The past 3 years of NDA government has left many Hindus feeling ambivalent about party politics. After all, for all the fanfare and rhetoric, there has been little dramatic change on the ground. Sure, there has been drastic policy pushed, but how much has it been in the Hindu interest? Demonetisation was hardly a priority, whatever black money fighting slogans were touted (and cashless society has been advocated for around the world with many advising against it).
As usual, our Internet Hindus miss the Woods for the Trees, and fail to factor in the background macro-politics that influence national politics the world over. Contrary to the narrative of Narasimha Rao or alternatively Manmohan Singh being the Father of Economic Reforms, the reality is that the Balance of Payments crisis led to a vulnerable India accepting pressures from “the International Community” (whatever that means…) to liberalise its economy. What has been the effect of this? Yes, malls and growth in retail consumption and satellite TV, but also NDTV and a host of other nominally national but phoreign owned economic realities, and ultimately political realities. That is the whole point of ‘Breaking India’. Indians need to understand that simply studying party politics or foreign-sponsored history textbooks or foreign doctored historical sources will not tell us the whole story. Critical thinking and following the money trail is required to understand exactly who is pro-Indic and who is not.
That is why it is so ironic to see the same sanctimonious voices, making pretence to incorruptibility, equate Modi with Mamta. Seriously? TMC=BJP? I mean, really, it takes either a special kind of stupidity (or a behind the scenes complicity) to cause so-called “scholars” to mislead gullible internet hindus into believing such false equivalency. Any criticism of their positions immediately leads to echo-chamber tactics (followed by cowardly blocks) or generally labeling of people as “Right wing” or “RSS” or “mercantile”. But what of those who reject both Right wing and Left wing politics as mirror images of each other, and what of those who prefer decentralised Dharma to “hindutva”? Such uncomfortable realities can’t be acknowledged by those with private agendas. After all, if “all parties are same”, what objection is there to this?
The reality, there is a concerted effort to reconstitute Socialist/Communist politics not under the unpopular Marxist/Communist label, but under the “Hindu Left” label. A methodical approach of first appearing to stand up for the Hindu cause…through needed documentation of Human Rights violations of Hindus…followed by deconstruction of various Indian Independence Movement Figures…to reasserting the contributions of Subhas Chandra Bose…
…before ultimately using that legacy to call for a “Revolutionary” model for Hindus. How Revolutionary! Recreate the RW-LW false dichotomy by recasting them as Hindu Right vs Hindu Left.
But Dharma being their glaring weakness, they ignore the reality that the Hindu Left (as well as the Hindu Right) is oxymoronic. There is no Hindu Right or Hindu Left because Hindu isn’t even our word—Dharma is. And Dharma transcends such simplistic notions by asserting adaptability to the times not through contradictory L/R forces, but through Saamaanya Dharma, Sanatana Dharma and Yuga Dharma. Dharma may need to be updated for the times, but there is no “Dharmic left” and Dharmic right. There is only the Dharma for the times.
The RW-LW binary is product of liberal politics dating to the French Revolution (a notably ‘peaceful’ and non-tyrannical transition overthrowing aristocratic elites our temperamental triad wishes to recreate…). But before ye unwashed masses sharpen your guillotines, perhaps a deconstruction of our deconstructors is in order.
Revolution is a severe danger to any society.The irony of these recalcitrant Revolutionaries is they forget the very meaning of a “revolution”—you end up exactly where you start—crisis. Rather than circle around 360 degrees, the question before us involves understanding not only who we were and who we want to be, but what genuinely faces us today. Micro-brained micro-specialists who don’t understand the inter-disciplinary relationships between not only politics and history and culture, but even those between politico-strategic and economic/financial domains, really have no business making pretence to leadership—especially given their own poor leadership abilities and self-proclaimed dearth of serious solutions.
Further, had these one-note nincompoops come out of their echo-chambers and set aside their kupamanduka literature for a second, they would understand the danger of factions and of revolution itself.
There are major issues facing Indian society in general but Hindu society in particular.Despite the rank denialism and the obvious hypocrisy of political operators, casteism still exists particularly in the intellectual domain (only recast under the mantle of IQ theories, genetics, and AIT). Pure traditionalism instinctively will alienate large sections of the Hindu population, and with good reason. What stake would the masses have in simply reviving the past? Scheduled Castes clearly have cause to pause. At the same time, continuing to map the Indian polity onto a western blueprint of Right and Left, is a bait-and-switch obvious to all but the most buffoonish.
Citation of the historic American “Left” ignores the reality that the modern Democratic party is itself fielding overt Socialists in its primaries. But before Bernie bros get too excited, the hypocrisy of socialism was unveiled by their hero yet again.
The reality is, both the Left and the Right wings need each other to demonise all while continuing to exploit the unsuspecting masses. Both communists and capitalists thrive while accusing each other of being the devil—what happens when both are? What happens when socialism is merely a means to an end?
What if the laundry list of ideologies that are touted in the “intellectual marketplace” are virtually all intellectually bankrupt . It is why traditional thinkers reject ideology itself, favouring philosophy, and especially, political philosophy.
Let me be perfectly clear:dignity of labour & entrepreneurial spirit should be protected. Neither workers nor honest businesspeople are the enemy. Unlike the neo-Leninists hell-bent on demonising an entire varna, those with a modicum of foresight know that in a country where Brahmins are so openly demonised by the media, any such “leftist revolution” will ultimately target the “clericals”. After all, following the political revolution is the cultural revolution—why would the traditional custodians of culture escape unscathed?
