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The Indian Music

Updated on November 5, 2014

About Indian Music

Music of India is in deference to European culture, for example, where the early melodic music has transformed into the current harmonic music.

The social pattern of India today is the outcome of many older ones and the way of life in this land has been woven of fibers of distinct hues and textures. It is believed that the Negrito races, the remnants of which are still with us were the earliest in India.

The Dravidans, Mongoloids were later cultural incursions. And the music of India today shows this ethnic admixture. The very old tribal people in different parts of the country - the Pulayans, the Thodas, the Orams, the Santals, the Savaras, - have their typical music and dance.

This ancient tribal music supplied, to a large degree to the general mood of India's music.

Photo Source: Flickr

by: sukkran

Music of India

Indian Musical Instruments

Photo Source: under creative commons license.

India is made up of quite a few dozen ethnic groups, speaking their own languages and vernacular, having very separate cultural traditions. Music of India consists of multiple varieties of classical,folk, popular, pop etc. India's classical music convention, including Carnatic and Hindustani music, has a history straddling millennia and, developed over a number of epoch, it vestiges fundamental to the lives of Indians today as starting place of religious inspiration, cultural manifestation and pure entertainment.

Classical Music - Carnatic & Hindustani Musics.

Photo Source: Flickr under creative commons license.

The two main traditions of classical music which have been Carnatic music, found largely in the southern regions of India and Hindustani music, found in the northern and central parts of India. While both traditions claim Vedic derivation, history point out that the two traditions diverged from a common musical root since c. 13th century. Very old form of Indian music was that of the Tamils and interconnected cultures. This was also a melodic style with its own peculiarity. These forms of music gradually fused with Aryan music, religious styles of which one sing in the Rig Veda and Sama Veda.

Bit by bit all these forms have come closer and become amalgamated into one another, a later twist coming from central Asian regions, and, of course, the latest is from the west. It is therefore essential to free oneself of the much discrimination about this music. First, is of the monolithic derivation of not only the music, but the common culture of India. One cannot recognize only the political borderlines, for cultural patterns run over these walls and lines on the maps. There can also be no rigid cultural blockades, for one social group passes into another, now and then unnoticeably. And India, with its huge additional room in space has also an age-old past.

The material and mental stuff of various cultures which were quite marked in ages gone by - and this diversity is evident even to this day - have has time to flow and liquefy into one another. This "music of India" is differing from the grunts and shrieks of the Nagas in the far eastern border and the Thodas in the Southern hills, to the most complicated concert Ragas and Thalas.

The result of such a give and take policy is the present day Indian art music with its two major areas - The Carnatic and Hindustani. In common they have the same basis, being melodic and governed by rules of "Raga" and "Thala" construction. The Carnatic system is the art from the South India (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka). The other parts of India are follows the Hindustani musical dialect.

The Carnatic and the Hindustani systems are only the extremely grammatized music of the simpler art of this country. Obviously the bottom and foundations of the art music have to be sought for in this soil of tribal, folk and borderline areas. And more or less non-musical, yet with musical feelings, are the grunts and shrieks of the Thodas and the Nagas. But then these are the seeds out of which the complexed concerts music has blossomed out. The 'Flour-grinding' songs of rural women grow into a variety of folk songs, more or less obscure. Music in and of the temple is another branch to the mainstream.

Vedic music which started as a recitation of three tones ended as a seven-toned chant. In the Temples and Matts (monasteries) music was, and still is, a fundamental part of meditation and worship. Through these simple Bhajans, Abangs, Keerthanas and Bakthipadals the most devastating mystic truths and socially reformative ideas were communicated to all the populace. Thus Indian life is filled with music at all branch and levels.

Classical music has, then, grown out of this productive earth and in its turn flowed back into that soil. This is true not only of musical elements and forms but also of instruments. After all, the performance Rudra Veena is another version of the Kinnari and Jantar. The Tabla might well have been an offspring of a village pot covered with hide. The intricate cross rhythms and drums mnemonics heard in the Mehfils and Kacheris have been developed long long ago among the tribal Santals.

Mahaganapathim.- Carnatic Music

Pt. Ajay Pohankar's Hindustani Vocal

The Bhajans - Indian Devotional Songs

Photo Source: Flickr under creative commons license.

