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Music Rudra Veena Theory & Techniques Of Tantric Music Thomas Marcotty</a>"
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How to conjure
with sounds

Rudra Veena:
The Theory and
of Tantric Music

with a C-90


The Way-Music

K. GO R tt fl

teaz 5

hemin de Rov6r

To the rickshaw
and the taxi wallahs of
Calcutta, without their
helpfulness and familiar¬
ity with all places this
book could never have
been completed.

Thomas Marcotty


How to Conjure with Sounds?


Rudra Veena:

The theory and technique of Tantric music


Marcotty, Thomas

“The Way-Music”


“How to conjure with

sounds—Rudra Veena: The
Theory and Technique of
Tantric music”

ISBN 88-900002-0-1


Decisio Editrice S.A.

Via alia Campagna 2 A
CH-Lugano C567,

Sole Agents for India:

Munshiram Manoharlal
Oriental Publishers
54, Rani Jhansi Road
New Delhi 55, India

Copyright 1980:
Thomas Marcotty

All rights reserved. No part

of this publication may be
reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any
means, electronic or me¬
chanical, including photo¬
copy, recording, or any in¬
formation storage and re¬
trieval system, without per¬
mission in writing from the


1. Foreword by Arvind Parikh . 7

2. Invocation . . . .. 9

3. The Method .H

4. The Respondents.13

5. On Occult Teachings.15

6. Styles of Thinking.17

7. On Asian Arts .20

8. Rites as Measuring Tools.26

9. The City of Kali .33

10. Tantra.36

11. The Light-Wave-Formation .42

12. Instruments .^7

13. The Sound-Wave-Formation.56

14. The Magic Whirlwind.63

15. Searching for the Cardiac Tone.71

16. The Times of Sacrificing.80

17. Obscure Languages.86

18. Bending the Time.95

19. The End .104

20. Instructions on the Cassette .108

21. Notes.HI

22. Bibliography .129

Ragamala painting , Western
style , gouache on paper , de¬
picting the sound-wave-for -
mation Ruga Todi.

1. Foreword

I first met Thomas Marcotty in 1971. He came to my office quite unex¬

pectedly and enquired whether I could help him in having deeper insight into
the realm of Indian music. His first visit was followed by many more and I can
still visualise Thomas with his Uher tape recorder and a Minolta camera and his
quaint smile from which seemed inseparable. It was not unusual for Thomas to
return to Europe often carrying huge plywood boxes containing priced musical
instruments obtained by him through persuasion and constant follow up of

Unlike many of our friends visiting India to get a glimpse of Indian music—
some to study the sitar, Thomas Marcotty could be called an exception as he
took the unusual step at the very outset in concentrating on the technical side
of Indian music and musical instruments. Often one would find him sitting in
the small shops of instrument makers discussing many technical points such as
the diameter of the strings, different qualities of woods, strength of glues used
to make instruments and so on.

Initially, Thomas was interested in the technical aspect of instrument

making and he made no apparent effort to play an Indian instrument himself.
He prefered to wander around in the musical bylines of North India with files,
pincers, some ends of wire, a gauge meter and several other gadgets used by
instrument makers. It was therefore no surprise to me to read his widely accepted
publication on the maintenance of Indian stringed instruments entitled “Djovari—
Giving Life to the Sitar” as a natural outcome of his musical zest. It would be
no exaggeration to sav that such a written and elaborate description of the
Jawari and its technics on the basis of scientific research was attempted perhaps

for the first time in relation to Indian music. (The Jawari is the process of
the bridge of the Indian stringed instruments in order to enrich its sound with

It is not unusual to find many of our foreign friends who study Indian
music and have initial keenness but lose interest after sometime—maybe because
they find Indian music too different from the systems they are used to, or the
conditions in the country not palateable. But, Thomas Marcotty never relented.
No sooner he found himself challenged by the intellectual and technical riddles
of our music, he probed deeper and, in fact, started playing one of our more
difficult instruments—the Rudra-Veena. In other words, he doubled his efforts
on both directions i.e. instrument making and instrument playing and this cer¬
tainly is not the usual traditional manner in which students of Indian music
proceed. As a journalist by profession he preferred to apply literary and demos-
copic techniques to discover Indian music—not an easy task considering that
our traditions find their roots into distant history thousands of years away.

The scientific approach—interviewing knowledgeable experts systemati¬

cally naturally led to an unusual but useful result: a book on Indian music at¬
tempting to translate tradition into printed study depicting the subject in the
light of an objective and perhaps different reality. The product of Thomas Mar-
cotty’s efforts was not resulting from an academic study of books or teachings
of masters, but was a projection of practical experience of the life styles of con¬
temporary Indian people and crystalising their opinions relating to the impact
of Indian music on the Society as a whole. Therefore, his book “Way Music
is not just another standard book on Indian music but one which covers a fairly
large spectrum of Indian life and Indian thinking. The useful book would cer¬
tainly serve as an intellectual guidebook especially for non-Indians who are
interested in different aspects of Indian Culture including Music.

Arvind Parikh, Bombay

2. Invocation

He with His lovely ears

who is called Ganapati,

Lord of wisdom.

He with the elephant’s head

about Him I meditate
before I commence:
dhadhinta dhiranaga tirakita
He with His rounded belly
and His (single) tusk
dha, tirakita.

He with His rounded belly

and His (single) tusk,
dha, tirakita.

He with His rounded belly

and His (single) tusk. Dha.

Ganesha invocation mixed

ivith syllables from the drum¬
mers' language adressing the
elephant-headed god of suc¬
cess , normally portrayed with
only one tusk. The picture is
taken from an old Ragamala-
book made of palm leaves;
see note 69.

A prince with his veena;

drawing by an unknown
Indian artist; 18th century.

3. The Method


What is it actually all about with magic ? What does a magician do ?

Which are the prerequisites he operates with ? What are the theories he uses as a
basis ? This book describes a magic system. It is intended to explain to the reader
which modes of thinking to train and to employ in order to understand magic
practices. These practices—more about them later—usually stand for sacrifice
or invocation rituals; unless you possess an exact knowledge of them you will
be lost as a magician. The invocation in turn invariably serves this purpose: to
assure the magician of the assistance of extraterrestrial powers in order to elim¬
inate temporarily or within certain limits the effects of our terrestrial laws of
nature. This may amount to, for instance: produce rain in order to avert the
danger of a drought. Or: neutralize the laws of chance at gambling to one’s own
benefit. Or: win the love of a beautiful and ric h girl in spite of the fact that
are yourself a poor and ugly fellow.

It might as well be pointed out at this juncture that magic is nevertheless

no playground for Stone Age people or illiterates. Magic practices rather tend
to get transformed into visible systems, whenever people, societies, or even
individuals had to live in the face of great risks, hence under the impression of
imminent danger. Children as well adolescents very often have to cope with this
kind of exaggerated risk in fear of what is to come. The same, however, applies
to gamblers of all types, such as politicians, entrepreneurs, and the addicts of
roulette. But above all it is the people of the tropics who, more than anyone
else, have to coexist with imponderable forces such as famine, disease, or natural
disaster and who will then resort to magic practices to give Fate a turn in their
favour and to reduce their additional risks of life. Where there is fear there
is also magic.

The type of magic described in this book has its origin in India. It ranks
among the highest developed magic systems which exist at all. \et this system
is not based upon the common form of sacrificing—best known in the form ot

the slaughtering (crucification) of a human being or of a white cockerel—but
instead in the way of sounds, of music. At the same time it is not a matter of
purposeless musical art the way you hear it in the radio or performed in a concert
hall, but it is applied music, signal music, a ‘way music’, a ‘music of the path’
of a kind hardly known in the West.

But how to collect reliable information on a subject not at all edgy?

After a number of attempts a regular survey by interviewing the experts still
living in India has proved to be a feasable way of going about it. The object of
this survey extending over a period of nearly five years is a secret teaching,
namely the theory and technique of playing the rudra-veena (2). The rudra-
veena or in short the veena is an Indian musical instrument which until recent
times was used for playing the ‘way music’, the ‘music of the path’, hence for
magic purposes, for magic by sound. The survey served a double purpose. First
of all it was intended to supply a documentation on this type of occult science
which is to-day about to fade into oblivion, thus recording it for the first time
and thereby preserving it. On the other hand this report is meant to explain also
to non-experts down to the very detail how this secret teaching is constituted,
e.g. how to practice sound magic and in which system of coordinates the veena -
players used to live, feel, perceive, and think.

Let us start with an explanation as regards the point of departure: veenas

have been quite frequently mentioned in Indian literature, approximately since
the 2nd century A.D. Probably the earliest if somewhat vague picture (3) of a
veena goes back to about the year 600 A.D. In the ideas of present day Indians the
rudra-veena has still retained its fixed position because this instrument appears
in the graphic arts of the Mogul era (4), in the Shiva cult, and as an attribute
of the goddess Sharasvati (5) which indicates that it is about as familiar to
as is the harp in the Occident: everybody knows what a harp is, yet hardly anyone
is closely acquainted with it. There remains something of the old awe: riding
propped up high on a rickshaw, with a veena shouldered, down Chitpur Road,
Calcutta’s Fifth Avenue, you will be followed by a thousand startled eyes.

There is actually no lack of sources supplying information on veena-

playing. But the water coming from these sources is strangely clouded. The
miniature painters (6) of the Mogul times who are otherwise devoted to truth
to nature, when it comes to depicting veenas , however, did without exception
pamt indistinctly or even so wrongly that these painters, if at all, must have

i —

Veena player as depicted in

the Ajanta caves around 600

known these instruments by hearsay at best. In the literature on music the word
veena first appears around Zero A.C. in a handbook for the directors of roving
theatre companies. The author of it, a man by the name of Bharata (7), describes
m such detail how to play the veena that the reader of liis book soon realizes:
what he delineates here is—a change in words ?—a bow harp, but not the rudra-
veena which belongs to the family of stick zithers.

Bharata’s literary epigones down to the 20th century limited themselves

to spreading naive legends (8) about the divine origin of the veena and the mirac¬
ulous effects of the sound it produces. Or they indulge in suspicious eulogies,
praising the ‘Indian lyre’ (9), without bothering to give reasons, as the queen of
string instruments, the symbol of wisdom and cognition, thus again arousing the
uncomfortable feeling that here something essential is being deliberately kept
secret or even that the authors are wilfully trying to lead the reader astray.

4. The Respondents


In view of these facts the situation was asking for brightening up that
peculiar twilight about the veena by way of interviewing experts on the subject.
In doing so, the foremost question arises how to trace them provided there still
are any experts. The rudra veena used to be played only in the North of India.
This means the triangle marked by Bombay, Kashmir, and Calcutta, thus essen¬
tially the Ganges region or indeed the very area were Hinduism, Islam, and the
diamond vehicle Buddhism of Tibet have merged.

Within this still vast area—for hours on end the traveller will see nothing
but paddy fields, children, and water buffalos—there are only a few promising
places for this kind of survey, namely the cities of Bombay, Delhi, and Varanasi,
but above all Calcutta. Calcutta with its alleged eight million inhabitants plays
in India a similar role as do New York for the United Staates. Amsterdam in
Holland, and for Germany Munich: if you are in search of what is rare, particular,
absurd, and obscure than you might find it in Calcutta rather than elsewhere.

So the nearest thing to do was to start in Calcutta and look for the experts
there. This was done by way of placing advertisements in the bi g local newspapers
like the ‘Jugantar’ or ‘Amrita Bazar Patrika’. These classified advertisements,
shyly placed sandwiched between the marriage market—‘Young Brahmin girl
desiring . . .’—and the Government of West-Bengal invitations to tender, scored
anything up to 30 replies each. However, only a small fraction of the respondents
were suitable to be used as suppliers of information. Either they had not
knowledge and could thus hardly contribute anything to the subject; or they

could only express themselves properly in minority languages like Urdu or Orya,
or there were other reasons—illness, advanced age, lack of a common basis of
understanding—practically excluding them from being interviewed.

In the course of time—the actual survey (10) could, mainly for climatic
reasons, only be conducted always in the month of December—a group was
forming which consisted of three professional musicians, a dhrupad (11) singer,
two musical-instrument makers, one dethroned prince, a professor of music, a
lawyer, one archaeologist, a non-medical practitioner, an export trader, a drum¬
mer, an indologist, plus one artist who could, all of them, properly express them¬
selves in English, who had some precise knowledge of one or the other section
of veena- playing, and who were last but not least also to furnish information.

The question is, can occult teachings be the object of a survey by inter¬
views at all ? Is it not rather their characteristic to be kept secret and thus not
be passed on ? However, this question—it practically never arose in the course
of the survey, by the way—should be put differently: occult teachings used to
be and still are almost invariably the property of secret societies. Such secret
societies—otherwise sanctimonious communities—are associations of minorities
aiming at protecting each other against the threat of some governmental power.
Among this type in Europe one would count religious sects such as the jGnqstics
and the Cathars who, as a safety precaution, had to keep their convictions con¬
cealed. Or they are guilds or similar guild-like associations who for reasons of
amassing money or power withhold some special knowledge. To this second

This drawing of a rudra

veena player and the fol¬
lowing pictures of the same
style are taken from a so-
called Ragamala-book. The
hook is in fact a palmleaf
manuscript entitled “ Raga-
Citra ”. It ivas discovered in
Orissa and edited bv Kabi-
chandra Kalicharan Patnaik
(Cuttack , 1966) and it teas
completed “on the 33rd An-
kra of the reign of Maharaja
Divyasingha Deva on the
seventh day of the New
Moon on the third day of the
week ” fin 1713 A.D.). As
we shall explain later these
pictures are said to be visual
forms of musical moods.

group of secret societies belong the masons, the Greek mystery leagues, the alche¬
mists, the Italian mafia, the Theosophical Society of Madras, the Ku-Klux-Klan,
and in the old days apparently also the veena players’ guild who used to be organ¬
ized in so-called gharanas (12).

5 . On Occult Teachings


All secret societies—although the protective and the profit making aims
may converge of course—look very much alike. Who wishes to become a member
must undergo an initiation ritual. As far as the veena-players are concerned—
more about this further down—the initiation is partly identical with learning
how to play the veena. In addition to this, the secret societies are generally run
in a rather authoritarian way meaning that obedience, including unreasonable
obedience, is one of the characteristics of the members of secret societies. And
thirdly they use a more or less occult language by which they will recognize
eachother. Yet lastly they have at their disposal some secret knowledge con¬
sisting of information they will hesitate to pass on to outsiders.
This actually secret knowledge comprises to a certain extent procedures
of craftsmanship such as the problem of how to produce a certain shade of ox-
blood red when glazing and baking pottery. Along with this will then go magic
agreements, common customs, and cosmologies. And this also applies to the
veena- players. Their secret science is to a lesser degree based upon
thus for instance dealing with problems of instrument-making, with techniques
of touch, with the selection of the strings and the preparation of the veenas in
order that the instruments shall produce the desired spectra of sounds. By far
the larger portion of the secret science should best be imagined to be something
like a puzzle i.e. like a multitude of elements, a concoction of astrologv, theory
of music, mathematics, palingenesis doctrine, a mother cult, yoga teachings,
a wave theory, animism, i.e. the belief in a nature to all of whose phenomena
living is attributed, a theory of arts, a mythology, but above all a multitude of
magic practices.

This secret teaching no longer belongs to the sphere of the non-com¬

municable. On the one hand veena -players are not subjected to governmental
First photograph of a veena
player shoiving Sufi Bande
Ali Khan with his instru¬
ment around 1890.


repression. As far as is known they had never been persecuted, not even by the
islamic rulers and their mullahs. On the other hand—as opposed to former times—
playing the veena to-day is no longer a means of making money and gaining
power. In short, the basis for secrecy has become void.

But there is yet another reason why secrecy has become pointless: all
secret teachings—paradoxical as it may appear at first sight—are mostly not at
all secret in the proper sense of the word. They just do not contain any informa¬
tion that you could not find in the Ecyclopaedia Britannica or Germany’s ‘Grosser
Brockhaus’ or buy for ten rupees in Calcutta’s Central Avenue. To put it in other
words, this secret teaching does not consist of its contents, such as astrological,
mathematical, or magic knowledge. The actual secret about it is the way in
which this partial information is combined, the system behind it. What is con-
ceiled is not the teaching, it is the key which is hidden, the ties, the context.

6. Styles of Thinking


The recognition of the context or the understanding—making this point

yet more precise—follows in the first place the style of perception and thinking.
In this connexion it is firstly a matter of a number of basic premises which one
can easily keep in mind, even if one does not subscribe to them. To start ^o£with,
there is the presumption that there do exist certain transcendental beings and on
different levels of abstraction at that, beginning with personified natural forces
like rain, lightnings, and drought. Then there are demons not unlike angels or
catholic Saints to whom specified tasks are often assigned. And eventually there
are highly abstract world principles materialized into ideas, philosophical con¬
cepts on the verge of namelessness, e.g. the idea of atman , the breath of this

Associated with these basic principles, however, are peculiar modes of

thinking which are at times hard to reproduce because either they are contrary
to the occidental rules of logic or they are more or less tabooed lest they might
weaken man in his struggle for survival. One of these unusual or inadmissable
modes of thinking without which one just cannot do when playing the veena is,
for example, an ahistorical, circular conception of time (13). A second figure is
substantive thinking and perceiving, and thirdly there is this operating with

vast, unlimited concepts. To give a clear idea of these figures of thought which
are essential for the understanding of the doctrine a number of little exercises
might be interposed at this point.

Initially a very simple exercise aiming at grasping ahistorical thinking:

according to an obviously widespread legend in India the rudra-veena was invented
by god Shiva. Shiva, they say—and this is what the respondents told too—woke
up one morning to find Parvati, his companion, still fast asleep. Apparently
Parvati was lying naked on her back with her forearm, adorned with bracelets,
folded across her bosom. This sight, i.e. the slender forearm embellished with
ornamental bands upon the seemingly enormous breasts, delighted Shiva to such
an extent that he decided to create a musical instrument after this image and

When hearing this little story the average Westerner will be lead to assume
that the invention of the veena was going back to ancient history, in other words
should be dated about 2.000 B.C. or even earlier. Since, as you will immediately
presume, a story as vague as this one could if at all only have occurred prior to
the beginning of historical research. Working on an assumption of plausibility
like this you would at once commit several errors and bar yourself the entrance
to the secret teaching. On the one hand you more or less tacitly presuppose that
to-day Shiva is dead, implying that he may at best have had the idea of the
veena while he was alive. It would be more correct and beneficial to understanding,
however, to imagine that Shiva is still alive, not having thought out the rudra-
veena once upon a time but continuing to invent it again and again as long as
this instrument keeps being built—something that has become fairly rare in our
day anyway.

The second error would be the assumption, mostly a matter of course

with occidental people, that history is stratiform, hence a sequence of events
which to vary the picture once more—are threaded like pearls on a string
whose one end is hidden in the remote past the other disappearing in an unknown
future. Such a historical thread-shaped notion of time may be of use to psychol¬
ogical hygiene because it enables you to file away and to dig out easily all events
like the coronation of Charlemagne or the invention of the veena and it puts you
in the position to draw a neat distinction between the past, the present, and
what is to come.

This thread-shaped one dimensional notion of time is unsuitable for the

understanding of the secret teaching, in spite of its practical advantages. The
doctrine presupposes at all events a spacious, two dimensional, and mostly circular
notion of time, a pattern without beginning nor end, where events reoccur void
of uniqueness something comparable to the fixed star Sirius: Shiva creates and
recreates the veena over and over again. Yet he does not—this is a matter of
farreaching consequences—create new veenas.


And here is an exercise with regard to substantive thinking (14): let us

suppose you have a friend. He plays the veena , his height is 172 centimetres, he
smokes ‘Charminar’, an Indian cigarette brand, and has—rare enough for Cal¬
cutta—blue eyes. According to Western modes of thinking you will register these
characteristics partly as adjectives and as attributive rather than essential. The
blue eyes you will consider to be incidental. Playing the veena and smoking
'Charminar’ will also appear to you as a mere label. In this way you will perceive
your friend in the shape of a bunch of qualities in which is envelopped his real
self, his substance, hardly ever visible. Your attributive type of thinking now
becomes evident should your friend eventually pass away one day. He ‘was’ a
Charminar smoker and a veena- player you would then say. But he is five foot
eight. All because you look upon his smoking and veena playing as being attributes
now come off. Yet his height and presumably also his blue eyes you would ascribe
to his substance.

Now, such a quite indiscriminate kind of attribution would not lead to

the real insight either. You might as well—and let us recommend this to you for
a moment—regard that cigarette smoking as essential, as something substantial
and not attributive and this even if your friend, years ago, might have happened
to smoke one packet of 'Charminar’. Neither could you regard his veena playing
as a losable quality but, instead,—why not actually?—as forming part of his
substance. In this way you will in pursuing this principle arrive at a substantive
view, at a non-analytical but essential perception.

After ahistorical thinking and substantive perceiving now comes an

exercise with regard to essential conception: you are sitting in the Mahajati
Sadan, Calcutta’s traditional concert-hall. There is a veena- player performing on
Ragamala paintings are nor¬
mally accompanied by eulo-
gies. But the pictures and
the ivords of praise do not
alivays match. The damsel
on this picture for example
(sound-ivave-formation Raga
Dhanasee) evidently looks at
herself in a mirror. Never¬
theless the accompanying eu-
l°gy explains : 66 Dhanasee's
ca ptivating beauty is light
green in complexion. She is
aT tful and is busy writing on
a tablet to her husband and a
torrent of tears gushing from
her eyes washes her bust”.
the stage. At the same time your neighbour to your right is cracking peanuts,
and—simultaneously again—your left neighbour is chatting with his next man;
as far as that sort of thing is concerned Indian concert-goers hardly know any
scruples. With your narrow conceptions you will now draw a sharp dividing line
between the sounds on the stage—meaning music—, the noise—i.e. cracking
peanuts—, and thirdly the conversation of your neighbour. This sort of mincing
differentiation—a result of your education—may make you fit for survival but
it does not in so far serve for cognition. Here again you might try it in another
way and maybe remove the partition wall between music and speech: perhaps
the veena player is telling a story ? Is he narrating^ by his instrument ? Does he
possibly articulate syllables and sentences ? Or does he produce sounds related
to the cracking of peanuts ? Can you succeed in perceiving as one unit the music,
the cracking of peanuts, and the conversation and reeducate your multi-channel
ear to complex listening ?

Let us sum up: playing the veena is a secret science. This secret teaching
consists to a lesser extent of regularly secret knowledge, i.e. withheld
It much more and preponderantly consists of familiar and in parts trivial subject-
matter. The secret teaching, however, becomes transparent once you group
these contents according to certain rules and rearrange them in a way unusual
to everyday thinking. These rules are all based upon the principle of dissolving
taught relationships and putting the contents together to form differently shaped
figures, i.e. to think and to perceive differently. Part of these rules is that
torical, not stratiform conception of time with neither before nor after, that
unqualified substantive perception, and thirdly operating with limitless notions.

7. On Asian Arts

After all that you may tend to suppose that learning to play the veena
must be something of a rather jphantastic nature. But this is not so. Looking at
it purely from the outside veena lessons to-day do not extremely differ from
private music lessons,in the West. This means, the teacher and his pupil are
sitting opposite eachother in a room whitewashed in green colour—in India
most rooms are painted green. The teacher plays to the student and he in turn

As we read in old books the

Way Music was first re¬
vealed by the Self-existing-
One to Narada, a music-
saint. On this picture Narada
for his part hands down the
principles of the way music
to (the sound-wave-forma¬
tion) Salaka , represented by
a veena-player being “oj
dark complexion ” and
“Brahmin by birth ”.

repeats. The only discussion will generally center around questions of practical
performance of modal music (15), in this case mostly micro-tone problems which
will be dealt with later.

Yet veena lessons could hardly be compared to violin instruction the

way this might be done in Zurich or Los Angeles. Hidden behind the picture
which is to-day very much alike are different traditions: in Zurich the tradition
of middle-class domestic music of the 19th century, but in Calcutta the age-old
tradition of Asian arts. It might as well be mentioned before for the sake of
better understanding that to these belong Japanese archery, sword fencing,
flower arranging, and the tea ceremony, the Chinese arts of calligraphy and Tai-
Chi , a doctrine of movements derived from rules of fighting and similar to dance,
the Indian Yoga schools, and finally veena- playing. All these Asian arts—and
this is an important point—do not represent arts in the occidental sense of the
word. They are much rather a matter of systems of teaching and learning which
vary from Western types of instruction in the following manner:

the opus and its production are in the background. In other words, the
aim is not to produce an oil painting nor the capability to play fluentlv
and flawlessly a sonata from the music-sheet on a violin. What matters
is much more the intention to change the personality of the student —

Asian art, as opposed to the approach in the Occident, is not primarily

performed with the intent to entertain or to edify an audience. By its
very nature it is not public but, if you want to put it that way, a hidden
or private art —

Doctor Prakash Chandra

Sen, Calcutta , playing the
rudra veena.


Asian arts are copying. This means that the student may for years if not
forever be busy copying exactly and imitating certain examples — &lt;L

this in turn means, Asian art is opposed to innovation. The pupil should
orient himself by the old ahistoric examples but not at all create something
novel, by no means should he endeavour to find an ‘expression of his
own time’, unlike Western artists who would often attach so much im¬
portance to this —
Asian arts are based on the principle of tradition by word of mouth (16).
Thus, there just is no ‘Introduction into the art of playing the veena ’ on
sale for example. Likewise the veena music has never been recorded until
recent times but it was learnt by heart and then passed on from one gener¬
ation to the other —

judging by occidental standards the period of apprenticeship is rather

long. The only premium for the great effort—one need only consider the
loss of earnings involved—the pupil obtains is the promise of a never
quite precisely outlined elevated mode of existence or an advantageous
rebirth —

trustees of the oral tradition are invariably the master personalities who—
different from professors of fine arts and music teachers in Europe, Aus¬
tralia, or America—will embody this qualitatively improved mode of
existence and are hence called upon to meet a moral challenge (17) —

ijL Asian art goes back to the feudal era. Liberty, equality, and fraternity in
the master-pupil relationship are as good as non-existant even if master
and pupil—a thing which happens occasionally—belong to the same
generation —

the economic circumstances of the masters—more about this in a moment—

are in many cases problematical and invite criticism because the price-
performance ratio (18) of their offers escape any even approximate control.

These nine elements characterize the Asian arts—on this all respondents
were agreed. They do not experience this, under Western aspects possibly queer,
kind or teaching and learning as essentially different, opposed or contrary to the
Western understanding of arts and they notice in so far—despite occasionally
good knowledge of Western conditions—actually only small distinctions. This,
however, does not imply that the respondents accept the system without criticism
of any sort. Leaving aside for a moment all marginal objections, this criticism is
directed against the masters—called gurus in India.

The fourteen respondents of the central group, among them eight part-
time or full-time gurus, expressed in sometimes harsh words their disapproval
of their frequent lack of spirituality—or ‘lack of transcendental values’—as well
as the naked greed of the masters. This is, by the way, a favourite topic in the
Indian press because the guru nuisance in India—far worse than in the United
States even—is giving rise to the queerest practices: embezzlement, swindling,
and now and then more serious crimes too. The Government in New Delhi has
done something with a view to checking this national menace at least in the
field of music; something in this context would be the establishment of a network
of music schools (19) run by the Government. However, the order which would
be desirable will yet take some time to come because on the one hand the guru
business is deeply rooted in Indian everyday life and on the other hand it just
cannot be dispensed with in the field of Asian arts.