Once the financial “bania” are dealt with, what’s to stop those ‘Revolutionary’ attacks on the other half of the B-B party? What of the traditional brahmin?
This is the danger not only of casteism, but selective vilification, rather than society-wide introspection. Those who promote such selective thinking should be ashamed of themselves, and not only lack the moral integrity to lead, but despite their jstor driven twitter rantings, the intellectual heft to lead society. The less said about publications that persist to publish such petulant drivel the better. Those who prioritise daily hits and traffic over journalistic ethics and the ramifications of a varna-based witch hunt would do well to remember exactly why Kashmiri Pandits were targeted with such ferocity in the first place. A community that preserves not only the historical memory but also the living culture of their region and civilization is an impediment to any cultural revolution, be it for desert-based or Leftist-based ideologies.
Further, if one were to do an honest accounting of all the collaborators (better termed ‘cooperators’), why stop only with the mercantile or even feudal? How many clericals and ministerials collaborated to bring down their legitimate ruler for personal gain or worked for foreign occupier governments? The name Purniahitself should ring a bell and put to pause such increasingly caste-motivated attacks. The fact is, traitors and patriots can be found in all communities.
Puerile notions of “perpetual revolution” ignore the fact that most individuals are neither traitors nor self-sacrificing patriots, but are in the middle. They simply want to live in peace and live out their lives as comfortably as they can. They will rise up if there is sufficient cause or possibility of success, or they will find ways to accommodate a foreign power when facing total destruction. Hindsight is 20-20 and so is passing judgment on entire communities. Dushtamatyas perennially quoting Kalhana would do well to remember his view of them.
The reality is neither hypocritical traditionalism nor left or right-ism are the way forward. India has its own political philosophies. There are conservative elements and free-thinking elements in any society, but constructing a polity around such binary-thinking is beyond idiotic. Thousands of years ago, Acharya Kautilya clearly enunciated the 3 purposes of government (not 2):
Raksha, Palana, Yogakshema.
Any real Hindu society must bear these 3 directives in mind. Raksha is protection from external threat, Palana is internal law & order, and Yogakshema looks at citizen well-being.
A simplistic L/R false dichotomy is for the simple-minded, geared toward falsehood. Ironically, the only dichotomy that doesn’t matter for this bunch is dharma vs adharma. That is why rather than import obsolete, un-Indian thinking—rather than trying to appropriateShivaji and Banda Bahadur into some inapplicable “Hindu/Indic Left”—let us recognise what they actually stood for: Rajadharma.
Rajdharma and even Svarajya can take different forms: whether is a ganarajya or samrajya, government should be premised on Dharma, not Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The Left’s concern for the peasantry is automatically covered by Yogakshema (welfare of citizens) and the putative right’s concerns covered by Palana (law and order) and Raksha common to both (though the Communist Party (Marxist) shows ideology comes first here too). The question is of balance, with Dharma as the ultimate guide. Here merely spouting off citations of Dharmasastra alone will not do, nor will pompous proclamations by ardha-purushas of “Purandara wreaking havoc on the Dasyu”.
One must take the precedents provided by real Acharyas such as Apastamba and Kautilya and Dharma Svarupa’s such as Rama and Krishna and apply them to the present context. That is the limitation of rote-memorisation and read-and-regurgitation. It doesn’t teach application. There is a difference between critical thinkingand critical theory, and the sooner some ideologues understand it the better. Critical theory is another asuric construction coming out of the intellectual cul-de-sac of Marxist thought. But critical thinking is an highly necessary, and dare I say, critical skill set in this era of pervasive untruth.
Make no mistake: the Hindu Left is a too-clever by half rebranding effort by half-wits at reconstituting the Left’s ideological moorings within the Hindu body politic. But Hindu Right (Hindutva) and Hindu Left (pseudo-intellectual pinhead rantings) are both ideologies commanding centralised unthinking obedience rather than positing contextual cultural ethics. After all, both Nagpur and Naxalbari have rightly come under criticism for hypocrisy—not only for their self-serving interpretations of culture and history, but also for the casteist natures of their respective leaderships.
Varnashrama Dharma (whatever its demerits and merits) has always posited a decentralised body politic—and with good reason. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The religio-cultural and politico-strategicmust work together, but must also be divided among different classes. Philosopher-kings are well and good as are Vedic-warriors, but constructing a new “Hindu Papacy” or “Hindu Politburo” is not in the interests of real Hindus—and neither is a Hindu Right or Hindu Left.
Open attempts are made to caste (spelling intentional) only the “mercantiles” as the main collaborators of foreign rule (as though feudals and clericals did not have a hand). But who exactly is a mercantile? True to the politics of Animal Farm, apparently even some mathas are more mercantile than others (only the ‘intellectually superior’ politburo will decide!)
Be it Animals or Humans, the Chinese know no mercy so this is how a Communist State Operate sans freedom. Now u'll understand democracy.
Unlike our Revolutionary Triumvirate, however, the author of the article actually had the intelligence and common sense to offer a number of small local solutions as well. It is easy to dismantle any structure—until you have to answer what the alternative is. That article, on the other hand, also did a fine job of identifying a few of the macro-political forces that make it difficult for any government, let alone politician, to enact national wide civilizational change. In an era of fibre-optics, satellite tv, and quantum computing, foreign influence is even greater than the days of Shivaji. Those proffering simplistic courses of action are proving just how simple-minded they really are.