Bhajan is some type of Indian devotional song. It has no stable form: Anecdotes and episodes from scriptures, the philosophies of saints and explanations of gods have all been the subject of bhajans. It is customarily lyrical, expressing love for the Divine. It may be as modest as a mantra or kirtan or as stylish as the dhrupad or kriti with music based on classical ragas and talas.

Like Dhrupad panache, Sufi qawwali and the kirtan or song in the Haridas tradition are linked to bhajan. Traditions of bhajan such as Nirguni, Gorakhanathi, Vallabhapanthi, Ashtachhap, Madhura-bhakti and the traditional South Indian form Sampradya Bhajan each have their own range and methods of singing. Meera, Nanak, Kabir, Narottama Dasa, Surdas and Tulsidas are distinguished composers.

The name, similar of bhakti, meaning religious devotion, suggests its reputation to the bhakti movement that spread from the south of India throughout the entire subcontinent in the Moghul era.

Bhajan - Video - New Hindi Bhajan Songs

Gurbani Kirtan
Gurbani Kirtan

Gurbani Kirtan

In Gurbani Kirtan there is a difference it measure up with the Kirtan of the Hindus. In Sikh community, the 'Holy Naam' is recited by expert musicians in the Ragas in which the hymns of the Gurus were formerly composed and the Kirtan could go on for hours. The singing of God's glory, with religious zeal and commitment sooths the nerves, releases tension and engenders a sense of joy and happiness.

The vocal music, complemented by instrumental, has always been more enthusiastically appreciated by the Sikhs than authentic instrumental music. Their dedicated taste for hymns sung by the Gurus and divine poetry has determined this. Instrumental accompaniment is commonly furnished by Harmonium, Tablas, Rabab, Duff, Chimta, Ek-tara and flute, which supports the rhythm. The most notable musical form is Shabad Kirtan, which forms part of all types of gatherings of the Sikhs, whether in the Gurudwaras in home.

Gurbani Kirtan - Video - Koi Bole Ram Ram - Bhai Sarabjit Singh Ji Rangila

Indian Music DVD

There'll Always Be Stars in the Sky - The Indian Film Music Phenomenon
There'll Always Be Stars in the Sky - The Indian Film Music Phenomenon

There Will Always Be Stars in the Sky takes you behind the scenes of India's Hollywood to meet star actors (Raj Kapoor), star singers (Lata Mangeshkar), top musical directors (Kalyanji Anandji), and others in recording sessions, on shooting sets, in posh residences, and in the teeming streets. 60 minutes.


Raga & Tala

Photo Source: Flickr under creative commons license.

Flute: Stage Performance

In quintessence, a Raga is a melodic scheme ruled by certain established rules, but granted that a great freedom for creativeness. These rules categorize and conclude the notes of a scale that should be used, their order, significant and necessary melodic idioms which give a specific color to the scheme. Based on these more or less authoritarian boundaries, the musician is free to create and herein lays his genius. The raga has, of course, to be pleasing: "A Raga is called by the scholarly that kind of sound composition which is garlanded with musical notes in some peculiarly stationery, or ascending, or descending, or moving values, which have the outcome of coloring the hearts of men."

The Tala is a rhythmic perceptive of beats in a cyclic manner. Each cycle is absolute in it and is recurring. The cycle is separated into sections which may or may not be equal. It is formed by the addition of time units in a definite manner. But what is of real suggestion between tala and rhythm. Within this framework, there are many method of creating music. These differ according to their distinction on rhythm, extent of ornamentation, lyrical qualities, etc.

Some of such recognized structural dialects are the Dhrupad, the Kheyal, the Thumri and so on of north India, the Krithi, the Varnam, the Padham, the Javali, etc., of south India. In the more critical styles of music, the cheerfulness of a raga starts with a slow exposition called the Alabanai or Alab, followed by a masterpiece in a given tala, incorporating well designed melodic phrases and libretto, and faster phrases. Instruments in north India play rhythmic pieces known as Gat, whereas south Indian instruments usually follow vocal patterns and compositions.

The extremely developed and sensitive music was but the outcome of the ancient religious and secular music. As in all other cultures, so in India, the religious groups, the chambers of aristocracy and the ordinary people have each donated to and encouraged their own part in this cultural dynamics. The normal man who sang his sorrows, wishes and accomplishments created the folk songs and ballads which are rich mines of musical and poetical jewellery - as varied as the peoples of this land.