Why could one not do without the gurus ? Because Asian art—this was
not even disputed by the informants—is based upon oral tradition and could
therefore not do without the gurus, being the bearers of the unwritten traditions.
This was not, they uttered, a matter merely of a discipline like any other such as
e.g. business management but of a way which the student could and should not
go alone. Naturally now and again—‘sometimes’—one or the other item ought
to be written down. But the suggestion to produce a cassette course for learning
to play the veena was either rejected without giving a reason joder with the argu¬
ment that a cassette recorder was unsuited to perform the indispensable task of
the initiation.

And how will it go on ? The pessimists among the respondents presume

that Asian arts, hence also veena playing would not survive—being relics of feu¬
dalism—in democratic societies (20). Or they might degenerate like Yoga which
is said to have been commercialized by people like Maharishi Mahesh and his
‘transcendental meditation’ and thus deteriorated. The optimists, however, think
it possible for Asian arts to regain ground and power once India witnesses an
economic boom. For that event they expect a renaissance of the genuine guru.
That is an originally well-to-do hence morally untempted gentleman philosopher
teaching free of charge, accepting from his pupils gifts only and maybe, at a later
stage, daxina , that is a pension by sporadic payments in those cases where his
disciples themselves in future attain a certain modest prosperity.

Attached to this book you will find a cassette containing veena music.
Possibly you have already played off that music and—maybe—gained the impres¬
sion that this is a matter of a somewhat thinly strung sequence of sounds which
for volume could hardly match with Bach or the Rolling Stones. This is true.
But the veena does serve another purpose. As for its function it is more like the


Veena player Ustad Zia Mo-

hiuddin Dagar , Bombay.
Photograph: Ken Woodruff,
Santa Rosa , California.

pilot tone with directional radio or the test picture by the aid of which the tele¬
vision mechanics adjust the TV reception aerials to the transmitter. In other
words, veena music is in the first place not meant to entertain nor to edify. It
odd as this may sound, foremost serving measuring purposes. And what is it that
is being measured ? It is measured to which extent and in which direction the
change in personality is progressing, which is, as mentioned above, the aim of
Asian art.

8. Rites as Measuring Instruments

For better understanding here is at first a simile: when you are going
to see the doctor he may be able to estimate your body temperature roughly but
he cannot ascertain it exactly by the looks of you. That is why the doctor is
using a measuring instrument, a thermometer, which exactly determines the
otherwise hardly ascertainable temperature by the aid of a mercury column
meaning it measures the distance from the actual to the target value. The design
of the thermometer, i.e. the aesthetic quality of the measuring instrument, is of
no major importance in this context. However, the instrument must be calibrated
according to a fixed standard, in this case: degrees Celsius, in order to fulfill
measuring function. It is similar with veena playing. Here it is the pupil who
takes on the role of the patient the master being the doctor. The veena , the
ment, serving as measuring equipment. For a standard yardstick, a scale is taken,
a set of acoustic archetypes from India’s classical music tradition by which you
may not be able to measure the body temperature yet the existential condition
of the student.

In practice this measuring operation invariably takes on the form of a

ritual. One ought not to imagine anything especially profound or occult by all
this. A ritual is first of all a sequence of actions. This process will, however,
become a workable rite provided it meets at least two requirements. Firstly it
must be marked by a certain duration. With Japanese archery e.g. to let fly two
arrows—and one always shoots two of them—takes, everything included, ten
full minutes. Japanese tea ceremonies take about 45 minutes. Feena-playing—at
least in in its highly developed forms—is a matter of one to three hours.

Secondly the effective rite should be arranged in a complicated way with

rich detail. As a rule the pupil will perform a multitude of movements, preferably
such—think of the asanas , i.e. the physical exercise of Hatha Yoga—which rarely

The sound-wave-formation
Raga Drabidi plays “a game
of dice ” with her lover. “Her
lips are coral-red and she is
dressed in fine silk”.

occur in daily life. The pupil will link up and intertwine these movements borne
by an often elaborate breathing technique in such a way that they appear, though
unnatural in their sequence, natural all the same, matter-of-fact. In playing the
veena they somehow go their own way, the veena-players indeed swaying to and
fro a bit. Yet their body movements hardly indicate anything. However, the
sounds take their place, the sequences of tones and the tonality which make the
immediate existence of the player, his situation, and his distance between the
actual and the target values, audible instead of visible.

If the ritual meets these two requirements—duration and complexity—

then it will be quite easy to manage: even the untrained onlooker at a tea cere¬
mony, the novice on a Japanese archery range will notice after a few minutes
already what turns out well and correctly and what produces an inadequate and
awkward impression, although the observer may not be capable for lack of ex¬
perience to gi ve detailed reasons for his judgement. A connoisseur in the matter,
the guru , will also be able to substantiate his judgement however. His trained
ears and eyes will notice trifles which a novice could not possibly be aware of.
He will see—staying for another moment with archery—when the two feet of
The sound-wave-formation
Raga Padhamanjari is a
sad princess entertained by
her servant.

an archer are not placed at the proper angle. He will notice when the feather of
the arrow does not before shooting off cut the earlobe of his pupil and he will
hear when the jute string after letting fly does not hit against the reed of the
bow. In short, the intimate knowledge of the fixed ritual process ought to enable
the guru to notice the smallest deviation and to form by the sum of these obser¬
vations a picture of the situation of the student as well as to determine the dist¬
ance between actual and target values.

With veena playing this is not essentially different. The guru is checking
to which extent the archetype and the image are corresponding; this he does
of course not with his eyes but by his ears. He hears where and when the student
is bungling, what he is playing not properly and superficially, how he is trying
to cheat himself, if he is trying shady tricks in order to get across difficult
ages unobtrusively. Is he sincere ? Which areas of his character are underdeveloped
and childish ? Where should he be encouraged and coached ? When does he go
too far overestimating himself? Does he practice enough? Does he really desire
to make progress ? Or is he simply vane ?

The guru can naturally gather such insight only provided the ritual has
been unshakably fixed, i.e. the distance between actual and target values may
be determined with sufficient precision. This answers now the question put once
before, why Asian art is opposed to innovation and is ahistorical not tolerating
the ‘zeitgeist’ and what is new: nobody is allowed to assail the target, the meas¬
ure, the archetype, the ritual lest its diagnostic quality gets lost and the entire
system begins to shake.

You may now ask perhaps what the guru might be doing with the picture
of the state of affairs so acquired ? Does he draw any noticeable inferences from
it ? He will in general not indulge in any quasi therapeutical activity. Why should
he be restraining the course of destiny ? Why twist the inalterable will of the
Gods ? No, as a rule he will stick to his job. This means he will be sitting with
legs crossed on a linen sheet. He is playing to his disciple, his fingertips oily
blackish and notched by the pressure of the steel strings. The pupil will be faith¬
fully repeating. Maybe they will permit themselves the luxury of a cup of luke¬
warm flavoured tea with milk. Outside in the mist before the window—the smell
of vegetables and exhaust fumes—the rickshaw wallahs are beating their bells
against the drawbars. Taxis are blowing their horns. Both teacher and student
for better hearing put their ears to the pumpkinshells of the instrument, flooded
by the underlying roar of Calcutta. What they talk about is vibrations, techniques
of touch, micro-tones, and not questions of existence and riddles of the universe.
"By ten to-morrow again ?’ In taking leave the pupil is touching the horny foot
of his master.

In which manner does a guru differ from a customary music teacher of

the Western type? There was no unanimous reply of the respondents to this.


Veena player Ustad Asad Ali

Khan , Neiv Delhi. Photo¬
graph: Manfred M. Junius ,
Adelaide , Australia.


The three Muslims among the group of respondents felt this question to be rather
unimportant. They believe the guru to be simply a kind of father without any
transcendental qualities. This view, however, should not be regarded as a result
of Islam but might rather be ascribed to coincidence: the Muslims all came from
families of musicians, have crawled among instruments when they were still
infants, had been instructed by their fathers, and hence hardly see not much of
a difference between father and guru.

The Hindus for their part though have a tendency towards speculative
explanations. The guru, they say, takes on a lifelong responsibility for the
welfare of his pupil. This somewhat general statement they would specify upon
request like this: the ideal guru will charge himself with his disciple’s karma. He
will guarantee the transcendental fate of his pupil by his own rebirth. He is
pledging his own existence after death. This special master-disciple relationship
occasionally still to-day finds its expression in an initiation ceremony: the guru
will strip a bracelet crocheted of dyed wool over his disciple’s wrist as a token
of everlasting bondage.
Yet one may do without this transcendental aspect of the guru-disciple
relationship—described by one respondent as ‘old humbug’—when thinking
about it because a power independent of the master is being ascribed to the rite
anyway. The quality of this power may be explained by the the aid of substantive
thinking: he who makes the effort, who exercises the ritual, plays the rudra-
veena and in so doing sticks to the rules will here and now improve his own sub¬
stance and may therefore count upon a progress in redemption and a profitable
rebirth. In this connexion the guru appears merely as an administrator of the

Sou.Ttd-iva,ve-formation Raga

Kamodi represented by a
saint ivith a Shiva sign
painted on his forehead.


Raga Lalita , a sound-wave-

formation to be played at
sunrise , is normally repre¬
sented by a male person
leaving his bed or his house.
By reasons hard to explain
Lalita is a woman on this

rite, a guardian of traditions and of the integrity of the tonal archetypes which
are going to be decribed in more detail later, though not as an active creator.

According to a third, rather psychologically oriented, explanation the

ritual—as seen from the angle of the disciple—should and can condition him,
the veena player, hence enable him to promote the desired change in personality
by the aid of an echo effect: the pupil begins w ith ritual actions which are
controllable like playing the veena. According to the principle, the ritual will in
the w ay of an echo bring about a, if only little, harmonisation of his otherwise
hardly manageable state of existence. The elevated state of existence of the
player in turn will improve the external process, i.e. the musical ritual, and so
forth until the pupil arrives at a meditative experience of bliss through this
process of a buildup between the externally profane and the inner world. This
echo quality is probably not inborn in man. But within the strict limits of the
ritual it may nevertheless be trained. After innumerable repititions of the complex
process a mutual influence will develop through growing accustoming of quality
of action and of existence which, if carefully used, w ill effect a change of
ity though this change may fade away after a while.

It should not be assumed, however, that the Asian arts, the rites, would
automatically turn their adherents into better people. Certainly the rites possess
converting powers no matter how one tries to explain these forces. But in which
direction does this change w ork ? In all probability the disciple w ill thereby
get into various kinds of critical phases, like the sensation of a vane selection
or, on the other hand, physical illness in consequence of hypochondriac self-
consciousness which might be—who knows in advance—just a transition, but
perhaps also the final point of a development. In addition to these normal risks
grave and lasting injuries may be evoked: the rites, including reena-plaving too,
present themselves more or less openly as the moral position finding of the

as a moral examination correspondingly accompanied by nagging examination

fears and experiences of failure which may here and there trigger schizophrenic
attacks or end up in other injuries.

In brief: practicing Asian arts does not necessarily lead to pious sub¬
mission to the fatherly God. Especially ueena-playing—it is said in India—is
also apt to bring forth demoniac people, black-eyed magicians who at their own
discretion will bewitch and curse soil and cattle lest the peasant fills them their
bowl promptly and abundantly.

9 . The City of Kali

In the early seventies politicians used to promise their electorate often

more "quality of life’ in order to secure their vote. This somewhat indistinct
notion which for some time became a slogan in the USA and in Western Europe,
has encouraged inquisitive social scientists to specify the idea of "quality of
i.e. to ascertain what the people imagine this to be. This type of study was in
many cases initiated by local authorities expecting thereby to get an answer to
the question whether they e.g. should spend their budgetary means for the con¬
struction of paved zones, of an indoor swimming-pool, for a park, or the setting
up of an old people’s home.

These surveys produced as a rule the following result: the "quality of

life’ of a town is in the opinion of its citizens mainly characterized by the fact
which extent the township has the atmosphere of a market place; this could
mean an agglomeration of perpetually opened shops, restaurants which are
illuminated also at night, public entertainment such as cinemas, open-air dance
on the piazza , and playing chess by the light of street-lamps: life, living in
mon, but not that kind of peace of the grave of Western cities enforced by Closing
Time Acts, closing-hours of the pubs, and entertainment taxation.

If you go by these survey results—Western Local Counsellors have fre¬

quently been induced by them to construct paved zones and shop centres—
Calcutta (21), the capital of the Indian state of West-Bengal, is towering high
above all other big cities of the world with regard to "quality of life’. Leaving
aside the naturally somewhat dull millionaire quarters such as Alipore in the
South of Calcutta, the city resembles a bazar with no day of rest enlivened bv

allegedly eight million people. The shops and workshops—not so much the Eng¬
lish influenced banks and big business—are of course open on Sundays too.
Should you require new batteries for your recorder at half past two o’clock in
the morning—Calcutta’s mains supply is not very reliable—it will be a matter
of utmost ten minutes to get hold of them. At three a.m. the streets will suddenly
be blocked with tightly packed lorries painted in gay colours—pictures of deities
in the driver’s cabin, rice bags and vegetables on the floor—because three goods-
trains have arrived at Howrah station all at the same time.

In the Mahajati Sadan, Calcutta’s Royal Albert Hall, the drums will still
be droning and the sitars be whining. Peanut and tea vendors have placed their
carts, lit by carbide lamps, before the portal. At about five o’clock the first
ment dwellers will slip out of their sheets died brown by vegetable fumes and
exhaust gas to cook a leek soup on their happily blazing cow-dung fires. And
then: a round-up, machine-guns mounted on lorries, policemen with lead filled
bamboo truncheons and with English military stockings. Nobody knows why.
From seven a.m. onwards the sun, hot and white like a flame cutter, will be
drawing her weld across the mud coloured skies. On the banks of the Hoogly
they are lighting the fires for the dead. Trams painted in a war-like grey—the
fenders fitted with iron thorns like barbed-wire to scare off fare-dodgers—are
creeping like huge caterpillars along the housewalls, covered with posters from
top to bottom: “Let Calcutta be the pride of heaven one day”, reads one enorm¬
ous placard on a bank.

Calcutta’s highly strung atmosphere—strangers often misinterpret it as

a permanent state of emergency—stems mainly from an architectural pecu¬
liarity. Different from old originally Indian towns like Delhi oder Varanasi which
have been built up with two-, three-, or at best four-storey houses Calcutta, being
India’s most recent big city, had been constructed under the influence of British
architects who knew to construct buildings with six to eight storeys. In con¬
sequence of this type of above-ground construction it is about thirty percent
more densely populated than Varanasi for example. According to a reliable
census 120,000 are living on one squaremile in Calcutta. In Varanasi this figure
amounts only to 80,000, and in Los Angeles, for comparison’s sake, no more
than about 9,000 people per squaremile.

This surprising density of population, enriched with saddhus , street the¬

atres, and political demonstrations, produces this sometimes macabre ‘quality
of life’. The people there including the poor seem permanently in high spirits,
with a thin smile and always ready for a sarcastic joke, especially with respect
to their boorish government in faraway Delhi, to the municipal ‘Dead Body
Carrying Service’, to the Saint en vogue and his mostly old tricks to take
the money out of the people. Naturally this kind of density of population has its
drawbacks too: pedestrian tailbacks during the rush-hour, breakdowns of the


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sewerage system, failures of the mains and water supply, and the immediate
spreading of infectious diseases. This does not only mean influenza, malaria, and
cholera—the smallpox have meanwhile virtually disappeared—but also intellect¬
ual diseases, quasi religious fashions, rumors of all kinds, and political
Occasionally visiting correspondents and poets—from Rudyard Kipling
to Allen Ginsberg and Gunter Grass—usually only notice with a frown offences
against middle-class standards of propriety like the ‘busties’, hut settlements
of Pakistani refugees scattered all over the city, lepers, crippled beggars. Or
unreasonably Christian woman Mother Teresa who by nursing pavement dwellers
doomed to death is trying to denaturalize the eternal alternation of departure
and rebirth. The actual city of Calcutta, India’s economic metropolis, the literary
and musical centre as well as the joy of life of Bengal, the chroniclers and the
travellers hardly ever came to know. Even in a leaflet of the Indian Department
of Tourism you will find that classical sentence “Calcutta assaults the senses
like few other cities.”

Among the less visible qualities of Calcutta are a spiritual current, a

sense of life whose manifold expressions generally range under the name of tantra
(22). What is tantra ? Tantra , omnipresent in Calcutta, is an incomparably Indian
thing, comparable, if at all, to the mediterranean gnosis. This means that tantra
is no religion demanding from its followers certain behaviours. Neither is tantra
a philosophy, hence no system of thinking, the axioms of which are serving the
self-explanation and the interpretation of the universe. The question for its con¬
tents—this may be disappointing to you for a moment—cannot admittedly be
answered logically at all, though the adherents might be of different opinion.
Now, the core of the doctrine—and tantra stands for doctrine—indeed escapes
analytical grasp. Yet this does not imply that tantra —its most eminent instrument
being the rudra-veena —is placed beyond anything conceptual. At least to a certain
degree the tantra doctrine may be described by the aid of a number of accompany-
ing characteristics which, though never really touching the unutterable core,
however do permit, taken as a whole, an inference with regard to this tantric
sense of life.

10. Tantra

The adherents of tantra —which is striking to the observer at the outset—

do not think very highly of asceticism. They do eat e.g. carrots and potatoes (23).
A real ascetic would never allow himself such food: for might not, upon pulling
such root out of the ground, a worm or an ant get killed ? The tantra people,
looking at it this way, make themselves yet more guilty by quite freely devouring
fish and often even chicken. Tantric licentiousness becomes, so they say, particul¬
arly apparent, though, in the form of a positive original relationship to
On this subject i.e. the alleged tendency to indulge in promiscuity and the corres¬
ponding hair-raising ways of performing sexual intercourse, much has already
been written. Who knows what of it is true (24) ? But one may say with certainty:
the adherents of tantra —perpetually on the search for the universal—in so far

Ragamala-drawmg describ¬
ing the mood of the Raga

Malabo sound-wave-forma-



Sound-wave-formation Raga


attribute symbolic character to cohabitation and are particularly prepared to

interpret the partial loss of consciousness upon orgasm as a total amalgamation
and a transcendental association.

Within the limits of tantra —this being yet another peculiarity—the

social partitions otherwise still strictly observed, that is the regulations of the
caste system, are being lifted to a distinct though hardly determinable degree.
Especially in the field of music you will find Hindus as well as Muslims, otherwise
not really getting on well with eac^iother, peacefully sitting side by side. As far
as veena- playing is concerned there exists between them even a kind of division
of labour uniting them on the basis: playing techniques and teaching are the
responsibility of the Muslims, hence theirs is the manner, whereas the Hindus
are responsible for the matter, the contents, the spectrum of effects, and the
preservation of the transcendental connexions. In short, at least to some extent
tantra is a movement beyond the borders of denominations and not a reserve for
Hindus, not to speak of a particular caste. It must be mentioned in the sense
of a restriction that the rudra-veena —being the musical instrument of the
of tantra —was only allowed to be played—as far as the legend will go—by the
Kshatryas , the Hindu caste of the warriors. In the course of the interviews,
however, the respondents refused to confirm this (25) and among the active
veena- players still alive—and they are not many—there seems to be not a single

The third accompanying characteristic of tantra is the distinctly matri¬

archal system we find there. Women (26) who have grown up under the radiation
of tantra —to start with a simple thing as this one—appear to the observer to
be of higher eduction, better fed, unmolested by role-playing conflicts, and the
emancipatory problems of their occidental sisters, being more self-assured and
obviously capable of taking charge of managerial tasks, hence to become Prime
Minister. At least the Hindus among the tantra adherents moreover worship a
mother goddess, namely Kali, bearing the cognomen of Durga because she had
once defeated and killed a mythical bull, Durga.

The centre of the Kali cult is an area in the South of Calcutta of about
one hundred to one hundred metres, surrounded by small shops selling devotional
articles and by tearooms. The temple, tiled with bathroom tiles, consists of a
patio where Brahmins^of a lower standing decapitate the sacrificial goats by a
crescent moon shaped axe, an open pillared hall for the believers to say their
prayers, and separate from the hall a small dark chamber containing the idol
of the goddess. This is actually a pole-shaped black stone, possibly a meteorite
the size of a man, wrapped in cloths and with a three-eyed visage painted on it.

The temple, run in the form of a private and obviously profitable enterprise,
is partly financed through gifts partly by cattle-dealing, i.e. the purchase and
sale of sacrificial goats, and through leasing by leaving to small traders corners
and recesses who will there guard the believers’ shoes—the temple may be entered
barefooted only—or sell flowers. The Brahmins officiating in the temple will
also have to pay a kind of licence fee for being permitted to collect alms on the
temple premises. In addition they may keep the heads of the sacrificed goats, the
carcasses however may be taken home and eaten by the believers.

The Kali cult is serving one single and rather narrowly defined purpose,
namely gaining power by sacrificial blood. Originally, that is until about the
time when Christian-minded Englishmen intervened by the middle of the 19th
century, human beings were sacrificed in the area of influence of the Kali cult;
this was done under the idea that the strength of the victim, concentrated in his
blood, would pass into the sacrificer. This idea—the last man has been sacrificed
in Calcutta’s Kali temple at approximately 1870—is still virulent to-day. Accord¬
ing to an information by the Calcutta Chief of Police his constables yet continue
to find an average of 18 to 20 dead every year, gagged and with five to seven
cuts in their neck artery proving them to be Kali victims. Their blood is used
for ritual purposes and in most cases evidently drunk.

Officially of course nowadays it is goats only which are allowed for sa¬
crificing. On normal days there will be ten to fifteen of them but on special oc¬
casions, e.g. during the Indian-Pakistani war over Bangladesh, anything up to
hundreds of goats to the accompaniment of the roll of drums would be offered
to the goddess. Such a goat costs a lot of money maybe fifty rupees or about
eight dollars. That is why a Kali worshipper can only on very special occasions
afford sacrificing a goat. As a rule, all he does is to buy a handfull of yellow

Kali shrine in Calcutta; a

worshipper paying reverence
to the wooden fork used for
the decapitation of sacrificial
soms which he will then throw at the goddess accompanied by the sound of a bell.
A Brahmin will pour water with a spoonlike little can unto his palms held as if
they were a bowl and the believer will thereupon drink some of it sprinkling the
rest over his head and his brow.

Now, at least the Hindus among tantra adherents are altogether Kali
worshippers. Yet in the real tantra literature one will hardly find any hint in
direction. This literature, consisting partly of thousands of manuscripts written
on palm leaves, has but to a small extent been translated into European languages.
Therefore, a final judgement would be premature. Provided what is accessible
of it up to now corresponds to its entirety, and this might as well be assumed,
one could however venture to make the following statement: the tantra literature
mostly consists of loose and disconnected bits and pieces of messages which in
themselves do not permit definite answers. This evident lack of concrete con¬
tents—an unstructured mixture of praise, denominations, legends, and charms
expressed in a disguised tongue—should not necessarily be construed as a weak¬
ness of that literature. As one respondent was saying, these books had not been
written for their news value i.e. for what they contain. Their purpose is rather
to condition the reader psychologically, to get him off the track of linear
thinking and to motion him instead towards a new and better level of thinking
and perceiving.

After all one will find that this type of literature is marked by a certain
repertory of notions which is in so far also clearly repeated in the imagination
of the respondents. This is the idea that visual formations like buildings or pic¬
tures, i.e. light-wave-formations, will ensue acoustic perceptions or even simul¬
taneously indeed are acoustic perceptions, thus being of sound-wave-formation
(27). On the other hand sound-wave-formations, especially those produced by
veena-players, would bring forth light-wave-formations for their part, that is
visual picturelike perceptions. Or, to cut a long story short, a well trained
player will be capable of invoking apparitions at his own discretion. We must at
this juncture leave it at that and refrain from discussing the question as to where
these pictures originate: outside in the extraterrestrial world ? Or within the
inner world, in the imagination of the audience or in the imagination of the
player ? For the sake of anticipating we may be allowed to say: all of this is

This much for the accompanying characteristics. American social scientists,

however, have found yet another way to approach that type of complex phe¬
nomenon successfully and how to clarify it. This is done by putting the question
as to the ‘life-style’. In doing so the actual problem—what tantra really stands
for—is left aside and instead one turns to the issue how the members of such a
social group live and in which respect their life-style differs from that of other
people. Here is an example: the doctrines of Protestantism and Catholicism do
not differ substantially (28). Yet one can quite clearly distinguish people living
in areas of Protestant culture from those of Catholic cultural areas: the Prot¬
estants, irrespective of the fact if they are churchgoers or not, earn more, eat
less well, and are afraid of dirt and the devil. Catholics, however,—all this only
applying to Western Europe—shave less frequently, have a noticeably lower
consumption of toiletpaper, are poorer but, thanks to their brotherly relation¬
ship wdth the devil, are less prone to become neurotic.

What about the adherents of tantra now ? What type of people does this
doctrine with its not entirely agreable characteristics produce ? The model tantra
follower—this is at least what appearance will teach us—is rather more a happy
type of person, permanently on the move or moved, for this reason formally or
informally educated and occupied with artistic issues. He is sensitive to the
point of being a hypochondriac and easily frightened and disconcerted. He is
living and experiencing life often in a contrast to the ascetic life-styles (29).
adherents of tantra are following the motto: seeing, knowing, discovering, en¬
joying. In this way they contribute something Dionysiac and at the same time
Catholic, this contribution adding a noticeable touch to India and its daily life,
distinguishing and enriching it.

11. The Light-Wave-Formation

Perhaps you have been asking yourself already why the rudra-veena of
all things should be playing such a prominent role in the structure of imaginations
of the tantra adherents. Well, the tantra people are, as was mentioned before,
circling around a wave-theory (30) with their reflections. This means that a light¬
wave-formation, a visual sensation, produces a sound too. In inverse proportion
to that a sound-structure is thought to produce a picture, a sound-wave-formation
invoking an apparition. The rudra-veena , its form, its symmetrical shape is taken
for an effective magic signal. At the same time, and this must be fascinating
for the tantra adherents, one can produce sound-wave-formations of special
precision and intensity on the rudra-veena which in turn will evoke apparitions,
visions, images, hence particularly significant light-wave-formations.

What is it that one has to imagine a light-wave formation to be? In the

widest sense it is everything visible, shaped, and coloured, down to the twenty-

Neiv Delhi Yanter Manter:

The Mishra-Yantra repeat¬
ing the contours of a rudra


The two dancing girls in
transparent dresses represent
the sound-wave-formation
Raga Rajnee.

Footprints of Brahma; a
pair of bronze plates used as
visual aids for meditation
mainly on the problem of

ninth pole of your garden fence. In the stricter sense of the word, however, light¬
wave-formations are only those visual perceptions which induce the observer
to ask who am I ?”—thus having the quality of manipulating him into the
state of meditation. In general this is a matter of geometrical figures, circles,
triangles, rectangles, and their corresponding combinations, hence formations
with a high signal value which you are simply—this is considered to be especially
effective—imagining or drawing with a ballpen on a sheet of paper in order to
achieve by this external activity via an echo effect the transit to the meditative
level of perception.