In fact, in perpetual over-compensation regarding “Bong jokes”, they ignore criticism of Bengal courtesy of a son of the Soil. What will they say of this?
What’s more, this self-touted mod squad of manic-depressives will quickly go mute when asked who financed the Russian Revolution to begin with? After all, it is ok if petty traders are packed off to the gallows held by proletariat courts, but international financiers and big business must escape scrutiny.
Anyone disagreeing with them is touted “conspiracy theorist”, “misogynist” and a laundry list of other totalitarian touted labels meant to muzzle dissent. Anyone with a sound understand of international politics would quickly recognise the widespread influence of Big Business and Multinational Corporations in politics. Why is the petty Hindu trader being branded as a “mercantile traitor”? And is the poor Hindu priest next on the agenda when the political revolution is followed by a cultural revolution? Right-thinking Hindus would be right to ask.
Right-thinking Hindus would also do well to reject both the “Hindu right” and proposed “Hindu Left” as obvious Oxymorons pushed by Morons. Right-thinking Hindus, better termed Sensible Hindus, are aware that our native civilizational tradition is not ideological but philosophical in nature. Any theory of the Hindu Left will only seek to digest Hinduism into the same memetic pattern of “revolution“, “socialism”, “brotherhood”, and a laundry list of other code words and memes meant to spark general overthrow of traditional values.
If the politburo brooks no dissent, what protection for diversity?
Whatever Bose’s contributions to the freedom movement, his Socialist Authoritarian “Revolutionary” model would have been an utter disaster for India’s traditional culture. Casteism and ill-treatment of women must be condemned.But this must be done within Dharma rather than through importation and injection of a foreign ideology within Hindu Society’s polity.
There are indeed serious issues facing Hindus from Jammu & Kashmir down to Kerala, and from Alwar to Assam:Demographic aggression, RTE driven destruction of Hindu schools, Temple ownership, Safety of Women, stifled entrepreneurship, growing unemployment, declining privacy, and colonial legacy within the armed forces, all number in the expanding list of concerns that Hindu society has. But is the silver bullet to all our problems to chase after some hare-brained, ill-defined “Revolutionary” approach that doesn’t even have the courage to posit solutions to our political problems?
Socialist authoritarianism and national socialism are not the answers. Hindu society rejects leftism and fascism, because Dharma is our guide, not Marxism rebranded by “Marxians”. For those who wish to replace Kautilya Vishnugupta with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, let us get one thing straight: only the only actual Indian in this list touted a system of political philosophy that actually worked. Marx on the other hand depended on handouts from Engels for most of his life and was a career failure.
Even his understanding of economics was poor, with Engels preferring to call him a “philosopher”. But the truth is, he wasn’t even really that. He was an ideologue posing as a philosopher who created the literary agit-prop in plainspeak for peasants to spark the bloodiest political movements in the history of man. For advocates of a “Hindu Left”, here is the death toll of Socialism.
Marx’s only value is in his critique of Capitalism.Capitalism itself is a questionable system as we have previously written, because it only prioritises 1 factor of production—capital (ignoring the other 3: entrepreneurship, land, and labour). Communism does the same, prioritising only labour instead. But the truth is, for a functioning economy, all four are required. A student of Hegel, Marx was no stranger to the Hegelian dialectic. Between Capitalism and Communism is “Socialism”.
Socialist revolutionaries are merely a halfway house to outright communism. Whatever the marxian mod squad’s artificial “critiques” of communist totalitarianism, their artifice is not as skilled as they would believe.
Gandhi’s questionable legacy deserves (dharmic) deconstruction, Indian Independence figures from Nehru to Patel all deserve fresh (dharmic) reevaluation, the jarring history of Jagat Seths deserves honest (dharmic) documentation, but Bose is not beyond critique. Shivaji and Banda Bahadur Singh are not figures of some imaginary “Hindu Left”. Both practiced Kshatriya Dharma, and reorganised society in accordance with the needs of Dharma.
Like a vampire squidseeking to attach itself to Sanatana Dharma, the “Hindu Left”/Marxians are merely a political parasitism seeking to reinvent the dying Indian left through some half-hearted appeal to the Hindu Right. I mean for God’s sake, Mamta is the same as Modi? Sensational news items and terrible crimes exist in any state or society, but the question is one of scale. Can any serious and honest person actually believe that both the border states of Gujarat and West Bengal are as bad for Hindus? Is the level of women’s safety at all the same?
False equivalency, agit-prop, echo-chamber tactics, and sophistry are all tools used by politburo tools. Academics and “intellectuals” are themselves often pens-for-hire on the payrolls of their political handlers. Anti-semitism does deserve condemnation, but can such figures who showcase Hindus for the sake of foreign audiences be trusted to safeguard Hindu interests?
Can scatter-brained, regurgitators be competent to provide Hindu leadership?
Glib bromides, census analysis, and twitter outrage are all easy. But actual competent and strategic leadership is hard. The reality is, if Hindus have become cynics, it’s because politics itself is so cynical—and social media is no exception.
Rather than simply running after what appears seemingly popular, it is high time Internet Hindus use their common sense and stop being so gullible. Reject this nonsense and the nonsensical poseurs reinventing and reimposing socialist/leftist theories. Both the RW and LW (Hindu Left or otherwise) are mimic men. They recreate the foreign within the domestic, that is why they don’t develop Dharma or a proper Dharma Paksha.