The Thumri, the Ghazals, the Padham and the Javali are very weak examples of fine erotic love. But, by and large, the best music has been very closely linked with religious practices and mystical experiences. As a matter of fact, music is measured as one of the best forms of devoutness and meditation. Musical compositions range, in this quality, from the firmly occulted recitation of Mantras and the great songs of Muthuswamy Dikshidar (1775-1835), the religious love poems of Jayadheva (12th century) and Kshetrayya (1600-1680), to the angelic lyrics of Purandaradasa (1486-1564) and Thiyagaraja of Thiruvaiyaru (1759-1847).

Princess Meera, mad with the love of Lord Krishna, and the mystics Kabir and Thiruvalluvar have all donated to the religious expression of this people. Rabindranath Tagore, of our own times, was a multitalented intellect - a poet, novelist, dramatist and musician of the greatest beauty. His creations range from simple children's songs, folk songs and mystic songs to highly sophisticated Dhrupads. He has created new melodic and rhythmic patterns of rare charm.

Today's "Music of India"

The Music of India, a brief idea of which has just been given, is not only the proud legacy of this subcontinent but of the whole world. For without doubt it is one of the most highly developed and sophisticated musical systems of human society. Particularly, its micro-tonal pitch differences (Sruthis as they are called); its melodic scheme (Ragas) and the rhythmic subtleties of its Talas are amongst the most cherished artistic contributions of India to world culture.

With the advent of political freedom, a new enthusiasm grew. Music, as other arts, is now recognized as an important part of culture and education. Besides professional institutions, schools, colleges and Universities offer facilities for learning music and some have established faculties of music. Almost every town of some size has a music club where artistes - small and great - perform. The largest patron of music is All India Radio, a Government concern, with its innumerable stations. It not only broadcasts music but has on its staff a large number of well trained musicians who plan and produce its musical programmes.

Very significant institutions in the field are the central and state Academies of Music. Established by the Central and State Governments, they are more or less autonomous in functions and primarily look to the encouragement of study, research, publication and archiving of music material and in a number of cases have been of considerable force in their spheres of action. Besides these there are a few private academies of very high standing.

Apart from this a strong and influential musical force today is what is called the 'Film music'. Some of it is good, based on the genius of this land and people. Our A R Rahman of Chennai, brought two Oscar awards for his best film music. But some others are a hybrid, vulgarized can-can, closely followed by 'orchestration' pop and such other varieties.

Photo Source: Flickr under creative commons license.

Harivarasanam - Nadaswaram Music

Tamil Cinema Music - Stage Performance of Tamil Cinema Music by Dream Girl 'LAKSHA'.

Learn Carnatic Music -DVD

Gurukula Carnatic Music Lessons Volume 1 DVD
Gurukula Carnatic Music Lessons Volume 1 DVD

In these DVDs the carnatic music lessons have been taught in typical traditional gurukula style, the students being with the Guru (Teacher) in person through an Audio-Visual presentation from basics to Masters. It caters to the needs of both beginners, senior students and music lovers. Music (Singing lessons), Theory(Musicology)and notation (script of the compositions) and lecture demonstrations have also been presented in English in these DVDs. All elimentary lessons, Shlokas, Varnas, Keerthanas, Thillanas, Padas, manodharma sangeetha (Raga alapana, swarakalpana, Nerval, Tanam, Pallavi) musicology, notation and lecture demonstrations.


Tamil Folk Song With Dance - Dancers: Nikisha, Aravind & Navdeep Film: A Aa E Ee.

Gana Pattu - Chennai's Special Version. Music of the Millions

Tamil Kuthu Song - Dindukallu Re Mix

Qawwali - Tajdar-e-Haram - Naatia Qawwali by Amjad Sabri Qawwal son of Ghulam Maqbool Sabri Qawal his best Qawwali on Geo Tv live 27th Lailutul Qadr Night...

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have a Ravi Shankar album with sitar that I love, and you reminded me to check out Indian music more. I love music from around the world.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image


      5 years ago

      Lovely. I've seen a dance before, and it was absolutely beautiful. Thanks!

