Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme
Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and
Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)
Culture - Art Forms (Music)
Indus Civilisation is the live evidence of Indian Music
System. Two important sites of Indus Civilisation i.e. Harappa and Mohen-Jodaro
supports the presence of Indian Music. Harappa is at a distance of 100 miles to
the south-west of Lahore and Mohenjodaro is at a distance of 200 miles from
Karachi. Terracotta seals, vessels, images of animals,, statues, remnants of
cities and forts go to prove that this was the most ancient civilisation of
It is considered to be at least 3,500 years old. Some regard
this civilisation as pre-Vedic and some as Vedic. Among other finds, a flute, a
harp with strings and percussion instruments have also been found. A bronze
figurine of a dancing girl beating time to music with her foot has also been
found. This shows that people in that remote age knew the use of harp, flute,
percussion instruments and the art of dancing. On the basis of these scanty
data, we cannot say what the music of those times was like. Seals similar to
those of Mohenjodaro and Harappa have also been discovered in Sumeria. There was
evidently a common civilisation in the Indus Valley and Syria, Assyria and
We have, however, a more detailed account of the music of the
Vedic times. The date of the oldest text, i.e., Rigvedq is variously estimated
by scholars from 1,500 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.
The Vedas were musically recited. Udatta (raised, Greek oxyu,
sharp or acute), Anudatta (not raised, grave, Greek baryu) and Svarita (Greek
oxyubaria, acute grave or circumflex) were the three pitches used in Vedic
recitative. Udatta was an acute or sharp pitch, Anudatta was a grave pitch and
Svarita was a pitch which combined in itself the’ characteristics of both i.e.
it started with Udatta and fell down to Anudatta. In Vedic literature, Svarita
is called pravana, i.e., it gradually descended from Udatta to Anudatta. It
formed a link between Udatta and Anudatta. These three were not merely accents
or stress on words; they were musical pitches used for simple recitative.
INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC
The Classical Music of India has its origins in the chanting
of the Vedas dating back to several thousands of years ago. Since then, by oral
tradition, it has been bequeathed through the generations to” its present form.
In the course of time, it evolved into two distinct systems, namely the Carnatic
(in the South) and the Hindustani (in the’North).
Indian classical music is based on melody. It can be
described as contemplative and introspective. There is no intentional harmonic
structure beneath the melodic lines.
Such freedom permits almost unlimited melodic possibilities.
Another attribute of Indian music is improvisation. Most of the classical music
performed is extemporaneous. Even while playing the compositions, the performer
attempts variations and embellishments which bring out a unique interpretation
of the composition and the artist’s individuality. This makes the ensuing music
spontaneous, never ceasing to amaze the listener.
It is interesting to note that the seven notes in Indian music, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma,
Pa, Dha, Ni, correspond to Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Si, in the West. What makes
Indian classical music unique is its two important characteristics: the raga and
the tola. Every piece played (adheres to the confines of raga and tala. A raga
defines the melodic aspects of the music. The raga is a melodic pattern defined
by an ascending and a descending scale and key notes and phrases that bring out
the entire character of the raga. There are numerous ragas that span an entire
spectrum of emotions, colours and characters. In fact a raga has been
personified as a divine being with character and moods just hke a mortal. The
performer, while elaborating a raga, builds up the mood(s) portrayed by the
Traditionally, most performances of Hindustani music begin
with alap: an extensive solo exploration of the raga by the instrumentalist.
Alap is divided into three basic parts. The first section of alap begins slowly,
with an invocational and meditative approach. Within this stream like, arhythmic
style the artist gradually unfolds the shape, textures and moods of the raga.
Eventually, a pulse is introduced by the soloist and the second section known as
jor has begun. In jor, there “is still no specific rhythmic framework to speak
Moving through many variations within the jor, the musician
will finally arrive at the jhalla, the culminating section of the alap. Jhalla,
characterised by a faster paced and rhythmically dense exposition of the raga,
is carried through to the end of the alap. After the alap, the instrumentalist
is joined by the accompanying drummer and together they enter the section of the
raga known as the gat. Here we are introduced to the rhythmic basis of Indian
music: the tala. A tala is a cycle of a fixed number of beats repeated over and
over again and played as distinct patterns of strokes on the accompanying drums.
There are many different talas (6 beats, 7,10, 12,14, etc.) and each one has a
different rhythmic mood. Except for alap, every piece of Indian classical music
is played within a particular tala.
The gat begins with the instrumentalist playing a
rhythmic/melodic theme within the raga. Through this theme, the soloist thus
establishes the tala within which the raga will now progress. Often, the tala
will not be announced prior to the performance and is chosen on the spot by the
instrumentalist. Even the accompanying drummer may not know what the rhythmic
cycle will be and must infer from the first hearing of the theme what patterns
to play on the drums.
The gat proceeds with the drummer supporting the soloist
while variations are made and the raga is further explored. The two musicians
interact rhythmically throughout the performance, always meeting on the first
beat of the rhythmic cycle. This dynamic interchange becomes more prevalent as
the raga progresses.
Staying within the same raga, a new theme in a new tala may
eventually be introduced by the soloist. This is most often a faster-paced
rhythmic cycle that adds excitement to the building energy of the music. The
musicians then carry the raga to its final improvised ending.
This long exposition of the raga is often followed by a
performance of light-classical raga or folk melody. These pieces are usually
much shorter than the opening raga and are set in certain talas to give the
music a light and lighting feel.
As regards Indian classical music in general, there are a
huge number of modes (ragas). Musicians will elaborate a single mode in detail,
largely through improvisation but also based on compositions and formal demands.
There are also pieces (called “ragamala” or “ragamalika”) in which modulations
are employed. Individual pieces are shorter in Garnatic music, so recitals are
constructed by selecting items in contrasting ragas. The rationale is
specifically contrast (usually), as opposed to Turkish music where modes are
chosen for a directed development or Arabic music, where the frequent
modulations- should be as unnoticed as possible, etc. A general aesthetic
discussion of this type could become much more extensive.
In both Hindustani & Camatic music, songs (or instrumental
compositions in Hindustani music) are usually (although not always) -preceded by
an improvised unmeasured prelude (alap/alaapana) which is sometimes extensive.
This is followed by the “composition section” in which a specific rhythmic cycle
(tala) is used (ordinarily with percussion accompaniment). Although it is
usually based upon a pre-existing composition, there are specific improvisationa!
features to this section as well. This aspect earns Indian classical music
comparisons with Western Jazz, with which it shares some demands.