Indian classical music

Indian classical music is the classical music of the Indian subcontinent.[1] It has two major traditions: the North Indian classical music tradition is called Hindustani, while the South Indian expression is called Carnatic.[2] These traditions were not distinct till about the 16th century. There on, during the turmoils of Islamic rule period of the Indian subcontinent, the traditions separated and evolved into distinct forms. Hindustani music emphasizes improvisation and exploring all aspects of a raga, while Carnatic performances tend to be short and composition-based.[2] However, the two systems continue to have more common features than differences.[3]

The roots of the classical music of India are found in the Vedic literature of Hinduism and the ancient Natyashastra, the classic Sanskrit text on performance arts by Bharata Muni.[4][5] The 13th century Sanskrit text Sangita-Ratnakara of Sarangadeva is regarded as the definitive text by both the Hindustani music and the Carnatic music traditions.[6][7]

Indian classical music has two foundational elements, raga and tala. The raga, based on swara (notes including microtones), forms the fabric of a melodic structure, while the tala measures the time cycle.[8] The raga gives an artist a palette to build the melody from sounds, while the tala provides them with a creative framework for rhythmic improvisation using time.[9][10][11] In Indian classical the space between the notes is often more important than the notes themselves, and it does not have Western classical concepts such as harmony, counterpoint, chords, or modulation.[12][13][14]

An Indian classical music performance.


The root of music in ancient India are found in the Vedic literature of Hinduism. The earliest Indian thought combined three arts, syllabic recital (vadya), melos (gita) and dance (nrtta).[15] As these fields developed, sangeeta became a distinct genre of art, in a form equivalent to contemporary music. This likely occurred before the time of Yāska (c. 500 BCE), since he includes these terms in his nirukta studies, one of the six Vedanga of ancient Indian tradition. Some of the ancient texts of Hinduism such as the Samaveda (c. 1000 BCE) are structured entirely to melodic themes,[16][17] it is sections of Rigveda set to music.[18]

The Samaveda is organized into two formats. One part is based on the musical meter, another by the aim of the rituals.[19] The text is written with embedded coding, where swaras (octave notes) are either shown above or within the text, or the verse is written into parvans (knot or member) in simple words this embedded code of swaras is like the skeleton of the song. The swaras have about 12 different forms and different combinations of these swaras are made to sit under the names of different ragas. The specific code of a song clearly tells us what combination of swaras are present in a specific song. The lyrical part of the song is called "sahityam" and sahityam is just like singing the swaras altogether but using the lyrics of the song. The code in the form of swaras have even the notation of which note to be sung high and which one low. The hymns of Samaveda contain melodic content, form, rhythm and metric organization.[19] This structure is, however, not unique or limited to Samaveda. The Rigveda embeds the musical meter too, without the kind of elaboration found in the Samaveda. For example, the Gayatri mantra contains three metric lines of exactly eight syllables, with an embedded ternary rhythm.[20]

Five Celestial Musicians LACMA AC1992.254.1-.5
Five Gandharvas (celestial musicians) from 4th–5th century CE, northwest South Asia, carrying the four types of musical instruments. Gandharvas are discussed in Vedic era literature.[21]

In the ancient traditions of Hinduism, two musical genre appeared, namely Gandharva (formal, composed, ceremonial music) and Gana (informal, improvised, entertainment music).[22] The Gandharva music also implied celestial, divine associations, while the Gana also implied singing.[22] The Vedic Sanskrit musical tradition had spread widely in the Indian subcontinent, and according to Rowell, the ancient Tamil classics make it "abundantly clear that a cultivated musical tradition existed in South India as early as the last few pre-Christian centuries".[23]

The classic Sanskrit text Natya Shastra is at the foundation of the numerous classical music and dance traditions of India. Before Natyashastra was finalized, the ancient Indian traditions had classified musical instruments into four groups based on their acoustic principle (how they work, rather than the material they are made of) for example flute which works with gracious in and out flow of air.[24] These four categories are accepted as given and are four separate chapters in the Natyashastra, one each on stringed instruments (chordophones), hollow instruments (aerophones), solid instruments (idiophones), and covered instruments (membranophones).[24] Of these, states Rowell, the idiophone in the form of "small bronze cymbals" were used for tala. Almost the entire chapter of Natyashastra on idiophones, by Bharata, is a theoretical treatise on the system of tala.[25] Time keeping with idiophones was considered a separate function than that of percussion (membranophones), in the early Indian thought on music theory.[25]

