Indian music

Culture of Indian Music with ancient History

For Indian music, ancient Indian sages have given their life work to develop the foundation of Indian classical music which is miraculous and have very beautiful relation with science, covering all in this post is impossible but most of all have been stated in brief

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Indian Music Mythology

As per Indian mythology, there are few stories which are collected from different sources:

1.  At first, the author of “Vedas” lord Bramha created music then he gave this art to Lord Shiva and he gave it to goddess Saraswati,  therefore she is called the “Veena Pustak Dharini” as the superintendent of music and literature.

Narada got knowledge of musical art from Saraswati, and gave music education to Gandharva, Kinnar and Apsara of heaven. From there, sage Bharata, Narada, and Hanuman became well versed in music and incarnated to promote music in the world.

2.  According to the opinion of a writer, Narada did penance for many years, then lord Shiva was pleased and provided him with musical art. ‘Bhairav’, ‘Hindol’, ‘Megh’, ‘Deepak’, and Shri Raga which appeared from Shiva’s East, West, North, South, and sky respectively and Kaushik Raga originated by goddess Parvati.

3. According to Damodar Pandit, author of Sangeet Darpan, music notes are based on the sound of animals, see the image below

Indian Musical Note Generation Or Musicology

4. Apart from that all there is a story which is my all-time favorite:

As per one Persian scholar, there was a bird named “Musikar” which was founded on the Caucasus mountains which are in Georgia (currently) and the bird had a seven-hole beak and from seven holes, seven musical notes are formed.

There are more interesting things that have spoken about the bird that from seven different musical notes different raags were played according to the time and the season throughout the year. The mentioned age of Musikar was 1000years and when death drew him near he fell into a state of ecstasy and used to play harmony of raags and when he touches the Raag Deepak fire generated throughout his body and eventually he burns himself from that and an egg-formed from the ashes was the birth of a new Musikar which is also called “Deepak Lata” because of the Raag Deepak.

Maybe the bird phoenix and Musikar or Deepak lata are the same though not sure about it but all the things which have mentioned in ancient literature are found to be expressing relatable things towards this bird.

phoenix bird, Deepak lata bird, Musikar bird


Foundation of Indian classical Music

The word Samaveda means knowledge of the melody,

‘Sam’ means melody and ‘Veda’ means knowledge so

Sam+Veda = Samveda(Knowledge of melodies)

Samveda is one of the four Vedas which is created by Lord Bramha and explained or written by the sage “Vyas”. The texts are from the Righved, to sing them because Samaveda focuses on the musical notes more than text. The total number of verses in Samaveda is 1875 in which 1771 verses are from the Rigveda and only 99 belongs to Samaveda.

At starting the hymns (chants, song) were composed by the monotone which is called ‘Archika‘ and then later with the developed two-toned chants which is called ‘Gatika’ and after that with three-toned chants which are called ‘Samika‘ which had the main tone and two accents one is lower and one is higher.

The Vedic accents have been defined by Panini (पाणिनि) as:

The high note is called – Udatta (उदात्त)

The middle note is called – Svarika (स्वरिका)

Lower note is called – Anudatta (अनुदात्त)

2000 BCE to 1000 BCE (Vedic Duration)

In this era, the three-toned pattern was developed into seven tones which are described by the panini and Nadiya Shiksha scripts in a shlok

उदात्ते निषादगांधारौ अनुदात्त ऋषभधैवतो।

स्वरित प्रभवा हृोते षडजमध्यमपंचमा।।

This means

Udatta ( उदात्त )Svarika( स्वरिका )Anudatta ( अनुदात्त )
The high noteThe middle noteLower note
Ni, GaSa, Ma, PaRe, Dha
नि ,ग सा, म, प रे ध

1000 BCE to 800 CE (Ancient time)

The first half of this time, i.e. from 1000 BCE to 1 CE, belongs to the mythological and Buddhist period. How was music promoted during this period? There is no concrete evidence for this, but on the basis of the Upanishads and other texts, it can be said that even in this period, music continued to play in some form.

After this, i.e. from 1 CE to 400 CE, musical art came to light.

Mahakavi Kalidas (The great poet, 400CE )

During this period, music and poetry were addressed all around by Mahakavi Kalidas (400 CE). Singer and instrument performers were beginning to be respected in the imperial halls. Kalidas made amazing progress in his compositions by putting music into his works. At that time, Mahakavi Kalidas has recognized with awakening a new consciousness in music by mixing music and poetry.

Ramayan And Mahabharat ( 200 to 500 CE )

Ramayan400 BCE to 200 CE
Mahabharat500 BCE to 200 CE
  • The legendary Ramayana and Mahabharata were also written in this period.
  • Ravana has also been described as a scholar of music.
  • The description of seven musical notes and Gandhara gram is also found in the Mahabharata.

