The basis for Indian music is found in the Sanskrit word Sangeet, which means music. It is a combination of three art forms: geet (song), vadya (instrumental music) and nritya (dance).
Nritya (dance) is closely linked to the Natya (theatre). The dancer must express himself with his entire body: every movement is practiced for hours on end and must be under perfect control - whether it is the lifting of an eyebrow or a finger. The pantomime expressed by the hands (mudras) together with the expression of the face (abhinaya), allow the full development of the nine emotions.
India also has a wealth of folk dances and songs, closely interwoven with the lives of the people.
The Guru (teacher) has a special place in the performing world in India. He is next to parents in the hierarchy where God finds the last place. The pupils do not call the Gurus by their name and accidental call invite a spontaneous gesture of touching the ears.
Classical Dance forms:
The Indian classical dance forms are a beautiful compilation of the Mudras and Abhinaya. The present classical dance forms, however, are not as old as the Natya Shastra. These dance forms evolved around early 15th to 18th century AD when some people worked to revive the ying art. For many centuries the dancers were attached to the temples. This maintained a strong religious flavour to dance. Even today many of the traditional themes are mythological in nature. Over the centuries different areas have given their own colour to the ancient classical tradition. Each of these styles have a strong regional connection.
All the major dance forms have some features in common. Before every performance there are certain stage rites. As all the dances are more or less devotional, the very first rite is to offer prayers to the deity.
Today the acknowledged classical dance styles are:
Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu
The most celebrated art form of the Southern
Indian State of Tamil Nadu, Bharatnatyam is a dynamic and earthy dance
style. The contemporary form of Bharatnatyam evolved during the late 18th
or early 19th century.
The Kathak dance form traces its origins to
the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks or
storytellers. These bards, performing in village squares and temple
courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales
from the scriptures and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and
facial expressions. With the advent of Mughal culture, Kathak became a
sophisticated chamber art. Patronized by art loving rulers, the
practitioners of Kathak worked at refining its dramatic and rhythmic
aspects, delighting elite audiences with their mastery over rhythm and the
stylized mime. This dance form has a distinct Hindu-Muslim texture.
Kathakali is a rich and flourishing
tradition of dance drama of the State of Kerala. It is a well-developed
dance drama performance where the actors depict characters from the epics
Ramayana and Mahabharata and from the Puranas (the ancient scriptures).
The great poet Vallathol rediscovered Kathakali, establishing the
Kerala Kalamandalam in 1932, which lent a new dimension to the art form.
Kuchipudi, the indigenous style of dance of
Andhra Pradesh took its birth and effloresced in the village of the same
name, originally called Kuchelapuri or Kuchelapuram, a hamlet in Krishna
district. From its origin, as far back as the 3rd century BC, it has
remained a continuous and living dance tradition of this region.
The remote northeast corner of India has one
of the most graceful dances of the subcontinent. It takes its name from
the State of Manipur, which is situated in a secluded and picturesque
valley enclosed by mountain ranges. The legend goes that the gods drained
a lake in the beautiful countryside in order to find a place to dance. No
wonder then, that dance is inextricably woven into the lives of the people
and is an inherent part of the rituals of daily life such as weddings and
homage to ancestors. The Lai Haroba, a ritualistic dance depicting the
Creation, is considered the precursor of present Manipuri. The LaiHaroba
is still an important living tradition, while Manipuri has expanded and
gained popularity as a performing art in a group and solo presentations.
Performed still in temples and religious occasions, of Manipur, this dance
form is a very much living tradition.
Mohiniyattam is the female semi-classical
dance form of Kerala. Literally, the dance of the enchantress,
Mohiniyattam was mainly performed in the temple precincts of Kerala.
Odissi is considered to be one of the oldest
surviving dance forms based on archaeological evidence. The traditional
dance form of Orissa.
Some of the popular folk and tribal dances are:
Bhangra - is a folk dance from the Northwest Indian State of Punjab. It is a lively, powerful dance performed by men in celebration of the harvest season.
Bihu - is a folk dance from Assam. It is a very brisk and aggressive dance performed by both boys and girls on occasions like harvest and wedding ceremonies
Changu - the folk dance found in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh derives its name from the changu, which is a simple tambourine that is used to accompany this dance
Garba - is a folk dance from Gujarat. It is traditionally danced at marriages and during the festival of Navaratri (October/November).
Ghoomar - is a folk dance of Rajasthan performed by women. It derives its name from its characteristic pirouettes and swirling skirts.
GhantaPatua - is a folk dance of Orissa. Its name is derived from the large brass gongs known as ghanta. It is performed in the Hindu month of Chaitra. This dance is most notable because it is performed on stilts
Kavadi - is a folk dance of Tamil Nadu. It is played with a wooden pole upon which are tied two pots. The stick is then balanced upon the shoulder
The music of India is one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world. Indian music is not written and cannot be learnt from books. Traditions of music have been handed down by teachers in a special guru-shishya (master-disciple) relationship. It has developed within a very complex interaction between different peoples of different races and cultures. Aspects of musical from such as tonal intervals, harmonies and rhythmical patterns are the unique products of a wealth of musical traditions and influences; they are also very different from that familiar in the west. Much of the music recalls Indian fables and legends, as well as celebrating the seasonal rhythms of nature.
Music, according to Hindu mythology, originated with the first sound ever to be heard in the universe, the Naadbrahma or Om, which is the purest sound to be heard. It is this purity that the musician attempts to achieve in his sadhana (dedicated pursuit) of the music he is involved in.
Today there are two major traditions of Indian classical music: Hindustani in the north and Carnatic in the south. Both systems are fundamentally similar but differ in nomenclature and performance practice.
The present system of Indian Classical Music is based upon two important pillars: Raga and Taal. Raga is the melodic form while Taal is the rhythmic. Raga may be roughly equated with the Western term mode or scale. There is a system of seven notes, which are arranged in a means not unlike Western scales. However when we look closely we see that it is quite different what we are familiar with. The Taal forms are also very complex. Many common rhythmic patterns exist and they revolve around repeating patterns of beats. The interpretation of the Raga and the Taal is not the same all over India.The Indian classical music has two forms, gayaki (vocal) and vadya (instrumental). In both Hindustani and Carnatic music, songs are usually (although not always) preceded by an improvised unmeasured prelude (alaap) which is sometimes extensive. This is followed by the composition section in which a specific Taal is used. Although it is usually based upon a pre-existing composition, there are specific improvisational features to this section as well. This complicated system of Taals and Ragas lead to the melody that forms the basis of any type of music in India.
Vadya Sangeet (instrumental music) occupies an important position in Indian music. There is a general tendency for the instrumental styles to follow quite closely the vocal styles. Yet, the degree to which an instrument follows is primarily linked to the dynamics of the instrument. Dynamics is the nature of the loudness of an instrument. This is not intended to mean loudness in the usual interpretation, but rather the amplitudinal characteristics of the instrument.
Many musical instruments are peculiar to India. There is a traditional system for the classification of instruments but there are three main types: string instruments, wind blown and beat (percussion) instruments. Sitar, Tanpura, Violin, Veena, Sarangi are the various string instruments. Bansuri (flute), Shehnai, Harmonium are the wind blown instruments. Tabla, Dholak, Mridangam, Pakhawaj are the popular percussion instruments. These instruments have evolved to their present form after a long period of transitional instruments. Indian music has absorbed a lot form other countries also. The well-known instrument Sarod is a modified version of Rabab, which is essentially a Persian instrument. The contemporary Indian music is now experimenting with western instruments like guitar and piano.
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