The early 13th century Sanskrit text Sangitaratnakara (literally, "Ocean of Music and Dance"), by Sarngadeva patronized by King Sighana of the Yadava dynasty in Maharashtra, mentions and discusses ragas and talas.[26] He identifies seven tala families, then subdivides them into rhythmic ratios, presenting a methodology for improvization and composition that continues to inspire modern era Indian musicians.[27] Sangitaratnakara is one of the most complete historic medieval era Hindu treatises on this subject that has survived into the modern era, that relates to the structure, technique and reasoning behind ragas and talas.[28][27]

The centrality and significance of music in ancient and early medieval India is also expressed in numerous temple and shrine reliefs, in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, such as through the carving of musicians with cymbals at the fifth century Pavaya temple sculpture near Gwalior,[29] and the Ellora Caves.[30][31]


The post-Vedic era historical literature relating to Indian classical music has been extensive. The ancient and medieval texts are primarily in Sanskrit (Hinduism), but major reviews of music theory, instruments and practice were also composed in regional languages such as Braj, Kannada, Odia, Pali (Buddhism), Prakrit (Jainism), Tamil and Telugu.[32] While numerous manuscripts have survived into the modern era, many original works on Indian music are believed to be lost, and are known to have existed only because they are quoted and discussed in other manuscripts on classical Indian music.[32][33] Many of the encyclopedic Puranas contain large chapters on music theory and instruments, such as the Bhagavata Purana, the Markandeya Purana, the Vayu Purana, the Linga Purana, and the Visnudharmottara Purana.[34][35][36]

The most cited and influential among these texts are the Sama Veda, Natya shastra (classic treatise on music theory, Gandharva), Dattilam, Brihaddesi (treatise on regional classical music forms), and Sangita Ratnakara (definitive text for Carnatic and Hindustani traditions).[6][32][37] Most historic music theory texts have been by Hindu scholars. Some classical music texts were also composed by Buddhists and Jain scholars, and in 16th century by Muslim scholars. These are listed in the attached table.

Major traditions

Indian classical music performances

Music ensemble of benares 1983 hp5 009
Tansen Samaroha cropped

The classical music tradition of the ancient and medieval Indian subcontinent (modern Bangladesh, India, Pakistan) were a generally integrated system through the 14th century, after which the socio-political turmoil of the Delhi Sultanate era isolated the north from the south. The music traditions of the North and South India were not considered distinct until about the 16th century, but after that the traditions acquired distinct forms.[2] North Indian classical music is called Hindustani, while the South Indian expression is called Carnatic (sometimes spelled as Karnatic). According to Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, the North Indian tradition acquired its modern form after the 14th or the 15th century.[41]

Indian classical music has historically adopted and evolved with many regional styles, such as the Bengali classical tradition. This openness to ideas led to assimilation of regional folk innovations, as well as influences that arrived from outside the subcontinent. For example, Hindustani music assimilated Arabian and Persian influences.[42] This assimilation of ideas was upon the ancient classical foundations such as raga, tala, matras as well as the musical instruments. For example, the Persian Rāk is probably a pronunciation of Raga. According to Hormoz Farhat, Rāk has no meaning in modern Persian language, and the concept of raga is unknown in Persia.[43]

Carnatic music

Purandara Dasa (1484 – 1564) was a Hindu composer and musicologist who lived in Hampi of the Vijayanagara Empire.[44][45] He is considered Pithamaha (literally, "grandfather") of the Carnatic music. Purandara Dasa was a monk and a devotee of the Hindu god Krishna (Vishnu, Vittal avatar).[44] He systematised classical Indian music theory and developed exercises for musicians to learn and perfect their art. He travelled widely sharing and teaching his ideas, and influenced numerous South Indian and Maharashtra Bhakti movement musicians.[46] These exercises, his teachings about raga, and his systematic methodology called Suladi Sapta Tala (literally, "primordial seven talas") remains in use in contemporary times.[45][47] The efforts of Purandara Dasa in the 16th century began the Carnatic style of Indian classical music.[46]

Saraswati is the goddess of music and knowledge in the Indian tradition.

Carnatic music, from South India, tends to be more rhythmically intensive and structured than Hindustani music. Examples of this are the logical classification of ragas into melakartas, and the use of fixed compositions similar to Western classical music. Carnatic raga elaborations are generally much faster in tempo and shorter than their equivalents in Hindustani music. In addition, accompanists have a much larger role in Carnatic concerts than in Hindustani concerts. Today's typical concert structure was put in place by the vocalist Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. The opening piece is called a varnam, and is a warm-up for the musicians. A devotion and a request for a blessing follows, then a series of interchanges between ragams (unmetered melody) and thaalams (the ornamentation, equivalent to the jor). This is intermixed with hymns called krithis. The pallavi or theme from the raga then follows. Carnatic pieces also have notated lyrical poems that are reproduced as such, possibly with embellishments and treatments according to the performer's ideology.

