Indian Classical Music and Sikh Kirtan


Goto Page
Displaying Page 16 of 100
Book Index Begin Back Next Last

Chapter 2: Fundamentals of Indian Music

Fundamentals of Indian Music

Emotion and devotion are the essential characteristics of Indian music

Among the fine arts, music occupies a very important and significant position. This is the art through which man can be happy himself and make others happy. Music is a great source of entertainment and power. Talented musicians have been able to control the working of the physical nature and of man. It is said that in ancient Greece, Orpheus enchanted not only wild beasts but also birds and insects with his music, and they followed the sound of his lyre. In India, we often see a snake dancing to the tune of the flute of the snake-charmer. It is said that Tansen, the celebrated musician of the court of Emperor Akbar, had the power to bring about rainfall with raga Malhar and create a fire with raga Deepak.

Music in ancient India was regarded as means of divine contemplation and bliss. Today it is regarded mainly as a means of entertainment. In the field of social life, music is a gesture of cordiality. Whenever we are happy, we sing and ask our friends to join us. It expresses our joys and feelings. When we are melancholy and sick, it reduces our sorrows and soothes our feelings. It has the capacity both of assuaging and intensifying different emotions. It has thus a great influence on the mind and heart of man. Music involves both discipline and freedom. There is the discipline of the svara (note), the laya (tempo), and the tal (rhythm). A note is sung in rhythm and time-beat. On the other hand, the musician if free to make improvisations in his composition within the limits of the raga. In this way, he can show his skill and mastery over the raga he is playing or singing.

Nad (Sound)

Etymologically, 'Na' means breath and 'Da' means fire or energy. Nad is thus a combination of breath and energy. It implies that the sound produced by living beings emanates from the lungs and comes out from the mouth. There are two kinds of nad: Ahat and Anahat/Anahad. Ahat nad is a sound produced by the collision of two things or by physical manipulation, as for example cymbals and human voice respectively. In both cases, vibrations produce the sound which dies away as the vibration come to an end. This is the sound with which we are concerned in music. Anahad nad is a self-producing sound, or what is called 'unstruck sound', as for example the music of the spheres due to the vibrations of ether in the upper regions. Rabindranath Tagore wrote in his connection; 'The life-breath of Thy music runs from sky to sky.' It is also called subtle or Sukhsham nad. This is the sound which the yogis or highly spiritual personal hear within themselves when they get into a state of higher consciousness. Goswami
observes 'The conception of Nad is inseparately connected with the kundalini or the spiral energy which when awakened starts from the muldhara (basic plexus) and reaches the crown of the head[1].' This solemn music is heard only by the spiritually-evolved. Guru Nanak 'The word of Guru is the true nad [2].'

There are two tones of nad: karkash (harsh) and madhur (sweet). The sound of the roar of guns or of a lion is harsh and unpleasant, while the sound of the peacock or the cuckoo is sweet and soothing. All musical sounds can be differentiated in three ways:

a) By their magnitude, that loudness of intensity which depends on the energy used for their production,
b) By the pitch depending on the number of vibrations per second: the greater the number of vibrations, the
greater the pitch.
c) By the quality or timbre, which depends on the nature of vibration and the reactive prominence of the upper
partials of the instrument [3].

Nad is related to Dhvani (a kind of sound). Music is concerned with sweet and pleasant dhvani. When a stringed instrument is played, vibrations are produced through the movement of the strings, and these vibrations give the sound when they reach the human ears. These vibrations go in cycles and come back, again they go and come back, and hence the sound continues till the stings come to rest. The unit for measurement of sound vibrations is one second.

Vibrations (cycles) ranging from 96 to 1024 per second can be produced by Indian vocal music, while the human ear is capable of picking up sound frequencies between 20 and 20,000 per second.


Goto Page
Displaying Page 16 of 100
Book Index Begin Back Next Last

Printed from
© 2004 - 2017. Gateway to Sikhism All rights reserved.