Monday, July 15, 2024

Understanding Music

Sree Ragam is a weekly column written by a music enthusiast, Sreelakshmi Avadhanam.

It is impossible to perceive our world without sound. The chirping of birds, humming of bees, the gush of a waterfall and the clap of thunder are examples of music in our natural world. On careful observation, we notice that there is a specific symmetry, pattern and rhythm infused into each of these sounds making them the sound of music.

Inspired by traditional practices

Various forms of music have been in existence since the evolution of mankind. Different cultures across the world developed unique forms of music inspired by their traditional practices. The musical treatises of ancient India reveal the wisdom of our sages who preserved their knowledge on palm leaves. This way Indian classical music originated and evolved over the years into one of the finest forms of music in the world today. Classical music has been an integral part of Indian culture since ages.

Infinite power of ‘nada’

As per the Vedas, our universe originated from the primordial sound ‘OM’.Our ancient rishis bestowed upon us the knowledge of the infinite power of ‘nada’, where sound and vibration are in harmony with each otherand integrated it into classical music making it unique.

The main objective of Indian classical music is ‘nadopasana’ – the worship of sound. Indian musical traditions consider music to be divine. Students are taught the nuances of sounds and their implication on human life from the very beginning. Indian classical music is an amalgamation of ‘sruthi’ and ‘laya’, pitch and rhythm. They are considered as maata and pitaah for the classical music.

Originated from ‘Sama Veda’

Classical music originated from the ‘Sama Veda’ – one of the four sacred Vedas. Vedic rituals commence and conclude with ‘samaganam’  a rendition of sacred hymns witha set intonation and rhythm.

The creation of ‘saptaswaras’ or seven notes of Indian classical music were inspired by the sounds of the birds and animals as elucidated by  Bharata Muni, around 500 BC, in his famous text – Natya Sastra, one of the most ancient musical treatises. Inspiration for each of these seven notes are:

Sa- cry of a Peacock

Ri –bellow of a Bull

Ga – bleat of a Goat

Ma – chirp of a Kraunchapakshi, a crane like bird

Pa – tweet of a Cuckoo

Da- Neigh of a horse

Ni -Trumpet of an Elephant

The order of these notes is not random but ordained with a specific pattern. – These notes when sung traverse in an ascending order of their frequencies.

Vibrations of the swaras

Even a layman can feel the gradual progression of the frequency of the ‘swaras’ when sung, from navel to lips sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, da ni,…The ‘saptaswaras’ resonate in a particular frequency and each ‘swara’ has an effect on the body in correspondence with its vibration.The vibrations of the ‘swaras’ have the ability to soothe, please and also cure our senses.

Understanding Music

“Sisurvethi, pasurvethi, vethiganarasamphanihi” is a popular Sanskrit axiom which says that Music has the power to impress a child, animal, and the universe alike.And indeed it is true; when we watch snake charmers blow their ‘magudi’ to which snakes sway in rhythm! Peacocks spread their plumage and dance to express joy at the onset of rains. Thus, nature’s expression has always been in synchrony with the rhythm and tone of sounds.

Music is an elaborate subject encompassing several finer aspects understood only with a penchant and devotion for the art.Indian classical music is transcendental in nature replete with spiritual, philosophical and appealing inferences.

In a series of articles we shall try to enjoy the flavours of Indian Classical Music.

Sreelakshmi Avadhanam
Sreelakshmi Avadhanam
Sreelakshmi Avadhanam is a journalist, content writer, freelance translator and is trained in Carnatic classical music. She also holds a Master’s degree in music. Playing the Veena and singing have been a part of her life since childhood. She also performs on stage whenever an opportunity arises. 


  1. Very lucidly put . Indeed today’s generation must imbibe values these as a part of their daily routine. Imagine a musical Bharat where people will communicate in sweet tones in Laya and Tala spreading divinity all around .

    Good job Sri Lakshmi ..Keep it up

  2. The nuances of Indian classical music are very nicely systematically articulated. Shall be looking forward for the next part.

  3. I felt very happy when iread this is explained in a such a maner that a smal chaild can understand.Thanks a lot .pl do write always.Allthe best.

  4. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Will share it with Omkar and Srikar too. You have put in a easy understanding language that they can understand.
    Best wishes

  5. Nice writeup. Hope to read more of your articles to learn further intricacies in these swaras. Thanks for taking the time to spread knowledge.


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