Primary themes include worship, descriptions of temples, philosophy, and nayaka-nayika (Sanskrit "hero-heroine") themes. Tyagaraja (1759–1847), Muthuswami Dikshitar (1776–1827) and Syama Sastri (1762–1827) have been the important historic scholars of Carnatic music. According to Eleanor Zelliot, Tyagaraja is known in the Carnatic tradition as one of its greatest composers, and he reverentially acknowledged the influence of Purandara Dasa.[46]

Hindustani music

Tansen of Gwalior. (11.8x6.7cm) Mughal. 1585-90. National Museum, New Delhi.
The 16th century musician Tansen, who about the age of 60 joined the Mughal Akbar court. For many Hindustani music gharanas (schools), he is their founder.

It is unclear when the process of differentiation of Hindustani music started. The process may have started in the 14th century courts of the Delhi Sultans. However, according to Jairazbhoy, the North Indian tradition likely acquired its modern form after the 14th or after the 15th century.[48] 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 with patronage of the Hindu king Ram Chand of Gwalior, and thereafter performed at the Muslim court of Akbar.[49][50] Many musicians consider Tansen as the founder of Hindustani music.[51]

Tansen's style and innovations inspired many, and many modern gharanas (Hindustani music teaching houses) link themselves to his lineage.[52] The Muslim courts discouraged Sanskrit, and encouraged technical music. Such constraints led Hindustani music to evolve in a different way than Carnatic music.[52][53]

Hindustani music style 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.[54] Dhrupad is ancient, Khyal evolved from it, Thumri evolved from Khyal.[55] There are three major schools of Thumri: Lucknow gharana, Banaras gharana and Punjabi gharana. These weave in folk music innovations.[54] Tappa is the most folksy, one which likely existed in Rajasthan and Punjab region before it was systematized and integrated into classical music structure. It became popular, with the Bengali musicians developing their own Tappa.[56]

Khyal is the modern form of Hindustani music, and the term literally means "imagination". It is significant because it was the template for Sufi musicians among the Islamic community of India, and Qawwals sang their folk songs in the Khyal format.[57]

Dhrupad (or Dhruvapad), the ancient form described in the Hindu text Natyashastra,[58] is one of the core forms of classical music found all over the Indian subcontinent. The word comes from Dhruva which means immovable and permanent.[59][55]

A Dhrupad has at least four stanzas, called Sthayi (or Asthayi), Antara, Sanchari and Abhoga. The Sthayi part is a melody that uses the middle octave's first tetrachord and the lower octave notes.[55] The Antara part uses the middle octave's second tetrachord and the higher octave notes.[55] The Sanchari part is the development phase, which builds using parts of Sthayi and Antara already played, and it uses melodic material built with all the three octave notes.[55] The Abhoga is the concluding section, that brings the listener back to the familiar starting point of Sthayi, albeit with rhythmic variations, with diminished notes like a gentle goodbye, that are ideally mathematical fractions such as dagun (half), tigun (third) or chaugun (fourth).[60] Sometimes a fifth stanza called Bhoga is included. Though usually related to philosophical or Bhakti (emotional devotion to a god or goddess) themes, some Dhrupads were composed to praise kings.[59][60]

Improvisation is of central importance to Hindustani music, and each gharana (school tradition) has developed its own techniques. At its core, it starts with a standard composition (bandish), then expands it in a process called vistar. The improvisation methods have ancient roots, and one of the more common techniques is called Alap, which is followed by the Jor and Jhala. The Alap explores possible tonal combinations among other things, Jor explores speed or tempo (faster), while Jhala explores complex combinations like a fishnet of strokes while keeping the beat patterns.[61] As with Carnatic music, Hindustani music has assimilated various folk tunes. For example, ragas such as Kafi and Jaijaiwanti are based on folk tunes.

