• Home
  • Music
  • Hindustani Classical Music, Its Evolution and Emotional Synthesis

Hindustani Classical Music, Its Evolution and Emotional Synthesis

Indian classical music is a  heritage that has evolved through the centuries. It is a blend of ritualistic,  folk and cultural expression of the sub-continent and represents music of  different genres. At one extreme, it is classical music whilst at the other extreme;  it is a mixture of musical genres of different regions that reflect the  diversity of India.

Hindustani classical music is an  Indian classical music tradition that took shape in northern India in the 13th and 14th  centuries A. D. Its origins lie in existing religious, folk and theatrical  performance practices. The origins of Hindustani classical music can be found  in the Samaveda (wherein Sāman means "melody" and Veda means  "knowledge"). The Samaveda comes second in the usual order of the  four Vedas. Samaveda consists of a collection (Samhita) of hymns and verses or specifically  indicated melodies called Samagana that were sung by the priests while offering  libations to various deities.

Hindustani classical music has  its origin as a form of meditation and is based upon ragas and taals each  designed to affect different "chakras" (energy centers, or  "moods") in the path of the "Kundalini" of the human  system. Vedic practice traces specific physical, mental, biological and  spiritual results associated with activation of these centres to generate the  very sound of “OM”. ‘OM’  is believed to be the beginning of all creation in which are rooted the seeds  of sound and music.

For a traditional Indian artist,  artistic creation was the supreme means of realizing the Universal Being  regardless of the field of work. Art was a combination of Sadhana (discipline),  Yoga (exercise) and Yajna (sacrifice). Thus, any form of Sadhana and the  artistic creation is a means of achieving a state of ‘complete harmony. Through  this creation, the artist seeks to evoke a state of pure joy (Anand) that could  be second to the seeker’s ultimate goal of absolute bliss in the Brahman  (Universe) i.e. “Brahmananda’. The artist is indeed like a worshipper, who  again and again sees God and who attempts to re-create the ultimate state of  his realization. This is a mental experience that takes place through the use  of specific techniques of his art.
  According to Bharata, there are  nine mental states or feelings or Bhavas that are latent in our minds as the  ‘Sthayibhavas’. They are Rati, Hasya, Krodha, Utsaha, Bhaya, Vismaya and  Jugupsa. These are the objects of experience for a person. These nine Bhavas  are latent in the minds of the Sahradya i.e. the knowledgeable contemplator in  the form of ‘Sthayibhavas’ (permanent basic emotional states). When associated  with Vibhavas i.e. the stimuli or environment, they are capable of infusing the  emotional states and become the objects of mental perception in correlation to  the artist’s creation and expression (bhava-abhivyakti). This emotional state  is called “Rasa” and the aesthetic experience so achieved is “Rasanubhuti”. Thus,  the aesthetic experiences which emerged as a result of these beliefs were  called the “theory of rasa”, as propounded by Bharata (300 BC) in his extensive  treatise “Natyashastra”. According to Bharata, there are nine emotional states  or “navarasas”. These are: Shringar, Hasya, Karun,  Raudra, Veer, Bhayanaka, Vibhatsya, Adbhut and Shant.

Indian music is traditionally  practice-oriented and taught by teachers through an oral tradition. Until the  20th century, it did not employ notations as the primary media of instruction,  understanding or transmission. The rules of Indian music and compositions  themselves are taught from a Guru to a shishya under the guru-shishya parampara or the teacher-student tradition.  An important landmark in Hindustani music was the establishment of gharanas  (style and content of singing) under the patronage of princely states.

A gharana is more a school of  thought rather than an institution. Each gharana developed distinct facets and  styles of presentation and performance. Indian classical music has one of the  most complex and complete musical systems ever developed in the history of  mankind. It divides the Saptak (octave) into 12 swaras or semitones (5 shudha +  4 komal+1 tivra + 2 sthira) out of which the 8 basic notes are Sa Re Ga Ma Pa  Dha Ni Sa, in that order.