Make no mistake: India is the Land of Dharma. The Dharma of Sri Krishna, Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Banda Bahadur Singh ji is what drives our political philosophy. Not some failed ideology of some failed newspaper editor of some increasingly flailing civilization.
The ‘Hindu Left’ is an oxymoron pushed by morons. Right thinking Hindus would do well to reject it and them.
Please learn the difference between leftism/statism and class-free socialism. They are TOTALLY DIFFERENT. pic.twitter.com/mk9vJcCXre
“The Economist weekly, in a 2013 article titled “Can India Become a Great Power”, seemed to put its finger on the reason: “India has the world’s 4th largest military,” it said, “and yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed.” Warning India against “an unstable but dangerous Pakistan and a swaggering and intimidating China“, it observed: “The absence of a strategic culture and the distrust between civilian-run ministries and the armed forces has undermined military effectiveness.”
This quote relies on a famous critique of India by Rand in the early 90s. While it is historically inaccurate, it nevertheless has a large kernel of truth in the present era.
The root of this lies in all theory-but-little-practice armchair chanakyas who over-emphasise the venerable Acharya Chanakya. Pure strategy in fact does not begin with his Arthasastra, but with Lord Krishna and Krishna Niti. This is because strategy is directly (not indirectly) connected with on the ground operations (institutional, military, covert, or overt). If you don’t have “skin in the game”, if you don’t have a track record of competence, you don’t count. The “Intellectual Yet Idiot” has no accountability if his theory fails. The general, the political leader, or executive does. It’s his neck that’s on the line.
Arthasastra is absolutely a foundational text on Indic Statecraft, and it is not that Strategy didn’t exist in it in some form. But Statecraft isn’t Strategy, and certainly not Pure Strategy. If Politics translates to Rajaniti, then Statecraft is connected to Arthasastra, because Arthasastra, like Soopa Sastra, means more than the literal translation. Arthasastra is translated as Science of Wealth but it is fundamentally a work of Political Economy and Statecraft. While there are elements of strategy and strategic education—just as there are in Panchatantraand Hitopadesa—it is not the same as Pure Strategy, which requires flexibility and asymmetric creativity rather than formulae and minutiae.
Sun Tsu’s Art of War is more a work of Pure Strategy than Statecraft, and the Arthasastra is the reverse. To understand Pure Strategy (Koota Niti in Sanskrit or Kruttik Niti in Shuddh Hindi), one must first understand its true definition: Winning or managing the competitive landscape by developing asymmetric advantages through long-term planning & application.
“Know yourself and Know your enemy and you will be victorious in a hundred battles”
To fathom China's strategy, read Sun Tzu: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” pic.twitter.com/yf2esiKW4S
Asymmetry necessarily requires not only knowledge and competence,but creativity and imagination: Deployment of small ships in the tight Salamis straits to defeat larger Persian triremes, the Roman corvus to defeat the Carthaginian navy, light cavalry and Maratha forts to ground down the pondering Mughals, and the Vietnamese tunnel system to tackle adversaries with air superiority. Such solutions are indeed given inspiration by historical study, but are nevertheless produced by application of imagination. That is the importance of competence, creativity, and courage in Strategic matters. Our current Kautilyas-wannabe lack all 3.
The Art of War does not list out every solution for every situation, but rather, provides the principles which inspire new solutions that fit the new situation. Most militaries (and armchair chanakyas) are busy fighting the last war, rather than developing the foresight to win the next one. This takes more than just memorisation of current and developing armaments/technologies or reading and recitation of historical trivia, but also requires understanding what capabilities need to be developed in the first place and understanding whether they are deployable and exploitable—and then following through.
Fortunately, though few in number, there are examples of competent strategists in modern India. Sardar Patel was one, Indira Gandhi another, certainly Sam Maneckshaw and Krishnaswamy Sunderji (of Chequerboard fame), and definitely K.P.S. Gill and P.V.Narasimha Rao. More recently, Brahma Chellaney and Ajit Doval. The common denominator is neither religion, nor caste, nor regional/ancestral background, nor gender, nor even education/intellectual proclivity. It is competence, creativity, & courage proven by practice.
Start with tackling small problems to qualify yourself to tackle bigger ones. Whether Ajit Doval has a successful term as NSA is not as important as the fact that his background in the IPS & IB qualified him rather than social media pontification and gyaani-fication. All this is food for thought for our bloviating bloggers and their impuissant iq-genetics theories. Leadership, Dharmic or otherwise, is necessarily with the politico-strategic branch.
Last year’s unprovoked attack on Rajiv Malhotra was emblematic of it. Those touting “traditional learning” attempted to take down a hardened and proven strategist like Malhotra, all in the name of ego. Those who don’t correctly understand our Dharma (and who tout nonsense like ‘beef in vedas’ have no right to preach dharma let alone lead it). Until we understand exactly how our dharmic culture feeds into strategic culture, our division of labour will continue to suffer.
Why did u expect solutions to problems in Bhagvadgeetha ,rather it makes you stronger to face all problems and find solutions https://t.co/bWqbir6Cc5
Religion and culture give us strength. Veda protects the truth, in fact, Veda is Truth itself (which is why its preservers are so respected). But solutions to strategic problems come from competence, creativity, and courage. It is for this reason that the lead up to and the Mahabharata War itself was essentially a battle of wits between two Kshatriyas, Krishna and Shakuni—with everyone from Duryodhana to Drona outwitted. Shakuni himself embodies the dangers of internal enemies using strategic thinking. And the kaakollukiyam in the Panchatantra is itself emblematic of this lesson.