The light-wave-formations, called yantra in India, however also include

astrological buildings, the way they are depicted in this book, and thirdly objects
like for example the 'foot-prints of Brahma’. These are identical though mirrored
bronze plates about the size of a hand which you may turn and reverse in order
that you may call to life and intensify within yourself the experience of the
symmetry of your own body. A light-wave-formation which is in so far usable
as a tool—constellations of stars come under this heading too—need not be
beautiful and therefore not particularly valuable in an artistic and aesthetic
sense. But it is meant to release a halo effect and it should—and please do not
say this is impossible—emit a sound. This unstruck sound, called the 'music
without man’ in the sermons of Buddha, may only be perceived by the trained
tantra follower, by the sensitized who are in the secret.

One of the meditation fostering signals of psychological tonality is the

'yantra of the cosmic sound drum’. This light-wave-formation you may—as seen
Duplicity as an architectural
principle: The two Ram
Yantras in New Delhi. Di¬
ameter: 16,65 metres each.

The yantra of the cosmic

sound drum.
above—simply draw on a sheet of paper. The effect of this yantra, always identical
with the draughtsman’s intentions, is quite clearly defined—unfortunately this
does not apply to all yantras. The cosmic sound drum is meant to lead the draughts¬
man or the onlooker of the sign out of a possible split up, a discord with himself,
into singleness from the two towards one. If you unfold the cosmic sound drum
making it three-dimensional, you will be confronted with the rudra-veena: the
signal, the yantra (31), the instrument reducing to silence your inner dialogue.

A veena , in contrast to a guitar for example, is, therefore, a two-sided

thing: At one hand it is a regular musical instrument. On the other hand, due
to its very shape, it is a Yantra , which is an object of sacral character. You
experience this strange duality, as soon as you have decided to buy a Veena.

Since this is, though a musical instrument, at the same time a yantra ,
hence an object of a cult, the entire process, that is the commercial transaction,
attains a second dimension: the purchaser of the instrument becoming at the
same time the donor of a cult object. Of course he acquires the right of possession
meaning that his neighbour may not take the veena away from him. Yet he does
not obtain a full property right and may, thus, not resell the veena at his
nor scratch, mishandle, or even destroy it because by the purchase it has passed
to the property of the Goddess. In other words, although you have bought your
veena and paid for it the instrument will still be considered as leased to you and
no more. Instead of enjoying earthly riches you can rejoice in the idea to have
done something meritorious and made an effort promoting your some day for¬
tunate rebirth.

12. Instruments


This kind of trust idea clearly comes to light when one orders a veena:
because the instrument-maker takes the measure of the width of his customer’s
hands in order that this measure may find its way into the instrument. The
distance between the two pumpkins, i.e. the inside diameter, must correspond
to the width of both hands with the thumbs spread out so that their tips are
touching. In doing so the craftsman is following the example set by Indian sculp¬
tors who would also enter a measure of the donor’s body, perhaps the length of
his forearm, into the proportions of the idol of a deity donated so that the rela-
tionship between the donor and his gift may become, measure by measure, appar¬
ent and remain so (32). But if you order another instrument like a sitar this
principle of proportional correspondence will not become effective. No measure

of a body will enter into the sitar since sitars are mere musical instruments
that yantra quality as well as that very shape inviting the viewer to perform the
meditative transition.

In Calcutta there are possibly about a hundred instrumentmakers working.

Very often their workshops are no more than one normal room where parts are
produced to be delivered to bigger workshops. Sometimes they are but small
shops who crave a simple living by doing repair and maintenance work. Only
approximately twenty workshops are engaged in the manufacture of new instru¬
ments: the mini-harmonium which has in recent times become enormously
popular in India, the tampuras , drone instruments similar to a lute, mostly to
the accompaniment of singers; and then of course drums of all types. Less fre¬
quently one sees sitars, sarods , and the surbahar , that is the younger middle-
class sister of the rudra-veena . In general the workshops, where new instruments
are manufactured, make good money if they succeed in jumping over the fence
of the vicious circle of lowpriced articles, and that means in the first place
orders for Europe and the United States. This in turn ends up in higher prices
which then means more room for manoeuvring financially when it comes to buying
good quality materials. And this ensues good quality which in turn will be pro¬
moting more orders, including domestic ones.

The manner in which the instrument-makers go about their work at first

tends to astonish the unacquainted onlooker. Standardization of these instru¬
ments, if there is any at all, is still in its very beginning: every single
being newly designed if not in its entirety then at least with regard to parts of
Belt production is next to unknown and the same applies to the use of machinery.
Buying a manual electric drilling machine would merely serve to step up the
number of jobless and—in view of the low wage level—only make the instruments
dearer. The prices are fairly stable. A sitar, to quote just a few examples, costs
between 200 and 600 rupees, the equivalent of about one or two monthly wages

Instrument-maker'’s shop.

of a skilled worker. A surbahar will cost around 1,200 rupees; but a rudra-veena
may use up the entire yearly earnings of a skilled labourer, namely 2,500 to 3,000
rupees (33).

This considerable price is the practical outcome of a somewhat peculiar

oligopoly. As mentioned above there is no want of workshops, especially not in
Calcutta. But most of the instrument-makers just are not prepared to manufacture
any veenas. Some say they are lacking the necessary experience in this field.
Others declare—naturally using very polite expressions—they refuse to have
anything to do with this sort of witchcraft. Anybody desiring to have a rudra-
veena made to order will therefore find himself reduced to only three workshops
(34), two of them in Calcutta and the other in Miraj, to the North-East of Goa;
and that is why they can charge relatively high prices.

The manufacturers of veenas , which must be said in their favour, must

indeed be more efficient than the sitarmakers. They must be capable of observing
a multitude of seemingly contradictory rules. To begin with, they are expected
to produce an instrument which meets the technical requirements and does not
break down after one year of use, which brings forth the image producing sound
spectra, corresponds to the magic regulations, and forthly is up to the standards
of purity which have to be observed upon the manufacture of an object of cult.
In which manner the trustees of the creative Shiva arrive at a compromise in
this respect may be demonstrated by the following examples:

First there is the question of what sort of wood to use; according to an

opinion which is widespread among those who are in the secret the bar of the
veena or the c beam’—in actual fact it is a tube must be made of bamboo. This
is the theory which, according to the statement of one of the respondents is
based upon the idea, still in existence though inexplicable, of the hierachy of
plants and woods (35). In the framework of this order the bamboo seems to be
ranking on top. In reality, however, though this might have been different in
days of old, it would be very hard to find a veena made of bamboo to-day As
far as can be ascertained the older instrument were mainly made of Joorc-wood
the more recent ones of teak (36). When you ask for an explanation of this differ'
ence between theory and practice the instrument-makers will either give evasive
answers or they might reply that inspite of its great advantages bamboo was
not really suitable since a bamboo pole is too elastic which means that it would
bend under the impact of the pull of the strings. Or they might go as far a
claiming the frequencies would get interfered by the joints of the bamboo sticks
Why the veena manufacturers practically use toon or teak-wood only remains
miracle in view of the fact that there are hundreds of woods growing in Ind‘
All they say is, that this is the custom, or “this is how my father did it”

The way these people are handling the wood is also very intrigui
onlooker. The instrument-maker at first lets the about 170

The tube or “ beam ” of a

veena (cross section). The
points indicate the position
of the four main strings and
the three (two and one)
lateral drone strings.

to the
centimetres long


Murari Kanailal , instru¬

ment maker in Calcutta ,
trying a neiv rudra veena.

section of the trunk—usually bought from a wood-wholesale-dealer—float on a

pond or a water basin of which many may be found in Calcutta. They are used
for bathing, laundering, and for a fire-fighting reservoir. During this water-test
he will observe which side of the floating trunk will be ‘facing the sun’ (37). It
out of this portion of the log which may be of a thickness of anything up to one
metre that the manufacturer will cut a beam of, in the beginning, square cross-
section; then he will drill holes through it from both ends so that the drill holes
will meet in the middle of the log which demands considerable skill in handling
the drills. Finally he will plane the outside of it until it is round. In the end
arrives at obtaining a wooden tube with an outer diameter of fifty to fifty-five
millimetres and a thickness between six and eight millimetres (38).

Once the ‘beam’ is finished the problem of the hierarchy of materials

will reoccur in other forms: when making a veena the instrument-maker must
evidently not use impure raw-materials. But what is pure ? What is impure ?
Let us take an example: for the manufacture of a veena you need a lot of glue,
for glueing the wooden mountings of the pumpkins as well as for affixing the
end pieces of the tube. The type of glue which is in so far best suited, meaning
that it is exactly corresponding to the laws of purity, is a substance by the name
of Tolam , extracted from blossoms and of light green colour and with copper-
sulphate as an additive, which is though simple to apply prone to resinify and
subsequently to break easily. In short, rolam meets the purity requirements and
this means in the first place that it is not extracted from animal cadavers, yet
it does not resist strong pressure or pull. What can be done about it ? The clever
instrument-maker will be using rolam only for the sizings under little stress.
In case the stress is a major element he will simply take an industrial white
glue preferably ‘Mowicoll’ produced by the German chemical group of Hoechst,
hoping that the Germans are not using dog’s bones when cooking their glue.
What this amounts to is that industrial white glue is looked upon as pure. Film
glue, however, considered impure, should be used under no circumstances.

A similar purity problem arises when making the ‘bridges’, the string
holders. According to the prevalent opinion again, they should actually be cut
out of ivory and be polished. This does in fact apply to older instruments. But

the veenas manufactured after about 1960 must do without ivory because_as

rumours will have it—ivory could in recent times only be obtained from elephants
which have been killed and no longer from animals which have died from disease
or decrepitude in the jungle or while working in the woods.

The qualitatively less valuable instruments are nowadays equiped with

deer-horn, that means to say with a material which is gained from cast antlers.
The higher priced veenas though are fitted with bridges which have been carved
out of elephant’s knuckles. The idea behind this is that the elephant is basically
pure. The same is valid also for his bones as opposed to those of a dog. They

Repeating the form of the

rudra veena: The Raja Yan-
tra in Jaipur.

are rarely for sale, contrary to the tusks. That is why the bones of perished ele¬
phants may be lying about in the woods weathering for years. And only such
weathered bones—hard as stone, leaden, and outwardly dark grey can be
found in some distant corner of the workshop.

The question is: has the construction of veenas changed much? The prob-
ably oldest and still usable instrument—it is now an exhibit of a private
in Bombay—is dated about 1880. Maybe yet older veenas could be found in
European museums but not in India, the climate causing the wood to get warped
and insects gnawing the pumpkin hulls, formerly not impregnated with wood
preservatives, until they become as thin as paper. Musical history research too
does not go back very far. The first exact description of a veena is dated about
1790. Its author, an Englishman stationed in India by the name of Francis Fowke,
is decribing in a letter what a rudra-veena looked like, how it was played, and
how it had to be tuned properly. The pitches and the intervals Fowke ascertained
by the aid of a harpsichord, i.e. a piano. He even added two drawings to his

account which are reproduced in this book.

If in addition to this we fall back on eye-witness accounts, the oldest

respondent being born in 1889, nothing has changed as far as the proportions
(39) go which stand for the yanira aspect. Also the characterise little bird on
the lower end-piece of the "beam’ was and remains to be a permanent element
of the veena: the bird, very often more or less like a sparrow, is really meant to
represent a peacock or a swan, one of the accompanying animals of the Goddess
Sharasvati who is responsible for arts, music, and wisdom. The stylized head of
a crocodile for the upper end-piece is the symbol of rm/ra, the incarnation of the
fighting Shiva (40). This sign had obviously been unknown until the 19th century.
It appears only on the more recent veenas. The frets for touching the strings and
striking the tones used to be glued to the beam with wax (41). Nowadays they
are tied with a fishing-line and are thus adjustable which means that they can
be exactly shifted to every single interval. On top of all that the modern veenas —
and this strikes your eye immediately—are virtually laden with relief carvings.

The respondents tend to explain this liking for baroque decoration in a

political way. Before the independence of India in 1947, so they claim, classical
music and not only veena music had been an intimate and private affair, something
that was performed at the princely courts and promoted by the Rajahs. After
the withdrawal of the British, which coincided with the expropriation of the
the musicians found themselves compelled to make their living by public concerts
and that was why they had to make concessions to the taste of the public. Since
then, i.e. since about the fifties, it had therefore become a fashion to have the
instruments decorated and embellished by carved rose and grape motives.

The respondents take relatively seriously another fashion which has

developed about ten years ago and this is that the rudra-veena is no longer made

Veena player Pandit Asit

Kumar Banerjee , Calcutta ,
pronouncing the sound-wave-
formation Raga Malkosh
recorded on the attached cas¬

with seven strings—four main strings plus three drone cords—but with eight
strings: four main and four drone cords. Yet nobody will deny that the eight¬
string veenas sound richer. The additional eighth cord improves the veena under
the aspect of a musical instrument. The richness in sound which is thus gained
is, however, in the opinion of the majority of the respondents at too high a price.
It is held that thereby a cosmological ratio of figures peculiar to the veena is
upset. It is a matter of losing the figure 4 Pi’ which is used when calculating the
circumference of circles or the volume of circles and spheres. The figure c Pi’
called in mathematics a Transcendental irrational figure’ is inherent in the veena
because the Indian scale comprises 22 tones (42). As opposed to the Western
scale it does not consist of twelve half-tones. Once you divide 22, hence the
number of tones within an octave, by Ti\ i.e. by 3.14159, you will invariably
arrive at seven and not at eight. In short, eight string veenas , although they
might sound richer, should be rejected for higher and magically numerical reasons.

13. The Sound-Wave-Formation

The often peculiar ways of thinking in connexion with veena playing

occasionally appear miraculous to Occidental people. At times it works the other
way round though: it happens that in the framework of tantra you may find
solutions to problems which in the categories of Western thinking have remained
obscure. One of these is the question about the essence and the function of music
Simply spoken one might say: in Europe and in America music is mostly a non-
applied art which is oriented along the lines of aesthetics and euphony It is
composed by artists who are known by name and played likewise by artists who
are known by their names and hence it always contains the germ of a star cult
It is particularly striking that the purpose of music is rather insufficiently
defined :
as a rule it is just meant to entertain or to edify an audience.

A veewo-player need not worry, at least not in this way, about the problems
thus arising the question about what is beautiful, the general taste of the public,
and the economic risks hidden behind all that. His music is not primarily judged
by the standards of aesthetics. And he will refrain from composing any music

himself. This is why he is spared the joy and the sorrow of the genius. Nor will
he be disturbed by the public and its quickly changing predilections. Words like
entertainment and edification are missing in his vocabulary. Because he just
does not perform artistic music and this is the decisive difference.

But what does he do then, you might ask ? Can one make any music at
all which is not artistic music ? Yes, one can. The ueena-players, and this can be
proved with regard to the last 2,000 years, have invariably produced a signal-
type music. And what is this supposed to mean ? The answer is: tones, acoustic
oscillations propagating in space may also be employed for the transmission of
messages and are comparable to a language. This is to say that you agree with
your fellow-men or with the members of your group on certain sequences of
tones. By agreement you will then attach certain contents to these sequences
of tones and thereby create a code for yourself enabling you to make yourself
understood. This code might be a regular language like old Greek or modern
French, or it might be a specially devised repertory of signs such as e.g. the
and-dumb alphabet, the Braille script, the Morse alphabet, or, as it were, musical
sequences of tones.

It was by way of such musical code systems, which have only become
obsolete with the invention of radio telephony, that in the past Occidental people,
too, were communicating with eachother. Just think of the horn and bugle signals
of a hunt or of past wars. They too were agreed signal repertories enabling
or hunters to communicate over long distances and to pass on messages. The
veena -music is serving the same purpose. As opposed to Bach or the music of the
Beatles it is not purposeless but a purposeful system of information and a kind
of language. The only thing is that this type of language is not meant for com-
munication between one man and the other but instead and more about that
later_for communication with the transcendental world

Theoretically this acoustic repertory of signals—and this constitutes a

miraculous achievement of the Indian mind—consists of 34,848 sound-wave-
formations (43). However, the respondents were not fully in agreement with
regard to this number. Some of them claimed that the number of sound-wave-
formations was actually infinitely large. Others argued that this might
be correct though in practice just about 300 sound-wave-formations were still
in use. The respondents are capable, thanks to their in some cases extremely
high musical education, of identifying with their ears between ten and eightv
sound-wave-formations. The professional musicians among them can play 15 to
20 sound-wave-formations right away, i.e. without prior exercise. In short, this
actually gigantic system remains controllable in practice.

What are the qualities of these sound-wave-formations ? Formally speaking,

they have to meet certain requirements (44): e.g. they are not clearly limited
for time, in other words the player may theoretically play for any length of time
as he pleases. In reality, though, what happens is this: in order to build up a
sound-wave-formation, depending also on the degree of its complexity, you will
need no less than an hour. For astronomical or astrological reasons, however,
the veena -player will be unable to sustain the sound-wave-formation for more
than three hours, because after three hours the most favourable astral time will
have elapsed.

In general, sound-wave-formations are not composed and have hence

not been invented by musicians known by name. Their origin usually remains
obscure. As a rule they have been passed on, some for centuries and others for
at least a millenium which works by oral tradition, learnt by heart and passed
on from one generation to the next. It is only since the beginning of the 20th
century that the sound-wave-formations have for the first time been partly
documented. Yet these are but rather summary playing guides and not so much
real music-sheets; up to now it has proved impossible even by applying the most
modern means to put down in writing and with all their nuances the sound-
wave-formations played on the veena. It can, therefore, not be proved how exact
the oral tradition works and how these systems of oscillations might have sounded
in bygone times. This question is, however, not of any bearing, sound-wave-
formations being ahistorical anyway. They always were and they will be forever
like the astral constellations. Silently they are soaring in the circular times,
and then becoming manifest for a moment as audible frequencies when a veena-
player sort of lights them up—thereby making them resound.

Thirdly the sound-wave-formations are by their very nature diagrammatic.

One may imagine them in the shape of a system of coordinates. On the horizontal
or X-axle is oscillating continously an unchanged basic tone, the tonic which
the veena -player is producing by touching the drone-strings strung along the
sides of the beam. Above and below this X-axle is floating the real melody thread
played on one of the four main strings only, with the curls, waves, pitches, and
arches peculiar to each sound-wave-formation. An ear used to Western music
will only after some training be capable of correctly interpreting these acoustic
diagrams. Our ears have the tendency to perceive consciously the moves of the
melody thread at first only. It takes time to get acustomed to listening not merely
one-dimensionally but two-dimensionally; this means not hearing the melody
but the plane between the melodic line, rising and falling on the y-axle, and the
straight vertical and unalterable drone line thus experiencing the sound-wave-
formation as two-dimensional.

On the vertical or Y-axle the varying highs and lows of the melody thread
can he marked. Here too the untrained ear will meet with certain limits of com¬
prehension at first, because the Indian octave consists of 22 micro-tones and not
of 12 half-tones like the Occidental octave. In theory the Indian octave and its
micro-tones raise a lot of difficult questions (see note 42). In practice, however.

Mendicancy is an old and
important element of Indian
life and culture. Most of dW
sages , including Gotarno
Buddho , have made their
living through begging. On
this picture (the sound-wave-

formation) Tankara is de¬

scribed as “very liberal in
giving away wealth to those
who seek alms”.

the veena -players easily produce these 22 notes, partly by shifting the frets on
the tube in a suitable position and partly by tightening the strings laterally
with the fingers of the left hand (see note 68).

On the one hand such an octave of 22 small intervals has many advantages.
A signal, and it is signal music what we are talking about, serves its purpose the
better the more it is unmistakable. To put it in other words, a veena -player can
produce highly complex sound-wave-formations with his 22 tones and can thus
express himself much more precisely than, say, a guitar-player who will only
have twelve tones at his disposal. Yet it has to be admitted that this micro-tone
system, how to play 22 tones on 12 frets per octave, is one of the unrevealed
problems of Indian musical theory. The number of the micro-tones, defined as
the smallest just noticeable intervals (45), actually is not fixed at all in the
of this definition and therefore appears to be chosen deliberately. Maybe the 1 i
problem is at the back of this too. According to this the octave must contain
22 micro-tones because the number of the (seven) strings of the veena as well as
the number of the (seven) basic notes, corresponding to the white keys on the
piano, make 22 provided one multiplies seven by 3.14159265 or the transcendental
irrational figure ‘Pi’. The respondents, highly interested in this subject, were,
alas, not in agreement whether the micro-tones could be transformed into the
conventional half-tones or full-tones by addition or by division, or whether,
this being a third alternative, they could only be perceived relatively, i.e. as
slightly raised or slightly lowered notes in the frame of an octave nevertheless
containing 12 half-notes.


Strolling through the Yanter

Manter in Jaipur.
How does one build up a sound-wave-formation, how is it brought into
shape and how to an eventual end ? The veena-players are in so far observing
quite a number of formal rules which to describe would be leading to far here.
It might just be added that they must begin each sound-wave-formation on the
zero-line or the X-axle with the tonic, the basic note. During the first period
they will be demonstrating in maybe twenty variations the focal tones peculiar to
each sound-wave-formation including the correspondingly proper scale and this
in the original way namely descending. The melody thread will at first fall deep
below the zero line and rest there. In the second period the veena -player will
carry the melody curve high up above the zero line. Only during the third period,
and half an hour or more may have passed by then, will he spread the entire
sound-wave-formation over the whole tonal volume of three and a half octaves.

The acoustic phenomenon which is slowly taking shape is supposed to

have an effect upon the listener, whoever this might be, and to bring about a
change in his actual existence making him receptive to the real signal and its
message. This effect is achieved by the veena -player in handling the time in a
special manner. To be more exact: the sound-wave-formation will only become
properly recognizable once the player succeeds to condition the listener, be it
only himself, and to lift him up from his everyday rhythm and the historical
and linear time into another more valuable, meditative, and—needless to say—
circular time. According to the rules he will proceed in this manner: the sound¬
wave-formation in question will commence with a rhythmless performance, i.e.
the melody thread is neither grouped nor structured by any rhythm. The tones,
so it seems, are coming out of a timeless space. The listener thus exposed to these
timeless sequences of tones will in due course lose his normal feeling for time,
hence his consciousness of an intertwined to-day and to-morrow, of the sequence
of hours and minutes, and he will more and more fall into a state of timelessness
where no clock is ticking and no heartbeat is indicating a perceptable temporal

Once this state of subjective stoppage of time is achieved, and a bit of

auto-suggestion would be of no harm, the player will set the so far static and

In all Ragamala-books “ long -

ing for the absent lover ” and
also simple loneliness are
important themes. Here (the
sound-wave-formation) Kal-
lasika “offers fried rice ” to
the gods when her husband
marches on his ivay to the


immobile sound pattern in motion. He will introduce a melody comparable to a

short song which he will then repeat in all sorts of variations until it becomes
proportioned by and by into a maybe twelve-piece rhythm the beginning and
end of which coincide with the little song. In the ideal case the reena-player will
by this congruence of rhythm and song succeed in slowly bending the serpent
of time, to put it in the words of tantra. Finally twelve and one, head and tail,
are approaching to meet. The listener’s consciousness is moving along the sides
of a twelve-angle and thereafter on a closed circular track of the new time of
higher value which enables him to recognize the signal and the message clearly.

In doing so the veena -player is not—to stress this point again—following

a strict pattern. He does not play like a Western musician who has to make an
effort to follow precisely the path once laid down on music-sheets by the composer
for all times. Usually veena-players just cannot read music-sheets at all. They
stick to a number of unwritten rules which vary in composition and quality
from one sound-wave-formation to another. Within the framework of these
rules they are allowed, putting it into our Western language, to improvise; this
means that they may interpret one and the same sound-wave-formation on one
particular occasion in this manner and on another day in a different one; by
filling in the tonal pattern they may proceed according to their own discretion
as long as the result of the tonal picture is correct.

14. The Magic Whirlwind

Who is he, the listener ? The listener is a demon, a supranatural being,

a deity like Ma Kali of the Kaligat who is called or invoked by the iwna-player,
and this is done with the intention of a barter: the veena -player is sacrificing
something, a musical offering, and for this he expects a reward. This considera¬
tion—be it protection from an epidemic or the timely arrival of the rains—may
in every single case be defined and formulated in one way or another. The one
desiring the love of a woman, the other needing money, and somebody else want¬
ing a son or wishing to be freed from rheumatic pains. Behind it all there is in
any case the idea that the demon ought to do something invariable in considera¬
tion of the sacrifice offered to him: the demon is expected to apply the powers
vested in him only and thereby suspend the laws of nature within certain limits
of space and time in order that the actually inattainable aims may yet be reached
and that, in other words, a smaller or bigger miracle may happen.

For better understanding the following might as well be recapitulated at

this juncture: by learning an Asian art, namely how to play the veena , the musi¬
cian has changed his personality. The change in personality is the result of a rite
or of a process possessing transmuting powers and simultaneously serving as an
instrument for measuring the change. The process is to be understood as the
handling of a musical instrument which has been constructed under magical

aspects. This process or rite—and here a new condition is being introduced_the

pupil will not have learnt for his own sake nor simply for the sake of the desired
improvement of his own existence. No, he has achieved two things at a time:
firstly he has changed his mind in such a manner as to enable him to fulfil the
tasks of a medium. At the same time he has learnt a language or a musical code¬
system which permits him to enter into a dialogue with supernatural powers
thus applying his capability of a medium in practice.

Just one more word with regard to these powers: being an Occidental
person the reader will be accustomed to a notion of God which originated on the
Sinai peninsula. In short, you will, if at all, imagine Him to be a paramount
being upon whom you will depend though He is independent of you. He simply
floating over the waters and generally doing quite well without you. The deities
of the Himalayas, and there are but these two religiously really fertile regions on
earth, are however of a somewhat different quality. They cannot exist without
somebody adoring them. They, the supernatural ones, are thus dependent upon
the offerings of their believers and are, therefore, fundamentally inclined to make
that barter mentioned before.

Such a barter is performed, as a rule, according to the principles of market

economy, i.e. the value of the offering and of your desire ought to be in adequate
proportion. Thus you cannot e.g. expect to be cured from tuberculosis by merely
pouring out a mug of water. Yet when it comes to sacrificing, it is not merely
a matter of value for money. There are, by the nature of things, weak sacrifices
and very effective ones, especially the blood sacrifice such as offering a goat.
magically perfect offering is the sacrifice of the only-begotten son whose blood
will then be drunk and whose flesh will be devoured in the temple, the way it is
done millionfold in Christian churches every Sunday. The fundamentally valid
principle of value and countervalue is being relaxed again in a miraculous way
as shown by this example: the offerer of the sacrifice does indeed give away his
offering. Yet he will often he remunerated by some kind of enjoyment bonus,
e.g. if you sacrifice a goat you may afterwards eat its meat. And if you give a
musical offering you are allowed to listen to the music of the veena.

