MUSIC AND SOCIETY
MUSIC AND MUSIC THOUGH IN INDIA
I. Music in Medieval India
I.1. The Gupta period (4th–6th centuries )
The period of the Gupta kings shone in literary excellence. It is often described as the Golden Age of culture, arts and learning in ancient India. Kalidasa, who was in the court of Vikramditya (380-413 AD), epitomises the artistic accomplishments of the Gupta period. He was a lyrical poet and a writer of epics and plays. The poem 'Meghadoot', the epic 'Raghuvamsha' and the play 'Shakuntala' are some of his creative masterpieces that adorn the Indian literary tradition. The numerous references to music and dance in Kalidasa's works show the importance accorded to music in man's life during his period. Kalidasa's works mention musical instruments like the Parivadini vina, Vipanchi vina, Pushkar, Mridang,
Vamshi and Shankha, different types of songs like the Kakaligeet, Streegeet and Apsarogeeti,
technical terms like Murchana, Swarasaptaka and Tana and qualities of voice like
Kinnarkanthi and Valguvagam.Vatsyayana wrote his famous manual, Kamasutra (400 AD)
during this period. In it, he lists 64 'Kala's or arts essential to refined living, which include singing, playing musical instruments and dancing. The Buddhist monk, Fa Hsien, travelled far and wide in the country for several years during the Gupta period. He noted his impressions about the remarkable prevalence of music in social life. The Gupta king Harshavardhan(606-648 AD), was himself a singer. There are references to music making in his plays, 'Nagananda', 'Ratnavali' and 'Priyadarshika'. A story in the 'Panchatantra'(fifth century), one of the most celebrated compilations of fables ever produced by mankind, also refers to music.The tradition of Indian art music flourished in four kinds of performing spaces: sacrificial areas, temple precincts, stages and platforms and princely courts. The character of each of these spaces determined the pitch, volume and timbre of music.The music associated with the sacrificial hall was mainly the mantras, which were recited as well as sung. The words, their enunciation and their appropriateness for the ritual were the supreme considerations. Musical instruments were employed, but their role was secondary. In the closed or semi-closed structures of temple-spaces, the effects of echo and reverberation were felt. The effect of instrumental and vocal timbres was more pronounced. Hence these were developed. This comes through in the number of instruments used, and the individual capacity of each to produce a greater variety of sounds.
From the Gupta age onwards varied musical genres were practised within the temples. The courtyard of the temple allowed another kind of music-making called the samaj. Visiting
artists were also allowed to perform in these soirees. Yet another format that evolved in the temple space was the ghata-nibandhan, which was collective dance and music. Temple-
spaces have thus fostered art, folk, religious and popular music.The stage or the platform was a space, which was a necessary and important part of an auditorium or a theatre. Natyashastra elaborately described three kinds of theatre, differing in their size and shape. Music from the stage had to be heard as well as seen; hence the skilful used of stage space was necessary. Bharata's detailed instructions about the kutapa or the orchestra bring out the close
relationship between the kind of music performed and the quality of stage space. The princely court was the most organised performing space. All kinds of music were rendered from the princely court as all the external conditions could be controlled. Delicate effects and subtle
nuances could be conveyed. There was also a much better interaction between the stage performer and the audience.
1Kumara. Gupta Period
2I. 2. Music in Puranas
A Purana traditionally treats five subjects: the primary creation of the universe, secondary creation after periodic annihilation, the genealogy of gods and saints, grand epochs, and the history of the royal dynasties. Into this core subject a Purana incorporates other religious accretions like customs, ceremonies, sacrifices, festivals, caste duties, donations, construction of temples and idols, and places of pilgrimage. Stories in the Puranas highlight the universal theme of the receiving of musical knowledge as a divine boon. The Puranas also bring out the prestige that music was accorded in human and social life.
The Puranas were passed on from one generation to the next through the oral tradition. It is believed that all the major Puranas were in circulation by 100 AD. They were gradually compiled and consolidated between 400 AD and1000 AD. Of the 18 Maha (main) Puranas, three dwell at some length on music.
The Vayupurana is regarded as a very early purana that originated around 300 AD. It refers to music as gandharva. The music of this Purana deals with the rituals performed during the different phases of a sacrifice.