Persian and Arab influences

Hindustani music has had Arab and Persian music influences, including the creation of new ragas and the development of instruments such as the sitar and sarod.[42] The nature of these influences are unclear. Scholars have attempted to study Arabic maqam (also spelled makam) of Arabian peninsula, Turkey and northern Africa, and dastgah of Iran, to discern the nature and extent.[62][63] Through the colonial era and until the 1960s, the attempt was to theoretically study ragas and maqams and suggested commonalities. Later comparative musicology studies, states Bruno Nettl – a professor of Music, have found the similarities between classical Indian music and European music as well, raising the question about the point of similarities and of departures between the different world music systems.[62][63]

One of the earliest known discussions of Persian maqam and Indian ragas is by the late 16th century scholar Pundarika Vittala. He states that Persian maqams in use in his times had been derived from older Indian ragas (or mela), and he specifically maps over a dozen maqam. For example, Vittala states that the Hijaz maqam was derived from the Asaveri raga, and Jangula was derived from the Bangal.[64][65] In 1941, Haidar Rizvi questioned this and stated that influence was in the other direction, Middle Eastern maqams were turned into Indian ragas, such as Zangulah maqam becoming Jangla raga.[66] According to John Baily – a professor of Ethnomusicology, there is evidence that the traffic of musical ideas were both ways, because Persian records confirm that Indian musicians were a part of the Qajar court in Tehran,[67] an interaction that continued through the 20th century with import of Indian musical instruments in cities such as Herat near Afghanistan-Iran border.[68]


Indian classical music performances

An Indian classical music performance
An Indian classical music, four persons

Classical Indian music is a genre of South Asian music, the other being film, various varieties of pop, regional folk, religious and devotional music.[1]

In Indian classical music, the raga and the tala are two foundational elements. The raga forms the fabric of a melodic structure, and the tala keeps the time cycle.[8] Both raga and tala are open frameworks for creativity and allow a very large number of possibilities, however, the tradition considers a few hundred ragas and talas as basic.[69] Raga is intimately related to tala or guidance about "division of time", with each unit called a matra (beat, and duration between beats).[70]


A raga is a central concept of Indian music, predominant in its expression. According to Walter Kaufmann, though a remarkable and prominent feature of Indian music, a definition of raga cannot be offered in one or two sentences.[71] Raga may be roughly described as a musical entity that includes note intonation, relative duration and order, in a manner similar to how words flexibly form phrases to create an atmosphere of expression.[72] In some cases, certain rules are considered obligatory, in others optional. The raga allows flexibility, where the artist may rely on simple expression, or may add ornamentations yet express the same essential message but evoke a different intensity of mood.[72]

A raga has a given set of notes, on a scale, ordered in melodies with musical motifs.[9] A musician playing a raga, states Bruno Nettl, may traditionally use just these notes, but is free to emphasize or improvise certain degrees of the scale.[9] The Indian tradition suggests a certain sequencing of how the musician moves from note to note for each raga, in order for the performance to create a rasa (mood, atmosphere, essence, inner feeling) that is unique to each raga. A raga can be written on a scale. Theoretically, thousands of raga are possible given 5 or more notes, but in practical use, the classical Indian tradition has refined and typically relies on several hundred.[9] For most artists, their basic perfected repertoire has some forty to fifty ragas.[73] Raga in Indian classical music is intimately related to tala or guidance about "division of time", with each unit called a matra (beat, and duration between beats).[70]


A raga is not a tune, because the same raga can yield a very large number of tunes.[74] A raga is not a scale, because many ragas can be based on the same scale.[74][75] A raga, states Bruno Nettl and other music scholars, is a concept similar to mode, something between the domains of tune and scale, and it is best conceptualized as a "unique array of melodic features, mapped to and organized for a unique aesthetic sentiment in the listener".[74] The goal of a raga and its artist is to create rasa (essence, feeling, atmosphere) with music, as classical Indian dance does with performance arts. In the Indian tradition, classical dances are performed with music set to various ragas.[76]


According to David Nelson – an Ethnomusicology scholar specializing in Carnatic music, a tala in Indian music covers "the whole subject of musical meter".[77] Indian music is composed and performed in a metrical framework, a structure of beats that is a tala. A tala measures musical time in Indian music. However, it does not imply a regular repeating accent pattern, instead its hierarchical arrangement depends on how the musical piece is supposed to be performed.[77]

The tala forms the metrical structure that repeats, in a cyclical harmony, from the start to end of any particular song or dance segment, making it conceptually analogous to meters in Western music.[77] However, talas have certain qualitative features that classical European musical meters do not. For example, some talas are much longer than any classical Western meter, such as a framework based on 29 beats whose cycle takes about 45 seconds to complete when performed. Another sophistication in talas is the lack of "strong, weak" beat composition typical of the traditional European meter. In classical Indian traditions, the tala is not restricted to permutations of strong and weak beats, but its flexibility permits the accent of a beat to be decided by the shape of musical phrase.[77]

The most widely used tala in the South Indian system is adi tala.[78] In the North Indian system, the most common tala is teental.[79] In the two major systems of classical Indian music, the first count of any tala is called sam.[79]


Musical instrument types mentioned in the Natyashastra.[80][24]


Instruments typically used in Hindustani music include the sitar, sarod, surbahar, esraj, veena, tanpura, bansuri, shehnai, sarangi, violin, santoor, pakhavaj and tabla. Instruments typically used in Carnatic music include veena, venu, gottuvadyam, harmonium, mridangam, kanjira, ghatam, nadaswaram and violin.