Now you may object that veena music is not suited for a sacrifice since
it is almost infinitely reproducible so that the offerer is not really staking
and is not giving his offering up. If you look at it that way this might be
But you must take the following element into consideration: veena -playing
used to be in general a performance to order. Thus the neena-players normally
do not play for themselves but as ordered by a client, that is for a fee (46). The
offering, therefore, is not the sound-wave-formation but it consists of the three
chickens, the measure of rice, x the scarf, or the money which you, the offerer,
giving the veena -player for performing a sound-wave-formation for you and for
acting as a go-between or an intermediary for transcendental powers.

Would it not be recommendable in that case to sacrifice the chicken or

the rice directly ? Does one need the intermediary in the person of the veena-
player ? One might reply that at all times and everywhere magicians and priests
squeezed themselves in between man and heaven, thereby making good money
and acquiring wealth through all sorts of intimidation practices (47). This might
as well be true in a number of cases. But in favour of the ueena-players the
ing could be brought forward: by the aid of their special musical faculty of speech
they are solving a grave problem which could not be dealt with by the otherwise
untrained layman: The point is not only to set up a nondescript sign by the
offering but to address just that very deity or demon and to approach exclusively
the one who is responsible for the desire of the sacrificing believer and who will
therefore be capable of fulfilling his wish.

This provokes two questions: what is the nature of such a relationship

and, secondly, how can it be arranged so that the contact with the supernatural
being to whom the playing is directed is established, and with him only ? The
relationship resembles as regards its quality a rotating power column which
according to one respondent should be imagined to be something ‘like a tornado’
Such a bundle of energy and that kind of pole-shaped field of force will, however
only build up if the veena -player is fulfilling certain qualifications. He must
chosen the time and the type of the offering properly-and more about this
later he is expected to meet a multitude of purity requirements such as e g

to be seated on a linen cloth. But above all this: he must play very carefully
and correctly. J

The second question, namely the one on the orientation of the power
is in principle quite easy to answer: the sound-wave-formations are attached
to certain deit.es and demons. By his music the tiema-player is transforming
t e power column into the corresponding characteristic oscillation pattern. In
doing so he ,s producing an unmistakable call-sign, an unequivocable ‘Here am I
and there are you’ or ‘I am you, you are I’, a sound-wave-formation the fre¬
quency spectrum of which is corresponding to one deity only and which can
thus be received and understood exclusively by this very one.

T 7 ery powerful goddess: Kali.


In this way the invocation resembles very much a most earthly telephone
call: instead of dialling your live, six, or seven or so figures to get your
‘be eceno-playe, is choosing five, six, or seven notes from the twenty-,„„ note
Indian scale in order to ge, in toueh with his transcendental partner. As opposed
to the layman, who is ignorant of the seience of sacrificing he will thus be able
to find his way in India’s overpopulated Olympus and he null have at h,s d.sposal
an intricate system of emergency-calls with 34,848 extensions which corresponds,
as said above, to the ultimate number of sound-wave-formations.

To start with there are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva who are creating,
maintaining, and destroying life. Associated with them are their female incarna¬
tions like the Goddess Lakshmi dispensing riches and Sharasvati, invoked by the
believer for wisdom and cognizance, or Durga-Kali who gives the power. Then
there is the elephant headed Ganesh responsible for successful business, the
Goddess Rati donating and withdrawing fleshly lust, or Sitala responsible for
small-pox epidemics, and they all have their own combination of tones the same
as we have our telephone-numbers. Along with these recognized deities goes a
multitude of demons, mountain sprites, tree spirits, personified stars, and natural
powers like rain and wind which the veena-player may invoke, ask for help, and
mobilize. In short, within the network of this transcendental telephone one
may find help for all vicissitudes of life, at least in theory.

In practice, however, the matter looks somewhat different: the observer

often gets the impression as if the telephone-directory, the key, or the code was
at least partly lost. The respondents are unanimous in so far as they would attach

divine origin to the (theoretically) 34,848 sound-wave-formations and they

presume, almost without reservation, that these vibration patterns were given
to man for the purpose of invocation. But once you inquire about the solidity
of the triangular relationship between a certain deity, a certain sound-wave-
formation, and a given request you will get the following impression:

Q There are sound-wave-formations addressed to a nameable deity signalling

a clearly defined request. One of these is the sound-wave-formation named

"Bhairavi’ which is addressed to the Goddess Kali asking her for strength.
The same applies to the sound-wave-formation "Dipak’. Dipak is always
directed to the god of fire, Agni, and the request concerned has invariably
something to do with fire.


Other sound-wave-formations are undoubtedly addressed to determinable

deities though it is left to the caller which type of request he wishes to be
transmitted. This applies e.g. to the sound-wave-formation "Todi’ which
the reader may hear in part on the attached cassette. Todi is directed
to Lord Vishnu or one of his many incarnations like the shepherd god
Krishna. Here and there one can hear people say that the request to be
signalled was invariably a longing for communion of a sensuous or of a
transcendental nature. Yet there is no room for a precise statement.

In the case of a third group of sound-wave-formations the caller’s request

can yet be clearly named. One of these is ‘Marva’, a vibration pattern
which you may also listen to on the cassette. Marva, which should always
be played in the afternoon, siginifies the fear of the approaching night.
The addressee, here the competent deity, is however uncertain and one
gains the impression as if "Marva’ were perhaps a vibration bridge which
can lead to various gods.

A multitude of sound-wave-formations finally seems to be chained neither

to a nameable power nor to a request. But this does not matter nor does it, so
they say, jeopardize the system: such ficticious gaps can and must be filled by
the veena -player with insight gained by meditation.

You may now wish to know how the sound-wave-formations work in

every single instant. Does "Bhairavi’ really provide the desired strength of the
Goddess Kali ? Does ‘Malhar’ attract the rains ? Will a fire light up when a veena
player is playing "Dipak’, the sound-wave-formation of the god of fire ? This
question, which you might be inclined to answer in the negative, is not so easy
to clarify. Let us make an attempt all the same: if the fear of the night is
a grip on you, that is the afternoon terror, or if you are feeling the pain ot

for your distant lover, whoever this might be, music, a signal-like sequence of
tones, the performance of an acoustic archetype, may have a soothing effect
even if you possibly explain this effect away as suggestive; the effect is
obvious though it may have been produced simply by the veena-player’s con¬

Of course one may object that such a suggestive effect was not yet equiva¬
lent to the afore-mentioned lifting of a law of nature, the aim all magicians and
hence all veena-players claim to pursue. This is possibly true. But here the
arises which phenomena you are willing to accept as according to the laws of
nature ? If for example you consider coincidence, defined as a statistical pro¬
bability, to be part of the laws of nature it will, however, be possible to produce
a so-called c wild shot’ that is to bring about a statistically improbable event.
Within a certain framework, particularly in the psychosomatic field, veena-
playing can set in motion the mechanism of a self-induced prophecy: an ardent
desire, articulated and reaffirmed through a musical-magic ceremony, will in¬
variably contain the nucleus of a prognostic. This prediction may become true
with a probability which is actually contrary to the rules, provided the believer,
encouraged and strengthened by the magic practice, changes his behaviour,
though to a hardly noticeable extent, in the direction of the fulfilment of his
wish, be it the love of a girl longed for, the delivery from headache, or pecuniary
gain. In short, one cannot say that the sound-wave-formations have no effect

Sceptics could object that nobody had yet seen a river flow upstream or
witnessed a man fly by himself, and if there is talk of any effects, then it must
be the consequence of a spiral of silence. Here is an example: if a veena-player
is playing ‘Malhar’, the sound-wave-formation for invoking rain, it might after¬
wards be raining or not. If it does not the veena -player and his client will keep
silent about their flop and will not make it known. If it does indeed rain they

This lady representing the

iound-wave-formation Bhai-
ravi ivorships Lord Shiva
(the Shiva Lingam) by offer -
ing floivers. She sings songs
“with regular beats”.


will be telling anybody who wishes to listen about their success. In this manner
keeping silent and and telling others will eventually create a psychological atmos¬
phere, a climate, where the successful people will become ever louder and the
failing ones will die away.

Let us assume once again that c Malhar’ is being played without the sound¬
wave-formation producing any rain. The client, maybe a big estate-owner, will
then think that he has possibly employed the wrong veena-player, one who is
incapable of acting as a medium. The ueena-player on his part might argue that
his fees had been insufficient in view of the unexpectedly complicated constella¬
tion. But the system, that is the efficiency of it, will no longer be at issue.
is how the sound-wave-formations act. Perhaps they work subjectively. But
whichever way one twists things around they do have an effect.

15. Searching for the Cardiac Tone

So far we have been talking mainly about the system of veena- playing.
Surely you will have wondered what the position of the veena -player might be.
How does he see himself? What are the technical problems he has to tackle
when playing? For better understanding let us assume that you yourself are a
4 Beenkar\ that is a veena-player, and you wanted to play ‘Bhairavi’—one of the
simpler tasks—which is a Durga-Kali sound-wave-formation in order that the
goddess may give you new or more strength.

How to start ? First of all you would have to prepare for the essential
ritual which means that you would in the proper order of things have to discharge,
then take a bath, and finally put on clean garments. In doing so you will have
met the substantial requirements for any activity as a medium. Now the question
arises where to play, meaning that you will have to look for a favourable spot
under the aspect of terrestrial magnetism. This will usually be the point of your
room which is most agreable to you. If you have any doubts as to that, then
you ought to choose the place where you normally spread out your sleeping-mat.
This problem of a suitable site, which is fairly easy to solve within your own
appartment, will be causing you some trouble when you want to play outside
in the open air and in a surrounding little familiar to you. You will then have
to get settled as best you can. There are some Indian sacral buildings where the
architects have already taken care of the most suitable spot. Occasionally one
finds courtyards, recesses or other places earmarked for veena-playing (48).
Once you have found your place you will use considerable care on deter¬
mining the four cardinal points because you are normally supposed to be playing
with your body facing North. If you are in possession of a compass this task
will be easily fulfilled. You might be marking the North-South line by a shoe
or some other mark. Should you not have a compass then you will climb on to
the roof of your house during the night and orient yourself by the polar star.
Should it still be daylight then you can determine true South by the aid of the
sun, i.e. you find out when a pole, which you have driven vertically into the
ground, is casting the shortest shadow and is thus indicating the highest position
of the sun. You must not rely on your watch nor on the assumption that the sun
will be in its zenith at twelve o’clock noon. It takes the sun about 16 minutes
to cross even a small country like Switzerland from East to West. The highest
position of the sun, and that is true South, can therefore be up to eight minutes
slow or fast in relation to the 12 o’clock mark. In a vast country like India this
deviation may amount to minus one hour in Assam or plus one hour in Sindh.

When you have ascertained the four cardinal points and you have found
your place then you may turn to your instrument. You will now have to decide
to what pitch you wish to tune your rudra-veena. In this connexion it must be
remembered that in Indian music as opposed to Occidental music no absolute
pitch of notes is known, such as the chamber-A with its 440 oscillations per
minute. Looking at it this way you may tune your instrument so high or so low
as you wish and after all you are playing alone and there will be no need to adjust
yourself to the tuning of an accompanying orchestra. Yet you should make as
little use of this liberty as possible. You will rather tune the veena to match
your own frame of mind and choose a pitch which will correspond to the mood
of your body.

This harmony of your body and the veena can be obtained by a more or
less complicated procedure. The simplest method not requiring any musical
knowledge just means trying to sing the lowest note which you may be able to
produce without difficulty. All you do is to start with a tone agreable to you
and then to sing down the scale until you will not get any lower after two or
three trials. Beginning with this lowest tone, which you will now have to count,
you will go up four notes to reach a possibly not ideal though quite acceptable
basic tone for the veena. It is to the basic note, the tonic, that you will tune
the seventh cord which is strung sideways on the far side of the beam and also
the fourth string which is the second—counting from your chin—of the four
upper cords. The first and the second string running along the near side of the
beam you will also tune to this note if one (second cord) or two (first cord)

You will have got a big step further now: you will have found the pitch,
the basic tone uniting you and your veena for the rest of your life and accompany-

ing you unalterably; this is the X-axle the unchanged tone of which will be
forever the backbone of your music. If you now go to the piano and touch this tone
just to try you will find it to be between F and H and as a rule near G (208

A (220 Hertz) or an intermediate value. All this will only work on one condition:
that you are of male sex. Should you be of female sex thus having a higher pitch
then you ought to be prepared to face a sad message: as tradition will have it,
playing the veena is a men’s job (49). Being a female you must not even touch
a rudra-veena lest you might run into the danger of becoming barren, thus being

branded with the ignominy of remaining without children. The exception of the rule:

The somewhat boorish procedure, related above, for the determination Female veena
of the basic tone does approximately lead to the envisaged target though it
cannot satisfy the inquisitive intellect. This is why we shall start again and
this time as follows: according to the tantric doctrine you must imagine your
body, from skull to anus excluding the legs, to be divided into several partitions.

Between each of these partitions there is one power-knot called chakra. These
seven chakras , localized in the anus, the intestinal, the solar plexus, the heart,
larynx, root of the nose, and cerebrum region, hence the figure seven, you will
have to multiply now by 2 Pi. This means you calculate 3.14159265 + 3.14159265
== 6.2831852 X 7 = 44. Taking the Indian octave having 22 micro-tones, yet
the volume of the untrained human voice being two octaves, this figure 44 as
calculated above will correspond to the volume of your voice projected to the
seven power-knots of your body. This amounts to your average or median tone_

for men it is usually not far away from the C—being in the neighbourhood of
your heart chakra hence exactly halfway between your skull and your anus. If
you now, starting from this cardiac sound, go four notes downward you arrive
again, this time by way of the descending scale, approximately at your basic
tone to which you will be tuning your veena.

The procedures for the determination of the cardiac sound described here
are not undisputed among insiders, as might be mentioned for better under¬
standing. The opponents to this argue in particular that the 2-Pi calculation
was an undesirable magic practice. In addition, they say, the whole calculation
was wrong anyway: if you multiply 2 Pi by seven then the result is not 44 but
43.982296. Moreover according to respect and custom the disciple ought to take
over and to pass on his master s basic tone. The advocates of the theory however
maintain that a sensible guru would never press his basic tone upon his pupil
and instead encourage the disciple to seek and to find himself the individual
harmony of his body and his instrument. The tiny calculatory difference may
exist on paper, they say, but it is of no bearing in the framework of organic
life and of the principle of relative relations prevailing there.

You will by now have found the proper place, determined the four cardinal
points, ascertained your basic tone, and tuned all seven strings of the veena 7

exactly—for tuning the third and fifth string the reader who is better versed
in music is referred to the annex (51). You wdll no\y do one more thing and that
is to check by touching all cords whether the now tightly strung steel or bronze
wires will produce ‘om’ or ‘ahm’. To put it differently, the point is whether or
not the strings are producing sufficient overtones in addition to their proper
tone. Do they not only say ‘ah’ but is the wave-shaped oscillation of the wire
divided in halves and thirds ? Does a tower of fifths build up on top of the ‘ah’
tone touched, hence an energy column sounding ‘mmm’ before it grows up beyond
the perceptivity of the human ear into the area of quiet ?

As you may see from some illustrations in this book the strings of the
veena as opposed to those of a guitar are not tightened over a vertical bridge,
i.e. a kind of wall where the vibrations of the cords will refract like seawaves
on a breakwater. The wires rather end up in a horn or ivory plate (52) a little
bigger than a match-box. This plate is, however, not even but instead ground
with a curve hardly noticeable to the eye. That is why the vibrations of the
strings do not refract. They rather run out like waves on a beach and then turn
backwards unrefracted, cutting and dividing by rolling back the frequency of
the oncoming waves. This is how in the ideal case not only a basic tone or a
simple oscillation of the wire will be produced but a long resounding frequency
agglomeration which is reduced into ever smaller sinus curves by halves, thirds,
and fourths finally to fade away into zero beyond the perceptivity of the human
ear. This ideal case does in practice not always occur. The overtone producing
curve of the ivory plate will with the time be polished off by the pressure of the
strings. The sound will become dull. A careful veena -player will therefore if
sary regrind this plate with file and sandpaper until the oscillations regain a

slight upward slant flowing back again into the vibrating string.

Leaving aside here the business of planet stones and amulets, you may
now turn to actual playing and in doing so you first visualize a mantra or magic
syllable. This could be the mantra L Hring\ articulated deep in your throat and
which is attributed to the Goddess Kali or it might be the Aim Hring because
the mantra Aim will be especially activating a female goddess. You will then
press the wire plectra (53) on the fingertips of the forefinger and the middle
finger of your right hand, touch with your left middle finger lightly an oil soaked
cottonwool ball to make the fingertips glide smoothly on the cords, get hold of
the veena , and strike the basic note at first, i.e. the descending fourth down to
your cardiac sound with which all sound-wave-formations begin.

You will repeat this basic note and stabilize it; and departing from this
note you will mould every note of the Bhairavi sound-w ave-formation down the
decending scale and shape it precisely so that the shapeless and earthy dark
Durga-Kali shall take notice of the invocation. In doing so vou will localize
each tone of the instrument within your body—at first possibly feeling your
way hesitantly—and sense it going down under your heart chakra. As you will
remember you have at your disposal between your heart chakra and your anus
chakra a complete octave serving as a physical measure of perception on which
the tones, if properly struck, will begin to light up in many colours. This demon¬
stration of tones on the downward scale may take a quarter of an hour or more,
but you are not in a hurry. Once you finally have exhausted the octave within
the lower part of your body—you sitting with your legs crossed on the ground—
you will play the veena yet lower down, unlimiting your body and thus prolonging
the sequence of tones into the ground and getting your anus rooted in the earth.
This at first sight odd idea of growing roots will soon become familiar to you
once you visualize that your body only houses two octaves the veena however
covering almost four. The lowest octave thus pierces through your body into
the ground (54) and the highest one towers above your skull. When you have
firmly and safely grown roots you will tonally return to the heart Chakra and
let the melody thread rise through your throat and nose into your cerebrum
and then—this being a magically critical moment—pierce from inside your
skull. You will be playing beyond yourself, still yery slowly and arhythmically,
demonstrating every note like a shield and holding it up. In this condition you
should repress your inner self a bit, relinquish your individuality, and become
a lotus flower in a pond rooted in the dark and growing above the water surface,
above your skull and your conscience, a pink blossom.

So far you will only have demonstrated the tones of the sound-wave-
formation singly or in the intensities and combinations typical of the sound¬
wave-formation. By now you will have lost any feeling for time entirely and
what is to follow is the actual signal. It would be quite pointless to visualize
the innumerable indications and rules with which the guru has furnished you
in order that you may unmistakably reproduce that signal on the veena. You forget
about the whole collection of regulations and you make a picture emerge before
your mind’s eye which is still filled with Goddess Kali’s mantra ‘Hring 9 . Be this
picture a geometrical figure or an architectural construction, in any case it will
be a yantra , it will however not merely constitute an arbitrary product of your
own imagination. Instead it will be a certain if unqualified figure which has
gained concrete shape as a sound-wave-formation in your consciousness and
hence has become a picture due to months and years of experimentally practicing
on the veena. When this picture presents itself to your eye with sufficiently clear
outlines—the clearness of the contours being of utmost importance—you may
set yourself to the task of tracing the sound-wave-formation with rhythmical and
colourful strokes of sound and develop the sketchy shape into a multi-dimensional
formation of vibrations or into a tonal space. The curves of the melody you
will, by repeating, form more and more correctly and exactly. Again and again
you will be defining the sketch. The ledges you will emboss with characteristic

One of the most prominent

yantras , the Shri-Yantra.

She. Punch for the produc¬

tion of Kali-amulets; original
size about 3x4 cm.

ornaments. Eventually it will arise within yourself, the apparition, the sound-
wave-formation, pulsating, in rich detail, and unmistakable: Bhairavi , the tonal
image of the strength dispensing Ma Kali. She is I. I am Kali.

1 6. The Times of Sacrificing

In speaking to the respondents and certainly also in reading this book

one might ask oneself to which degree these statements could be reliable and
represent a reality without distortion. One should be under no illusions about
this and realize that this problem of distortion can never be solved completely.
Please do remember what was said above about style of thinking: the respondents
see the world through a different grid which is only in exceptional cases in con¬
gruence with the patterns of speech and with the categorial systems the way
they are known and accepted in Amsterdam or in Los Angeles. One might try,
perhaps by analogy, to transfer as many contents as possible from one system
into the other. As seen by the interviewer the respondents’ statements only
allow to discern without doubt basic assumptions or structural elements such as
this one: there is a chakra doctrine. When you go into more detail, maybe the
question if you have to imagine the body to contain four, five, six or seven power
knots, the opinions of the informants will often vary greatly. In that case one
will have to put up with a 40 percent or less conformity.

One of these so far safe basic assumptions is the idea that certain sound-
wave-formations could and should only be played at certain times if they are
to lead the veena-player and his client—this being the declared aim—to a con¬
sonance with the cosmos. This much may be said in advance, that given sufficient
training you can fairly exactly tell the time when listening to a veena -player
carefully. This may at first sound somewhat odd. You should therefore try to
imagine at this juncture, that the 24 hours of the day were divided into eight
sections or ‘watches’ of three hours each. The sound-wave-formations are now
assigned—this being the decisive point—to one of the eight watches each and


must therefore only be heard wdthin one of these 180 minute periods (55). Pro¬
vided the vibration pattern, the w ave-formation, and the time for its performance
are familiar to you, you can by inference tell the time as well.

You are now requested to improve this simple model a little. The watches
cannot be determined simply with the aid of a w r rist-w T atch because they are
not dimensioned according to the legal time but in line wdth planetary times.
The cycle of these watches therefore does not commence wdth 0 hours, which
would be the simplest method clock time-wise, but with sunrise which in Calcutta
is in summer at about half past five o’clock and in winter at approximately half
past seven or correspondingly earlier or later in other places. Sunrise and sunset
vary in India, Calcutta being situated on the 22nd parallel, much less than in
Northern countries such as Canada, Finland, or Sweden. Yet it is only in excep¬
tional cases that the watches last exactly 180 minutes due to their connexion
with planetary time. The four watches of the day last 210 minutes in summer
and the night watches are reduced to 150 minutes each. In winter, however,
the night watches expand and the day watches shrink. It is only when the earth
during the yearly course of the sun passes the Aries point in the spring and the
Libra point in the autumn that the watches are of equal length, i.e. 180 minutes
on the clock (56).

This time related to the sun alone does not yet suffice. Some sound-wave-
formations are not related to times of the day or of the night but to the seasons
of the year, mainly to the Aries point and to the rainy period which in India,
according to the location in question, will be during the months of July to Octo¬
ber. But these too are the fairly easily recogniziable fixed points within the time
pattern of the veena-player. If he wishes to play the right sound-wave-formation
at the proper time he also has to take the rest of the planets and their orbit into
consideration, especially the moon with its orbital period of 27.3 days, or the
Jupiter taking twelve years, or the Saturn with its almost 30 years for one orbit.
For the reader it will, however, be sufficient to be aware of the following: as a
veena-player you should always be conscious of the positions of the planets because
it is only this way that you can determine the most favourable time for sacrificing
and for choosing and playing the sound-wave-formation vibrating consonantly

with the planets.

The orientation with regard to planetary times naturally requires the best
possible orientation within space. This means to say that the veena-player should
at least know his position by latitude and longitude. Moreover he will sit with
his face pointing North for the sake of better self-definition in time and space.
There will be one fixed point, the pole-star, before his mind’s eye at least and
by it he will be able to define his personal situation. Theoretically also the
cardinal points are of some use. But if the veena -player faces East the celestial
bodies will somehow rush towards him with the earth’s rotation. Facing West

he would be likewise without optical support and he would topple over back¬
wards. The Southerly direction—India being situated on the Northern hemi¬
sphere—is also not of any real use since the stellar South pole, that is roughly
the Southern Cross, will be below the horizon and can thus not serve as a support
to the eye. Let us raise the question again here what the position is regarding
the statements in relation to reality, are they reflecting it? Well, all
said that they respect the division of the day into eight watches including the
corresponding attribution of the sound-wave-formations. In practice, so the
performing musicians stated, they were observing this rule as exactly as possible
and that they would play the sound-wave-formations only at the proper planetary
time. So far this principle is recognized and realized. Even the state operated
broadcasting system, All India Radio, remains loyal to the astro-acoustic rule
and is transmitting sound-wave-formations only at about the time of the day
via its medium-wave stations, when they have been actually played in the studio
and recorded on tape. The pole-star rule, however, is only kept in the memories
of some of the respondents. In musical practice it is obviously no longer being
observed and may at best be part of meditative exercises.

Why do the respondents stick to the rules of the times of the day ? As was
frequently said and maybe too often, this was done because their guru had done
so. But is there more behind it? Yes, the idea, if only vaguely recognizable,
that the planets and the fixed star constellations are either symbols of the gods
or even identical with them. Shortly speaking, here we find the already described
connexion of the various sound-wave-formations with individual deities or
demons now reappearing in the form of stars or constellations. Is Kali Bhairavi ?
Is the moon Kali? Is Bhairavi Chandra, the moon? This can only be recon¬
structed piecemeal, if it ever existed.

The relationship between the astral world and the sound-wave-formations,

however, can still be proved, and this with the help of the so-called Tivra-Ma
phenomenon. A Tivra-Ma is the same as the note F sharp as long as your veena
is tuned to C as the basic tone. And this is what that is about: in the sound
or the scales of the sound-wave-formations this tone appears only during the
third watch at about 12 o’clock noon when the sun is in its zenith above the
feena-player. At sunset the Tivra-Ma , the F sharp, will disappear once more,
it will change into an F. When the sun is exactly under the veena -player at 12
o’clock p.in. the Tivra-Ma or F sharp will reappear in the scales of tones of those
sound-wave-formations which are assigned to the fifth watch beginning at midnight.

This Tivra-Ma phenomenon is no mere coincidence. Also the other notes

of the scale will more or less systematically come into the acoustic foreground
in the course of the eight watches and recede into the background again. The
result of this is, if not in all individual cases: each time of the day and each
has its own audible tonality which is defined by the prominence of certain tones

changing with the watches (57). So far so good. This fact of the tonality changing
in the course of a day can be proved clearly up to this point and it gives rise to
this reasonable, if not quite scientific, assumption: would it not be possible,
would it not be thinkable, is it not even probable or certain that the tones of the
veena do not originate from the instrument, i.e. by the player touching the
but from the orbiting stars radiating unstruck sounds in accords corresponding
to their constellation ?

One may object now that this is the old story of the music of the spheres.
But this is not so. The idea of the Pythagorean music of the spheres is based
on the concept that the sphere-shaped magnetic fields of the celestial bodies
are producing sounds by mechanical friction. As far as the astral music is con¬
cerned you will have to start from the idea already familiar to you that light-
wave-formations and sound-wave-formations are two interchangeable manifes¬
tations of one and the same thing. The veena -player is capable, thanks to his
powers of a medium, to transform these inaudible light-wave-formations into
audible sound-wave-formations and to make perceptible to the human ear by
his instrument the vibrations of the infinite. Should you believe in astrology
and should you have pondered over what the influence of the planets on your
life might be like you will now obtain an explanation: what you hear on the
cassette attached to this book are the astral forces determining your fate and
transformed into acoustic oscillations.