Whatever your caste, it is this Dharma of Kshatriyas you must hew to if you wish to have a role in strategic affairs and governance and political leadership. Every theory, every strategic plan, every battle plan is brilliant, until you make contact with the enemy (or the real world). That is the difference between pseudo-academics spouting off and a leader running a serious organization. So if you are an intellectual, do give advice when asked. But the ultimate decision remains with the strategic command, be it a Kanwar Pal Singh Gill or a Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao.
What then is the proper training ground for the would-be strategist? Surely not digital echo-chambers where one lives in a world of assumptions. Rather it is a track record of countering the adversary through solutions application. This doesn’t necessitate being a combat veteran, but it does require the development of direct institutional responses to current strategic exigencies. Rather than trollish reaction and reactiveness, it requires measured action and pro-activeness. Rather than brainlessly complaining and yapping after a car like a dog, it’s asking what do you do when you get it? More importantly, it’s wondering “Where is the shatru going next?”
This is where our “Internet Hindus” fail. They focus on daily news-cycle and personal (caste, college, bosom-buddy relationships) rather than working as a professional collaborative team or helping those meeting team needs. Oh sure, if you pay them or put a pistol to their scrawny necks, they will work like the dickens—but what do you do when there is neither carrot nor stick…and only principle? This is the difference between men and mere boys. This the danger of the spoiled brat mentality—it leads to strategic disaster. The Jaichand-Purniah too clever-by-half emotional ahankari-shikandi approach is what destroys civilizations, countries, communities, & families. This is the importance of team sports. You understand how futile it is to win today, but lose tomorrow.
Rather than settling a score, better to protect long-term team interest. And if your caste is your team, you are part of the problem. Garbing caste interest in state interest or national interest may fool the average fool on the street, but not the patient political observer.
In fact, part of the reason why Bharat remains hamstrung in dealing with adversaries is due to the continued and baleful influence of ahankari-shikandi intellectuals who don’t know their place. The King and General are superior to ministers and have no obligation to take their advice—because it is they who have “skin in the game”. Giving gyaan is easy, developing and implementing actionable solutions is hard.
Just as in the corporate world, it is general management and the Chief Executive that governs an organization, so too in the politico-strategic realm, it is the executive wing that governs policy and that must balance interests between Dharmaand Niti. It is the King who rules and the minister who merely advises, not the other way around. It is not for nothing that the great brahmana Pandit Kalhana decried the dushtamatyas who be-deviled Kashmiri kings.
If you are perverting Dharma in the name of “intellectualism”, you are part of the problem
If you operate based on popularity rather than principle, you are part of the problem
If you legitimise Socialist Revolutionaries via history salons, you are part of the problem
The laundry list of commie jnu know-it-alls today who tie themselves in knots, due to all theory and no practice, must recognise that a pound of practice is worth more than a tonne of theory. There is no place for entitlement or sentimentality on the strategic landscape. Professional breast-beaters and assorted ‘absolutist’ rudaalis and “men-of-conscience” aren’t fit for Statecraft let alone strategy. The politico-strategic realm demands mental and emotional discipline backed up by fortitude and courage of Character. It requires both foresight and prudence. Spineless, gutless opportunists, back-biting court eunuchs, and assorted hypocrites are better suited for academia (and remaining there).
Outraging over outrageously outrageous outrage is easy. Providing actual solutions to serious strategic problems is hard.
All things have their place: religion & culture have one & the politico-strategic has another.
But for a strategic culture to properly re-emerge, the current ailments have to be identified:
While cooperation with shatrus must become a bad word, collaborationwith own countrymen must become a good one. While personality-cults and fanboy-ism must go out of fashion, team loyalty must enter into fashion. While intellect is a good characteristic, characteris an even better one. While knowledge is great, wisdom is even greater. Indians must grow from becoming masters of the small picture to painters of the big one. Vision, execution, and accountability—these are the drivers and definers of leadership.
Vision doesn’t mean fantasy or day-dreaming or “chooparpavar” bravado or brainless bragging. It means understanding what good government means in the first place and brainstorming solutions and strategy to achieve it. But a vision-less, caste-obsessed, band of clique-tards (pun-intended) can’t provide vision—only the empty braggadocio of those who hate their enemies so much, they become like them. Hate is not a solution, it is stupidity.
Scipio Africanus didn’t hate his enemy, he didn’t hate Hannibal. Scipio admired him so much he became better than him and beat him (even meeting him just before the Battle of Zama). He understood himself and his country, understood his enemy and what made him successful, and hit him where it hurt.
The same type of practical study was conducted by Shivaji. This doesn’t mean loving your enemies, but it means having a healthy respect for them so you can honestly evaluate them. One must neither be cowed down nor contemptuous of foes as it is as dangerous to over-estimate as it is to under-estimate. Sometimes it necessitates tactical adaptation (as in Vijayanagara and modification favouring of cavalry) and sometimes it needs a complete strategic-reorientation, as in the case of the Maratha Empire. But this isn’t done through history books and textbooks (many of which are falsified) but through training and action. Knowing what to do is easy, understanding how to do it and following through is another matter altogether. Any idiot can sit down and identify needs—do you have the competence, creativity, and courage to meet them? This is the uncomfortable question facing would-be Indic strategists today. Quick fixes and knee-jerk reactions don’t solve problems, nor do untimely power struggles.