The Markandeyapurana is one of the smallest puranas. It came into being between 400 and
500 AD. Through a dialogue between Saraswati and Ashvatara, a king of Nagas or serpents, it offers interesting insights into music. Saraswati offers a boon to the King who desires nothing but the knowledge of the musical notes or swaras.
The Vishnudharmottarapurana, which is traced to 400-500 AD, touches on almost all the arts, although having very little original material. It devotes one chapter each to Geet and Vadya.
1 Anointing of Kumara. India; Gupta Period (5th c. sandstone, Height: 62.5 cm (24 5/8 ins). A relief carving depicting the anointing of the God Kumara to the appointment of ‘divine general’. His name means son,
adolescent or youth, and he is ‘the everlasting young son of Siva’. This figure, also known as Skanda and Karttikeya, is associated with warfare and holds a spear in his left hand, while two figures standing on lotus flowers pour the anointing oil onto his head. He is seated on his mount, the peacock, which pecks at a fruit in his right hand. Two musicians play in niches at his feet. The back of the stone is also carved with a relief depicting a female figure standing in samapada, holding a lotus flower, with a diminutive musician and female attendant at her feet, and two flying garland bearers either side of her head. On the side of the stone is a small female attendant holding a water pot, suggesting that this block may have been part of a door jamb. A good exemple of stone art from that period. 2 The Puranas date from c. 400 to c. 1000.
I. 3. Dattilam: Gandharva shastra: Moving towards raga
The music of ragas, as we know it today, is the culmination of a long process of development in musical thinking that aimed to meaningfully organise melodic and tonal material. A landmark step towards the evolution of the raga was taken when sama-gayan gave way to
gandharva gaan as the mainstream of the sacred music of India.
Dattilam, dated roughly 400 AD, is the main text for this music.This text discusses parent tonal frameworks (grama), the 22 micro-tonal intervals (sruti) placed in one octave-space, the
process of sequential re-arrangement of notes (murchana), and the permutations and
combinations of note-sequences (tanas). Dattilam also describes the 18 jatis which are the
fundamental melodic structures for the jati-gayan. The jatis have ten basic characteristics,
which closely resemble the structuring and elaboration of the contemporary raga in
Hindustani music. The names of some jatis like andhri, oudichya may reflect their regional
origins, as do the names of many Hindustani ragas today, e.g. Sorath, Khamaj, Kanada,
Gauda, Multani and Jaunpuri. Jati-gayan was entirely pre-composed. However, Hindustani
music stressed improvisation which completely changed its nature. But the approach and concepts of Dattilam made the transition from Sama Veda music to the contemporary raga
music significant and smooth.
II. From 600 to 1200 AD
II. 1. The concept of Deshi, regional, in music
Brihaddeshi (The Great Treatise on the Regional), written by Matanga was the first work to describe music in the period after Bharata, before the advent of Islam began to influence music. Matanga probably hailed from south India. Brihaddeshi is the first major and available text to describe the raga, which has been the central concept in Indian art music for centuries. It also introduced the sargam, or notation in the names of notes. In Matanga's discussion of musical scales and micro-tonal intervals he clarifies what Bharata had said in the Natyashastra. One of Matanga's major contributions is his scholarly focus on the regional element in music. 'Deshi' has to be understood in contrast to 'Margi' music, which is sacred and pan-Indian in its scope.
According to Matanga, "Deshi is that which is sung voluntarily and with delight and pleasure by women, children, cowherds and kings in their respective regions". Deshi music captured the flavour of a range of human emotions from different regions. Through notes it was formalised into ascending and descending scales.
II. 2. Ragas, talas and tala-music : a short introduction
The present system of Indian music stands on two important pillars: raga and tala. Raga is
the melodic form while tala is the rhythm underlying music. Together, raga and tala
distinguish Indian music from many other musical systems of the world. The rhythm of music is explored through beats in time. Melody evolved as the raga through several processes; the
tala resulted from a similar evolution in rhythm. Thus raga, which means colour or passion,
became a framework to create music based on a given set of notes (usually five to seven) and characteristic rhythmic patterns.
The basic constituents of a raga can be written down in the form of a scale (in some cases
differing in ascent and descent). By using only these notes, by emphasizing certain degrees of the scale, and by going from note to note in ways characteristic to the raga, the performer sets
out to create a mood or atmosphere (rasa) that is unique to the raga in question. The idea of
the tala is embedded in the concept of time.
