourendramohan Tagore, (1840-1915 AD). The
mission of his life was to make Hindustani music international in its appeal and reach.
In the early 20th century, two people revolutionised Indian music: Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar
and Pandit Vishnu Narayana Bhatkhande V. D. Paluskar (1872-1931 AD) introduced the first music
colleges. He gave an entirely new perspective to the education and propagation of music. It was his
efforts that elevated music and musicians in the social hierarchy V.N.Bhatkhande (1860-1937 AD)
pioneered the introduction of an organised musical system reecting current performance practices.
The historical tradition of music in India was completely disrupted during the medieval times. Since
then, music in India has changed so considerably that no correlation or correspondence was possible
between Sanskrit musicological texts and the music practised in modern times. It was Bhatkhande who
bridged this enormous gulf. He successfully undertook the arduous task of restating the musicological
framework underlying contemporary musical performance.
He did extensive musicological fieldwork across the length and breadth of the country. He meticulously
collected data on music, and documented and analysed performing traditions. His literature on music
remains unparallelled even today and is essential for a systematic study of Hindustani Art Music. It
elucidates his views on grammatical structures, historical evolution, performance norms and aesthetic
criteria relevant to Hindustani music. He classified a total number of 1800 compositions from the major
gharanas accessible to him, dividing them in ten thaats according to his codication. Gharunos The term
gharana is derived from the Hindi word ghar. This in turn can be traced to the Sanskrit word griha,
which means family or house. The gharana concept gained currency only in the nineteenth century
when the royal patronage enjoyed by performers weakened. Performers were then compelled to move
to urban centres.
To retain their respective identities, they fell back on the names of the regions they hailed from.
Therefore, even today, the names of many gharanas refer to places. Some of the -gharanas well known
for singing khayals are: Agra, Gwalior, Patiala, Kirana, Indore, Mewat, Sahaswan, Bhendibazar and
Jaipur. A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology This ideology sometimes
changes substantially from one gharana to another. It directly affects the thinking, teaching,
performance and appreciation of music.
For instance, the leisurely development of ragas as well as the premium placed on emotional content of
music narrows the choice of ragas available to the Kirana gharana founded by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan
(1872-1937 AD). The Agra gharana, founded by Ghagge Khudabux (born in 1800 AD) has a rich
repertoire of varied types of musical compositions. The followers of the gharana sang many rare ragas.
The treatment of each new raga is always as detailed as that of any known raga.
The Jaipur gharana founded by Ustad Alladiya Khan (1855-1945 AD), is well known for its penchant for
rare ragas. They are its staple fare. The music made by the gharana is replete with intricate patterns. The
gharana seems to concentrate solely on khayal.
There are also gharanas for thumris. In the Benaras thumri, the words in the text of a song are musically
embellished to bring out their meaning. The Lucknow gharana presents intricately embellished and
delicate thumris that are explicit in their eroticism. The principal feature of the thumri of the Patiala
gharana is its incorporation of the tappa from the Punjab region. It is with this tappa element that the
gharana makes its impact, departing from the khayal-dominated Benaras thtunris and the dance-
oriented Lucknow thumris.
The concept of hereditary musicians was not confined to vocal music alone. Hence there are also
gharanas in instrumental music. The gharanas of the tabla are Lucknow, Delhi, Ajrada, Punjab, Benaras
and Farukkabad, among others. The gharanas of the pakhawaj, an instrument established earlier than
the tabla, are not named after places but after their main protagonists like Kudau Singh and Panse.
(Courtesy: WWW.itcsra.org
History of Hindustani Classical Music)