During the Kamakura Shogunate, real power was not held by the Emperor of Japan or even the Shogun, but the shikken. The head of council (regent) was able to defeat the Kublai Khan’s invasion forces at the Battle of Hakata Bay, not merely through the Divine Wind (Kamikaze), but through foresight and prudence. A wise and experienced general, Hojo Masamura, was entrusted with the defence of the Japanese home islands.
The Mongols sent an embassy in 1268 demanding submission, but rather than hew to protocol, Regent Hojo Tokimune and the Council of State simply bought time by refusing to send an answer (a strategem incidentally used by the Bahmanis against the Musunuri Nayaks and Vijayanagara). A terrifying force was being prepared in 1272, and all the Kyushu vassals were recalled. When the attack finally came in 1274, Japan was ready. After a hard-fought victory they didn’t not bust out the dhol and break into bhangra/lungi dance like so many Indians, but took advantage of the respite to build a stone defensive wall at Hakata Bay. They then levied/drilled more troops in the event of a second attack. Japan’s vigilance did not slacken even after victory! For that reason, they were even better prepared in 1281, and won again against an even more terrifying 140,000. Even then, the expensive bakufu defences were maintained for another 20 years.
They studied the enemy, bought time, prepared their ground, and acted when opportunity presented itself, rather than engaging in pompous chest thumping or loudmouth rhetoric. The Hojo regency knew it faced a dangerous enemy, and even after winning two wars over the Mongols, preparation and vigilance continued for 20 years (no matter the expense). That is the difference between strategeryand strategy, navel-gazing and serious preparation. Are we a Serious People?
Security of state or civilization belongs in the hands of serious people. Not navel-gazing pseudo-intellectuals, nor spelling bee poodles, but serious thinkers whose ability is proven by practice (unlike Nehru who appointed the incompetent Brij Mohan Kaul due to nepotism and the even more incompetent V.K.Krishna Menon due to ideology). Terrifying problems require experienced, competent people who inspire others rather than merely coasting on (alleged) pedigree. Learning must be balanced by training/application, and in matters of war, by training in arms and tactics. This works the other way too. Centuries after Hakata Bay, Tokugawa Ieyasu issued ordinances known as buje sho-hatto, where samurai were required to give themselves both to the art of war as well as the pursuit of ‘polite learning’. This is what is lacking today.
Absence of emotional-discipline leads to team indiscipline.Ego-maniacs, forever obsessed with proving their intellectual superiority, or that of their family or caste or region stupidly risk the safety of what they care about the most due to their own ambition.
The recent hullabaloo of halfwits over the “national language” is emblematic of another set of genetic dead-ends. “Youth aspiration for english”, “it is not the language, but the imposition!”, and my personal favourite, “no need for link language”.
No need for link language??! What else could better reflect the attitude of court eunuchs and pseudo-intellectual vidusaka-samalochakas than to ignore the national need to issue orders to the national army on the nation’s battlefields? Are jawans from rural areas supposed to use universal translators? Surely state languages should be the language of state administration, but a central administrative language is needed, for simple governmental practicality. It is this lack of pragmatism among all-theory no practice pinheads that continues to perpetuate a 70 year old debate.
There may be a case for Hindi as National Language, but even if there isn’t (and Sanskrit should replace it), surely Shuddh Hindi has a case as Central Administrative Language, out of sheer pragmatism. Anglicised elites promote English to retain their elite privileges. Global lingua francas change given global zeitgeists, as demonstrated by the phrase itself. French was once the “global language”, or at least the European language of communication. Today it is English, and tomorrow it very well could be Mandarin. Are Indians expecting to switch their national administrative language based on global fashion? Can our people be any more idiotic?
Is ego worth risking the lives and well-being of one’s children or womenfolk? This is the question our gasbag gyaanis need to start asking themselves. Their emotional indiscipline and mind-boggling moronery in the face of the gravest threats hardens even the softest of hearts. Preferring slogan to prudence and ambitionto accomplishment, even the most Nippon-esque of fanbois forgets that the word samurai actually means ‘one who serves’.
This is the attitude that is required. One of service in the state, national, civilizational, and dharmic interest. Realpolitik is not rhetoric or tough talk. Can a bunch of clowns prioritising their position and social media celebrity have the manhood to actual defend their families, or do what it takes to ensure their defence? This is the problem today. Tough talk over tangible strategic action, fan clubs over professionalism, machine gun bursts of buffoonery over calm/measured behaviour, individual last minute heroics over collaborative collective strategy. Armchair chanakyas can clip all the books they want, but if they wish to master Koota Niti, they must first understand and practice the basics.
The man who united independent India was epitome of Gujjuness. Do learn the art of strategic checkmating. This is land of Shri Krishna. pic.twitter.com/tNnUrpmLVX
As an appropriate aside to our recent article on the History of Sangeeta, is a Post on a particular work of Literature said by some to pre-date the work of the great Bharata Muni himself.
The Dattilam of Dattila is an oft-cited but little known work on Ancient Indian Music that, even more than the music theory it covers, is critical for what it actually represents.
In his seal for brevity, Dattila becomes so laconic in his descriptions that they often read like obscure mathematical formulae. Fortunately, Bharata and also later authors have given details enabling us to interpret Dattila meaningfully. [1, 143]
Not much is known about the eponymous author of the Dattilam. Though the composer ends with a standard colophon announcing his name, he does not provide the traditional background and lineage one is used to encountering in such works. Like Bharata before (or after) him, he is more concerned with the content.