The system which you have come to know up to now as a distress signal
transmitter, all of a sudden changes into a cosmic radio which not only transmits
but also receives. That means in concrete: when you sit facing North the con¬
stellations of stars and the planets wander from East to West over your head
and over the beam of your veena , you will be detecting the celestial bodies with
the pumpkin-shells serving as your ears. You are collecting the coloured lights
of the wandering stars and change them into sound spectra. It is you who keeps
the stars in motion. And it is you who is responsible for the moonrise at the
correct time. Who could draw the dividing line between cause and effect? With
the sound produced by you, you will force the sun down below the horizon.
And it is you who lures it out again early in the morning. You are the centre
of the world, the engine and the motor who makes the rains fall, the winds blow,
and the celestial bodies orbit.

But what is going to happen if you play wrongly? The veena -player is
not entitled to commit an error—and he will have to put up with that. Errors
and this is the way the people will have it—will ensue severe punishment such
as depressions, small-pox and premature death, because he, the caller, has upset
the cosmic order by his dissonant music. This burden of responsibility, this pres¬
sure for perfection, and the fear of guilt, so they say, will drive the veena
into a restless life without marriage and without children wandering around

VUVUVUU/ vi/ujmu;




and frightened by the demons with whom the veena -player is otherwise associating
so closely. The veena -player Asad Ali Khan who was interviewed on that in
Bombay Television in 1975 quite naturally denied all this. No, he said; was it
not for everyone to see—he having wife and children, how unfounded such super¬
stition was ?

17. Obscure Languages

The idea that sound could produce images and that, vice-versa, pictures
including celestial bodies could bring forth sounds might appear somewhat odd,
especially to readers with some knowledge in physics. You could argue that sound¬
waves, being so-called longitunal waves, are essentially distinguished from the
sinus-shaped light-waves. And in consequence of that, the transformation of
light-waves into sound-waves and vice versa—this being the basic concept of
veena-playing—is impossible to achieve in a natural manner. This statement
may be true within the frame-work of thinking of Western educated middle-
class. It is nevertheless untrue. Because what is consequentially correct, is not
necessarily what some millions of secondary school students think is true. What
is correct and hence real are the dreams of billions of people and the images in
their minds, their models of self-explanation and of the explanation of the world,
and not the causal relationships, which statistically irrelevant minorities in
Stockholm or in Sioux City think to be correct.

You may now shrink back from the idea put forward to you here, namely
to consider truth to be the consensus of the majority. Once you are willing to
consider what is true without any haughtiness as a countable and questionable
reality you will also look at the pictures in this book with different eyes. Among
them you will find pictures of a strange architecture, agglomerations of buildings
which your rickshaw-driver, if asked, will describe as 4 Janter-Manter ’ or as 6
Yantra -
Mantra\ These Janter-Manter places which are on Sundays popular picknick
sites and on weekdays populated mainly by monkeys, pigeons, and long-tailed
light green parrots comprise buildings which could neither be called commercial
nor housing nor sacral estates.

Again an encounter with the
divine: The sound-wave-for¬
mation Khambabati worship¬
ping Lord Brahma. She is
“robed in a cloth as white as
the clouds of autumn ”.

In the sense of colonialist and scientific correctness they are, with some
exceptions, astronomical heavy equipment or planetary clocks (58) although
they might never have been used for that purpose. In the sense of empirical
democratic conceptions of truth they are, however, magic transformers made
of clay, plaster, and marble, often containing form elements of the veena , and
often also serving a similar purpose in their architectural way: namely expanding
the consciousness of the onlooker, his self-definition within time and space, his
perception of the essential world beyond time where shape and sound, light¬
wave and sound-wave serve as interchangeable systems of signals with equal
meaning whose double quality, whose echo effect, whose reflected image can
only lead to an unbroken understanding of one’s self and of reality.

Being a reader of this book and an apprentice in magic you will now be
confronted with the question of what the quality of an acoustic system of signals
might be like in order to enable the transformer, in this case the rudra-veena ,
to bring forth image producing sounds. Vis’-a-vis’ this problem you should in the
ver Y beginning drop the assumption that what you are about to play is bound
to furnish a comforting euphony, t0 evoke sentiments or otherwise correspond
to the music of the Mozart time, be it in the form of likeness or of contrast. You
must on the contrary leave this World of concepts altogether and make yourself
familiar with the idea, not to produce music but to articulate an obscure language
with your finger-tips and with the strings of the veena .

What is an obscure language then? In the wider sense of the term you
would count among them any language which you do not understand. In a more
restricted sense obscure language are acoustic systems of signals which are
either based on mutual agreement and which serve the purposes of protection
and business of minorities. One of these agreed obscure languages is Fortran, a
man-computer language, or the Indian drum lingo (59) which you can also hear


The “ Yantra ” of the Eno-

chian obscured language;
see also note 61.

on the cassette attached to this book. This drum lingo contains any type of
beat on the drum and hence every one of the allegedly many thousands of different
drum tones in the form of an onomatopoetic and usually speakable syllable.

The initial advantage of this language is that Indian drummers can with¬
out effort tell eachother across the inner Indian language barriers what they
want to play or which sequence of beats they have performed the night before.
The drummer whom you hear on the tape is playing the sequence of syllables
‘Dha-Dha-Dhin-Ta-Keta-Dha-Din-Ta-Kita-Teka-Gaedi-Gaene’. If the accompany¬
ing drummer succeeds in audibly reproducing this sequence of syllables in twelve
parts on his drum treated with flour paste (60) then the veena- player will
understand at which point of the time circle divided into twelve he will be at
that moment. The second advantage of the drum lingo is that the drummer
beats the rhythm in a grammatical and speechlike manner, not in a monotone
tact, to enable the veena- player to find his orientation and to commence at the
right moment with the new time circle.

Besides these agreed obscure languages there are, however, revealed

obscure languages which are not based upon human agreement but which are
meant to serve the purpose of communication with the transcendent world.
One of these revealed obscure languages for instance is the Enochian language
which the God of Christanity revealed to an English magic but which however
did not make a breakthrough (61). Furthermore the Mantras belong to this
group which have been spread all over India for 3,000 years or more and which
are a part of everyday life there. The mantric language (62) has its dialects, more
about that later. And one of these dialects which is thought to be particularly
penetrating and understandable in a sacral way you play on the rudra-veena.
It is not music in the habitual sense of the term that you play but you speak a
lingo. From notes you form words. These words you build up into sentences.
You may be speaking, murmuring, crying, beseeching, wailing, cursing, reciting,
calling, preaching, threatening, flattering, wispering, or praying; yet you will
not be making music. Naturally you may also express yourself in a poetical
way, there is nothing to keep you from so doing; but you can only do that—
beware of Mozart—provided you are not indulging in this poetry for its own sake
but if you understand and practice it as a part of your message.

The mantras often used in syllables like Hum, Hring, Phat , Namo, or
Sivaha , are by the standards of linguistics so-called phonems, hence wordlike
utterances similar to expressions such as ‘hallo’, ‘hurrah’, ‘umph’ though they
do not express certain feelings like these English exclamations. In general mantras
are void of sense or value and represent mere tools. But they possess the power
to evoke imaginations or to trigger off a compulsion to think in certain images
and, according to the composition of the chains, to produce certain apparitions
(63). If you know how to handle the mantras properly, the most famous chain of
Pandit Rajib Locham Dey , j
Calcutta , playing the Pakha-
ivaz drum.

syllables being -Om-mam-padme-hum’, the mant,a seer will be the master of his
fantasies and trill no longer helplessly drift in the tehirlpool of vtv.d

hopes, and remembrances. . .

In everyday life mantras, therefore, are serving the purpose of disciplining

the power of imagination, based on the idea now well known to you, that there
is if only in a budding form, a light-wave-formation which corresponds to any
ei’ven sound-wave-formation. This technique is not limited to the so-called sacral
field as may be said for better understanding. Dealing with mantras is rather a
common habit that goes along with life and which might be of use when leaving
the house in the morning, when doing business, upon cohabitation, or as an aid
while taking an exam: who could reasonably draw a dividing line between the
worldly and the supernatural sphere anyway? Nor should the mantras be con¬
ceived as islands of reflexion. They can be integrated into the everyday thinking
or mixed into everyday language the way it is done m the Ganesha (64) invoca¬
tion prefacing this book which is framed by drum or drummers syllables; or in
the following Sharasvati mantra:
Om, aim , hring, tiling, som.

Come, Goddess Sharasvati.

Enlighten my voice.

Take the burden from my heart,

heaped up in centuries,
increase and augment my strength.

Look at me who has crossed the river

and reached the point of perception.

Som, kling, hring, aim, om.


If you go one step further and obliterate the dividing line, drawn arbitrarily
anyway, between the image and the reflexion, between imagination and reality,
then the world will be manipulatory without limit if you only know the formula,
the mantra, especially if you thereby wish to activate the godly beings and if
you can exploit their supernatural powers.

These basic rules of mantrics, i.e. this kind of instrumentality of thinking,

also applies to the more exclusive tonal dialect you arc playing on the veena
which is reserved to those who are in the secret. The good player or mantra seer
distinguishes himself from the bungler by his capacity to produce sounds which
may be spelt; he can spin speechlike melody threads and produce grammatical
sound-wave-formations which will enforce by their occult speech quality images
of thought, pictures, apparitions, and realities. This means that here too the
issue is to shape tones into words and words into phrases (65), to observe the
rules of speaking unmistakably in order to bring forth unmistakable phenomena.

Is it actually very difficult to play mantra-yantra music turned into lan¬

guage and grammar ? On the one side yes. Let it be stressed again that you must
set aside your habitual musical notions, especially the idea of euphony- This
takes much time, in particular if your consciousness is blocked by Occidental
musical education. On the other side you will be required to visualize the coloured
optical quality of sounds and the coloured tonal quality of optical impressions
by permament reflective training. Once you succeed in this interplay and once
you even manage to retrace form and sound back to a basic image of reflexion
then there will remain only a few concrete questions to answer.

You should attach great care to preparing the instrument, the veena. It
would not get you any further to reproduce here a whole list of measures to take.
The power of the yantra or your instrument to express mantras exactly according
to the pattern does, however, depend on certain conditions. For instance, you
should select the strings (66) with utmost care according to their material-
bronze, brass, or steel-and especially with regard to their diameter (67). If the
strings are too thin, hence relatively weakly strung for a given basic tone, the
overtones will be missing and the towers of fifths will not be building up. If the
cords are too thick though, hence relatively highly strung, their stress will be a
load for the instrument and a problem for the finger-tips of your left hand by
which you are tightening the strings laterally for producing the quarter tones.
The problem arising most frequently in practice, retuning the strings, whose
tension is rising and falling from 30 to 60 kilograms tensile force by this kind
of pulling away laterally, has until this day of nearly 2,000 years of ueena-
not been finally solved. One has to manage somehow either with a retightening
cursor, by tightening screws, or by retuning slackened strings high above your
head at the wooden pegs without interrupting the flow of music-speech.

You should also have in mind that speech is adjusted to a scale of tones
but it is not recited or sung purely in so far but in between the stages of the
scale. If you wish to play in a grammatical way you will have to practice the
‘meer’ (68) again and again. This means the capability to touch vibrating micro¬
tones with the string tightened laterally, to play steplessly and to bring up a
fourth silently and untouched so exactly that, upon the following touch, it will
sound purely. Or it means the skill to play the same tone with four or five
tensions of the cords in five different shades of sound, hence to bring it up from
five different frets.

According to a still vivid legend the real reena-player ought to drive a hook
into the ceiling of his room and tie his hair to it with a piece of string in order
that he may be awakened by his pains in case he should collapse from sheer
exhaustion during his daily practicing. Perhaps one need not go that lar. But
without diligence and experimenting endlessly you would not make any progress.
Diligence alone, however, will only solve part of the basic problems of veena-

playing * have you a messa g e t0 tell at all ? Can you at least for some minutes
imagine a supernatural being taking shape, such as the elephant headed Ganesh,
the god of success ? Problems of this nature, so the respondents also say, the
student will be able to evade at first through copying his master. They can eventu¬
ally be solved only through a meditative growth in cognizance, hence through
revelation in an absorbed state.

18. Bending the Time

How does one meditate ? How do the godly beings reveal themselves ?
Being a veena -player how does one obtain image sounds and sound pictures ?
The experts on the matter have tried to tackle this problem in a very practical
way Since about the 16th century a peculiar form of pictorial presentation
called Raga-mala (69) painting has developed. The Raga-mala painters have
painted or drawn the sound-wave-formations in a personified form in order to
create for the meditating musician a fixed point or support and to facilitate
thereby his meditative cognizance. Some of these pictures you will find in the
book They may, at the same time, have served the purpose of passing the sound¬
wave-formations on from generation to generation unaltered and to strengthen
the principle of oral tradition without script and by pictorial tradition.

Does one get any further meditatively with these Raga-mala pictures ?
The Raga-mala painters, influenced by the Persian miniature painters, on the
one side frequently depicted the sound-wave-formations differently for reasons
hard to tell. They furnished the onlooker with various starting points for medita¬
tion which would therefore have to lead also to different perceptions. The sound-
wave-formation c Todi? on page 4 you will for instance find along with a veena ,
without one, with deer or antelopes, black or red ones at your choice, but also
unaccompanied by animals. The respondents felt on the other hand that the
Raga-mala pictures were of use for trivial meditation at best in view of their
low degree of abstraction and that is in respect of the rather naturalistic type
of presentation of the sound-wave-formations, mostly depicted in the form of
noble women. For a means of getting access one should, if at all, use real yantras
which are abstract geometrical figures and which can be visualized before one’s
mind’s eye or be drawn on paper.
There is the impression that the respondents also, or even more so, tended
to be of the opinion that the abstract meditation void of images was better suited
than the one with images to obtain a more profound cognizance of sound-wave-

formations. Inasmuch as they were able to express themselves at all the respondents
were tending in the direction of reversing the process, i.e. to get hold of a veena
awaken a sound-wave-formation and with it, if only vaguely, the corresponding
picture: This sound-wave-formation they will then clarify visually and acoustically
to achieve more precision. They will set themselves to the task of making this
picture more and more colourful, better contoured, and plastic by a trial-error
process. Or they succeed—the one not excluding the other—to reshape acous¬
tically an image appearing in immediate totality. Led by the lighting up or
fading of the shape they will find its tonal counterpart and finally reach the
consonance, the congruence and the unity of light and sound.

What are these pictures like which the veena -player sees before his mind’s
eye? In this respect the respondents do not really give any exact answers. It is
a question of colourful formations often in geometrical and abstract shapes, and
to this extent the respondents would agree by and large. These visions in no
case resemble human beings or images of the gods as one may see them in Indian
temples, as they can be found hanging on the walls of ironmongers’ shops or
sticking on the dashboards of taxis. And also this can be taken for sure. These
apparitions are obviously not rigid either but mainly pulsating images.

The undetermined and parabolical expressions used by the respondents

in this context (‘you must imagine that to be something like . . .’) can be largely
explained by the fact that meditation, as opposed to magic, of which we have
mainly been speaking so far, originates in an area of experience where there are
no words, namely mysticism. What is mysticism and in which way does it differ
from magic ? No clearcut dividing line can be drawn between the two. Yet one
may be permitted to say the following: the magician is running a kind of trans¬
cendental business aimed at gaining strength. He is offering his sacrifice and he
expects consideration for it. In doing so he will always remain himself though,
and his problems are mostly of a procedural nature: given the aim how do I
sacrifice the proper thing at the right time and in the right way ?

In the area of mysticism the significance of the sacrifice is reduced to

almost zero and that is the visible sign of mysticism. The mystic will not enter
into bargaining with the gods and please accept this actually not permissible
split-up for the moment. He rather wishes to amalgamate himself with them.
This means that he desires to give up his self being convinced that a
power will take the place of his self, which will henceforth guide and form himself
and his life. This self must apparently not he understood as an individuality or
as a personal consciousness. No, the self of which we are speaking here should


Malhar , the sound-ivave-for-

mation attracting the rain ,
“is grey-haired , long-eared ,
taken to be a hermit and
wears a loin cloth and a
sacred garland

better be imagined to be that indeed often imperfectly functioning mental switch¬

board coordinating your feelings, your willpower, and your thinking.

Now you proceed another step forward and get used to the following
idea: the imperfection of human life, our daily self-torture, the seemingly normal
feeling of a split-up emptiness stems from this indistinct tuning of thinking,
feeling, and will. Since you replace your innate self by a higher valued force,
you may reduce your inner tension and you will no longer wear yourself out by
that conflict with yourself. You will make yourself capable of psychosomatic

top achievements culminating in a blissful experience of unison where there is

no two.

This experience of unison, though it may last but for a few minutes, will
now and this is the peculiarity of the unio mystica—extinguish your speech
consciousness or you power of speech. In other words: the respondents either
start stammering, resort to speaking in not always intelligible parables, give
evasive answers, or they frankly admit that they could not possibly say anything
in this respect. Starting from the assumption that veena-playing is a tonal dialect
belonging to the revealed obscure languages and not the agreed ones, one cannot
just put the form of its revelation aside as something of no or little importance
and try to gam a picture for oneself by arranging all the bits and pieces of
tion. In this way-hke in the case of‘tonlro’—one does not really get anv further

— of the meditative Lel^n

come to know when they are in the state of meditation and receives the following
certainly incomplete replies:

w In the first place one experiences a fading away or a shrinking of the

^ subjective feeling for time. He who is meditating is no longer able to tell
what time it is because the consciousness of time has left him or because
the problem of time has simply moved to the margin of perception and
into the field of the unimportant.

m The fading away of the feeling for time can be a slow or a sudden process

^ and with it the three-dimensional perception apparently changes in the

way of an expansion. Hence, the more the time consciousness is approaching

zero the more the sensation of space is growing towards the infinite.

In this way one now arrives at a non-perspective view and this means
^ in concrete: things which are situated at different distances from the
viewer, foreground and background begin to move together and to melt
into one another. The optical perspectives disappear and a state of medita¬
tion is reached when the environment presents itself to the eye as flat like
on a photograph. This loss of the third dimension can obviously be delib¬
erately produced and that is why it occasionally serves as an initial point
of meditative departure.
The fourth and probably most important characteristic of meditation
^ is the shaking off of the structures categorized as important or unimportant.
This implies a form of perceiving, like hearing and seeing, which no longer
works in a selective way and makes the ear and the eye sense no more
only that which seems to be of importance on the background of one’s
life story and of one’s personality structure. It is the empty space between
things which becomes visible, detailsnever observed before which grow
, , to a level of equal value through the abolition of the structural grid.
These are disengaged sounds and tones which have never attained the
stage of perception in one’s everyday consciousness.

The people practicing a revealed or revelatory music naturally find them¬

selves invariably confronted with the question how to find an access to meditative
perception and how to keep it open. Of course they must not leave this to chance
or to momentary moods. Some use all sorts of ritual procedures—like bathing,
defecation, putting on fresh clothes—in order to solve this access problem and
to shake off everyday perception and to find the way of transition into the world
bevoiul time. At times they also resort to more radical means of extinguishing
their self One of these is the exercise to cut a candle (70) to the size of burning
for one hour. When the wick burns the veena-player will settle down and play
a sequence of tones consisting of 10, 12, or 16 notes. This melody he then repeats
without interruption. This procedure will be quite exerting. He will after ten or
twenty minutes recede into self-forgetting which will increase to the point of
tonal intoxication ending up in a loss of the ego with the accompanying char¬
acteristics described above. The dying down of the candle, for which it is needed,
will indicate to the musical mystic, meanwhile void of time and of his ego, the
end of the exercise and will save him from a state of trance which might be too
deep, menacing himself.

Such practice, which may make crumble an otherwise quite solid ego,
is only meant as a preparation and as a means of loosening one’s everyday con¬
sciousness before the access. In other words, the ueena-player makes an effort
to achieve the condition enabling him to play. Now you must again, and contrary
to your habitual way of thinking, swop cause and effect and get used to the
idea that a sound-wave-formation played in the proper manner will bring the
listener, and that is foremost the player, quite inevitably up to the stage of
meditative perceiving and invite him to cross the border. This is achieved mainly
through a special way of handling time and by an arhythmical construction
which is at the basis of all sound-wave-formations and which is in most instances
carefully observed by practicing veena-players. In simpler words one may say:
the sound-wave-formation always begins arhythmically, i.e. the sequences of
tones during this first phase are floating in a timeless sphere. This form of tonal
presentation will sooner or later make the listener emerge from his linear,
time tied up with his own life. It is only then that the veena-player will give the
tonal sequences a rhythmical touch. He now introduces a new and different
circular time, i.e. he makes the melody thread end up in a large circle which
may be divided into twelve sections.

But this bending the time into a cycle is not so easy to achieve. The player
must keep counting in his mind, and this is a bad procedure since it disturbs
concentration. To regain easily the correct starting point of his time-cycle
he may possibly help himself by reciting a verse with twelve accentuations, e.g
‘My Lord I recognise you in the mirror of my soul perceiving that you have
one thousand names / my Lord . . .’. Or he visualizes a twelve-syllable mantra-
chain in order to endure the long rhythm and to end up once more correctly
at the ‘one’. Once this time cycle is firmly established, standing before the eyes
of the listener like a wheel with twelve spokes, the player further bends the
time and into a spiral, which may take hours, whose inner line will eventually
arrive at a focussed time without expanse, hence the mystical timelessness.
To make it quite clear, veena-players do not always operate with a time
cycle divided into twelve sections, hence with a geometrical figure looking like
your wrist-watch. The time circle may be divided into seven, nine-and-a-half,

...u— i ;■ niiiJU

Sunday in Jaipur: Visitors

climbing down the large Sam -
rat Yantra.

ten, twelve, fourteen or sixteen beats. In short: one and the same sound-wave-
formation can be played in various rhythms though the timing once chosen
must be observed from beginning to end. As a rule, however, the veena-players
divide the time by twelve because there are certain magic qualities which go
with the figure twelve. It corresponds with the number of the signs of the zodiac.
The twelve and the twelve only may be divided by the sequence of the figures
one, two, three, and four. The total of the digits, 1 plus 2, makes three. This is
considered especially static, calm, round, and cosmically parabolical as opposed
to the dynamic and indivisible seven.

If the veena- player divides the time circle into seven sections for instance
then this will not change the principle of bending time. Being a listener you
must only get used to a different type of participating and to join in counting.
According to the Indian custom you use your left hand for counting (71). In
doing so you move with yout thumb-tip over the three joints of your fore-finger
and ending up at the tip of your little finger you will have arrived at the number
twelve, namely four fingers multiplied by three finger-joints. This system of
counting, taken over from mantrics and useful for correctly reciting mantras , you
will alter in such a way as to count only up to the first joint of your ring-
that is counting up to seven and restarting with number one at the bottom of
your fore-finger.

Once again, what is meditation ? How is one to know that one is in a state
of meditation ? Can meditation be sufficiently described by geometrical time
models like lines, circles, and spirals ? Some respondents are more in favour of
a different statement not mentioned so far. They say that the state of meditation
commences when the kundalini snake wakes up and rises within the body via
the chakras. What is meant by that ? The kundalini snake, a purely magic reality,
you must imagine to be like a real snake, sleeping coiled up three-and-a-half
times within your body and in the ring of your pelvis at that. Though real this
snake is not a natural one but an energetic and transcendental snake which wakes
up whenever a sound-wave-formation is created, hence when a veena is correctly
played. It then rises and, starting from your anus chakra , it slowly slides
into your brains. All this is not only imaginary but can be felt. In other words,
the kundalini snake—does she only go up to the heart chakra or higher ?—is
supposed not merely to indicate the state of meditation but also its extent.

Perhaps the reader manages to accept this information without complaint.

Should you, however, be unable to put up with this you could approach the
snake, it being a subjective reality, by going over a psychological emergency
bridge and just figure your consciousness to be a sevenfold entity or divided into
seven parts. This corresponds on the one side to findings of perception psychology
to the effect that man can grasp spontaneously only a form shaped out of seven
elements as the maximum. Among these sevenfold entities are besides many



To bo fair-comploxionod is
considorod beautiful. So the
“fai r-complexioned ” sound¬
wave-formation Goudi , the
lady on the left side of the
picture „ has placed before her
(inner ?) eyes Rati and Man-
matha „ the gods of carnal
desire , anointing them with
white sandalicood paste.

other things the simple octave of seven steps or the seven white keys on the
piano. Music ethnologists teach that apparently all people in the world including
the Indians are born with this sort of consciousness arranged in line with '^ ie
figure seven. How can one get released from this seven-room prison . ow can
one’s consciousness be extended? What is in between the steps of the scale ol
tones and the keys of the piano ? How to find one’s way to an undivided, uniform,

unimpaired consciousness ? . ■ * t u a

Maybe it is an answer to say that the ~player - ope^gwuh^a

twenty-two intervals scale. This is a structure which in no of a not

the sevenfold simple everyday consciousness. e a PP over-beats

congruent scale adroitly—this is mostly done wit 1 arc ) _ w ill we ar

and under-beats of the primitive seven-part octave that they

down the partitions of the consciousness by h.s interferenc ^ oUt to the

will eventually collapse like the walls of Jericho, opening before,

things behind the things and making audible what has never been

the tones between the tones. , tones touched

How is one to imagine all this ? Perhapsit » »o * du eed by the

and much speaks in favour of this not.on-that is the P „ ( d.uts are

reena-player on its cords. In this respect the opjons • „ r e audible

. ^ T1 i v the struck sounds ot tne insir musical

divided. Some state that om) unsolved problems

, . i • *ii +Vii&lt;5 being one of the unsolved p * Je of sensi-

Others think it possible— this nem 0 u - cap ab*

i i nerceivcd bv the outer ear bein e r hear the

mysticism—the struck sounds perceivcu ny i; st ener tU „ .

' , . . _ r par and thus enabling the nsrc Brahman

tizing simultaneously the inner ear and * Rrahma . Na d ,

8 , , , Brahman the sound of God brahma. j sen se, is

‘music without people : jiada &amp; ’ jii • tlip phy slC i \i

music 1 *, , . • i. although inaudible in the pny .jdren. Also

(72) is the unstruck sound ^ M and the

innate to all things, to tlie ve ' holding this hook »» streets of

to stones and even your hands, th &gt; G f th 6

grey streetcars rumbling through the poster strewn abysses -

Calcutta. Nada Brahman , so it seems, is only perceptible in a state of vision in
which all this, the paddy fields, water buffalos, and children—and this must be
understood quite literally—becomes illuminated from inside, showing it in the
soundless glamour of its transcendental creation.

1 9 . The End

In the course of reading this book you have probably wondered many
times how the music here described and its reflective images match with present
day life. India is today one of the countries which enjoy an astonishingly free
press, a relatively stable currency, an almost balanced trade-balance, and an
industry growing steadily from year to year. Certainly not a paradise everywhere,
the country is one of the world’s best democracies. Can one still be a mantra seer
now, a magician, a rudra-veena- player in India ? The tantra- cult, the spiritual
basis with its light-sound doctrine is evidently still blooming lavishly and un¬
changed. As opposed to Hinduism it does not conflict with the political and
economic exigencies of a modern state provided tantra manifests itself in suffi¬
ciently abstract forms. Accordingly an art with such a high degree of abstraction
like veena-playing has, theoretically speaking, a good chance of survival.