In Hindustani music it is the artist who bestows quality on Time. A musician marks the beginning of his tala whenever he wants. He also creates his divisions in time. He thus creates the first beat. The flow of time is now released, channelled and directed. The artist then creates a beat to mark the first division or segment. With this first division in time the flow becomes comprehensible. The artist subsequently puts in successive and equidistant strokes. He thus makes available to us the matra, a measure to compute musical time. The duration
between two matras is known as the tempo. The release of the time flow and the
determination of the measure to compute it are the primary requirements to make a tala.
Cyclical and repetitive time-patterns composed of groups of long and short duration time divisions are talas, as we know them today. In every tala in Hindustani art music clapping
(tali), tapping of fingers and waving of the palm (khali or kal) are analogous. These weave a
pattern of sound and silence. Ancient treatises enumerate 108 talas. However, contemporary
performances are normally restricted to about 15 talas.Talas gain life and body when instruments play their role. Instrumental sounds, when expressed onomatopoeically, formulate
sound syllables. These sound syllables, when fitted suitably to the tala-divisions, create thekas,
the tala-expression that is actually played and heard in Hindustani music. Thus the talas function as accompanying entities in Hindustani music and dance. They also serve as the basis for solo renditions in rhythm music.
II. 3. The Muslim Political Backdrop in India
Hindustani art music began to evolve after pre-medieval Indian music passed through certain stages of transformation and development till the beginning of the 11th century. Many Indian and non-Indian cultures took an active part in this transformation. Around the 9th century, the Sufis secured a firm foothold in India with their great love for music and acceptance of many indigenous customs. The followers of Nizamuddin Chishti (1324AD) included the 'Basant' and 'Rang' celebrations in their religious practices. Similarly during the time of Kaikubad (1287-1290 AD), both Farsi and Hindi songs found a place in performances. The advent of Islam at the end of the 12th century brought Persian music and culture with it. The attitude of the Muslim rulers toward Hinduism varied. Some like Aurangzeb (1658-1707) were strongly anti-Hindu. Others like the great Akbar (1556-1605) were well-disposed towards their Hindu subjects. Muslim India had a long, complex and eventful cultural history. Ultimately it became an inextricable part of the Indian cultural ethos.
III. From 1200 to 1700 AD
III.1. The Delhi Sultanate : Amir Khusro
In 1262, when he was nine years old, Amir Khusro began to compose poetry. He composed almost half a million verses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Braj Bhasha, Hindawi and Khadi Boli. He is supposed to have enriched or invented qawali, qasida, qalbana, naqsh and many others forms of music. Varying degrees of secularity permeated these musical forms. The zeelaph and sarparda ragas are also associated with Amir. Khusro lived for 70 years. During 60 of those years, that is, between 1265 and 1325, Khusro spent time in the courts of as many as ten different Muslim rulers. Each court he stayed in was culturally active and different from the others. Khusro's stay in Multan brought him in contact with Persian music, while his visit to Bengal exposed him to the music of the Vaishnavite tradition. During his time at the ruler Kaikubad's court, Avadh-based music and musicians secured a firm footing in Delhi. Three Khilji monarchs became his patrons successively. Each signalled a musico-cul-tural change. Jalaluddin, the first Khilji, was enthusiastic about secular music. Allauddin Khilji worked with Sufi saints through Khusro, and was instrumental in introducing diverse musical elements in Delhi. The number of different patrons that Khusro had, and the places he worked in, enabled him to get exposed to and assimilate diverse musical influences. Khusro is said to have created a new system of musicology, called 'Indraprastha Mata' or 'Chaturdandi Sampradaya' . He also brought into circulation the two specific musical genres of 'tarana' and 'kaul', which complemented the prevalent array of musical forms. Neither, however, was novel to the Indian musical scene. This only reinforced the fact that Khusro's Indianisation of the Islamic musical tradition complemented the Hindu tradition.