One of the reasons for the ambiguous speculation regarding Dattila’s contemporaneity with Bharata is because Bharata muni himself refers to the text Dattilam. At the same time, one of the one hundred sons list by him includes a Dattila. Was this a namesake of the original or the original himself? All this leads to the conclusion that it is best to avoid assertion where nothing is concrete.
Nevertheless, we know Dattila and his text are indeed authentic and influential as none other than the great Acharya Abhinavagupta refers to him and even quotes from the Dattilam. [1, 49]
The author sets out to describe not only what gandharva is but its purpose as well. He tells us of 18 jatis (proto-melodies) and 7 gitikas (structured song forms) and the importance of pada (words) and taala (beat pattern).
We see many of these common elements in Natya Sastra as well indicating the common tradition from which both Dattila and Bharata were working from.
The work begins with the traditional invocation to deity. It too ultimately is constructed upon the foundation of the Saama Veda.
Consisting of 244 slokas, Dattilam is divided into a preamble, two sections, and twelve chapters, with topics ranging from technical aspects of tala and varna to methodology suggested by others. It is a terse and aphoristic treatise, that reads as a manual for experts, rather than an introduction to students. As the translator of the current edition himself notes, it not only requires the use of later texts (such as Natya Sastra or Sangeeta Ratnakara) but also begs a commentary. So concise is the text that a number of scholars have suggested that it is only part of a greater work. Irrespective…
The Dattilam is a very suitable starting point for research into the theory of ancient Indian music, as it is a concise compendium of almost all the musical terms. [3, 5]
The manuscriptology behind the Dattilam is an interesting story in and of itself. Found in a collection sponsored by Travancore’s Royal Family, it was discovered by the curator, Pandit K. Sambasiva Sastri. The manuscript he came upon was attached to a copy of the Sangeetasamayasaara. It is said to have been written in Sanskrit with Malayalam script.
The first translation into English was by a Dutch scholar named Nijenhuis. A subsequent one also conducted by a Dutchman, with the present one completed by Mukund Lath. All of them are in effective agreement however that…
Dattilam assumes a series of purvacaryas, preceding masters, and specifically names three: Narada, Kohala and Visakhila. [1, xii]
This is an important point as it establishes the existence of a tradition prior to even Bharata muni (who himself refers to previous musical masters). Dattila, does not refer to Bharata, leading to the conclusion that they were both from the same time period, or Dattila was likely senior. While Natya Sastra is presently dated to 400-100 BCE, the Dattilam is at least as older if not older.
Further evidence adduced to this point is that the text is seen as rather independent of Bharata. Nevertheless…
gandharva stands for ‘music’—all music. But the gaandharva Dattila speaks of was a specific body of music, a sacred form. It was conceived as akin to a musical yajna, and like a yajna, it could result in transcendental merit (adrsta) leading to svarga. [1, xiii]
As such, whether it is Bharata or Dattila, it is clear that the sacred is not only the origin of music, but very much immanent in the Indic musical tradition.
Another point of interest is Dattila’s reference to various regions and musical aspects attached to regions. He makes frequent mention of jatis called udeecyava (meaning from the north), and also refers to andhri (Andhra), takka raga (from NW Punjab), maalavi (from Malava/Malwa), kambhoji (from ancient Kambhoja), gaudi (from Gauda/Bengal), and gandhara jatis, in verses 70-79. [1, 117]
Other concepts beyond jati discussed include varna. “Varna was the general term used to indicate musical or melodic movement over notes.” [1, 125] Varnas are inextricably linked to padas (words) in a gita (song). In contrast, a jati is of pure note structure, laying the foundation for later ragas. Tala (a term meaning beat or beat pattern) is also discussed. It is a time measure based on beats ensuring the note (svara) was saamya (in equilibrium).
Dattilam is a fine example of a saastric text and is of living value to us in that respect. It has striking affinities of approach and spirit with many other saastras, such [a]s those of Paanini on grammar, Pingala on the science of metrics and Tandu on the dance-form taandava. [1, xiv]
I. [Pranamya paramesaanam] Brahmaadhaamscha gurumstatha |
Gaandharva-saastra-sankshepah saarathoyam mayochyathe || sl. 1
[After having made my obeisance to the Supreme Lord] and to all the gurus, the first of whom is Brahmaa, I shall now enunciate in its essence the saastra concerning gaandharva in a concise form. [1, 1]
II. Gandharvam naaradaadibhyah pratthamaadhau svayambhuvaa |
Next, micro-intervals(sruthi), notes (svara), the two-tone systems (graama), scales (moorchanaa) consisting of series of notes (taana), the registers (sthaana), styles (vrtti), pure instrumental music (sushka), and the two ways of overlapping
modes (jaati) and ways of ornamentation (varna) connected with various graces (alamkaara). This is a mere description of the things relating to the notes…[3,2]
V. This exposition is no more than a pointer towards the system of the earlier acaryas. The knowing expert (sudhee) should look up their views and reach his own conclusions if he still has any doubts. sl. 244
Iti Dattilam samaaptam
Dattila (thus) composed a saastra known by the name Dattilam [1, 47]
In the preliminary article in our Series on Classical Indic Music, we re-asserted the native canon of Saastriya Sangeeta and its historical Pan-India nature. The next installment will discuss the history of Sangeeta itself, and how the various regional notes compose the classical national scale.
