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A Living Portrait of India
India Heritage:Performing Arts:Music
Classical India Music

Hindustani Music Carnatic Music
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Due to the vicissitudes of history, classical music as we recognize it evolved during the medieval period of Indian history. Classical Indian music - Hindustani (of North India) and Carnatic (of South India) - has one point of origin, but while Hindustani music came under Islamic influence from the eleventh century onwards, Carnatic music has retained a relative purity. The raga form is common to both, the difference being that of terminology: in Carnatic music, that (parent scale) is referred to as mela.

It is the melodic form that characterizes melodies and melodic groups; similarities of melodic form allow certain pieces of music to be categorized as belonging to one raga. This form - although not referred to technically or by name - can be found in the Sama Veda chants vis--vis the meters and accents. The Atharva Veda has mention of seven musical notes (the Saptaki of classical music), with names similar to those prevalent now.

Early Indian music consisted of mainly natural notes with interpolations of two flat notes known as kakali nishad and antara gandhara. This evolved to a system of two basic scales: the main scale known as shadja grama and a harmonic scale known as madhyam grama. All treatises on Indian music referred to jatis (a composition or combination of aesthetically satisfying notes). The term is never fully explained. The text Brihadeshi by Matanga speaks of the grama raga, but this form is clearly different to what we understand by the term now.

Datilla's treatise Dattilam mentions musical practices, and the author in another work Raga Sagara describes ragas in poetical terms.

However, not till the Sangit Makaranda by Narada is there any mention of the recognizable raga form. The jati concept is absent, and the author has gone further, classifying ragas as being masculine, feminine and neutral, and associated with a particular time of day. There is however, no definition of raga, even though fifty-eight ragas are mentioned by name, fifteen of which (names) are still in use. This work has been variously dated between the seventh and eleventh centuries and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The thirteenth century work Sangita Ratnakar by Sharangdeva discusses music theory and the musical compositions and forms of the day. This work mentions two hundred and sixty four ragas, of which twenty are classified as main ragas. Sharangdeva advocated a scale of 19 notes - seven natural and twelve flat. Also, the idea of three octaves - the mandra, madhya and tar saptak.

Raga Tarangini, a fourteenth or fifteenth century work by Pandit Lochana reveals the abandonment of the jati and grama concepts. Herein is the first mention of the parent scales known as that-mela, and the process of transposing scales to produce melodic forms (ragas).

The authors Narada, Pundarika Vithala and Bhavabhatta have all sought to personify ragas through illustrations.

The Indian Classical Music is divided into:

Hindustani Music .................... Carnatic Music

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