Players of the tabla, a type of drum, usually keep the rhythm, an indicator of time in Hindustani music. Another common instrument is the stringed tanpura, which is played at a steady tone (a drone) throughout the performance of the raga, and which provides both a point of reference for the musician and a background against which the music stands out. The tuning of the tanpura depends on the raga being performed.The task of playing the tanpura traditionally falls to a student of the soloist. Other instruments for accompaniment include the sarangi and the harmonium.

Notation system

Indian classical music is both elaborate and expressive. Like Western classical music, it divides the octave into 12 semitones of which the 7 basic notes are, in ascending tonal order, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni for Hindustani music and Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni for Carnatic music, similar to Western music's Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti . However, Indian music uses just-intonation tuning, unlike some modern Western classical music, which uses the equal-temperament tuning system. Also, unlike modern Western classical music, Indian classical music places great emphasis on improvisation.

The underlying scale may have four, five, six or seven tones, called swaras (sometimes spelled as svaras). The svara concept is found in the ancient Natya Shastra in Chapter 28. It calls the unit of tonal measurement or audible unit as Śruti,[81] with verse 28.21 introducing the musical scale as follows,[82]

तत्र स्वराः –
षड्‍जश्‍च ऋषभश्‍चैव गान्धारो मध्यमस्तथा ।
पञ्‍चमो धैवतश्‍चैव सप्तमोऽथ निषादवान् ॥ २१॥

— Natya Shastra, 28.21[83][84]

These seven degrees are shared by both major raga systems, that is the North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic) systems.[85] The solfege (sargam) is learnt in abbreviated form: sa, ri (Carnatic) or re (Hindustani), ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, sa. Of these, the first that is "sa", and the fifth that is "pa", are considered anchors that are unalterable, while the remaining have flavors that differs between the two major systems.[85]

Contemporary Indian music schools follow notations and classifications (see melakarta and thaat). These are generally based on a flawed but still useful notation system created by Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande.

Reception outside India

According to Yukteshwar Kumar, elements of Indian music arrived in China in the 3rd century, such as in the works of Chinese lyrist Li Yannian.[86]


A few of the organizations that promote classical music include Saptak, Sangeet Sankalp established in 1989.[87][88] SPIC MACAY, established in 1977, has more than 500 chapters in India and abroad. SPIC MACAY claims to hold around 5000 events every year related to Indian classical music and dance.[89]

Music Academy Madras' Sangeetha Kalanidhi Award is a well regarded award.

See also


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  4. ^ Rowell 2015, p. 9–10, 59–61.
  5. ^ Beck 2012, pp. 107–108, Quote: "The tradition of Indian classical music and dance known as Sangita is fundamentally rooted in the sonic and musical dimensions of the Vedas (Sama veda), Upanishads and the Agamas, such that Indian music has been nearly always religious in character".
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External links


Arohana, Arohanam or Aroha, in the context of Indian classical music, is the ascending scale of notes in a raga. The pitch increases as we go up from Shadja (Sa) to the Taar Shadja (Sa), possibly in a crooked (vakra) manner.


An Avarohana, Avarohanam or Avaroha, in the context of Indian classical music, is the descending scale of any raga. The notes descend in pitch from the upper tonic (taar shadja or Sa) down to the lower tonic, possibly in a crooked (vakra) manner.


Gandharva is a name used for distinct heavenly beings in Hinduism and Buddhism; it is also a term for skilled singers in Indian classical music.

Grace note

A grace note is a kind of music notation denoting several kinds of musical ornaments. It is usually printed smaller to indicate that it is melodically and harmonically nonessential. When occurring by itself, a single grace note normally indicates the intention of an acciaccatura. When they occur in groups, grace notes can be interpreted to indicate any of several different classes of ornamentation, depending on interpretation.


Hanumatodi, more popularly known as Todi, (pronounced hanumatōdi and tōdi) is a rāgam in Carnatic music (musical scale of South Indian classical music). It is the 8th melakarta rāgam (parent scale) in the 72 melakarta rāgam system. This is sung very often in concerts. It is known to be a difficult rāgam to perform in owing to its complexity in prayoga (phrases of notes and intonation). It is called Janatodi in Muthuswami Dikshitar school of Carnatic music.Todi in Carnatic music, is different from Todi (thaat) of Hindustani music (North Indian classical music). The equivalent of the Hindustani raga Todi in Carnatic music is Shubhapantuvarali (which is the 45th melakarta). The equivalent of Carnatic Todi in Hindustani is Bhairavi thaat.