    • Jillynn profile image


      5 years ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Very thorough with great music to boot!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Returning with a sprinkling of fresh angel dust for this from a heart of love teaching on Indian music.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      wonderful collection of tamil music..By Kurt Penberg

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Wonderful info on some great music.

    • kovid7 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very informatory lens. I liked it.

    • kovid7 profile image


      6 years ago

      @nikitakapoor: I agree with you Nikita. Every gharana has its own space. None of them can be singled out, I think. Gwalior has its own space, Delhi has its own space, Kirana has its own space and Banaras too, has its own space.

    • nikitakapoor profile image


      6 years ago

      Great article on Indian Classical Music!

      by the way is Banaras gharana greatest and best among all the other gharanas?

    • KayRennie profile image

      Kay Rennie 

      6 years ago from Melbourne

      Really excellent explanation of the different types of Indian music. Also very entertaining. Thanks!

    • VeseliDan profile image


      6 years ago

      This is one of my favorite lenses!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Lots of great information here and very nicely presented!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great Music!

    • vkumar05 profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent Lens. Great Information about Music of India.

    • David Dove profile image

      David Dove 

      7 years ago

      I am coming back many times to this lens, I have been wanting a simple, basic introduction to Indian music and have found it here, thank you.

    • JoanTheChoirLady profile image

      Joan Hall 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Beautiful lens -- musically, intelectually, and visually!

    • Frank Edens profile image

      Frank Edens 

      7 years ago

      Just what i need, some guidance in the world of music in India! thanx

    • arunii lm profile image

      arunii lm 

      7 years ago

      You have cover the various shades of indian music in this lens with great images and videos. A good lens to know about the indian music. hats off to you

    • realizeme profile image


      7 years ago

      love this lens ;) thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Indian Classical music especially south indian songs are sounds great. This is the best part of our culture. Like it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      nice lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The depth and variation of Indian Music has been well presented. The pictures and videos have added flavor to the lens. Indian music has proved itself as strong and withstand any type of competition from any type of music all around the world. It is a challenge..

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      Quite interesting lens. I know the instruments are complex, but make hauntingly beautiful music. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great depiction of the Indian music, love the variations and melodies found in the various sources.

    • BlueDunDan profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative lens, its good to learn a bit about other ways of the world.

    • BlueDunDan profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting lens, i learned much!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love India music, it is so peaceful

    • ajtyne profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Great lens! Beautiful to look at as well as informative.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 

      7 years ago from New York City

      Music is the real language of a people.

    • dogface lm profile image

      dogface lm 

      7 years ago

      Indian music is interesting. The instruments are so exotic.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      7 years ago

      Another beautiful lens ... well done!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a soft spot for Indian music. Nice lens - thumbs up!

    • ColorPetGifts profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Indian music - I love the whole culture. Indian music is so wonderfully upbeat and engaging. Great job on the lens - blessed by a passing angel.

    • MyNashville360 profile image


      7 years ago

      It was so nice to find a lens on India music. You have presented us with a very informative lense. Thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You make India Proud as always. 7 * rated. :) God bless.

    • akumar46 lm profile image

      akumar46 lm 

      7 years ago

      Great lens on Music of India.Thanks for such a marvelous lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What an interesting and beautifully made lens. Blessed :-)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I always think.. Indian music is one of most charming music of the world. Very well done beautifully as always .. my friend. Another 5 stars for you. Have a wonderful time .. always :)

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 

      7 years ago from California

      Well done & informative.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow what a lens! Awesome.......

    • RawBill1 profile image


      7 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      What an awesome page. I never knew there were so many different types of Indian music. I am a fan of the sitar and have quite a few George Harrison songs in which he uses Indian instruments. Through his music, I found Ravi Shankar. I have also attended a Hare Krishna temple a few times and love the music that is played there.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fabulous job on this lens - I'm Faving it! I love Indian Music and I have also written a lens about my favorite tabla player Ty Burhoe a student of Zakir Husein. Hope some of your fans will enjoy it as well. Congrats on your angel blessing - that's now I found your lens.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      Beautiful lens about beautiful people. Blessed by a Squid Angel

    • Harshitha LM profile image

      Harshitha LM 

      7 years ago

      I really liked this lens... esp the information about tribal influence like - mehfils by Santhals... Thumbs up!

