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Updated on November 30, 2011

Classical Music

It appears that for lack of patronage and popular encouragement during the centuries following Alexander’s conquest, the Vedic music slowly rehabilitated itself in thinly attended timples which, by then, no longer had dancing girls introduced earlier to allure and attract the audience. By that time dancing developed itself as an independent art. The failure of Vadic music to develop itself as an independent art and survive as such on its own merit thus paved the way to its slow death.


, a book on folk music believed to have been writer in second century A.D. Matanga, mentions seven kinds of songs prevalent during his time and before.. They were: Shuddha Geeti: free from the influence of foreign Jatis and always followed its own: Raga Geeti: four Varnas or colors were used to brighten up the geeti: Shadharana Geeti: it used embellishments which were soft and subtle: Bhasha Geeti: here the notes were smooth and graceful and Vivhasha Geeti: it used sportive and colorful gamakas of various kinds, These musical types slowly died out but some of the persisted and gradually crossed with one another giving birth to a third one. In this process three main distinct musical varieties survived: Pravhanda, Vastu and Rupak.

These musical forms or types had their individual characteristic elements—rhythmic or melodic--- which used to make onedistinctiv3 form the other. Every type had a note structure, mood and locale. The structure, technically called Thata, of each song was by then established. Most of the texts of these songs had four parts such as Asthayee, Malpak, Antara, Bhog or Abhog. Each of them had different note arrangements---a practice which subsequently laid the foundation of the raha-fagini scheme.

These msical developments, in all probability, took place during the period from 200 B.C. to 400 A.D. Mention of these facts were available in Patanjali’s work and Matanga’s Brihaddeshi. Was said to have been written in second century A.D. By that time a definite step was taken towards creating what may be called structural music or raga-ragini scheme. Bharat’s Natyasastra mentions about the prevalence of jati which Swami Prajanananda considers to be raga or at least the form-runner of raga. Bharat’s Natyasastua, the most ancient treatise on dramatics and music, was believed to have been writer in 200 B.C. But its date of composition lends itself to controversy.

The musical forms which were in vogue during the Mauryan rule followed definitive rules with regard to structure, upward and downward arrangements of notes in comsonance with the thought-content of the song besides the place and time of its practice. All these rules, after prolonged practice, became inseparable part of every melodic song. The over emphases on these elements gradually paved the way of raga-scheme.

The word ‘rana’ as mentioned on Matanaga’s Brihaddeshi derived form the root ‘ranj’ which means to tinge or to inpress. Matangahad defined raga to be a combination of notes illustrated by melodic movements (Varna) which is capable of producing pleasant sensations. The depth, height and compass of a raga thus depends upon the discernment and depth of feeling of the artist and his capacity to select and arrange notesin a manner that can evoke and hold a mood at its highest pitch. A.H. Fox-Strangeways in his treatise, the Music on Hindusthan, observes that the ragas were the outcome of the efforts of artists to reduce to law and order the tunes that come and go on the lips of the people. Like western music it does not change or contrasts its mood. It is, on the contrary, always centered on one particular emotion which it tries to develop, explain, cultivate and insists on exalting until it has created in the mind of the listeners an acute suggestion which is impossible to resist. The main characteristic of raga is its power to evoke this emotion. The mood must size the listeners’ mind and hold it enchanted.

In the early days of the evolution of ragas, their classification was based on the number of notes constituting them. But with the multiplicity of the ragas they came to be classified on the bases of their similarity and diversity. Later they were classified into (1) Grama Bhasa, (2) Antara Bhasa and (3) Vibhasa Bhasa. The next classification divided them into (1) Kriyanga, (2) Raganha, (3) Bhasanaga and (4) Upanga ragas. The Kriyahga imitated action i.e. thestyle of rendering; the Raganga initated the appearance (shadows of the Bhasa) and complex, they came to be classified as (a) Shudda or pure, (b) Shankara or mixedand (c) Chhayaloga of shadow form—when it used few notes from other raga without being contrary to its sentiment. A pure raga charms unaided, a shadow raga with the help of another raga and a mixed raga with the help of two or more ragas.

This classification continued until the Muslim arrives in the sub-continent. In thirteenth century Amir Khasru, the celebrated musicologist adorning the court of Alauddin Khilji, riplaced the priginal classification of the ragas---viz.,the six ragas and thirty six raginis--- by twenty two mokams or houses, very similar to the original Thatas. Amir Khasry’s system was followed for a long time, at least on further attempt was made for classifying them unit 1813 A.D. Prior to Khasru’s classification another attempt was made and ragas were classified into Janaka (parent) and Janya (generic). In Sangita Ratnakara by Sharangadeva ragas were classifieds male and female. But this system was not followed seriously.

In the book Fajtarangini by Lochana, probably of fourteenth century, there was a classification of ragas. This was believed to be the first book on north Indian music which defined the ragas. Many Muslim innovations found place in this book. It was lift to Mohammad Raza, a wealthy citizen of Patnaand an eminent connoisseur of music to offer in his book, Naghmat-i-Asfi, a new syste4m of classification based none the structural similarities of the ragas. He discarded the then old scale and accepted Bilawal as his basic scale. This method was given a new lease of life by Pandit Bhatkhande who adopted the system of unifiers (Malakas of Thatas) and derivatives (Janya) accepting Bilawas, as did Mohammad Reza, as the fundamental scale which continues even today. In Maghmat-i-Asfi Mohammad Reza elaborately discussed the raga Lakshmans or definitions. Pandit Bhatkhande just might be considered as a pioneer in this line. There is no fundamental difference between Mohammad Raza’s definitions and those of Bhatkhande’s .

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