Hindustani classical music

Hindustani classical music ([hin̪d̪us̪t̪ɑːn̪i]) is the traditional music of northern regions of the Indian subcontinent. It may also be called North Indian classical music or Śāstriya Saṅgīt. Its origins date from the 12th century CE, when it diverged from Carnatic music, the classical tradition of southern regions of the Indian subcontinent.

Hindustani classical music has strongly influenced Indonesian classical music and Dangdut popular music, especially in instrumentation, melody, and beat. Besides vocal music, which is considered to be of primary importance, its main instruments are the sitar and sarod. Classical music can be divided into melody and rhythm; there is no concept of harmony.


A jugalbandi or jugalbandhi (Kannada: ಜುಗಲ್‌ಬಂದಿ, Devanagari: जुगलबंदी, Urdu: جگلبندئ‍, Bengali: যুগলবন্ধী) is a performance in Indian classical music, especially in Hindustani classical music, but also in Carnatic that features a duet of two solo musicians. The word jugalbandi means, literally, "entwined twins." The duet can be either vocal or instrumental.

Often, the musicians will play different instruments, as for example the famous duets between sitarist Ravi Shankar and sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, who played the format since the 1940s. More rarely, the musicians (either vocalists or instrumentalists) may be from different traditions (i.e. Carnatic and Hindustani). What defines jugalbandi is that the two soloists be on an equal footing. While any Indian music performance may feature two musicians, a performance can only be deemed a jugalbandi if neither is clearly the soloist and nor clearly the accompanist. In jugalbandi, both musicians act as lead players, and a playful competition exists between the two performers.


The kanjira, khanjira, khanjiri or ganjira, a South Indian frame drum, is an instrument of the tambourine family. As a folk and bhajan instrument, it has been used in India for many centuries. It was modified to a frame drum with a single pair of jingles by Manpoondia Pillai in the 1880s, who is credited with bringing the instrument to the classical stage. It is used primarily in concerts of Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) as a supporting instrument for the mridangam.


Khyal or Khayal is the modern genre of Hindustani classical music from the Indian subcontinent. Its name comes from an Arabic word meaning "imagination". It is thought to have developed out of Dhrupad introducing frequent taans and alankars in it. It appeared more recently than Dhrupad, is a more free and flexible form, and it provides greater scope for improvisation. Like all Indian classical music, khyal is modal, with a single melodic line and no harmonic parts. The modes are called raga, and each raga is a complicated framework of melodic rules.

List of Indian classical music festivals

The following is an incomplete list of Indian classical music festivals, which encapsulates music festivals focused on Indian classical music. The origins of Indian classical music can be found in the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures in the Hindu tradition dating back to 1500 BC. Indian classical music has also been significantly influenced by, or syncretised with, Indian folk music. There are two divisions in Indian classical music. Hindustani music is mainly found in North India. Carnatic music, from South India, tends to be more rhythmically intensive and structured than Hindustani music. While some festivals such as the Carnatic event Tyagaraja Aradhana (founded in the 1840s) continue to focus on traditional Carnatic classical music, an emergent trend of the past few decades has been that of fusion music, where genres such as khyal and western music are intermixed to appeal to a wider audience.


Pharaju is a Janya rāgam in Carnatic music, a musical scale of South Indian classical music.


The Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY) is a voluntary youth movement which promotes intangible aspects of Indian cultural heritage by promoting Indian classical music, classical dance, folk music, yoga, meditation, crafts and other aspects of Indian culture; it is a movement with chapters in over 300 towns all over the world. SPIC MACAY was established by Dr. Kiran Seth in 1977 at IIT Delhi.


Svara or swara is a Sanskrit word that connotes a note in the successive steps of the octave. More comprehensively, it is the ancient Indian concept about the complete dimension of musical pitch.The swara differs from the shruti concept in Indian music. A shruti is the smallest gradation of pitch that a human ear can detect and a singer or instrument can produce. A swara is the selected pitches from which the musician constructs the scales, melodies and ragas. The ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra identifies and discusses twenty two shruti and seven swara. The swara studies in ancient Sanskrit texts include the musical gamut and its tuning, categories of melodic models and the raga compositions.The seven notes of the musical scale in Indian classical music are shadja (षड्ज), rishabha (ऋषभ), gandhara (गान्धार), madhyama (मध्यम), panchama (पञ्चम), dhaivata (धैवत) and nishada (निषाद). These seven swaras are shortened to Sa, Ri (Carnatic) or Re (Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. Collectively these notes are known as the sargam (the word is an acronym of the consonants of the first four swaras). Sargam is the Indian equivalent to solfege, a technique for the teaching of sight-singing. The tone Sa is, as in Western moveable-Do solfège, the tonic of a piece or scale.


