By- Ashwika Maria

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Ashwika Maria


How did the Indian classical music evolve with time?


Indian classical music has always been prone to influences from almost everything. Let's discuss how the Indian classical music has evolved with time.

Like all art forms in Indian culture, Indian classical music is believed to be a divine art form which originated from the Devas and Devis (Hindu Gods and Goddesses).The roots of music in ancient India are found in the Vedic literature of Hinduism. It is considered to have originated in Sama Veda, which contains the earliest known form of organized music.The hymns of Sama Veda contain melodic content, form, rhythm and metric organization. This structure is, however, not unique or limited to Samaveda. 

The earliest reference to music was made by Panini in 500 BC. 

The classic Sanskrit text Natya Shastra is at the foundation of the numerous classical music and dance traditions of India. Bharatha muni's Natya Shastra , in 4 th century, contains several chapters on music which was probably the first clear written work on music.

The centrality and significance of music in ancient India is also expressed in numerous temple and shrine reliefs, in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, such as through the carving of musicians with cymbals in the fifth century.

The composition, Sangeeta Makaranda written by Narada in 11 th century enumerated the 93 ragas and classified them into masculine and feminine species.

Later in the 14 th century,  the Indian classical music underwent several variations and changes due to impact of Muslim influence, especially during the Mughal rule in India. Thus indian classical music broadly branched off into two- Hindustani music and Carnatic/ kriti music.

Hindustani music

Hindustani music is mainly found in North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It exists in four major forms: Dhrupad, Khyal (or Khayal), Tarana, and the semi-classical Thumri. It was mostly influenced by Sufism and Persian culture, including the creation of new ragas and the development of instruments such as the sitar and sarod.

It mainly emphasizes the musical structure unlike Carnatic music. It also concentrates on the improvisation and exploration of all aspects of a raga.

The development of Hindustani music reached a peak during the reign of Akbar. During this 16th century period, Tansen studied music and introduced musical innovations, for about the first sixty years of his life and thereafter performed at the court of Akbar. Many musicians consider Tansen as the founder of Hindustani music. Tansen's style and innovations inspired many, and many modern gharanas link themselves to his lineage. The Muslim courts discouraged Sanskrit, and encouraged technical music. Such constraints led Hindustani music to evolve in a different way than Carnatic music.

Carnatic music

Carnatic music or kriti, from South India, tends to be more rhythmically intensive and structured than Hindustani music.  It is based on saahitya or lyrics oriented. It also retained the traditional octave. Carnatic performances tend to be short composition-based.The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in singing style. 

However, the two systems continue to have more common features than differences. They mutually influence each other. They started absorbing folk tunes and regional characteristics and also promoting them to the status of ragas.

During the advent of British in India, court arts underwent a severe decline. Even the classical music had to take a back seat and thus slowly the interest to sustain the art diminished.

With the introduction of television and radio in India, western music slowly started becoming popular in india. The popularity of pop music increased with the spread of cinema. 

There had been experiments on combining western music with Indian classical forms in the following years. Indian classical music, which has been open to influences, still is evolving.

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