Bharat’s Natyashastra (400–500 CE)

The Natyashastra of Bharata is considered to be written in the 5th century (400–500 CE), It is a drama orientated treaty but scriptures linked to music have been given in 28, 29 and 30th chapters. Drama and dance were primarily promoted after getting inspired by the Natyashastra of Bharata and the list given below was also presented in music chapters

600 to 800 CE

Matang’s Brihaddeshi

  • Brihaddeshi is the first-ever Indian Sanskrit textbook where raga is mentioned by Matang Muni.
  • The work of Bharat’s Natyashastra was explained clearly in this book which is related to 7 musical notes and the microtonal differences of notes, polished by Matang Muni.
  • The terms ‘Gram’ & ‘Murchhna’ used in Indian music has been clarified beautifully.
  • There is also an explanation of 12 musical notes division in an octave for the first time ever with details.

Nardiya Shiksha

Around the seventh century, a book named “Naradiya Shiksha” is found written by Narada but here it is not that Narada who was known as Devarshi Narada, but it is the second Narada of his time. In this book, 7 gram has been described by giving the importance to the musical notes mentioned in the Samved as

  • Shadav
  • Pancham
  • Madhyam
  • Shadaj Gram
  • Shadharita
  • Kaishikmadhyam
  • Madhyam Gram

In the seventh and eighth centuries, there was special importance of the Bhakti campaign in South India, so kirtans and hymns started being sung from place to place by the harmony of devotion and music, thus encouraging the religious spirit, the music was promoted in this period.

Sangeet Makarand

In the 8th century ‘Sangeet Makaranda’ another music book of Narada, came to light, In which the Raga Ragini was considered for the first time as male raga and female raga. It is said that based on this, the different authors have classified the Ragas & Ragini.

1100 CE To 1800 CE (Muslim Period)

Muslims arrived in India in the 11th century. The change in Indian music began at this time. Muslims were unable to understand the concept of Indian music because the scripts were in the Sanskrit language, yet they made good progress in singing. Invented new ragas and created a variety of innovative musical instruments, which were appreciated by the Muslim Kings of that time.

After this, the condition of music was not so good in the 12th century, because, during this period, there was a war against Hindu kings by Muhammad Ghori and other Muslims, due to which the country was in chaos, so it was natural to interrupt the path of music evolution.

Geet Govindam By Jaydev ( 12th Century )

In the second half of the 12th century, a Sanskrit book called “Geet Govindam” was created by the great poet and musician “Jaydev”, who had the honor of being the first singer of North India.
In the Geet-Govindam, there are songs related to Radha-Krishna, which is still sung by many singers in suitable rag and rhythm. Jaydev was born in a place called Kendula, near Bolpur in Bengal, where music concerts are still held every year in the name of famous Kavi Jaydev.
Fascinated by the spirit of the Geet-Govindam, it was translated into English as “The Indian Song of Songs” by Sir Edwin Arnold.

 In 12th century author of the Indian music book “Geet Govindam”, Jaydev was honored as the First singer of north India. Later, Sir Edvin Arnold translated that book into English as “The Indian song of songs”.

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Sharangdev’s ‘Sangeet Ratnakar’ ( 13th Century )

In the second half of the 13th century, Pandit Sharangadev wrote a book named “Sangeet Ratnakar”. In this, the description of Naad, Shruti, Swar, Gram, Murchhna, Jati, etc are described in detail. South and northern music scholars consider this book to be the basis of music, also in modern music books, readers have seen many examples of Sangeet Ratnakar. Sharangadeva has given more details than Matang in this book, but from a theoretical point of view, the opinion is almost the same.

1210 to 1247 BCE was said to be the time of Sharangdev, he was the court musician of the Yadav dynasty king, of Devagiri.

Amir Khusrau Time ( 14th Century)

At the time of 1296-1316 CE, Delhi was in the hands of Sultan Allauddin Khilji and there was a good improvement in the field of music at this time.

Hazrat Aamir Khusrau was a trained and skilled singer and Minister of State of King Khilji at that time, he invented many new ragas, new instruments, and rhythms, leading to musical development. It is said that he was the first Turkish who created a newness by combining the raga of his country with Indian music.

Some inventions by Amir Khusrau

The genre of songs: Gazal, Tarana, Khyal, Qawwali, Khamsa
Raag: Jilph, Saajagiree, Saraparada, Yaman, Raat kee poorya, Baraaree todee, Poorvee etc.
Rhythms: Bhoomara, Aada Chautaala, Soolaphaak, Pashto, Pharodast, Savaaree, etc.
Instruments: Sitaar, Tabala.