Practically though, veena- playing has been virtually extinct since the
fifties. One can often hear people, including the respondents, say that veena-
playing had been too firmly and exclusively tied up with the princely courts of
which there had been up to fivehundred on the territory of what is now India.
After the expropriation of the Maharajas and the independence of India in 1947
the veena-players had not found the way from aristocracy to democracy, hence
from the palaces to the concert-halls. The instruments which have remained
unaltered (73) for centuries are too faint in sound, the music is hardly
and its performers are conservative and superstitious. With all due respects to
government by the people the downward movement of veena-playing is once
more confirming the thesis according to which true culture could only flourish
under a feudal regime.

All this may be correct. In actual fact traditional veena-playing to-day

is mainly threatened by electronics or by the inability and lacking preparedness

of the veena-players to get adapted to a technology alien to the system. Such an

adaptation would, indeed, be hard to imagine: electronics disengage the veena-
music from time, fix it on tapes, cassettes, and records, thus changing it into
a nearly indefinitely durable staple commodity. The buyers can play off the
sound-wave-formations as often as they wish and, worse still, at any time. This
means in general: at the wrong time, at the wrong constellation of the planets
and with the wrong consciousness. In this way the veena-player, who tries so
hard to find the proper astral moment and who is so careful about purity and
consonance, is being deprived of his basis. Put on the same level with Puccini
or the Rolling Stones he must even fear to create a cosmic chaos by the modem
omnipresence of his sound-wave-formations.

Here and there they do console themselves with the idea that a music
transmitted by transistors and diodes is lacking the transcendental effect. In
other words, possible records and tapes could not cause any cosmic disaster.
But no salvation either. And this is the second problem: the veena-players usually
refuse to play with contact microphones or electronic pick-ups such as those
screwed or glued by guitarists to their instruments in order that their sound
may be made perceptible down to the farthest row of a concert-hall. They fre¬
quently argue that amplification alone, not mentioning the distortion of the
tone through loudspeakers and reverberation, destroys the special mantric quality
of the sound produced by the veena.

Leaving aside the question whether or not sacral music with the charac¬
teristics of an obscure language should be played in public, there remains in
the third place the problem of limited time. The usual records and tapes only
contain 25 or 45 minutes of uninterrupted music and also Indian concert-goers
are nowadays hardly willing to listen to the building up of a faint sound-wave-
formation which actually takes hours. One might argue that it is not really
essential to play in public and that one could have a go at the veena in the frame¬
work of domestic music. There are indeed some attempts in this direction. In
general this is where it ends, too, since veena-playing demands tremendous effort,
a frightfully long time of studying, and above all teacheis who have by now
almost completely died out.

Finally, the i;eena-players have fared badly in competition with the sitar-
players. The sitar—perhaps you have heard sitar music—is an Indianized and
originally Arab long-necked lute which can be played easily and virtuosically
and with great euphony. The sitarists like Pandit Ravi Shankar will also refer
to the musical tradition of sound-wave-formations, though they have adapted
themselves c without any reservation’ so that they mostly play in accordance
with mass taste, i.e. loudly, sweetly, for short times and often so fast that they
can no longer shape the 22 micro-tones of the old-Indian scale, falling back in

Samrat-Yantra in Jaipur.
Height : 27,36 metres.

consequence on the simple seven-intervals scale which, as you now know, narrows

The sitarists, of which there are probably a hundred thousands or more,

in addition spread the rumour successfully that the reerca-players are unsteady
fellows with glowing eyes akin to the devil and capable of bringing evil to land
and cattle. The ueemz-players for their part accuse the sitarists of having degen¬
erated the sound-wave-formations to artificial music and to box-office hits with
their own hands. And they also have marketed India’s musical honour in the
record market as well as at hippie meetings in Europe and the United Staates.

This reproach has also not remained without any effect. In order, to draw
level with the veena-players, at least optically, the sitarists often screw a
and acoustically superfluous pumpkin on the top of their instruments. This is
done at least for public concerts and in any case for tours abroad in order to
decorate themselves with the strange cosmic qualities of the veena-players and
their ‘music of the path’. Because the real and true Indian music—and this is
still valid from Bombay to Calcutta—is the shrill and quiet veena -music in search
for the dialog with the demon.

* V #

20. Instructions on the Cassette

When listening to the cassette attached to this book you should not open
the volume control of your recorder or of your stereo-set too much. Despite
their size the veenas produce relatively faint sounds filling only small rooms
of up to about an area of 20 square metres. Because of the limited volume of the
instruments it happens that during the recording ambient noise finds its way
on to the tapes. Should you therefore hear a rikshaw-man ring in the background
or children shouting or a car hooting then this will be no delusion.

All recordings have been made under real conditions and not inside any
studio. This means that the veena- player is sitting on the floor in a little room.
He is playing alone or to the accompaniment of a tampura- player and a drummer
As a rule he is surrounded by three to eight listeners because with veena-playing
one needs a kind of attendance or encouragement which is expressed by an oc¬
casional swaying of the head or by sighs of approval—less frequently by acclama-
tions—on the part of the audience.

During the performance the atmosphere is normally quite unholy. The

listeners like to chat once in a while unless one requests them to keep silent with
regard to the recording. Eating and drinking are not always ruled out. The players
occasionally also smoke a cigarette while playing by having a pull with their
left hand while the right hand is continuing to play and to keep the melody
thread alive. Listening to veena music has nothing in common with that deathly
silent state of emergency you would find in an Occidental concert-hall.

As you doubtlessly know the limited running period of cassettes alone

does not permit the reproduction of a sound-wave-formation full-length. On
the cassette attached to this book you will therefore find four parts which are
meant to furnish you with an impression as complete as possible of the tonalities
and the techniques of playing.

Side A

1. At first you will hear Raga Panchamkosh played by Ustad Zia Mohiuddin
Dagar. Panchamkosh is among one of the unusual sound-wave-formations which
are rarely listed in the appropriate handbooks. It is a variation of the sound-
formation Raga Malkosh. Malkosh is a tonal reflection of the warrior God Shiva
■with a background of a nocturnal victory celebration: as a rule Malkosh is played
soon after midnight. Assuming for better understanding that the basic tone of
the veena is C then the scale mil be here C-E flat-F-A flat-B. It therefore
of five tones. To this originally five-tone Malkosh formation Ustad Zia Mohiuddin
had added a sixth tone, a G (= Pa or Pancham ) and has thus changed Malkosh
into Panchamkosh. The addition of the comforting G (Pa) signifies last but not
least the postponement of the victory celebrations or thanksgiving from the
night to the day because where the G (Pa) appears in a prominent position there
will be the sun. The recording was done late in the afternoon at Chembur, a
suburb of Bombay. Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, accompanied by a tampura,
plays the non-rhythmical opening (alap) and the following rhythmical part (jod).

2 After the very rich Panchamkosh follows for the last seven minutes
of the front side of the tape the originally five-note sound-wave-formation Raga
Malkosh, played by Pandit Asit Kumar Banerjee accompanied by a drum (pak-
hauaz). The pakhawaz- player is Pandit Rajib Locham Dey, professor of pakhawaz
and tabla music at Calcutta university. The recording was done at nighttime at
Calcutta’s Great Eastern Hotel.

Side B

3 When you have turned the cassette around you hear Ustad Asad Ali
Khan of Delhi, the representative of traditional reena-playing performing the
sound-wave-formation Raga Marva. Marva as opposed to panchamkosh and
malkosh is a rather shrill signal which as for time belongs to the afternoon and
which expresses (or silences) expectant fear, namely fear of the night and the
darkness rushing in fast in the tropics. The scale contains six notes, C-C sharp-
E-F sharp-A-H. And these notes may not be played in an arbitrary order, some¬
thing that you find also with other sound-wave-formations. A binding rule says
that the basic note C for example must be reached from higher up, e.g. in the
order of B-C sharp-C, and never in the order of B-C. Along with this go a number
of nominal rules for playing marva , which are scrupulously observed by Asad
Ali The disharmony mainly occurs because Asad Ali is playing the C sharp
very high-pitched following the rule according to which this C sharp ought to
sound like ‘the cry of an elephant’. With a view to the running period of a
the Ustad plays some minutes without rhythm ( alap ) then rhythmically (jod)
and finally ‘fast’ or ‘advancingly’ ( jhala ). All this is done more in the sense
of a
technical demonstration rather than with the intention of building up a sound-
wave-formation properly.

4. In the end you hear a section from the sound-wave-formation Raga

Todi which is not addressed to the (moving and destroying) Shiva but to the
preserving God Vishnu or his humanized incarnation, the shepherd-god Krishna.
According to the rule this signal should actually be played with the accent of
‘happy adoration’. Pandit Asit Kumar Banerjee though, making use of the
freedom of the master, is formulating todi in sometimes sombre and threatening
mantras which however end with a clearly audible and peaceful ‘aum’ or &lt; ‘om\
The sound-wave-formation todi consists of six tones the way it is presented
here, namely C-D flat-E flat-F sharp-A flat-B, the basic tone is simply called
C here again. Actually todi is not a quite determined sound-wave-formation
but rather the name for a whole family of sound patterns dedicated to Vishnu
and his incarnations and distinguished from one another through variations of
the scale of tones. Thus there is also a seven-tone form (with G) or an
form the ascending scale of which has six (without G) and the descending one
has seven tones (with G). The tape was recorded in 1975 at Dhanbad, the centre
of Indian coal-mining, at about 1 o’clock p.m.

21. Notes

(1) Indian musicians since millenniums make a

difference between “music of the people” ( sangeet desk)
an d “music of the path” (sangeet marg). Music of the
people only serves earthly pleasures whereas music of the
path is said to protect the listener from unhappiness and
to guide him to lasting spiritual happiness. This spiritual
happiness may best he described as a change or a renewal
°f the listener’s personality enabling him to achieve an
auspicious rebirth and to prevent him from being reborn
as a worm in a dog’s belly.

(2) In Indian mythology Rudra is the fighting

aspect of Lord Shiva. The word Rudra literally means
howler, because Rudra, as w*e are told, once adopted the
appearance of a weeping child. The word veena (vina,
bina, been, bin , ban, bana) possibly derives from the
ancient Egypt language (see Farmer, H.G.: Music ol
Ancient Egypt”, New Oxford History of Music, Volume 1,
Ancient and Oriental Music, p. 271, London 1957).
farmer mentions two types of the harp with similar
names ( bin-t, bin, ben, ben-t). But an equal word (bana)
is also found in the ancient Indian languages (see Krish-
naswami, Vidvan S.: “Research on Musical Instruments
of India” in Journal of the Music Academy, p. 100,
Madras 1962). There is some evidence that the word
veena originally meant a whole family of plucked string
instruments comprising at least twenty different types.
At about 200 B.C. the word veena was used to denote a
bow harp which is no more in use today (see Nj iersma-te
Nijenhuis, E.: “Dattilam”, p. 75, Leiden 1970). In the

following time—since about 600 A.D.—the word veena

often but not always meant the instrument called Rudra
Veena today. The prefix Rudra seems to be of relatively
recent origin. It only appears in books printed in the
19th century or later. At present the prefix Rudra is
used to distinguish the Northern Indian stick zither
Rudra Veena from a very popular (and very different)
South Indian lute mainly called Sarasvati Veena.

(3) The probably oldest picture of a veena-player

was found in the Ajanta caves (Union State Maha¬
rashtra). This rather faided painting shows a musician
with the instrument placed on his left shoulder as it is
common practice among reena-players until today.

(4) In a broader sense the Moghul period started

about 1300 A.D. with the permanent occupation of
Northern India by Islamic invadors coming from Trans-
oxania, which is the country “beyond the Oxus river”,
actually Southern Russia. In a narrow sense the Moghul
period began in 1486 A.D. and ended in 1707 with the
official implementation of the British rule in India. The
miniature painters of the Moghul period frequently
painted male and, possibly even more often, female
veena players, but rarely in the role of professional
musicians. There is a good chance that the veena only
serves as an iconographic attribute denominating the
noble descent of the depicted persons.

(5) Sarasvati, originally a river goddess, is con¬

sidered nowadays as a female incarnation of Lord Brahma,
the creator. As we are told Sarasvati firstly was the
wife of the life preserving Lord Vishnu. But Sarasvati
was so quarrelsome that Vishnu could not stand her
anymore and gave her away to Brahma (see Ions,
Veronica: “Indische Mythologie”, Munich 1967). Saras¬
vati is the protector of science, wisdom and music. She
is often accompanied by a peacock and a swan and she
holds a veena in her hands.

(6) A miniature of this kind is reproduced on

page 4. It shows the usual mistakes: The female veena
player has the instrument placed on the wrong shoulder.
The damsel, representing the sound-wave-signal Raga
Todi, also holds her instrument in a way, that it could
not be played because the tube rests on her shoulder
and not the upper gourd. The bridge, bearing the strings,
is painted in a wrong position. In consequence there is

some reason to assume, that the unknown painter has

never seen a veena -player from close (see also Wald-
schmidt, Ernst and Rose Leonore: “Musikinspirierte
Miniaturen”, Volume 1, p. 82, Wiesbaden 1966).

(7) Bharata is the name of a legendary music-

saint never clearly identified by historians. The book
ascribed to him, entitled ^Natyashastra”, is possibly
written by several authors (see Gosh, Manomahan: “The
Natyashastra”, Calcutta 1961). Bharata’s work, written
in Sanskrit , stems from the time between 200 B.C. and
200 A.C. Besides many other things it explains for the
first time the basic musical theory still in use today.

(8) One of these heartbreaking tales can be found

in Sufi Inayat Khan’s book “Music” (p. 36, New Delhi
1973). The Sufi writes: “A great Indian poet sang in
Sanskrit the praise of the vina. ‘That instrument of gut
strings! By looking at it, by touching it, by hearing it,
you can be made free, even if you kill a Brahmin!’ And
to kill a Brahmin is considered to be the greatest of all
sins. This instrument was invented by the Lord of
Yogis, Shiva, whose name is also Maliadeva. He gave to
the world his lifelong experiences in the practice of Yoga
and is worshipped in India as a godhead. His scriptures
are considered to be holy. He was a great master of
breathing and ascetic; he lived in the mountains, where
he sat and breathed the free air of the wide horizons of
the East and practised Mantras, words and phrases which
change the whole being of man. Then he wanted to make
some instrument to be used for higher exaltation through
music. In the forest he cut a piece of bamboo. He made
gut strings from animals and these he tied to the instru¬
ment; in this way he made his first vina, and he practised
on it in the solitude. It is told, that when the deer in the
forest heard him play they used to say, ‘Make the strings
of my own veins, and put them on your vina, but as
long as I live, continue to play’ ”.

(9) Also non-Indian authors tend to describe the

Rudra Veena using sometimes exaggerated words. The
German musicologist Curt Sachs feels that the veena “is
not excelled by any other non-occidental string instru¬
ment”. Because of its difficult playing technique the
veena “is an exclusive solo instrument reserved to the top
musicians” (Sachs, Curt: “Die Musikinstrumente Indiens
und Indonesiens”, p. 99, Berlin 1923). A British army
officer. Captain N. Augustus Willard, thinks that the

veena “is the instrument of greatest capacity and power,

and a really superior veena in the hands of an expert
performer is little inferior to a fine-toned piano” (see
Tagore, Sourindro Mohan: “Hindu Music from Various
Authors”, p. 99, Benares 1875, reprinted Calcutta 1965).

(10) The most common way of conducting opin¬

ion research is questioning a representative sample of
2000 people. That way a social researcher can find out,
which political party people would vote, if there were
elections next Sunday, or how many of them believe in
life after death. This method, naturally, only leads to
useful results when the subject of the study touches a
whole population. But when a social researcher looks for
special information like the future development of
Marxism, the actual situation in the field of oceanology
or the consumption of ethical drugs, he would not
question a representative sample but maybe a dozen
experts in oceanology, Marxism or pharmacology. In this
case also the interviews would not go for 15 minutes but
possibly several hours and the interviewer does not use
a standardised questionaire but a tape recorder. The
tapes then are carefully evaluated phrase by phrase.
This time consuming technique does not produce a
broad and flat picture like the sampling method but a
small and very sharp photography of the subject studied.
This book is based on an expert questioning. The in¬
terviewed persons have not been payed. In some cases
they were remunerated by smalFprcsents like musical
strings or by the simple fact that the questionned persons,
through the interview, have become acquainted with
the thoughts and activities of other experts included in
this study.

(11) Dhrupad is an ancient style of hymnic chant,

somewhat similar to the Gregorian chant in Europe. It
is the vocal equivalent of veena music, whereas veena
music is the instrumental equivalent of Dhrupad singing.

(12) The word Gharana means “school” or “tra¬

dition”. The Gharanas played an important role in
Indian musical history. They often developed under the
protection of local princely courts. The founders nor¬
mally were music-saints transmitting their knowledge
to a growing or diminishing number of disciples. This
knowledge consisted partly of philosophical cognitions
and partly of special playing techniques some of them
kept as a secret until today. Often the Gharanas have

produced musical styles of their own. They frequently

used to blackmail and to fight each other also in the
literal sense of the word. One of the most influential of
these societies was the Seni Gharana, whose members
consider Myan Tansen as their spiritual ancestor. Tansen
was a musician at the court of Akbar the Great (1542 to
1605). Some Gharanas still exist at the present time but
they have lost their influence as there are no more
wealthy princes to sponsor them in modern democratic

(13) The idea of the circle-shaped time, one of

the fundamentals of Veena-playing, frequently appears
in this book. Therefore, it is explained here in detail:
Time can be imagined in different ways. These different
notions of time can best be made visible by confronting
them with the influence they exercise on work and
death respectively: a) A linear, historical and stretch¬
like notion of time, as it forms thinking and acting in
America and Europe, implies the idea of the uniqueness
a nd—therefore—preciousness of an individual life. This
a gain creates all kinds of “now-or-never” philosophies.
Whereever such thoughts are credited, the idea of re¬
birth is tabooed. This becomes evident, when one visits
occidental graveyards. The tombs, at least the older
ones, are covered with very heavy stones to prevent
the dead people to come out again and to wander around
as ghosts, b) Where the notion of the circle-shaped time
is valid—this is mainly in Asia—rebirth is considered a
principle of nature. Due to the non-uniqueness of events
and things, birth and death rate lower in value and the
fear of death seems reduced. The Australian Ministry
of Health recentlv refused to let Indian physicians to
settle in Australia. Though physicians are badly wanting
in the country, the Australian gouvernment felt, that
Indian doctors have “another” view of their patients
and that they are not willing to defend life migaiust
death at any price, as it is expected from occidental
doetors. c) A point-shaped, unstretched time, to be
understood as a pure presence, is the privilege of the
mystic. Life in the point-shaped time, in the bliss of
awareness, is only allowed within societies admitting
beggarv and hermitage, and whose members are willing
to feed and to tolerate a certain percentage of persons
unable or unwilling to work. The problem of birth and
death, naturally, does not arise or it is considered as
overcome. — These different notions of time must not
necessarilv regarded as stable or irriversible. Thev are—
involuntarily or voluntarily—changeable perceptions of

life or ways of awareness, who, if a person does not want

to be expelled from society, must be adapted to the
specific situation or the demands of others: A linear
notion of time generally favours results and economic
wealth. If it goes for relaxation and the ability to suffer
a circlej^paped notion of time is required, but it does
not necessarily lead to wealth. The point-shaped notion
of time is said to enlargen the awareness, but it easily
leads to personal isolation and financial poverty. The
different time qualities described here are also reflected
in music. In a society with a linear time concept music
tends be linear, comprising a marked beginning, a
predictable length and, again, a marked end, like a
classic occidental symphonic concert. The circle-shaped
time is reflected in Indian music, where no dictinct
start, length and end is known. In the point shaped
time, having no extension, music cannot exist as long
it is understood as a sequence of struck sounds.

(14) To some extent the substantival thinking is,

at the same time, the origin and the result of a rebirth
theory. This widespread belief, which, by the way, is
not officially linked to Hinduism, includes the idea,
that every event, every deed and omission, add up to
the substance of an individual being and cannot be
pardonned or lost in any other way (see Glasenapp,
Helmuth von: “Entwicklungsstufen des indischen Den-
kens”, Konigsberg 1940). The conception of the word
substance should be taken literally here: Following a
popular belief in India also the personal history of a
human being is cremated and determines the composition
of the up going smoke of the fire. Guided by the quality
of the smoke the gods then decide, how and where a
person may be reborn, either as a Brahmin, which is
considered the best, or as a worm in a cow’s gut. Crema¬
tion, therefore, is not just a question of taste or of
hygienics but a—not always fulfilled—precondition of
rebirth: A cremation lasts four to six hours, depending
from the weight of the body. The necessary wood (nor¬
mally ]VIangoo) sometimes costs more money than the
very poor families can afford. On the other hand very
rich Indian families cremate their expired relatives
using Sandal wood to improve the raising smoke. The
idea of accumulating (positive or negative) substance
during a lifetime is not restricted to human beings but,
to a certain extent, also to objects. Musicians often
assume for example, than an always correctlv plaved
and carefully maintained Rudra 1 eena also enriches
itself with blissful substance. For that reason some of

them want to be cremated together with their instru¬


(15) The Sitor-player Arvind Parikh, Bombay,

once has explained at the occasion of one of his recitals
in Ossiach, Austria, in what respects the modal Indian
music differs from the occidental music: a) In India
the musician never changes the tonic, whereas in oc¬
cidental music the tonic is frequently changed, b) Modal
music, at least in its traditional form, is always unani¬
mous, whereas occidental music normally is concerted,
c) Indian musicians can and must improvise in a certain
frame, whereas occidental musicians can only interpret
a given music, d) Modal music stresses the colour and
refinement of each note, whereas occidental musicians
concentrate on harmony. As a fifth difference Pandit
Arvind Parikh mentions the relatively long and com¬
plicated rhythms commonly used in Indian music but
wanting in occidental music.

(16) The idea behind mouth-to-mouth-delivery

is, that the medium, the Guru, remains an important
part of the message. The other side of the coin is, that
precious knowledge, once acquired, should stay vendible
again and again and that it should not lose its value by
mechanical multiplication. In India, and there we come
to a third point of view, 71 percent of the population are
illiterates (see: “India 1976—a Reference Book, page 53,
New Delhi 1976) whatever this might mean in a country
where several writings are in use. As illiteracy seems
to be widespread in any case, the access to knowledge
cannot and should not depend from literacy and books
(17) The Gurus nowadays operating in India,
Europe and the United States often derive, if at all,
their authority and legitimation from their own past or
biography. Namely in the field of music Guruship is
often founded on a hereditary basis: Many Gurus rely
on a long and unbroken family tradition, which often—
maybe too often—begins with Tansen. Mian Tansen
(1531—1589) plays a role in Indian music comparable to
Johann Sebastian Bach in the Occident. Tansen, orig¬
inally a Hindu, converted later to the Islam with the
result, that today Hindu- as well as Islamic teachers
can declare Mian Tansen as their ancestor. Other Gurus
would never speak about their past life in order to avoid
the ticklish problem of legitimation. The Indian jour¬

nalist Kushwant Singh tells us in his book entitled

“India without Humbug” (Bombay 1977), that some
Gurus , known to him, try to solve the problem of legiti¬
mation by the assertion, that they have been working
as shepherds and thus—in the solitude of nature—have
experienced an encounter with the divine. Still another
form of legitimation, so Kushwant Singh mentions, is
the assertion maintained by witnesses or the Gurus
themselves, that their urine and their excrements do
not stink any more, which, following popular belief, is
considered as a sign of purification and divine election.

(18) Delivery prescribes, that the true Guru

should not take any money as a remuneration. He
should only allow his disciple to make him presents
like clothes, food or the like. This old habit certainly has
made sense, as long as the Gurus have lived in a feudal
system, economically protected by a local prince. Since
the withdrawal of the British in 1947 and, as a result,
the expropriation of the Indian princes this tradition
is slowly collapsing. If they do not enjoy a regular
income as university teachers, the Gurus are now paid
in money, values in kind and all sorts of services by the
disciple. The monetary fee is normally not linked to a
fixed hourly wage, but it mainly depends from the
financial capacity of the disciple’s family, so that the
richer ones pay more and the poor students less. For¬
eigners studying music in India always are considered
rich. They are expected to pay a monthly contribution
of about 200 Indian Rupees (60 Swiss Francs, 28 US-$)
m cash, that way supporting one or several Indian
students. Disciples from abroad are generally friendly
welcomed, as they are known as systematic and eager
workers. Nevertheless foreign students should not be
too eager and worry the Guru by asking too many why-
questions. Asking why-questions again and again is
against Indian habits and forces the average Guru to
give often meaningless answers as: “It is so because my
own Guru has told me so”, or: “Just try it my young
friend, and you will find the answer yourself”. The
question of the Guru's transcendental wisdom excelling
just technical skill cannot be answered in a generalising
way- There certainly are a number of Gurus carefully
exploiting the yearning for piety of foreign students,
namely Americans. But there are also masters deserving
the highest respect as spiritual leaders.

(19) The gouvernmental music schools, called

Sangeet Natak Akademies , exist in almost all Union

States of India. One of their main goals is “to maintain

forms of art, which else would slowly disappear due to
social change” (see Deva, B.C.: “Music Akademies in
India” in “Sangeet Kala Yihar”, Volume I, No. 1,
Baroda, January 26, 1970).

(20) Also optimists do not expect a renaissance

of the traditional Indian music in the near future.
Meanwhile, so some Indians do hope, foreign experts
could possibly help to conserve and to protect it, as
long as the actual difficulties of the country will last.
Foreigners, this should possibly be explained, have,
also in the past, executed a peculiar function as catal-
ysators and preservers: a) The British, in the first
instance only interested in profitable cotton, salpetre,
jute and tea business, became aware of the culture of
their new subjects only about the end of the 18th century.
The articles and books, since that time written partly
by army officers and partly by East India men, are
reprinted, read and quoted by Indian authors until
today, b) The Indian population, actually not very
fond of its own cultural past, is, nevertheless, willing
to take an interest in classical Indian music, as lon g
the musicians are praised in foreign countries. The
Sitar player Ravi Shankar for example, originally not
very known in India, was recognised also in his own
countrv only after his enormous success in the occic cut.
c) As the exchange rate of the Indian Rupee was low
down for many years, there is, even no^v, a constant
sellout of Indian music: The best teachers have emigrate!
to California, the best and most expensive instruments

are now found in Munich and New York City and the
largest choice of records is offered in Amster am -
dian intellectuals, and also some of the respondents,
expressed their concern about this ambrv a c nt ro e
the foreigners in Indian music. The foreigners, so it
heard, have corrupted Indian musicians anc n lan
music. They have first exploited the economic ressources
of the country and try now a “cultural colonisation
by stealing India’s art and philosophy.

(21) Calcutta has been founded around 1600 by

British merchants. Until 1911 Calcutta was tie capita
of “British India”. Therefore, the history of the city is
exactly documented (see Moorhouse, G( o re\ . a
cutta”. New York 1971). Looking at the historical
sources one feels, that the strange and adventurous
conditions of life in Calcutta do not only result rom t u
presence of the British, but also from the fire-spitting
habits of the Bengali population: Due to the unrest
and inobedience of Calcutta’s inhabitants. King George V.
decided to move the British gouvernment from Calcutta
to Delhi, to avoid further trouble.

