something beyond the mundane through the medium of the arts.
The evolution of poetry, painting and other visual arts has been preserved on stone, leaves and
paper but music being auditory, no such evidence exists. As such it is not possible to listen today
to the music of the ancient times.
Inspite of such a variety of cultural interactions, our music has remained essentially melodic. In
melody, one note follows the other, making for a continued unity of effect, whereas in harmony
musical sounds are superimposed on one another. Our classical music has retained its melodic
It is usual to begin the history of Indian music with the melodic patterns of vedic chanting. The
oldest music, which possessed a grammar was the vedic. Of course, the Rig-Veda is said to be
the oldest: nearly 5000 years old. The psalms of the Rig-Veda were called the richas. The
Yajur Veda was also a religious chant. But actual music in Northern or Southern India, of
those bygone days could not have only been of this kind. There were non-Aryan people with
their own art. For instance, Santhal music from the Eastern region of India may have been
passed down from them. While the differences are obvious, there is no doubt that such music
of the people contributed to the formation of what we now call Hindustani Classical Music.
Natya Shastra of Bharata is another important landmark in the history of Indian music. It is supposed to have been written sometime
between the 2nd century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. Some scholars are even doubtful whether it is the work of one author and the
work might well have been a compendium – at least, the version which is available to us. The Natya Shastra is a comprehensive work
mainly dealing with dramaturgy. But a few chapters of this deal with music. Therein we get information on scales, melodic forms, tala
and musical instruments. The then contemporary music recognized two standard scales. These were called gramas. The word grama
is itself perhaps derivable from the idea of group or sect: a village, for instance. This probably lead to a set of svaras or notes being
called grama. This could roughly be translated as scales. There were then two gramas prevalent. One was called the Shadja grama,
the other one was the Madhyama grama. The difference between the two was only in one note, the panchama. To speak more
accurately. we say that the panchama in madhyama grama was one sruti lower than the panchama in shadja grama.
Sa re ga ma pa dha ni
This is the mela aaroh of the modern raga Bilaval. Besides these seven shuddha notes or svaras there are five variants, making in all
twelve notes to a saptak.
Sa re re ga ga ma ma pa dha dha ni ni
There are, of course, finer variations: these are the shrutis, It is better, therefore, to call these 12 tonal regions rather than notes.
All known ragas are grouped within this twelve tone scale. Indeed. it was a Carnatic musicologist –
Venkatmukhi of the 17th century, who gave a system of 72 melas formed out of these twelve tones. Later
on, in the 20th century, Pt. Bhatkhande, chose 10 out of the 72 to classify Hindustani ragas
Categories: Culture and History