History of Indian Music

Indian music is regarded as one of the oldest in the world and reflects the rich cultural and traditional values of the country. The history of Indian music is as old as the history of the nation itself. According to Indian mythology, the divine sage Narada was the first sage to whom the laws of music were revealed and he brought the art of music from heavens and introduced it to Earth. Tumburu is considered as the first singer ever to use the art of music for singing. Goddess Saraswati is considered as the goddess of music and learning. It is believed that the sacred sound ‘Om’ is the holy origin to all other sounds and music on this earth.

History of Indian music dates back to the prehistoric times when the Vedas were created. The colloquial term for music ‘sangeet’ includes vocal singing and instrumental music accompanied by dance. Historically, devotional Indian music was played in the royal court and temples of India, and hymns were written by learned men especially appointed for this very purpose. Indian music has two important elements — the ‘raag’ and the ‘taal’. While ‘raag’ implies melodic modes used in Indian classical music, ‘taal’ implies the rhythm of music.

The musical chanting of the Samaveda and instrumental music characterized the vedic music that became famous between 1500 BC and 500 BC. Marga sangeet became famous during the period between 500 BC and 200 BC. During this period, Ramayana, the oral epic, was composed by the sage Valmiki in the form of musical verses.

The period between 200 BC and 300 AD is the period when music and dance gained prominence. Chhalikya, a genre of songs in the ancient Gandharva mode of music making (the techniques of playing musical instruments), and the Hallisaka dance gained a lot of popularity during this period.

The period between 300 AD and 600 AD was famous for the great musical works of Kalidasa. During this period the Gupta kings popularized music in sacrificial areas, temple premises, stages and in the royal courts. Temple spaces were used to create and popularize new genre of music. Music was popularized through the Puranas. Sama-gayan evolved into the mainstream music of this period. Dattilam, the musical textbook helped develop the melodic jati-gayan.

The period between 600 AD and 1700 AD was heavily influence by the Mughal culture. With the invasion of the Mughals, the music of northern and central India got heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian cultures and led to the birth of a new form of music known as Hindustani music. However, the music of south India, known as Carnatic music, never got influenced by any invaders and remains the same till this day.

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