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.
“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.