From evolution to contemporary times, the one sound that has pervaded our life is that of music. Hindu ancient texts declare that the first sound that reverberated in the universe was that of the Nadbrahma or Aum (Om) that inspired musicians to continue in their pursuit. It dates back to the ancient Sama Veda, which deals with the norms for chanting of hymns of Rig Veda. These principles were refined in the Natyashastra by Bharata (300 AD). It is said that music was originally composed by Gandharvas (celestial beings) and their composition was called Gandharva Veda.
A number of ancient musical instruments such as shankh (conch), veena (lute), vamshi (flute), mridang (percussion instrument) were associated with this. Music is dealt with extensively in the Valmiki'sRamayana; Narada is an accomplished musician as is Ravana, Saraswati the Goddess of music with veena in one hand and the book in the other indicates that music and literature developed simultaneously. All ancient science and art literature are expressed in shlokas (poetic form) convenient for chanting or singing.
In medieval times, Jayadev'sGita Govinda, Sharngadeva'sSangita Ratnakara prospered. Later many melodic systems were designed some with the influence from Muslim and Persian style, particularly through the influence of Sufi composers like Amir Khusro, and later in the Mughal courts. But none could beat the popularity of a very eminent personage Tansen (Pt Tannamishra). A legend says that his music used to light the lamps, delight the animals and birds and provide rains on request. After the 16th century, the original system of Gurukuls (teacher-disciple system) was diversified into different gharanas patronised by different princely courts. It is traditional to call performers who have reached a distinguished level of achievement as Pandit or Ustad. An interesting aspect of Hindustani music is the tradition of religious neutrality: Ustads singing Hindu bhajans, or vice a versa.
Around the 12th century, Hindustani classical music diverged from the principle which eventually came to be identified as Carnatic classical music. The central notion in both these systems is that of a melodic mode or raga, sung to a rhythmic cycle or tala. The credit for today'sCarnatic music prevalent in South India goes to Purandardasa. The Carnatic music is very much associated with devotional songs to deities. One of the great exponents of the Carnatic music is Swami Thyagaraja (1767-1847) of Tanjore.
In the early 20th century when gharana music had started declining, Pandit VD Paluskar had emerged as an extremely talented musician and his establishing Gandharva Mahavidyalaya (music school) in Lahore in 1901 helped foster a movement away from the closed gharana system. He and later Pandit VN Bhatkhande separately brought out music notation systems and consolidated the musical grammar. Today the northern Indian classical music also found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, is the present Hindustani music. Hindustani classical music has become popular across the world through the influence of artistes like sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar, sarod player Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and many others.
Indian music of the melodic foundations (use of series of swaras) known to be Thaats with Ragas of five to seven swaras (notes) in permutations and rhythmic patterns called taal (percussion instrument) happens to be unique specialty in the world. The various ragas or tunes are capable of expressing a variety of feelings: love, anger, sorrow, tenderness, disappointment, pity, joy etc. The twelve swaras of saptaka in practical use are seven shuddha, four komal and one tivra. Another specialty of the Indian music is that specific ragas are assigned to specific periods of the day or night.
If symphony is the heart of western music, the development of shruti or nadsthana (basic musical locations traditionally produced by tanpura) has been the specialty of Indian music. There are 22 shrutis in any swar-saptaka out of which 12 are usually used while the remaining are microtones. A research scholar Dr Vidyadhar Oak after his development of harmonium of 22 shrutis has now come out with swardarshak (note vibration indicator) which is a handy battery-run electronic instrument. It is claimed that it would benefit any musician to assess the matching of any swaras accurately for composing or singing any song.
Hindustani classical music is primarily a vocal-centric, and many instruments emulating the human voice based on string and wind types play a big role. The tabla and pakhvaj are popular for taal. The major styles of Hindustani music are Dhrupad, Khyal and Thumri. Other forms include Dhamar, Tarana, Dadra, Ghazal and Bhajan. Of these, some forms fall within the crossover to folk or semi-classical or light-classical, as they often do not adhere to the rigorous rules and regulations of classical music.
It is a fact that today, classical music is not the most favoured form of music for the general populace which tends to listen to the more easy to follow lok sangit (folk), and lately sugam sangit and pop. The gradually growing film industry also began attracting professional musicians for the lure of fame and money. Padmashri award winner Lata Mangeshkar'sname is recorded in Guinness Book as a singer of highest number of songs (over 30,000) in various languages.
But yet there are countless Indian classical musicians and singers who are well respected and heard even in modern times despite the fact that it requires rigorous practice and devotion. Swarbhaskar Pandit Bhimsen Joshi famous for the khyal and devotional music (bhajans and abhangs) and many others have hauled back the interest of classical music on the minds of music lovers during the last few decades. Pandit Bhimsen has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, comprising of a certificate from the President Pratibha Patil and a medallion on February 10, 2009 at his Pune house. The names of other prominent senior vocalists are Ut Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pt Kumar Gandharva, Pt Jitendra Abhisheki and Kishori Amonkar. The prominent senior instrumentalists are Shehnai?Bismilah Khan, Bansari? Hariprasad Chaurasia, Santoor? Shivkumar Sharma, Sarangi?Ram Narayan, Violin?VG Jog and Tabla?Alla Rakha etc.
Music therapy is sure to effect relaxation and recoveries over ailing patients. The mood elevation theory states that one likes joy-growing music during happy mood and serious music during sorrow-mood. The science of Ayurveda based on tridoshas recommends morning ragas for curing kapha (cough) temperament, noon ragas for pitta (bile) temperament and evening ragas for vat (air) temperament patients. Asthma patient is advised to listen to Malhar raga songs in the evening, while sandhivat (rheumatic) patient may opt for Hindol raga in the morning. Music therapists have composed various music cassettes or CDs for the relief of high BP patient, insomnia, stressed or diabetes patients etc.
Few musicians are now composing fusion music like rock, jazz etc. During February 2009 sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra of Edinburgh had made a popular performance of Indian and western music in Mumbai while tabla player Zakir Hussain has bagged the honour of US Grammy Award.
Indian music has flourished and achieved excellence in spite of hurdles of invaders. It transmits pleasure and entertainment for all occasions irrespective of caste, creed, and religion and it creates harmony among all. It has the potential to express the moral and spiritual sentiments to the highest degree to raise the soul to God. The modern sonic (acoustic) technology may boost the music melody and harmony system further to the satisfaction of Indian musicians.