III.2. Sangîta Ratnakara
The medieval age was characterised by an impressive and varied musical expression. There was an abundance of musical instruments. Drums and rhythm-instruments, in particular. Were widely used. Sharangadeva (1210-1247 AD), the author of the famous Sangîta Ratnakara, explains the construction and the techniques of playing 14 kinds of drums. This musicological treatise is so highly regarded that the two important systems of art music in India, Hindustani and Carnatic, try to trace their basic concepts to it. The mention of names of ragas like the
turushka todi and the turushka gaud in this text show the percolation of the Islamic influence
into Indian music. The Sangîta Ratnakara emphasised the ever changing nature of music, the increasing role of regional influences on it, and the increasing complexity of musical material that needed to be systemised time and again. Sharangdeva is firmly tethered to the prevalent musical practices of his time. His stress is consistently on the 'lakshya', the music 'in vogue' as
against ancient music.
III. 3. Raja Mansingh
Raja Mansingh Tomar of Gwalior (1486-1516 AD) was the driving force behind introducing and consolidating dhrupad, a genre of Hindustani music that enjoys esteem even today. He
replaced traditional Sanskrit songs by Hindi songs. He is also credited with composing three volumes of songs: (I) Vishnupada (songs in praise of lord Vishnu), (ii) Dhrupad, and (iii) Hori and Dhamar songs associated with the festival of Holi. Mansingh's support gave pride of place to these genres. He also thus related music to the lives and language of the laymen. He
was a generous patron of the arts. Both Hindu and Muslim musicians were employed in his court. With the talent available in his court he initiated a major project to systematise the prevalent music. It was this project that resulted in the creation of that comprehensive treatise on music in Hindi, the so called 'Mankutuhal'.
III.4. The bhakti movement
This was a devotional movement emphasising the intense emotional attachment of a devotee towards his personal god. The term 'bhakti' is first used around 800 BC in Pali literature. The
devotional fervour of the Alwars and the Nayanars, the saints who lived in South India between the 5th and the 10th centuries, also travelled north. In due course 'bhakti' became a
widespread Hindu religious movement and way of life, inspiring copious volumes of superb religious poetry and art.The 'bhakti' cult spread to the north in the 14th and 15th centuries,
where it resonated with the Rama and Krishna devotional cults. Theoreticians like Ramanuja and Ramananda and saint-poets like Kabir and Tulsidas belonged to the Rama tradition. Vallabha and his contemporary Sri Chaitanya spearheaded two separate Krishna cults in the 17th century. The Vallabha cult directly contributed to the theory and practice of music. This impacted Hindustani Art Music as well through Ashtachap, Pushti and Haveli sangeet By the
15th century, large parts of the areas under the sway of Hindustani Art Music were well ahead in linguistic and literary development. Using the regional language, Braj, Avadhi or whatever, as the vehicle, saint-composers were able to reach to people in social strata otherwise impervious to the influence of art and music. In the bhakti movement as in Hindustani Art
Music, songs and composite presentations, using elements of speech, dance and drama, played a major role in propagating ideas in art and music. The works of composers like Jayadeva (11th century), Vidyapati (1375 AD), Chandidas (14th-15th century), Bhakta Narasimha (1416-1475 AD) and Mirabai (1555-1603 AD) are ready cases in point. The bhakti
movement remains an isolated example of a collective use of the structures and stylistic features of art music.
III. 5. The History of bhajan and bhakti
The intertwining of bhajan and bhakti, song and devotion, is due in large measure to the fact
that the path of bhakti from its very beginning was preached through song. Sometime in the sixth century A.D. two groups of singer-saints, the Nayanars and Alwars, arose in South India, the one promoting the worship of Shiva and the other Vishnu. The leaders of this movement preached, in song, a message that ran contrary to the atheistic Buddhist philosophy current in that day. The Nayanars and Alwars practiced and taught bhakti, a complete surrender to
personal gods. Bhakti, it can be argued, has roots that go much farther back than these poet-singers.
Every new teaching that seeks a home within the Hindu framework looks for their authority to the Vedas, Hinduism's most ancient inspired writings. Bhakti theology can, indeed, be traced
back to the Vedas. The following hymn to the god Indra, from the oldest of the Vedas, illustrates how the attitude of passionate love for God existed even then:
O beauteous Indra, to be adorned with hymns and salutations! Those desiring (to perform) the eternal rites, those desiring riches, and those that are wise steal to your presence like loving wives" (to) "their husband, O powerful Indra, their thoughts touch you" (Rg Veda 1.62,11; N. Raghavan, 1956, A:10).