(22) In the narrow sense of the word Tantra is

the science of the Mantra (obscured language), which is
described later in this book (see Bharati, Agehananda:
“The Tantric Tradition”, London 1965). In a broader
sense Tantra means all kinds of Indian sorcery. Tantrism
is divided in tw r o main w r ings, differing considerably in
contents and style: The Tibeto-Buddhist Tantra , actu¬
ally represented only by Tibetan refugees living in India
and some American and European sects, and the Hindu-
Tantra , which seems to be spread all over India with a
certain concentration in Bengal. The Hindu-Tantra is
also influenced by the Sufis , w hich is a sect, w hose mystic
teachings have been brought to India by the Muslim

(23) In daily life one can observe some different

degrees of vegetarianism. Firstly, there are vegetarians
eating chicken and fish but refusing to eat cattle. Sec¬
ondly, there are the so-called “eggetarians”, people
refusing also fish and chicken but still accepting eggs.
Thirdly, there are the orthodox vegetarians refusing
not only eggs, but also potatoes, carrots and the like
because, by pulling them out of the soil, an ant or a
w orm could have been killed.

(24) Nevertheless there are some sources in¬

dicating a certain relation between Tantric Veena playing
and Tantric sexual practices. In the “Kamasutram” for
example, the Indian teach book of lovemaking, there is
an instruction on how a man of fashion should furnish
his bedroom: “His room (we are told) should contain
a pleasant and soft bed with a pure white coverlet, a
decorated canopy, and two pillows, one at the foot
and the other at the head. The room should also have
a divan, at the head of which perfumes, unguents,
flowers, and pots of collyrium should be kept on a little
table. On the floor nearby should be plaeed a cuspidor,
to receive the red expectoration caused by betel chewing,
and a chest for ornaments and clothes. On the wall
should hang a Veena ” (see Basham, A.L.: “Ihe Y onder
that was India” page 207, Calcutta 1975).

(25) Following another opinion expressed by one

of the respondents the veena was reserved to the Brah-
mins —the highest caste in the socio-religious system
of Hinduism. But no proof was given in so far. However
it is certain, that most of the professional veena players
were Muslims, at least in the 19th century. In his up
to now unpublished book entitled “Die Kunstmusik
Nordindiens im 19. Jahrhundert” Manfred M. Junius
mentions only Muslims (to be recognised by their names)
as preservers of the veena tradition: “The Vina”, Junius
writes, “is considered the most distinguished instrument
in Hindostani music. The shape and the sound of the
Vina differs from the South Indian instrument also
called Vina. The North Indian Vina is a stick zither
with two resonating gourds. It has four melody strings
and three drone strings. The Vina is the ancestor of two
other musical instruments, the Sitar and the Surbahar,
which have preserved two important characteristics of
the Vina: Firstly a special type of bridge made of ivory
or horn, whose surface is ground in a parabolic curve in
the direction of the strings thus producing a sound
enriched with overtones. The second similarity within
the family of the Vina instruments are the frets made
of steel, on which the string can be laterally pulled
away: By increasing the tension of the strings the
notes rise glissando-like or the frequency slows down
when the player loosens the tension of the string again.
These gliding notes, called Mind, have a double function.
They link the notes with each other. And they are used
for several kinds of melodic decoration serving as an
important means of musical expression. The North
Indian Vina produces a noble sound of great sensibility
corresponding to the taste of an educated and aristo¬
cratic society. The instrument never became as popular
as the Sitar or the Sarod. For that it was too demanding.
This is not only true for its playing technique but also
for its musical style, which is very close to the (vocal)
Dhrupad style. During the 19th century the instrument
is mainly found in the hands of professional musicians,
who eagerly concealed their secrets. The most important
players in the 19. century were Bande Ali Khan (1830 to
1890) and his disciple Murad Khan; Umrao Khan, the
inventor of the Surbahar; Imrat Khan of Jaipur (mid
19th century); Amir Khan of Rampur (expired 1870);
Sadicj Ali Khan, the court musician of of Nawab Hamid
Ali Khan. In our century the tradition is upheld by
Sadie} Ali Khan of Rampur (1893—1964) and his son
Asad Ali Khan; Dabir Khan (1905—1971) anel Zia
Mohiuddin Dagar. The Vina players always kept close
to elelivery, striving to defend their precious inheritance
against tin* Sitar, which agressively started to compete
the Vina in tin* J9th century”.

(26) Indian women sometimes live under un¬

favourable conditions. As everywhere in the world about
one percent more women are born than men in India.
Yet the statistical yearbooks show a sometimes con¬
siderable lack of women. The life expectancy of new¬
born male babies was 47.1 years in 1976, whereas female
babies had to expect only 45.6 years.

(27) This book is not written for specialists. It,

therefore, avoids Sanskrit and Hindi terms as far as
possible. This is especially true for words like “raga”
or “s/iruti”, which are replaced by “sound-wave-for-
mation” and “microtone” or similar words.

(28) These differences in lifestyle between (Euro¬

pean) protestants and catholics have been carefully
researched mainly by Schmidtchen, Gerhard: “Pro-
testanten und Katholiken”, Bern 1973.

(29) In books on the history of India the authors

sometimes point out, that the (not very puritanical)
Tantrism must be understood as a normal reaction to
the foregoing Buddhist period and its austere habits
including a hostile attitude against women.—Buddhism
was almost completely eradicated by the Muslims in¬
vading India in the lltli and 12th century. But recently
the number of Buddhists is increasing again, namely
because Hindus, belonging to the lowest class of the
so-called “untouchables”, try to evade their social fate
by converting to Buddhism. The percentage of Hindus
—actually 82 percent of the Indian population—is
meanwhile slightly diminishing.

(30) The idea, that sounds can produce pictures

in the mind of the listener, or, that pictures also can
evoke sounds in the head of the onlooker, is not reserved
to Tantrism. Last but not least it keeps today’s pro¬
ducers of electronic outlets busy: At the occasion of
the “Hifi Workshop DIN 45.500” in Hamburg, sponsored
by the National Panasonic company (June 1977), Hans
Peter Reinecke from the German “Institut fur Musik-
forschung”, Berlin, pointed out: “The fact is, that,
since milleniuins, the human senses have developed a
complementary way of functioning. Optical stimuli for
example can guide the acoustic sensorium and vice
versa . . . One should bear in mind, that these sensorial
systems belong together, and one cannot reasonably
seperate them from each other. It is, therefore, important
to note, that the isolation of the acoustic channel as the

sole organ to perceive sounds is the result of an out¬

moded 19th century philosophy: The false isolation
of the acoustic channel came in fashion exactly at the
time, when the classic scientists have put the different
problems in different drawers: The sense of touch w r as
now mechanics, hearing became acoustics, seeing changed
to optics and so on”.

(31) The Yantra quality of the Rudra Veena is

not just a result of chance or of guessing. Abul Fazl, a
16th century author, wTites with reference to the con¬
struction of the veena: “The Yantra is formed out
of the hollow neck of wood, a yard in length, at each
end of which are attached the halves of two gourds.
Above the neck are sixteen frets, over which are strung
five steel wires, fastened securely at both ends. The
low r and the high notes and their variations are produced
by the disposition of the frets” (sec Deva, B.C.: “Musical
Instruments”, p. 92, New r Delhi 1977). The Yantra of
the cosmic sound drum is also called Damaru Yantra.
The cosmic sound drum produces a double field of
energy, symbolised by the double sound energy lines
(see Mookerjee, Ajit “Tantra Kunst”, p. 74, Basel 1967).

(32) A detailed outline of the Indian theory of

accordance has been given by Ruelius, Hans: Tala-
man a—Metrologie und Proportionslehrc dcr Inder ’
(article published in “Der vermessenc Mensch Anthro¬
pometric in Kunst und Wissenschaft”, Verlag Hans
Moos, Munich, undated). Ruelius writes, that the choice
of the measuring system depends for example from the
quality of the measured thing. If it is used for public
purposes one yardstick is employed, and if it is made
for personal use, another yardstick is taken. The items
determined for personal use “arc measured by units
derived from measures of the clients body . Such units
can be won a) bv dividing the length of his bod\, b) by
dividing the length of his ulna, c) by measuring tin
middle line of the middle finger and d) by measuring
the length of the client’s hand span”, the latter being
the common measure for the construction of a veena.
In theory there is nothing to object against this measuring
method in order to determine the distance between the
two gourds, as long as the player-client’s body is nor¬
mally proportioned. But when the client is thick, having
small hands at the same time, the measuring system,
based on the hand-span, naturally results in too small
a distance between th gourds: The instrument will be
too narrow. In such cases of non-accordance of the

real and the ideal measure (thickness of the body versus

double hand-span) the instrument-maker will not be
confused. He will then feel, that this accordance or
non-accordance indicates his client’s predisposition for
veena playing. In short: Only well proportioned people
should play this instrument.

(33) In his book “Music of Hindostan” (p. 9,

London 1914) A.H. Fox Strangways writes, that the
price of a reena, “the oldest and most distinguished”
musical instrument, was about ten pounds sterling. That
way one can assume, that veenas, also at that time,
were not cheap. “The many tens more that mav be
spent on it are lavished, though not wasted, upon its
ornamentation”. The veenas of that period were partly
embellished by paintings and partly by silver or ivory
decorations, but rarely carved in relief, as it is the habit

(34) The actually (1980) most famous veena

makers are Muhammad Aziz in Miraj (Maharashtra)
and Kanailal &amp; Brother, 377 A, Upper Chitpur Road,
Calcutta 7 (West Bengal). The Miraj veenas follow the
old tradition, being relatively light (5 to 6 kg) with an
open sound. The Bengal veenas , in the contrary, are
rather heavy (7 to 11 kg) with a somewhat closed sound.
The construction of a veena takes at least six months
and, as a rule, one year.

(35) The tube-shaped wood, especially in its

natural form of reed and bamboo, has a high significance
and symbolic power in Sufism (see also note 70).

(36) Toon wood (toona sinensis) belongs to the

family of redw oods. “Teak” in the contrary is a generic
term covering different woods: Indian instrument makers
prefer either Burmah-Teak (tectona grandis) or “Bastard
Teak” (pterdcarpus marsupium), the latter being better
than its ugly name. Veenas made of Toon-wood are
light in weight, produce a direct and pleasing, sometimes
too sweet a sound, but, due to the softness of the fibre,
veenas made of Toon are not very resistant. Instruments
made of Teak easily resist also stressing climatic con¬
ditions but they rest pretty heavily on the player’s
shoulder. Their sound is neutral and somew hat hesitating.

(37) Floating in the water, a section of a wooden

trunk always turns that side upright, which has grown
in the warmth of the wind shadow and, therefore, has
slightly broader annual rings. For that reason the
specific weight (Toon: 0,55, Teak: 0,66) is slightly
reduced at that side of the trunk and makes it “face the
sun”. The conclusion is, that the instrument makers
just select the most unstable portion of the wood (the
one with the broadest annual rings) and this again
leads to the assumption, that this strange kind of quality
control is, in reality, a ritual aiming at something else.

(38) Besides this method—hollowing out a squared

timber by boring—there is still another way of producing
a wooden tube for a veena: The instrument maker saws
the timber longitudinally, thus producing two halves. He
then carves a groove of a semicircular diameter into
each of the halves, glues them together again and avoids
the time-consuming and risky business of drilling. The
glued seems must not be visible, because instrument
maker may cover the outside of the tube with verneer
to stiffen the tube and make it more resistent against
climatic influences: In Calcutta, due to the swamps
surrounding the city, the humidity of the air can rapidly
change from 30 to 90 percent, so that a wooden tube, if
not completely seasoned, may easily split or warp. The

hollowed gourds are first soaked with water to soften the

material. Thereafter the instrument maker fixes the
now softened gourds into their wooden sockets by the
help of glue and bamboo nails. When dried again the
gourds are screwed to the wooden tube by means of
brass threads and thumb screws, so that the player,
when travelling for example, can always disassemble
the instrument into three pieces by reaching through
the sound holes of the gourds and loosening the thumb
screws again.

(39) As the table shows, the proportions of the

Rudra Veena have not changed very much, at least not
during the past 100 years. With some reservations one
can say, that the overall length of the tubes is a little
prolonged today and that modern instruments often
are heavier, due to the frequent use of Teak wood. The
instrument no. 1 belongs to a German player; the veenas
no. 2—5 belong to a private collection in Italy. No. 6
is exposed in the museum of the Sangeet Natak Akademi ,
New Delhi, and the instruments no. 7—9 belong to a
collection owned by Mr. Shantilal Gujar, Bombay.

(40) Instead of crocodile heads there are some¬

times also carved Lotus blossoms or, instead of a carving,

Main data from nine Rudra Veenas (cm)

tube: length over all










tube: upper portion









tube: lower portion





tube: bore










tube: outside diameter









number of frets










width of frets

















height of gourds










gourds: circumference










gourds: diameter sound holes









gourds: distance of sockets










material of bridge

stag horn


eleph. bone

eleph. bone

stag horn







a flat

a flat

a flat











year of construction








Just a ring made of silver or some sort of nickel alloy
to prevent the tube from splitting.

(41) To fasten the frets with fishing line was

re garded as a morally doubtful habit by some respond¬
ents. They considered this a very practical idea, as the
veena player can shift the frets together with the fishing
line, normally a simple nylon wire. But they also felt,
that this kind of fastening the frets is rather close to
the habit of low-born musicians playing impure instru¬
ments and fixing the frets with cat gut. Just to avoid
suspicion, the frets should be glued with wax mixed
with, textile ash to harden it. Then the frets can be
moved onlv by heating the wax again. But this dis¬
advantage, so we are told, is a price, a thoughtful player
must pay.

(42) The Indian musical scales were and still

are a very popular theme of philosophical and mathe¬
matical speculation. Just to outline some points of the
riddle the nowadays official Indian scale (called “Sa-
grama”) be presented here. Following a commonly
shared opinion, this scale is divided in 22 microtones:

Do = C = Sa

Re = D = Ri

Mi = E = Ga

Fa = F = Ma

50 = G = Pa

La = A = Dha

51 = H = Ni

Do = C = Sa

[ 4 microtones

3 microtones

2 microtones

4 microtones
4 microtones

3 microtones
2 microtones
22 microtones

Starting now from the (uncertain) assumption, that

these microtones be equal intervals, the step from Do
to Re (4 microtones) would be larger than the step
from Re to Mi, comprising only three microtones. But
this again seems to be impossible as, following another
widespread teaching, the Indian scale consists of 12
halftones equal in size and won by mathematical divi¬
sion. And this again does seem to be very unlikely,
as 22 (the number of microtones within an octave)

cannot be divided through 12 without painfully splitting

one or several microtones. But also the mentioned divi¬
sion through 12 is no real dogma in an intellectually
rich country like India: N.A. Jairazbhoy (“The Rags of
North Indian Music”, p. 21, London 1971) for example
refers to a veena player dividing the octave through 14,
though his instrument had only 12 frets per octave.
The player, when questioned, explained that, unhap¬
pily, there is not enough space on the tube of his veena
to place 14 frets per octave but, nevertheless, the octave
has to be divided through 14. Apart from this official
scale (Sagrama) there is an unofficial one called Magrama ,
starting from Fa = F = Ma. The difference between
Sagrama and Magrama consists of a shift of only one
microtone from one interval to the other and is prac¬
tically inaudible. A third scale, starting from Mi (= E =
Ga) is still mentioned in books, but it is obsolete and
its intervals seem to be forgotten (see Jones, Sir William:
“On the Musical Scales of the Hindoos”, Calcutta 1784).

For the sake of riddle lovers and the friends of speculation

the whole problem be demonstrated here in the form of
a graph. The graph shows three possible divisions of
the octave: The first column demonstrates a purely
mathematical division following Helmholtz (see Helm¬
holtz, Hermann von: “Sensations of Tone”, London
1875). Helmholtz, a widely interested physician, has
based his calculations on the idea, that simple mathe¬
matical proportions, like 2 / 3 or 1 / 2 , result in an optimal
sensation of harmony. The intervals of the Helmholtz-
scale, also called “natural scale”, evidently are unequal
in size. This Helmholtz-scale produces a somewhat
strange but pure music, as long as the musician uses
C as his tonic. But as soon as he changes the tonic from
C to another note the music will adopt a so-called “Mou-
staffa-sound” and the beauty of the Helmholtz-scale
will be lost, because its underlying harmony only develops
when the tonic is C. The second column shows the
proportions of the so-called tempered scale used in
occidental music. The intervals here are more or less
equalised. This regularity allows the western musician
to change the key arbitrarily. Every note can serve as
the tonic and no “Moustaffa-sound” will spoil the per¬
formance. Yet when playing the tempered scale the
musician must put up with a general loss of harmony
caused by the stretching and pressing of the intervals.
The third column on the right side shows the Indian
Sagrama-scalc and its 22 microtones (assuming that the
microtones be of equal size). If these mierotones are
projected to' the seven whole notes of the tempered

Helmholtz Tempered Indian

scale (the white keys on the piano) one achieves a fairly

useful scale with a rather hightened D and A. When
projecting the 22 microtones to the 12 halftones of the
tempered scale (white and black keys on the piano) one
will never come to a result, if not by stretching, com¬
pressing or omitting some microtones. With a little
benevolence however the 22 microtones of the Indian
scale (column 3) can be projected to the Helmholtz-
scale (column 1), especially when adding the
problematical 17. microtone to the A—H interval, thus
reducing the excessive G—A interval to a reasonable
size. The outlined projection of the Indian scale to the
Helmholtz-scale also seems justified by the fact, that
veenas (and many other Indian instruments) are always
played with the same tonic. Especially veena-players
never change the key they have once adopted and they
can also stick to it as they must not care for other instru¬
ments: They always play alone and never in an orchestra.

(43) The figure 34.848 can be understood only

when the reader realises that Asian scales—in so far
different from occidental ones—can be asymmetrical.
There are scales, whose ascending intervals differ from
the descending intervals in number. Some scales, for
example, have seven notes when played way-up, but
only six or five when played downwards. This leads us
to the following speculative calculation:












When the number of possible variations (484) is multi¬

plied with 72, which is the number of basic scales, one
comes to 34.848 possible sound-wave-formations. This
rather simple calculation is based on the assumption,
that there are not more than seven and not less than
five notes in one scale. If one takes, additionally, into
consideration, that Indian scales are not necessarily
“straight” but running also zigzag, there possible number
is once more increased. Such a zigzag-scale is shown on
the graph. It portrays the scale of the sound-wave-
formation “Darbari Kanada”, which goes upwards in a
straight line, but downwards in a zigzag form. When
including also the zigzag-scales into the calculation the
possible number of sound-wave-formations would reach
about a billion. But there is still another way of defining
the possible number of scales and sound-wave-formation.
This is the so-called milk-maid-calculation, explaining
us, that there are only 16.108 possible scales. The reason
is, that the blue-coloured Lord Krishna is said to have
seduced 16.108 milk-maids. Each of these girls, so the
story goes, has sung a different sound wave signal to
her heavenly lover (see Danielou, A.: “The Raga-s of
Northern Indian Music”, p. 92, London 1968).

(44) Sound-wave-formations must fulfill a num¬

ber of formal conditions, mainly: a) They must be

Scale of the sound-wave- formation Raga Darbari Ka¬

nada : Straight in ascent and running zig-zag when de¬

played following a precisely fixed scale within the 22

stepped Indian octave. The scale can consist of five,
six or seven notes, b) Within the given scale there is
always one dominant note and a second dominant note,
These two notes must be accentuated by the player in
order to stress the difference from other sound-wave-
formations following possibly the same but scale having
different main notes, c) A sound-w r ave-formations con¬
tains one or several basic melodies which are constantly
repeated and varied. These basic melodies are not
strictlv precribed. Thev can change a bit due to the
players meditative insight or the musical tradition he
adhers to. These important conditions are completed
by a long range of small prescriptions, which, as a whole,
shape the unmistakable character of the signal.

(45) The official definition says, that a microtone

(shruti) is the smallest still audible interval. As this

definition implies the acoustic training and the personal

capacity of the listener, a microtone is no absolute but
a relative measure.

(46) Veena players were sometimes appointed as

court musicians. Or they filed an application to become
court musicians. In the latter case they often had to
pass an examination. The same (or other ?) players
evidently crossed the country working as freelancers,
healing here, doing sorcery there and occasionally playing
at temple festivities. They evidently were well payed.
A.H. Fox Strangway (“Music of Hindostan”, p. 180,
London 1914) reports on a balance sheet of a temple
ceremony, which has been celebrated in 1051 A.C. The
fees of the staff members were defined in “shares” and
these shares were payable in paddy. A drummer, so we
learn, has received one share, a flute player 1.5 shares,
a solo vocalist able to sing in Sanskrit 1.5 shares, but the
veena player has cashed 1.75 shares, only excelled by
the treasurer of the ceremony (2.0 shares) and the
female supervisor (2.0 shares), who had to take care of
the 400 dancing girls (cashing 1.0 share each). A parasol
bearer has received only 0.4 shares and a lamp lighter

(47) Indian communists, when discussing music,

like to stress, that veena playing and the old magic
music in general is just one more technique to suppress
and to exploit the peasants’ and workers’ class. As this
music is no folk music the instruments and its players,
so one learns, may best be stored away in a historical
museum of the class conflicts.

(48) One of these places for for meditation or

invocation can be seen on page 44 . It is called “Disa
Cakra” and it is part of the Janter-Manter (astrological
center) in the city of Jaipur (see also note 58). Measuring
30.4 metres the diameters run from East to West and
from South to North. The picture is taken at exactly,
12 o’clock noon. Therefore, the shadow^ of the boy
standing in the center, points to the North.

(49) The idea, that women are not even allowed

to touch a veena , probably results from the widespread
assumption, that only men, due to their better incarna¬
tion, can mediate between heaven and earth. A second
version says, that this rumor only serves as a market
exclusion strategy to reduce competion. Following a
third version, husbands, by this menace, used to frighten
their wives to prevent them from banging against the
instruments when dusting around, that way spoiling or
mistuning them.

(50) In general the chakra (or cakra-) rule is

undisputed. But the respondents expressed differing
opinions concerning details as for example, how many
chakras may be located in the human body, if the knot
of power placed directly below the brain pan is a real
chakra or not, and, whether the dividing lines are running
between the chakras or through the chakras , which
would lead to different mathematical proportions.
Danielou writes: “Appropriate knowledge about the
shape, the position, the colour and the effect (of the
chakras) was, until now, only obtained by the practising
Yogi” (Danielou, Alain: “Yoga — The Method of Re-
Integration”, p. 140, London, 4. edition 1973).

(51) There is no generally accepted rule of tuning

a veena. The intervals may differ from instrument to
instrument of from player to player respectively. Assum¬
ing that the tonic (Do, Indian Sa) be always the note A
(220 Hertz) one can find the following tunes:

drones melody drone

(right) strings (left)

common (modern)




common (classical)





rare (South Indian ?)










The tune described as “historical” here is mentioned in

a letter written by Francis Fawke in 1790 (“The Vina or
Indian Lyre”, reprinted by Tagore, Sourindro Mohun
(editor): “Hindu Music”, volume I, Benares 1875).

(52) Indian music does not always sound pleasant

because the roundness of the instrument’s bridge is
wrongly ground. The strings then produce only muffled
sounds. This, at the first sight, unimportant detail of
grinding a bridge correctly, has become a problem in
India’s contemporary music: At one hand the musicians
themselves are not accustomed to use a file and sand¬
paper, and, on the other, the number of craftsmen
really mastering the art of “ jawari ” has diminished.
“,/atcari”, this is the art of grinding a bridge, literally

means “to give life” to the instrument. The ^r£ o t0* s:

procedure has been fully described (Marcotty. T. n {r^
“Djovari: Giving Life to the Sitar” i n Juni^ s ’

M.: “The Sitar — The instrument and its Tc c ^ ltl ^Jine

p. 84, Wilhelmshaven 1974). Therefore, a short * f&gt; ),

may suffice here: The bridge of a veena (sitar, 5lir . t e

which carries the four main strings, is a littl e P - v ory
about the size of a matchbox, consisting of b° nCr £ r st
or stag-horn. To achieve a perfect jawari one m llS ^\\y
flatten the surface of the bridge and then
round it just a little bit. The problem is, that this a or
invisible roundness must be either circle-sb a P e
parabolic, depending from the diameter and the te ^ cC j 1 ,
of the respective string, as well as from the play* 11 ^ ^ e
nique of the musician. The idea behind is, t ^ e

vibrations of the string must reach the bridge * n ^

smallest possible angle. In this case the string i s 1 ^
shortened when swinging downwards and slightly ^ eI1 ^q ie
ened when swinging upwards, that way producing
silvery overtones distinguishing fine Indian string mnsic.
The jawari procedure is a very time consuming busing s ’
requiring a lot of experience and patience.

(53) Today some players use plectra on the index

finger and the middle finger and (to strike the drone
strings) sometimes also a plectrum on the fifth finger °
the right hand. The plectra today are made of steel
wire. In the past also plectra made of fishbone were in
use. Playing with plectra favours a clear and even touch
of the strings. But players using no plectra emphasize,
that the plectra can produce a clicking by-noise, and
that a clear touch can also be achieved by employing
just the bare fingertips of the right hand instead. The
player dips the fingertips of the left hand in a little
metal box filled with oil-soaked cotton from time to

time, to make the fingertips slippery. The oil allows

faster playing and, as a by-effect, protects the strings
against rust.

(54) Though age-old, the technique of veena -

playing is not very standardised. There are not less than
four recognised playing-positions: a) Sitting with the
legs crossed on the floor, the upper gourd of the instru-
ment positioned on the left shoulder. This posture is
considered usual, b) Sitting on the heels as it is the
habit in Japan. This kneeling position, alco called

Moghul-position” stems from the ancient Islamic

courts, where everybody had to kneel down in the
presence of the ruler, c) Sitting on the floor with the legs
crossed supporting the upper gourd on the left knee—not
shouldering the instrument. This position comes close
to the way of playing the Sharasvati-Veena, a large
lute, not a stick zither, played in the South of the country,
d) Standing, the instrument shouldered. This posture—
often portrayed in Indian art—is unusual today. It
possibly was common, when veenas still were played in
temples or, to put it more correctly, standing in front of
a temple. A veena can also easily be played when the
musicians sits on a chair—not overstretching the sinews
of the legs. This is an advantage for foreigners unac¬
customed to sit on the floor.

(55) The timing of the sound-wave-signals, de¬

scribed here, is firstly mentioned around 900 A.C. in a
book ascribed to a legendary music-saint named “Narada”
(see Kaufmann, Walter: “The Ragas of North India”,
p. 14, Calcutta 1968). Earlier authors like Bharata and
Dattilam, both about 200 A.C., do not yet mention the
time-theory. The following list (taken from Dallapiccola,
Anna and Isacco, Enrico: “Ragamala”, p. 8, Paris
1977) indicates the daytimes and the seasons related
to 36 different sound-wave-signals. The daytimes men¬
tioned here are, with some variations, still respected,
whereas the seasons have mainly fallen into oblivion.