Swaralipi (Akar Matrik Swaralipi Bengali: স্বরলিপি বা আকারমাত্রিক স্বরলিপি) is any system used in sheet music in order to represent aurally perceived music through the use of written notes for Indian classical music.

Tala (music)

A Tala (IAST tāla), sometimes spelled Taal or Tal, literally means a "clap, tapping one's hand on one's arm, a musical measure". It is the term used in Indian classical music to refer to musical meter, that is any rhythmic beat or strike that measures musical time. The measure is typically established by hand clapping, waving, touching fingers on thigh or the other hand, verbally, striking of small cymbals, or a percussion instrument in the Indian subcontinental traditions. Along with raga which forms the fabric of a melodic structure, the tala forms the life cycle and thereby constitutes one of the two foundational elements of Indian music.Tala is an ancient music concept traceable to Vedic era texts of Hinduism, such as the Samaveda and methods for singing the Vedic hymns. The music traditions of the North and South India, particularly the raga and tala systems, were not considered as distinct till about the 16th century. There on, during the tumultuous period of Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent, the traditions separated and evolved into distinct forms. The tala system of the north is called Hindustani, while the south is called Carnatic. However, the tala system between them continues to have more common features than differences.Tala in the Indian tradition embraces the time dimension of music, the means by which musical rhythm and form were guided and expressed. While a tala carries the musical meter, it does not necessarily imply a regularly recurring pattern. In the major classical Indian music traditions, the beats are hierarchically arranged based on how the music piece is to be performed. The most widely used tala in the South Indian system is adi tala. In the North Indian system, the most common tala is teental.Tala has other contextual meanings in ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. For example, it means trochee in Sanskrit prosody.


A thaat (IAST: thāṭ) is a "Parent scale" in North Indian or Hindustani music. The concept of the thaat is not exactly equivalent to the western musical scale because the primary function of a thaat is not as a tool for music composition, but rather as a basis for classification of ragas. There isn't necessarily strict compliance between a raga and its parent thaat; a raga said to 'belong' to a certain thaat need not allow all the notes of the thaat, and might allow other notes. Thaats are generally accepted to be heptatonic by definition.

The term thaat is also used to refer to the frets of stringed instruments like the sitar and the veena. It is also used to denote the posture adopted by a Kathak dancer at the beginning of his or her performance.


Thumrī is a common genre of semi-classical Indian music. The term "thumri" is derived from the Hindi verb thumakna, which means "to walk with dancing steps so as to make the ankle-bells tinkle." The form is, thus, connected with dance, dramatic gestures, mild eroticism, evocative love poetry and folk songs of Uttar Pradesh, though there are regional variations.The text is romantic or devotional in nature, the lyrics are usually in Uttar Pradesh dialects of Hindi called Awadhi and Brij Bhasha. Thumri is characterized by its sensuality, and by a greater flexibility with the raag.

Thumrī is also used as a generic name for some other, even lighter, forms such as Dadra, Hori, Kajari, Saavan, Jhoola, and Chaiti, even though each of them has its own structure and content — either lyrical or musical or both — and so the exposition of these forms vary. Like Indian classical music itself, some of these forms have their origin in folk literature and music..


Tilang is a raga in Indian classical music, that belongs to the Khamaj Thaat.

Vadi (music)

Vadi, in both Hindustani classical music and Carnatic music, is the tonic (root) swara (musical note) of a given raga (musical scale). "Vadi is the most sonant or most important note of a Raga." It does not refer to the most played note but it rather refers to a note of special significance.

It is usually the swara which is repeated the greatest number of times, and often it is the swara on which the singer can pause for a significant time. Vadi swara in a raga is like a king in a kingdom. Specialty of any raga depends on vadi swara and because of this, the vadi swara is also called the Jeeva swara or the Ansha swara. A good artist uses vadi swara in different ways like singing vadi swara again and again, starting a raga with vadi swara, to end a raga with vadi swara, singing vadi swara many times in important places with different swaras or sometime singing vadi swara for a longer time in one breath.

