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.