The Ramayana and Mahabharata, India's two great epic poems, contain much of the
inspiration for bhakti themes, both in story and in doctrinal form. The Ramayana was
translated into many languages, the most famous of which is a Hindi version by Tulsidas (1532-1574), called Ram Charita Manas. This contains the story of Ram, an avatar
(incarnation) of Vishnu. It is through the Ram Charita Manas that Ram bhakti and
particularly the chanting of the name of Ram gained prominence in North India. To this day, men gather in small neighborhood temples or homes, and chant it from start to finish without a break, while loudspeakers attached to the roof point in all directions enabling neighbors to share in the "blessings."
A small section of the Mahabharata contains Hinduism's most famous treatise, the Bhagavad
Gita. The Gita is a sermon preached by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. It contains much of the theological essence of Krishna's teaching on the path of bhakti. "In any way that men love me," says Krishna, "in that same way they find my love: for many are the paths of men, but they all in the end come to me."
Though Ram bhakti is inspired by the Ramanyana, Krishna bhakti finds its greatest
inspiration, not from his preaching in the Gita, but from the numerous legends recounting
scenes from Krishna's childhood and youth. Legends regarding Krishna's youth can be found principally in one of the volumes of a collection of legends about the gods compiled in the Middle Ages, called the Puranas. The Bhagavata Purana contains the stories of Krishna's
infancy in which his mother Yashoda is continually punishing him for his naughty pranks. It also contains the stories of Krishna and the gopis, married women who were also cowherds
and were all passionately in love with Krishna.
3LORD KRISHNA DANCING WITH THE GOPIS OF BRINDAVAN
Krishna bhakti literature reaches its final stage in the Gita Govinda, an allegorical Sanskrit
song-cycle written by Jayadeva (late twelfth century), in which the writer takes one of the gopis, Radha, who in earlier literature is rather inconsequential, and makes her Krishna's consort. Jayadeva describes Radha's longing for Krishna and her jealousy aroused by his attentions to the other gopis.
The most famous of Hindi poet-singers who composed songs to Krishna was Surdas (1479-1584), the blind poet-singer of Agra. His songs are loved to this day by millions in North India. Though these "love plays" (lilas) of Krishna and the songs of Surdas may be the most
popular, they are certainly not the only option for Hindu bhaktas.
3 In this painting, each Gopi lost all sense of individual identity. They each believed they were Lord Krishna because their minds were focussed on Him. The 7 musicians are playing drums cymbals and flutes with other wind instruments.
In the land of the Tamils to the South, Ramanuja (1017-1137 A.D.), perhaps the greatest promoter of devotional religion, taught bhakti as a way of union with God, and provided the
theological groundwork for future reformers within the later bhakti tradition.
One of Ramanuja's followers, and the most influential leader of the bhakti movement in North
India was Ramananda (thirteenth century A.D.). Ramananda was a reformer. Though a Brahmin himself, he taught that all people may experience union with God. He welcomed all castes into his fold, even Muslims. What is most interesting is that he detected the dangers inherent in the sexuality of the Radha-Krishna cult, and chose the more acceptable Sita-Ram couple as his object of worship.
Among Ramananda's followers there are some noted poet-singers whose Hindi vernacular bhajans have captured the hearts of Hindu bhaktas for nine centuries. These are Kabir (1440-
?), Raidas, and Dadu. All of these were from Varanasi, as was Ramananda himself. Noteworthy among these is Kabir, whose name implies that he might have been one of Ramananda's Muslim followers. Very little is known of Kabir's life, however. His teachings were a fusion of Hindu and Muslim ideas.
An image from a late-nineteenth-century publication of Mahipati's Bhaktavijay.
Depicts Kabir lecturing sadhus, while Vishnu does Kabir's weaving work.
Then came Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. He should be counted among the great poet-singers of the Hindu bhakti tradition, because his teachings agree with
the core tenets of Bhakti religion. Nanak emphasized, for example, the chanting of the names of God and the singing of bhajans, which he called sabad, for achieving union with God.