In this table the sound-wave-signals are listed cor¬

responding to the “ancient system”. The aneient system
divides the sound-wave-signals into six groups or families,
each presided by a male king or deity (Bhairava, Malkosh
et.). These six fathers (Ragas) each have five “wives”
(Raginis), incidentally also six. To these 30 or 36 wives
a varying number of “sons” (Ragaputras) can be attri¬
buted (not mentioned in the table) so that the number
of sound-wave-formations easily increases to the infinite.




1. Bhairava Raga


before sunrise

2. Bhairavi Ragini


late night

3. Nat Ragini


late afternoon

4. Malashri Ragini


late afternoon
5. Patamanjari Ragini


early morning

6. Lalita Ragini

all seasons

before sunrise

7. Malkosh Raga



8. Gauri Ragini


early afternoon

9. Khambhavati Ragini


10. Malavi Ragini

11. Ramakali Ragini


12. Gunakali Ragini

winter/autumn sunset

13. Hindola Raga

spring, rainy s.


14. Vilaval Ragini


15. Todi Ragini



16. Deshakhya Ragini


early morning

17. Gandhari Ragini

early morning

18. Madhumadhavi Ragini


early morning

19. Dipak Raga


after sunset

20. Dhanasri Ragini



21. Vasanta Ragini



22. Kanada Ragini

late evening

23. Baradi Ragini



24. Deshvarati Ragini


25. Megha Raga

rainy season


26. Gujari Ragini

rainy season

after sunrise

27. Gormalhar Ragini


before sunrise

28. Kakhuba Ragini



29. Yibhasa Ragini


before sunrise

30. Bangal Ragini


late afternoon

31. Shri Raga

autumn/winter late afternoon

32. Panchama Ragini



33. Kamodi Ragini



34. Seta Malar Ragini

rainy season

35. Asavari Ragini



36. Kedara Ragini autumn/winter night

This ancient system of grouping the sound-wave-signals

is by no means logically based: The different “families”
seem to be composed deliberately. The Indian musi¬
cologist Y.N. Bhatkande has, therefore, re-arranged the
sound-wave-signals in 1932, now respecting the resem¬
blance of their scales.

(56) These compressed or stretched hours are

no Indian peculiarity. They can be found whereever
time was measured by the help of sundials. The emperor
Augustus for example had a large sundial built in Rome,
which is now destroyed, to measure the “ancient”
hours of varying length (see Kern, Hermann: “Kalender-
bauten”, Munich 1976).

(57) Detailed descriptions of the day-time-theory

are given by Dr. B.C. Deva (“Indian Music”, p. 19,
New Delhi 1974) and Walter Kaufmann (“The Ragas
of North India”, p. 16, Calcutta 1968). The following
graph taken from Kaufmann’s book visualizes, how

C Cis D Die E F Fis G


Gis A Aia H

l 1 1 I


before sunrise

1. sunrise
after sunrise

2. early norning
late norning

3. noon

early afternoon

4. late afternoon
before sunset

5. sunset
after sunset

6. early evening
late evening

7. nidnight
after nidnight

8. before davn

the notes of the scale appear and disappear during the

eight watches of a day. Dr. B.C. Deva, director of the
Sangeet Natak Akademi , New Delhi, in the following
graph refers to another aspect of the time-theory.
Leaving aside the change of the scales the picture shows,
how the main notes (vadis) of the sound-wave-signals
arrange themselves symmetrically, when the day and
its eight watches are shown in the form of a circle.





,-^( 1686-1743 ),

(58) Jai B^.M^ter-constt Ucti ^adja of Amber,

has built five tb ura ’ ^ enare S au d °^s altogether: in
Delhi, Jaipur, %^ thoSe in De lhi, j ttjjain. Three of
them exist until ** alT ient adressed to tj^hur and Benares.
Jai Singh, in a d° C n a need to justify^ ^tnperor Muham¬
mad Shah, has ^ c argument, that expenses. He

mainly stressed ^^jcal instruments ^^surcments with

the usual astro 1 * 0 ^^! dimensions unsat * s fy* n £’

because of the# ^ rea sons to assum ^ Verthe ^ eSS tliere

are some very g°° never served as a ^ that Jai Sin g h ’ s
calendar building*, *j an ter buildin J[ , ' 0nornical instru ‘
ments: a) The Ja«* l72 4 and about been P lanned
and erected bet^ ce , o i * *74(). At that time

the telescope alread y lnve *ted. So the Janter .

Manter constrU ct * onS s ^ en as ast ronomical instru¬

ments—were otitmo c rom t e Very beginning. Jai
Singh must have known ajout t e telescope as he had
employed two Bavarian Jesuits as consultants named
Andreas Strobl an&lt; ^ Antonius Gabelsperger. b) The
largest Janter-Mant er -&gt; the one in Jaipur, is located in
the basin of a valley, which of course is the worst place
for astronomical observations. Part of the construction
is a large place for meditation, whose existence again
points out, that Jai Singh did not aim at astronomical
but at philosophical and astrological purposes. — Also
the denomination “Janter-Manter” favours the assump¬
tion, that the buildings have been constructed as ar¬
chitectural symbols, as pivots in between time and space
in the Tantric sense (see Kern, Hermann: “Kalender-
bauten”, Munich 1976).

(59) The so-called bols or bolas, the syllables of

the Indian drummers’ language, practically serve as an
arranged-upon obscured language. But there is also a
saying, that the bols have to be considered as mantras
revealed by gods in former times. In addition we are
told, that not the bols (the syllables) but the different
drum-strokes (denominated by the bols) are of mantric
character. A third explanation, presented by the Indian
vocalist Amir Khan, says, that the drummers’ syllables
are mutilated Persian w r ords: The prefered language at
the courts of the 13th century was Persian. To please
the Persian speaking noblemen, assembled at the im¬
perial court, Amir Khan reports, the Indian vocalists
had attempted to sing in Persian and the drummers
then had adopted the singers’ pidgin-Persian to designate
their strokes (see Khan, Amir: “Music East and West—
Indian Council for Cultural Freedom”, probably Bom¬
bay, undated).

(60) Veena-players are sometimes accompanied

by a cylindrical drum, officially called “ Mrdangam and,
inofficially, “ Pakhawaz ” (or Pakhawaj). These drums
are, as a rule, carved from Margosa bitter-wood (Melia
azadirachta) . Their two heads are covered with goat-
akin. The Pakhawaz is played with both hands. The
pitch of the larger drumhead on the left side is lowered
by covering the skin with w r et flour paste, so that the
drum is enabled to pronounce an auspicious aum
or “om”. The center of the drumhead on the right side
is pasted with a layer of caoutchouc mixed with iron
dust. By a rather difficult beating technique the drummer
can produce a large variety of notes also changing their
overtones so that the Pakhawaz , played at its best,
can pronounce speachlike sequences of syllables. The
Pakhaivaz is called “the queen of the drums , but today
it is ousted by the Tabla- drum. Pakhawaz-Y&gt;\ayeTS
nowadays can only be heard accompanying veena-
players or Dhrupad-'v ocalists, the rare representatives
of the sacred “music of the path”.

(61) In the 16th century the Chistian god has

revealed a number of “key-words” to the magician

Dr. Dee and his assistant Edward Kelley. By the help

of these key-words, meant for invocational purposes, the
two Englishmen have developed the so-called “Enochian
language ”, which is said to be a real language and not
gibberish (see Cavendish, Richard: “The Encyclopedia
of the Unexplained”, p. 83, London 1974).

(62) The science of the Mantras often resists to

occidental understanding, as there is no comparable
phenomenon in the West. The following quotation from
an Indian Mantra-textbook entitled “Great Ocean of
Mantras” shows, what the actual state of the art is
like: “Thanks to the grace of the Supreme Brahman we
have now succeeded in completing this work. Especially,
we have to offer our thanks to the almighty Shiva
through whose benign glance the mantra-shastra (Man-
tra-text and dootrine) has been revealed—through which
sliastra that people in former times were able to defeat
the gods even, and having subdued them, made them
do for them whatever they desired. Through mantra-
shastra demons like Ravana could give fight to Shri
Ramacancra and other devine heroes. Through the
mantra-shastra people could vanish out of sight right
in front of others. Through it, they could assume others’
forms and bodies. Through it, they were able to move
below water for thousands of ... miles. Through it,
they could move in the sky and visit the abode of the
gods . . . Through it, they readily acquired the eight
miraculous powers ... It is a very sad matter that
today this wishfulfilling jewel, the mantra-shastra, has
been lost to the world. The reasons for this loss are,
that, first of all, such valuable things are hard to obtain,
for if any person possesses something of this (literature)
he keeps it a secret and does not show r it to anyone;
and if one does lay hand on one text or the other, then
it is garbled or a corrupted text . . . (and) no one knows
how to perform the accompanying worship properly,
nor is anyone able to pronounce it correctlv or he
does not know at w hat sort of place it is to be read—or
else, only just the bare mantra may be available—then
pray tell me, how r can there be success in the perform¬
ance ? And due to this fact (of failure through incom-
pletness) the mantra yields no results nowadays; and
then (modern) people say the whole thing is nonsense.
But this idea (of mantra being nonsensical and futile)
is a grave error on the part of intelligent people and
scholars. It is a grave error, first because Shiva himself
has proclaimed the shastra and its miracolous effects
were witnessed bv people . . . But, the absence of
exact directives (for the use of mantra), and you people’s
doubt and hardheadedness even in the (occasional)
presence of such prescriptions, these are the reasons
for the failure to achieve (insight) through the mantras . . .
In order to please your ista-devata you will see that the
complete worship and mantra-procedure of each god
or divine aspect is always listed under one heading (in
this book), not like in older books of this kind, where
you have to turn the tome topsy-turvy . . . and then
to run over anyway to the mantra experts to have
unintelligible passages explained. This book here has
it all: The mantras of your choosen god, the place,
the ritualistic touch, meditation, the worship of the
pitha, the Shakti of the pitha, the construction of the
yantra (mystical diagram), of the altar, the installation
of the deity, the sixteen ingredients and their respective
location (on the altar), the laudatory hymns, in fact
the complete fivefold arrangement will be found together
in one place (under one heading), so that you can perform
the rites yourself just by having this book or by giving
it to a Brahmin whom you want to perform it” (see
Fischer, Leopold—Bharati, Agehananda: “The Tantric
Tradition”, p. 123, London 1965).

(63) The relation between the tonality of space

and the spatiality of sound is already mentioned in a
document stemming from the 11th century: The Tibetan
monk Rechung, when praising his Guru Milarepa, writes:
“He (Milarepa) was an expert in the field of the good
and the bad meanings of sounds and he knew, that
every sound is perceivable space” (see Evans-Wentz,
W.Y.: “Milarepa”, p. 24, Weilheim 1971). Evans-Wentz,
the translator of Rechung’s text, adds, that this passage
refers to Milarepa’s mastership in the occult science
of the mantras or words of power, which are based on
the physical law of acoustics. The “ Mantrayana ” (man-
fra-textbook) teaches, so Evans-Wentz mentions, that
there is always a specific relation of oscillations between
every object and natural element and every organic
subhuman, human and superhuman being, including
beings of the highest rank like gods. Whenever this
relation is known and acoustically expressed by pro¬
nouncing the respective mantra , then the expert forces
spiritual beings or lower deities to appear.

(64) The elephant-headed Ganesha is the god

approached for success. Musicians often invoke Ganesha
before they start to play. So do businessmen when
planning risky transactions and students facing an

examination. Ganesha is often depicted with one tusk

only. The Ganesha-Mantra quoted at the beginning
of this book is taken from a still unpublished book
(Manfred M. Junius: “Die Talas der Nordindischen
Musik”), which for the first time, lists and analyses the
Indian rhythms in an encyclopedic form.

(65) The idea of the “lettered sound” seems to

be of old age. The “Dattilam” for example, one of the
most ancient treatises on Indian music, written around
200 A.C., starts with the following words: “After having
paid honour to the Great Lord and to Brahma, the
other gods and also the teachers, I shall give a brief
exposition of the theory of music, which considers only
the most essential things. — In the beginning music
was given by the Self-existing One to Narada (a music-
saint) and the other saints. Then it was duly taken
down to earth by Narada. — A collection of notes,
which is based on words, which is well-measured by
time-measurements and which is executed with atten¬
tiveness, means bringing the right understanding into
practice . . .” (see Wiersma-te Nijenhuis, E.: “Dattilam”,
p. 17, Leiden 1970).

(66) The steel and brass strings, pulled by hand

in former times, evidently have not been very solid.
A.H. Fox-Strangways (“Music of Hindostan”, page 78,
London 1914) reports the following little story: “A
feeble musician, Musila of Ujjain, whose music on the
Veena was like ‘scratching on a mat’, came to learn of
Guttila of Banaras (the Bodhisatta in an earlier birth).
Guttila’s parents, when they heard him, said, ‘Shoo!
Shoo! the rats are gnawing the Veena to pieces’. Guttila,
who, as a Bodhisatta, was ‘skilled in discerning from the
lineaments of the body’ said, ‘Go, my son, this art is
not for you’. But Musila got his w r ay; and Guttila Bodhi¬
satta, who ‘did not stint his knowledge’, at last pro¬
nounced his pupil perfect. Musila pressed to be taken
into the king’s service. This was done; but the king
awarded Guttila twice as much as his pupil. Musila
protested, and forced matters to a contest, of which
proclamation was made to tuck of drum. The Bodhisatta
reflected that he was old, and that ‘if he beats me,
death in the woods is better than the shame which will
be my portion’. So to the woods he went; but ‘kept
returning through fear of death, and going back to the
woods for fear of shame’, so that ‘the grass died as he
w r alked and his feet wore away the path’. In his trouble
Sakka, the king of the gods, appeared: Guttila was to


break, in the contest, one string after another, beginning

at the ‘beestring’, and the music should be as good as
before. Then ‘you shall go on playing with nothing but
the body; and from the ends of the (broken) strings the
sound shall go forth and fill all the land of Banaras for
the space of twelve leages’. All happened as was foretold
(by Sakka) and the scholar, beaten out of the field, was
stoned and torn in pieces by the populace .

(67) The quality of veena -music largely depends

from the choice of the strings, namely their diameter. The
best diameter of a music wire can be determined by the
help of Taylor’s formula:

c =_s*_

4 m 2 f 2 w

or its conversion:

4 m 2 f 2 c w

t = --

“t” means “tension” measured in kilogramms (using

a spring balance). The tension of the four melody strings
of a Veena should range within 30 to 50 kg each, so
that the total charge of the tube should vary between
120 and 200 kilogramms, depending from the type an
the solidity of the instrument, “m” stands for “measure¬
ment” expressed in meters. The measurement of a Veena
(the distance from bridge to bridge) varies between .
and 1.0 meter, “f” is “frequency” or the number oi
frequencies per second, “w” means weight or t e
specific weight of the metal out of which the string is
made. The specific weight of steel is about 7.85, an
that of bronze about 8.96. “g’ stands for gravity
force of gravity. The gravity varies a little bit Irom
place to place due to the uneven structure of our p amt.
For practical purposes an average value of 9.81 (meters
per second) is good enough, “c” means “cross section ,
which is the little round face of a string in square meter..
It is assumed here, that these cross sections of musical
wires are precisely circle-shaped (which is not a ways
true in reality). When determining the tension or the
cross section of a string one should bear in mine, t lat c
(the cross section) is not identical with the iameter.
The mathematical step from the cross section to the
diameter or vice versa is made by the help o t ic r pi
formula. — Occidental musicians are used to string
instruments with almost equal tension on each strin^.
The tension of normal guitar-strings for example \ arit s
around six kilogramms, so that the whole charge is
(6x6=) 36 kilogramms or the like. Veena-players,

in the contrary, use strings of unequal tension. The

following table shows, what kind of strings two pro¬
fessional players use:

Veena Asad Ali Khan

1. string (d’) =

293.7 Hertz

0.55 mm


42.9 kg tension
2. string (a) =

220.0 Hertz

0.60 mm


48.8 kg tension

3. string (e) =

164.8 Hertz

0.90 mm


61.6 kg tension

4. string (B) =

123.5 Hertz

1.10 mm


51.7 kg tension

Veena Asit Kumar Banerjee

1. string (d* flat) =

277.2 Hertz

0.46 mm


39.9 kg tension

2. string (a flat) =

207.7 Hertz

0.85 mm


77.5 kg tension

3. string (e flat) =

155.6 Hertz

1.00 mm


67.8 kg tension
4. string (B flat) =

116.5 Hertz

1.25 mm


58.4 kg tension

(68) The deflection of the melody strings (pulling

them sideways with the fingertips of the left hand) is
called “meend” in Hindi and “meer” in Bengali. The
meer-technique is a specialty namely of the veena-
musicians. A good player constantly plays wdth the
melody string deflected (drone strings are never deflected)
to reach the folio wing goals: a) Through the meer-
technique one can play the same note with a different
tension of the string, so that the same note can be pro¬
duced with different overtones, b) By the meer-technique
the reena-player can highten or lower a note steplessly.
This again enables him to make a “knot in the air”,
c) The meer-technique allows the production of extremely
pure sounds, as these sounds are independent from the
(never correctly positioned) frets on the fingerboard.
Mastering the meer-technique requires years of practice
because the width of the deflection, measured in milli¬
meters, and the necessary strength of the fingers (in¬
creased tension), measured in kilogramms, vary from
fret to fret.

(69) Ragamala is the denomination for books

made of paper or palm leaves containing 36 and some¬
times 42 paintings or drawings representing sound¬
wave-formations in a personalised form. There are two
main styles of Ragamala-art: a) The Western style,
stemming from the Moghul period, whose geographical
center was the actual Union State Rajasthan South of
Delhi. The Ragamala-pictures of the Western school
are coloured miniature paintings influenced by Persian
artists. One example, the visualisation of the sound¬
wave-signal Todi, is reproduced in this book (see page 4).
b) The Eastern style, evidently uninfluenced by the
Persians, is centered in West Bengal and Orissa. Some
examples of this Eastern style, all simple black-and-
white drawings, are as well reproduced in this book.
They are taken from a palm-leave book found in Orissa.
The originals are a little smaller than a matchbox in
size. — Though there is no doubt, that the unknown
painters, intended to paint or to draw sound-wave-
signals, there is no solid relation inbetween the pictures
and the sound-wave-formations they depict. Klaus
Ebeling, who has carefully researched the Ragamala-
paintings, comes to the following conclusion: “I have
analyzed large numbers of paintings, particularly single
titles or single regional styles, to find answers to several
questions: Do colors correspond to the notes of the scale ?
No. Do quantities of pictorial elements establish any
numerical pattern found in musical structure ? No,
although the auspicious numbers 3, 5 and 7 occur con-
spiciously often, both in painting and music. Are colors
used to symbolize various rasas (musical moods) ? In¬
conclusive, if one compares the pages of single Ragamalas
(books). No, on any wider basis” (Ebeling, Klaus: “Ra-
gamala Paintings”, Basel/Paris/New Delhi 1973, p. 16).

(70) This procedure of ego-extinction in Tantra -

music probably derives from Sufism. Though older
than the Islam, Sufism today is considered as an un¬
orthodox branch of the Islamic rule. Sufism reached its
peak during the time of Djelal ed-Din Rumi, a poet-
saint living in the (today Turkish) city of Konya. The
Sufis had some influence on Indian music, especially
during the Moghul period. As all mystics, they were
persued by the official priesthood, in this case by the
mullahs. Nevertheless the Sufis’ heretic practices of
melting into the universe by employing alcohol, unusual
forms of sexuality and forbidden music on flute-like
instruments, have widely spread in India. Since
around the* 9th century A.C. there is a Sufi teaching
saying, that the human soul is like a moth flying around
the divine flame (the candle) which, after a while attracts
the moth so much that it is burned to ashes. When
burning, the moth becomes a component of the divine
light for a happy moment. — In the described ritual the
musician performs this old Sufi ritual in a symbolic
way. It is considered especially efficient, when tube¬
shaped instruments like flutes, oboes or Rudra-Veenas
are used. The reason is, that in Sufism the human soul,
longing for mystic union, is also considered as an up¬
rooted reed or bamboo, yearning to find its way back
to the place of its divine origin.

(71) There are different ways of counting by the

help of the fingers. They all can be used for mantra-

recitation as well as for locating the respective position

on a musical time-circle. Normally one uses the thumb
to count the joints (including the tips) of the four re¬
maining fingers, as demonstrated in figure A, thus
arriving always at sixteen. This kind of counting is
mainly used for sitar-music, as sitar-players prefer
rhythms like “Teental”, containing 16 beats per round.
In a similar way of counting the thumb does not touch
the joints (including the tips), but the limbs of the
remaining four fingers, thus arriving at 12 (see figure B).

a b c

Rhythms of twelve beats are prefered by I’eena-players

as 12 can be divided through 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 having,
therefore, a special and auspicious meaning. A third
method of counting, demonstrated in figure C, divides
the time-circle into ten sections. The thumb here per¬
forms a spiral-shaped movement ending at 10 with an
indicative exit.

(72) The respondents, if at all, explained the

origin and the audibility of the Nada Brahman in dif¬
ferent ways: Nada Brahman , some said, is heard, when
you press the index fingers in your ears. That wav you
can listen to the rush of your blood and your heart
beats, thus becoming aware of your own liveliness.
Others found this method rather trivial. They explained,
that Nada Brahman can be made audible by using a
certain breathing technique borrowed from Yoga. This
is a carefully steered gradual ebbing away of breath.
As a by-product of the increasing lack of oxygen the
inner ear suddenly perceives a distinct sound, similar
to the “sound of a bamboo flute”, which is Nada Brah¬
man, the “unstruck sound”.

22. Bibliography
Basham , A.L.: “The Wonder that was India”, 3. edition,
Calcutta 1975

Bharati, A.: “The Tantric Tradition”, London 1965

Cavendish , Richard (editor): “The Encyclopedia of the

Unexplained”, London 1974

Dallapiccola , Anna and Isacco, Enrico: “Ragamala”,

catalogue of the Marco Polo gallery, Paris 1977

Danielou , Alain: “Asthetik und indische Musik”, in

“The World of Music”, No. 2, p. 60, Wilhelmshaven 1976

Danielou , Alain: “Le alternative al sistema temperato”

in “Seminario di studi e ricerche sul linguaggio musicale”,
Vicenza 1972

Danielou, Alain: “Tableau comparatif des intervalles

musicaux”, Pondicherry 1958

Danielou , Alain: “The Raga-s of Northern Indian Music”,

London 1968

Danielou , Alain: “Yoga — The Method of Re-Integra¬

tion”, 4. edition, London 1973

Deva, B. Chaitanya: “Indian Music”, New Delhi 1974

Deva B. Chaitanya: “Music Akademies in India”, in

“Sangeet Kala Vihar”, No. 1, p. 13, Baroda 1970

Deva , B. Chaitanya: “Musical Instruments”, Delhi 1977

Ebeling , Klaus: “Ragamala Paintings”, Basel/Paris/
New r Delhi 1973

Evans- Wentz, W.Y.: “Milarepa”, Weilhcim 1971

Farmer H.G.: “Music of Ancient Egypt” in “New

Oxford History of Music”, volume I, London 1957

Fox Strangways , A.H.: “The Music of Hindostan”,

Oxford 1914

Glasenapp , Helmuth von: “Entwicklungsstufen indi-

schen Denkcns”, Konigsberg 1940

Gosh , Manomohan (translator): “The Natyashastra”,

Calcutta 1961

Government of India: “India 1976 - A Reference Book”,

New Delhi 1976

Ions, Veronica: “Indische Mythologie”, Munich 1967

Jairazbhoy, N.A.: “The Rags of North Indian Music —

Their Structure and Evolution”, London 1971
Junius, Manfred M.: “Die Kunstmusik Nordindiens im
19. Jahrhundert”, unpublished

Junius , Manfred M. and Marcotty, Th.: “The Sitar — The

Instrument and its Technique”, Wilhelmshaven 1974

Kaufmann , Walter: “The Ragas of North India”,

Calcutta 1968

Khan , Sufi Inayat: “Music”, 3. edition, New Delhi 1973

Kern , Hermann: “Kalenderbauten”, Munich 1976

Keskar , B.V.: “Indian Music — Problems and Prospects”,

Bombay 1967
Krishnaswami , Vidvan S.: “Research on Musical Instru¬
ments of India” in “Journal of the Music Academy”
p. 100, Madras 1962

Mookerjee, Ajit: “Tantra-Kunst — ihre Philosophic und

Naturwissenschaft”, Basel 1967/1968

Moorhouse, Geoffrey: “Calcutta”, New York 1971

Neumann, Karl Eugen: “Die Reden Gotamo Buddhos”,

3. edition, Zurich/Vienna, undated

Parikh, Arvind: “How is Indian Music Different from

the Western Music ?”, unpublished text of a lecture given
in Ossiach/Austria 1971

Patnaik, Kabichandra Kalicharan (editor): “Raga-

Citra , palmleaf manuscript, Cuttack 1966

Roy-Choudhoury, Birendra Kishore:

Mian Tansen” Calcutta, undated

“Indian Music and

Ruelius, Hans: “Talamana — Metrologie

tionslehre der Inder” in “Der vermessene
nich, undated

und Propor-
Mesch”, Mu-

Sachs, Curt: “Die Musikinstrumente Indiens ” Rer

U 1Q9 o mif I1S * * * ’ aeTm

Sachs , Curt: “The Rise of Music

New York 1943

in the Ancient World”

Sambamoorthy, P.: “Sruti Vadyas (Drones)”, Delhi 1957

Singh, K.: “India Without Humbug”, Bombay 1977

Tagore, Sourindro Mohun (editor): “Hindu Music from

Vanous Authors , Benares 1875, reprinted Calcutta 1965

Tata Group of Companies: “Statistical Outline of India”,

Bombay 1976
Waldschmidt, Ernst und Rose Leonore: “Musik-inspi-
rierte Mmiaturen”, volume I, Wiesbaden 1966

Wiersma-te Nijenhuis, E.: “Dattilam”, Leiden 1970

Woodroffe, Sir John: “The Garland of Letters — Studies

m the Mantra-Sastra”, 6. edition, Madras 1976

The Contributors

Ustad Asad Ali Khan, born 1937 in Alwar,

Rajasthan, descends from a family of musicians. He
is known as the Veena-player adhering to the ancient
Hindostani tradition. His adress is: A-62, Nizza-
muddin East, New Delhi 110—013.

Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, born 1929,

also comes from a family of professional musicians.

yHe is known as an innovator of the Rudra-Veena
vand its playing technique. Ustad Zia Mohiuddin
teaches in India and the United States. His adress is:
llhikmini Plot 20/4, Chembur, Bombay 71, India.

Pandit Asit Kumar Banerjee descends

from an industrialist’s family in Dhanbad, West
Bengal. He is a professional Yeena-musician and
teacher famed for his dynamic style of playing. His
adress is 62/36/1 Haripada Dutta Lane, Calcutta

Pandit Rajib Locham Dey is the drummer

accompanying the Malkosh sound-wave-signal on the
first side of the cassette. Mr. Dey teaches Pakhawaz-
and Tabla-playing at a Calcutta university. His
adress is: 77, Akhil Mistri Lane, Calcutta 700—009.

Thomas Marcotty is a journalist specialising

in market and social research. As a side-line he took
up Indian music and veena-playing. He has written
this book, he has recorded the music and he has
taken most of the photographs.

ISBN 88=900002=0=1
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