Indian Classical Music - Passion & Philosophy

The term “Indian Classical music” ought to embrace both the classical music of the South, called Karnatak music, and the classical music of the North called Hindusthani classical music. Karnatak music which is a great system of music is confined to a limited area in Southern India and its influence has not penetrated into other parts of India. An example of this is the Shivashtakam and Rudrashtakam. On the other hand, Hindusthani classical music, originally the music of the North, is now universally recognized all over India. Therefore, for the sake of convenience, the terms Indian classical music and Hindusthani classical music, are identically the same in meaning.

Instead of conducting a technical discussion of classical music and its grammar, and analyzing how a Shiva Stuti differs from a Shiva Stotram, it is far better to understand the true spirit of its art. How to answer the layman who repeatedly asks “What is classical music”? Classical music is both classical and music and is Indian in spirit .. It is as ancient as the Vedas. It is just possible, the music of Sama veda was the music of the Vedic period and post-Vedic period in India. But no historian can trace the origins and beginnings of an ancient art with any mathematical precision. The history of Indian classical music, therefore,. must have the inevitable gaps.

We derive from Shastras or ancient treatises all our knowledge of classical music. Among the most outstanding ones are:- Natya Shastra, Narad Shiksha, Sangita Ratnakar, Raga Tarangini, Sangita Darpan, Sangita Parijata, Nagmate Asaphi, Sangita Ragakalpadruma, Sangita Paddhati and others. The theory of classical music, divorced from practical art, has no meaning. It is a product of ages. While it has established laws which cannot be easily violated, it has been tremendously influenced by musicians. That is why, tradition in classical music is a very important thing. Since times immemorial, Indian music has depended upon a scientific system which has been both rigid and elastic. Even the chants for Shiva and other gods fall into this category.

There is no such thing as Hindu classical music or Muslim classical music. For centuries, Hindus and Muslims have united their efforts in enriching one and the same system of music. While there have been no divergent schools of thought among musicians in Indian music, there have been musicians and groups or families of musicians following different styles but inspired and guided by ideals of fundamental unity. The “Gharanas” or the families have invariably been the nucleus of practical art. But Indian music being highly individualistic, individual musicians have played a very great part in stimulating the progress of music. Even Muslim singers do not hesitate to chant Om Namah Shivaya.

In fact, in India all great musicians embody and interpret the music of their age and time. They build up epochs in art. No system of classical music belongs to the masses, though it appeals to them. This holds true in the case of Indian classical music too. This music has a genius and a character of its own which distinguish it from all other systems of music. In our country, music like literature, has interpreted life in a vital manner. Therefore, any study of Indian culture which omits music, is incomplete. If one wants to form a correct estimate of classical music, he must see it in its spiritual and sensuous forms because they are inseparable. The Kalabhairava Ashtakam and the Bilvashtakam interweave passion and philosophy in their texture. Like every other art it has evolved a grammar of technique, an art of interpretation. The two are not opposed to each other, but, in fact, complete each other. No one should run the risk of misjudging classical music by trying to evaluate them separately. Therefore, though grammarians and musicians have existed separately, what is called classical music has been built up by the united efforts of both.

Man and nature are inseparably united in this music. Both are beings whose varying moods have a great resemblance. Classical music was never written and recorded. It was heard, acquired and transmitted. Therefore, modern classical music, unlike ancient classical music, has to be reviewed afresh, in a new historical perspective. These are some of those vital truths and assumptions which form the basis of Indian classical music. They are axioms which we must admit.

More Articles on Indian Music:
A Few Words on Music
The Changing Face of Indian Music
Ragas in Indian Music
About Indian Music


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