Lastly Mirabai (c. 1490-c. 1546), a poetess from Rajasthan, and devotee of Krishna, deserves mention. Mira broke caste distinctions, as did Ramananda, and she also did much to help women find meaning in devotional worship. She taught an "immediate and direct approach to God." It is written in the Bhaktamala (the stories of the saints) that Mira was so passionately in love with Krishna that she aroused the jealousy of her husband. In anger, her husband's family sought to poison her, but she drank the cup gladly and was unaffected.
III. 6. Ashtachap, pushti and haveli sangît
Vallabha propounded the shudhadvaita vedanta (pure non-dualism) or pushtimarga (the road
to grace). His sect was known as the 'Rudra sampradaya'. The Vallabha cult revived an older
stream of music. The religious and musical procedures of the cult were systematized by Vallabha’s son Goswami Vitthalnathji (1516-1698 AD). The 'ashtachap' stream of music was
thus established (1607-8 AD). It was named after the eight musical acharyas or preceptors
who composed the music of the cult. The legendary Tansen too came under its
influence.'Haveli sangît' was the temple music practised by the 'pushti margi sampradaya'.
Nathadwara, in Rajasthan, was the main seat of this Vaishnava devotional cult. The cult has created a rich historical tradition of temple-based music described as 'haveli sangeet'. 'Haveli'
is a temple visualised as a palace that the deity chooses to live in.The musical history of the post-ashtachap period of pushti-sangeet coexists with many developments in Hindustani Art
Music The advent of the dhrupad, khayal and tappa, the dissociation of dance from music,
and the shift from the pakhawaj drum to the tablas, all happened during this period.
III. 7. Tansen
Tansen, the legendary musician of Akbar's court, had his early training in the school founded by Raja Mansingh Tomar of Gwalior. Among the many works attributed to him are a treatise named the 'Ragamala', many 'doha' describing the 'lakshana' or the attributes of ragas,
'Sangît Sar', and 'Sri Ganesh Stotra'. According to some scholars, Tansen reduced the 4000
ragas and raginis of his time into a system of 400. He also reduced 92 talas to 12. He is said
to have created many ragas like 'Miyan Malhar' and 'Miyan ki todi'. Tansen's Senia gharana
divided into two streams. His elder son Bilaskhan headed the Rabab-players gharana and his
second son Suratsen the sitar-players gharana.
The grave of `Sangeet Samrat' Mian Tansen is at Gwalior. Tansen's small shrine looks dwarfed by the large tomb of his mentor, Shaikh Mohammed Ghaus, a 16th-century fakir who was revered by people of all faiths. The two tombs and other graves stand in a garden with traditional mughal-style patterns. Ghaus' tomb is built in the shape of a large square with hexagonal towers at its corners. The walls of the building have elaborate carved-stone latticework, with each panel having a different design. The whole building is surmounted by a large dome, which was earlier covered with blue glazed tiles. Tansen's mausoleum, which stands on the right of the saint's tomb, consists of a rectangular elevated platform in which the marble grave is set. Around this, stands a delicately-worked pavilion with eaves.
Tansen's father, Makaranda Pande, a resident of Behat, was overjoyed at the birth of a son in 1506. He named the child Ramtanu and was convinced that his birth was a special blessing from the saintly Ghaus. The name, `Tansen', was conferred on Ramtanu much later by Emperor Akbar, to honour him for his command over music. Tansen was trained in music by Swami Haridas of Brindavan, who discovered his talent when he was 10 years old. Persuading Makaranda that his son's future was in music, the swamiji took Tansen with him to Brindavan. It was there that Tansen learnt the intricacies of the different ragas and became an accomplished singer. Despite his unquestionable prowess, he never forgot to honour his guru and returned frequently to Brindavan for further instructions. After returning to Behat, Tansen took to practising at the Shiva temple. It is said that the walls of the temple swayed to his music. Local residents are also completely convinced that the temple is inclined to one side, due to this reason. Tansen was also credited with performing miracles such as making trees and rocks sway, lamps lighting up on their own and torrential rain pouring when there was no sign of rains and so on. After the death of his parents, Tansen went to Gwalior to live with Ghaus and it was then that he converted to Islam. He married Hussaini, also a convert, and had four sons and a daughter, all of whom were musically-inclined. Tansen joined the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior, becoming the foremost exponent of the Dhrupad style of singing, developed by Raja Man Singh and his consort, Mrignayani. Tansen was also