Musicologists came to believe  that music originated from natural sounds, such as the cry of a peacock which  became the Swara note Sa or shadja. The voice of a Chatak (Rain  bird) gave the Swara Re or Rishabh. Thecall of a Goat yielded the Swara Ga or Gandhara. The crowing of a crow became the Swara Ma or Madhyama.  The sound of a cuckoo became the Swara Pa or Pancham. Thesound of a frog was considered the Swara  Dha or Dhaivata. The trumpeting of  an elephant became the Swara Ni or Nishaada. Hindustani music has a number of  embellishments and ornamentations or gamaks like meend, kana, murki, etc. which  enhance its aesthetic appeal. The prime themes of Hindustani music are romantic love, descriptions of nature’s beauty and  devotion to the almight. These are, in-turn, enhanced further with the use of  the embellishments in appropriate measure.

Indian classical music is monophonic in nature and  built around a single melody line, which is played over a fixed drone. The performance  is based melodically on particular ragas and rhythmically on talas. The tabla plays a very important role in maintaining the  rhythm during a Hindustani concert. There are a number of Tals (beat patterns) like  Ek-Tal, Jhap-Tal, Dadra, Teen-Tal and so on. Each Tal has its own  characteristics.
  The wide range and complex  content of Indian music was not restricted merely to India. It was also influenced by  countries like Persia and Afghanistan.  The 'Sufi' influence in Hindustani music during the medieval period was fused  with ideas from Persian music, particularly through the influence of Sufi  composers like Amir Khusru and Tansen.  However, Amir Khusru is erroneously referred to as the inventor of the sitar  and tabla and numerous musical forms such as khayal and tarana. The Hindustani  music that developed during the time of the Moghul period (15th and 16th centuries,  A.D.) is based on the rich Indian tradition and its interaction with Moghul  influences.

During the rule of Moghul  emperor Akbar, Hindustani music reached its zenith, mainly due to Mian Tansen  (He was born Tanna Mishra or Ramtanu to Makarand Pande. The name of his  Guru was Swami Haridas), who was one of the nine  jewels in Akbar's court. It was during this era that Hindustani music, like an  ever flowing river, absorbed many streams of varied musical genres such as Dhrupad,  Dhamar and Khayal. Many semi-classical music genres also came in vogue during  the period of Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah Rangila. These were Thumri, Dadra,  Hori, Sawan and Chaiti.

Indian classical music can be  classified into two distinct categories, the North Indian or Hindustani &  the South Indian or Carnatic music. The essential features and basis of both  the styles are the same in the sense that both are spiritual in nature. Both  put emphasis on the musical structure and the possibilities of improvisation in  each raga. The main architect of the present system of Hindustani music is Pandit  V N Bhatkhande, who was responsible for the classification of the Ragas into  the 10 'thaats'. The two main vocal traditions in  Hindustani music are Dhrupad, the purest of all, without any embellishment and  completely austere in its delivery and Khayal, with a romantic content and  elaborate ornamentation. Less abstract vocal forms fall into the  light-classical variety: These are: Dadra, Thumri, Hori, Sawan and Chaiti.

The author is an Indian Classical Vocalist. Presently learning from Smt Shalmalee Joshiji of Jaipur Atrauli Gharana. Her journey of music brought her to learn the Jaipur Atrauli tradition from Delhi to Mumbai. She has been blessed enough to learn from legendary Musician Smt. Kishori Amonkarji though for a short span of time. It has been a journey of 13 years and has influenced her music althrough ,as she learnt from Ustad Iqbal Khan Saheb of Delhi Gharana , Pt. Jagdish Mohanji (Kirana)Pt.Madhup Mudhgalji (Gwalior)and late Shri Mahadev Deshpandeji (her Nana Guruji)at Gandharva Mahavidya, New Delhi.Last but not the least, her first Guru is her mother Smt. Chhabi Mathur , who has been her sole inspiration.