Advancement In the 15th Century

‘Raag Tarangini’ By Lochan Pandit

In the 15th century, a poet ‘Lochan Pandit’ wrote a famous book “Raga Tarangini” on the Hindustani music system, some authors refer that the time of Lochan was in the 12th century, but the Lochan has given examples of Jayadeva and Vidyapati in his book but both legislators were active at the duration of 12th and 14th century, so the time of reclamation does not fit the 12th century accordingly.
In this book, lochan has adopted ‘thaat’ system rather than Rag-Ragini system and considering ‘kaafi’ as pure thaat total 12 thaat has been generated and from that thaats many raags.

Comments On Sangeet Ratnakar By ‘Kallinath’

Pandit Kallinath was a well-known music scholar in the king’s court of Vijay-Nagar between 1456-1477 CE. He wrote a review or comments on Sarangdev’s book ‘Sangeet Ratnakar‘. Although it remained in the Sanskrit language, many music artists took reasonable advantage through it to understand music better.

Sultan Hussain Sharqi

In the 15th century Sultan Hussain Sharqi, the emperor of Jaunpur (a district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) was a matchless musician. He invented the Khyal Gayaki (Kalavanti Khyal) genre of song and composed many new ragas.

Such as Jaunpuri Todi, Sindh-Bhairavi, Rasuli Todi, 12 types of Shyam, Jaunpuri, Sindura, etc.

16th Century

Ramamatya’s Swarmelkalakanidhi

A famous book of Carnatic music, “Swarmekalakanidhi” was written by Ramamatya approx 1550 CE. In which many ragas have been described. Although this book is not directly related to the North India music system, still it’s considered necessary for the music enthusiasts.

Tansen And Baijubawra

At first, Tansen lived in the kingdom of King Ramachandra, hearing the appreciation of music, Akbar kept Tansen as the head singer in his court. It is said that the music competition of Tansen and Baijubavara was also held once. Tansen also invented some ragas, which include the names of ragas like Darbari Kanhara, Mian ki Sarang, Mia ki Malhar, etc. Tansen got many disciples who were influenced by his music and later they got separated into two parts

  • Rababiyye – who played Rabab which was invented by Tansen
  • Veenkar – who played Veena

Swami Haridas

From the time of Akbar, Swami Haridas has become a famous musician of Vrindavan. He was born in Samvat 1569 Bhadrapada Shukla 8 (1512 C.E), Tansen was his disciple. Music propagated by Swamiji’s disciples was well received in many cities. It is said that Swami Haridas Ji was the best musician of his time.

A story is told about them in such a way: one day Akbar asked Tansen that ‘Tansen! Is there any singer who can sing better than you?
On this, Tansen named his guru Swami Haridas. Akbar expressed his desire to listen to his singing, but Tansen said that he would not come to the court, so we’ve to work with a tactic. Akbar changed his attire and took Tansen’s tanpura and went to Swamiji’s house with Tansen. When Swamiji was requested to sing, he expressed his reluctance. Then Tansen did a trick, he deliberately sang a raga in front of Swamiji impurely. swami Haridas could not keep up with impurities and told Tansen by singing the raga himself. Thus Akbar’s wish was fulfilled.

Impressed by Swami Ji’s song, Akbar asked Tansen that ‘why don’t you sing so beautiful?’
Tansen replied, ‘Emperor! I have to sing only when the court orders, but Guruji only sings when his inner soul inspires him to sing, so his music has a specialty’

Surdas, Kabirdas, Tulsidas, And Mirabai

The sixteenth-century has been extremely important in terms of music and devotional poetry; Because in the same century
Mahatma Surdas: The author of Sursagar and the poetry of Geet poetry,
Goswami Tulsidas: The famous writer of Ramcharit Manas,
Saint Kabirdas: As a means of achieving musical hymns by propagating epic poetry in response to Hindu-Muslim unity
Mirabai: A well-known poet and hymn singe, Reached peak


Around 1566 CE, four books related to music written by Pundarik Vitthal, a Carnatic priest, is found safe in the Bikaner Library.

  • Sadraagachandroday
  • Raagamaala
  • Raag Manjaree
  • Nartan Nirnay

17th Century

Raga Vibodh by Pandit Somnath

Jahangir ruled from 1605 CE to 1627 CE. It was during this reign that Pandit Somnath, a resident of Rajahmundry place in southern India, wrote the musical treatise “Raga Vibodh”. 1610 CE was mentioned by the writer as the creation date of this book. In this, he has described many veenas and has categorized the rag in a generative manner.