Vadi swara is also helpful to identify the appropriate time for singing or playing a raga. If the vadi swara of a raga is from the purvanga part of the saptak i.e. “Sa Re Ga Ma”, then it is called purvanga vadi raga and usually the time for singing or playing purvanga vadi ragas is from 12 pm to 12 am. For example, ragas like Bhimpalasi, Pilu, Purvi, Marwa, Yaman, Bhoopali, and Bageshree etc. have purvanga vadi swara and so the time for singing and playing these ragas is between 12 pm to 12 am.

In the same way, if the vadi swara of a raga is from the utranga part of the saptak i.e. “Pa Dha Ni” then it is classed as a utranga vadi raga and the time for singing or playing utranga vadi ragas is from 12 am to 12 pm. For example ragas like Bhairav, Bhairavi, Bilawal, Kalingada, Sohini, and Asavari etc. have utranga vadi swara and so the time for singing or playing these ragas is between 12 am to 12 pm.

Vadi swara, along with the Samvadi swara of a raga, usually brings out the uniqueness of the raga and its bhava (mood) and rasa (emotion).

Music of India
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, c. 1735 (Rajasthan)


Media and performance
Music awards
Music festivals
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthemJana Gana Mana
Regional music
Classical Indian music texts[32]
Title Author Century Religion Notability[32]
Samaveda Unknown c. 1000 BCE Hinduism Scripture set to music
Natyasastra Bharata Muni c. 200 BCE-200 CE Hinduism Oldest surviving complete Hindu text on music theory and performance arts
(Lost texts) Vishakhila, Sardula, Visnudharmottara c. 300–500 CE Hinduism Cited by medieval authors
(Lost text) Rahul c. 5th century CE Buddhism Cited by medieval authors
Brihaddesi Matanga c. 800–900 CE Hinduism Survives in parts, theory of regional music forms (entertainment), Murchana system
Abhinavabharati Abhinavagupta c. 900–1000 CE Hinduism Theory of rasa[38]
Sarasvati Hridyalankara Nanyadeva c. 1080 CE Hinduism Music theory,
appendix on Natyashastra bhasya
Sangita Sudhakara Haripala c. 1175 CE Hinduism
Abhilasitartha Cintamani Somesvara c. 12th century CE Hinduism Survives in parts,
Murchana system, ragas
Sangita Ratnavali Somabhupala c. 1180 CE Hinduism
Sangita Samayasara Parsvadeva c. 1200 CE Hinduism Theory of gamakas
Sangita Ratnakara Sarngadeva c. 1230 CE Hinduism Systematizes raga, prakirnaka, prabandha, tala, vadya and nritya;[39]
Definitive text to Carnatic and Hindustani classical music
Sringarahara Raja Sakambhari c. 1300 CE Hinduism Directory of ancient ragas, 89 derivative ragas and 120 talas
Rasatatvasamuccaya Allaraja c. 1300 CE Hinduism Four chapters to classical music
Sangitopanisadasara Suddhakalasa c. 1350 CE Jainism Music theory, includes rare talas
Balabodhan unknown c. 1350 CE Hinduism Review and quotes music texts believed to be lost
Visvapradip Bhuvanananda c. 1350 CE Hinduism A major review on raga, tala, musical instruments
Sangitacandra Allaraja c. 14th century CE Hinduism Commented by 17th century Nepalese king Jyotirmal
Sangita Dipika Madhava Bhatta c. 1400 CE Hinduism Raga-ragini system
Sangita Raj Kumbhakarna c. 1449 CE Hinduism A review
Svaramelakalanidhi Ramamatya c. 16th century CE Hinduism Carnatic music, mela system
Raga Mala,
Raga Manjari,
Sadraga Candrodaya
Pundarika Vittala c. 16th century CE Hinduism Carnatic music, mentions Persian maqam
Lahjat-i Sikandar Shahi Umar Sama Yahya c. 16th century CE Islam Hindustani music, includes a review of Natya Shastra and Sangita Ratnakara[40]
Rasakaumudi Srikantha c. 16th century CE Jainism A review of music systems
Sangita Sudha Raghunatha Thanjavur c. 1620 CE Hinduism Carnatic, Three languages, musical instruments, 264 ragas, 50 popular ragas
Sangita Cudamani Govinda c. 1680 CE Hinduism Carnatic, 72 melakartas, musical instruments innovations
Hindustani classical music
Semi-classical music
Indian folk music
Indian Light Music
Maharashtra music
Wind (Sushir)
Plucked Stringed (Tat)
Bowed Stringed (Vitat)
Membranous Percussion (Avanaddh)
Non-Membranous Percussion (Ghan)

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