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      Very nice lens with a lot of information on Indian music! Educational and attractively laid out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Krafick profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens. I love Indian classical music. Raga Bhairavi and Bhopali are is my favourites.

    • madoc profile image


      7 years ago

      A very interesting and enlightening lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wonderful lens! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel on 1/4/2011. Have a great day!

    • IlanaMoore LM profile image

      IlanaMoore LM 

      7 years ago

      What a trip! Thanks for the cornucopia of cultural enrichment :)

    • surgimesh lm profile image

      surgimesh lm 

      7 years ago

      Such a nice lens on Indian Music... It is one of the oldest forms of Music and quite unique.. Thanks for making this lens!! Very informative!

    • JackieBlock profile image

      Jackie Block 

      7 years ago from SE Michigan

      I was at a wedding and the bride was half Indian. They played a lot of Indian music and I loved dancing to it. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • GioiaMulas LM profile image

      GioiaMulas LM 

      7 years ago

      I love music in general, unfortunately, I have heard a lot of Indian music, but I learned something from your lens, thanks

    • Gera LM profile image

      Gera LM 

      7 years ago

      Didn't know much about Indian music before.

    • GreenTeaTime profile image


      7 years ago

      nice lens and stuff!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great lens about the Indian music

    • HorseHelper profile image


      7 years ago

      I learned a lot from your lens! Thanks for all the great info and videos!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I personally am not fond of Indian music but my husband is. We had East Indian neighbors for 8 years and I heard some fun Indian pop music then :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love old Indian music it's so calming.

    • chrissuard lm profile image

      chrissuard lm 

      8 years ago

      Great Lens, tons of interesting reading and great music!

    • profile image

      doubleside lm 

      8 years ago

      Such a unique music.

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 

      8 years ago from Quezon City

      Indian music has a distinct sound all its own. This is a lovely tribute to the musical roots of India. ~Blessed~

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      great lens - Indian music is lovely and unique

    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      8 years ago from France

      Quite a lot of different Indian music genres, I think I should have realised that before. With such a diverse range of cultures throughout India there was sure to be music to be associated with them. Interesting lens, I have learned something today.

    • petermurray profile image

      Peter Murray 

      8 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      Very interesting and informative lens on the music of India. I didn't know there were so many different styles.

    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 

      8 years ago from Lancaster PA

      I have attended more than a few Kirtans over the years. I enjoyed the videos on the Classical Indian Music, as well!! Thank you!

    • Aquavel profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful comprehensive lens! Fun to read & listen to. Plus I love watching (and listening to) the videos!

    • decapod profile image


      8 years ago

      This is an excellent educational lens. (Tabla is one of my favourite sounds).

    • remanon profile image


      8 years ago

      Full of information on this beautiful music.

    • pantar profile image


      8 years ago

      You did a nice job collecting all this material. It is nice reading. Good work!

    • Slothlover LM profile image

      Slothlover LM 

      8 years ago

      Great and informative lens! I learned a lot and I love how you have an orange background to a lot of the text--color adds a whole lot of life to any lens. Beautiful. Five stars.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Cannot agree with you more . There are many flavors of the Indian music, the Gharana style, classical, Qawwali, the Shayari and many more. Great lens.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      8 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Thank you for the introduction to Indian music!

    • caketech profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing! Squidliked this lens! Nice job.

    • Utsahan profile image


      8 years ago

      Just joined your squid-fanclub! Such a nice lense. Great layout. We love kirtan and bhajan and to play mridanga and harmonium! Five stars.

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 

      8 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Nice lens! I've favorited, liked, thumbs-upped, and lensrolled this! Congratulations on a good job!

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 

      8 years ago

      This is a very educational and beautiful lens about the music of India!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting and I learned more about music of india, too. This is wonderful meditation music.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A lovely lens, 5* and lensrolled to my WOMAD Festivals around the world

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love Indian music because it relaxes me and I feel great.

    • Grahans LM profile image

      Grahans LM 

      8 years ago

      Great lens and really nice work!

    • best-intentions profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice lens! 5*

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a treat! Found this in the forum- thoroughly enjoyed it. I also liked your food lens, great job! 5*

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love indian music! Lovely lens 5 ***** and favorited.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Another great lens!


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