First off, why a survey of Indian music chronology at all?The antiquity of Ancient Indian Music may be difficult to calculate, but it is foolish to contest. As previously established, the indigenous classical canon of India is a matter of great discussion, but its integral unity cannot be denied. Ironically, the greatest revisionists of Indian Music history and even Indian history itself, accuse others of historical revisionism. Everything from the sitar to the tabla to classical music itself has been projected as being introduced by outsiders—eager to establish their own primacy and dominance. That foreign accounts can be given greater credence than native ones is the greatest sleight-of-hand of present times. All this makes a study of the History of Sangeeta all the more relevant to our times.
“The ancient history of Indian Music is funda-mentally the history of her people, civilization and culture. The continuity of Indian civilization and culture, from the most ancient time uptil now, has one of its sources in the geographical configuration of the country. Many historians are of the opinion that as Hinduism was a common faith and the Hindu kings were in power, there was a religious and cultural unity and affinity among the Indian people as a whole.” [4,1]
As such, to properly understand ourselves and where we are going, we must first properly understand who we were and where we came from. Music History is crucially important to this.
Second, what is a history of music?“A history of music is, therefore, a systematic and chronological records of musical thoughts and materials that evolved in different ages in a gradual process. It requires collection, arrange-ment and preservation of the facts and findings relating to music in a systematic order. ” [4, 9]
Rather than mere recitation and regurgitation of what has been taught by self-appointed “eminent experts”, it necessitates an investigation of the facts as available to us. This means not only questioning existing factoids, but questioning existing paradigms as well.
Third, what is the nature of a history of music? “A history of Indian music is a saga of musical thoughts of the Indian people, as written in their subconcious mind. It has its birth, growth and progress in Indian society, and has religious and spiritual out-look. A history of Indian music is a wide subject, the range of which is extended from remote antiquity upto the present time.” [4, 9]
Thus, a proper history of Indian music must be a history of music rooted in Indian society and values and especially Indic Civilization. This then leads to the matter of valid sources of history.
Historical materials can be gathered from the following in order of descending importance:
Various texts and treatises of music compiled from various authors across the ages
Archeological evidence. These include rock and architectural inscriptions, copper-plate proclamations and tablets from various kings and aristocrats, coins and paintings.
Private diaries of the local musicians and local folklores, including anecdotal evidence.
Foreign accounts as well as the history of music from other nations
The native accounts must be given highest priority.Foreign accounts, which lack the insider understanding of a culture or civilization, can only be used to fill gaps or facilitate in the verification of facts.
Most of the historians both of the East and the West admit that many of the civilized nations of the world are indebted to India for their materials of civilization, art and culture. India does not lack in authentic materials for constructing a history of music of her own, for putting before the admiring gaze of the world, her glorious heritage in the field of art education and culture. [4, vii]
This then leads us to the imperative of challenging the false notion of indigenous Indian music being only ritual temple chants. Since apparently anything favourable to ancient India is considered jingoistic these days, let us turn then to the foreign-sponsored’s favourite sources: foreign: “From the writings of the Greek historians we come to know that in the Royal courts of Champaa, Raajgriha, Koshala, Vaishaali, Kau-shamvi, Paataliputra, Kalinga (in Southern Orissaa), classical dances and music were fully encouraged… even the ladies of the Royal household allowed to culture dance and music. In the 2nd century B.C.” [4, 99]
Indeed, as far back as Paanini (presently dated to 500 BCE) and Patanjali (3rd Century BCE), we find descriptions of the practice of music and use of various musical instruments. In the Mahabhasya, there are a multitude of musical instruments listed including the mridanga, veena, and dundubhi. From the Buddhist canon we find Avadanas, Jatakas, and Pithakas reffering to music, musical instruments, and mudras. Hymns such as the thera, theri and sthavir were sung by Bhikkus. 107 poems and 1279 gathas make up the theras.
Further, we know from our own sources that music was highly encouraged, particularly within certain conventions, to virtually all classes. “In the 2nd century B.C., Vaastyaayana has mentioned about 64 kinds of art including dance music, and has said that they were freely cultured even by the married and unmarried girls“. [4,99] Whatever the traditional rules between castes, it appears that within castes—particularly the most orthodox—there were fewer taboos regarding performance of sangeeta and natya. This also provides further illumination into the nature of the conservatism of Hindus in the medieval period.
But a proper history is more than just a mere chronology or chronicle. It provides a systematic understanding and analysis of the nature and origin of events and realities. To properly do so, one must study the theoretical foundations.
The materials for history of Indian music of the ancient period can be collected from the Vedas and specially from the Saamaveda, the womb of music, the Shikshaas and the Praatishaakhyas, the Naatyasaastra and its commentaries, the classical Sanskrit dramas and literature, the Buddhist literature and the Jaatakas, the Brihaddeshi and the Sangitasamayasaara, the Silappadikaram and the Tevaram and other ancient Tamil literature, as well as from the rock-cut instructions and sculp-tures, chiselled on the railings, facades and walls of different Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Stupas, Vihaaras and temples. [4, 4]
Traditionally, Indian music has been divided not only into marga and desi but also vaidika and laukika. The Sama Veda in particular is considered the root of all music.
The Vedas are considered by the orthodox to be apaurusheya, that is, without human origin. Therefore, dating a specific period according to the conventional Western timeline becomes difficult. This is because they are considered the very embodiment of the Divine itself, hence all the rules and rituals related to paaraayanam (chanting).
“In the Ka[u]shitaki-braahmana (29.5), it has been stated that the arts of dancing, singing and playing the musical instruments formed and important part of certain Vedic rites“. [4, 90]
Nada-brahma is considered the origin of the Universe and Paraa-Barahman emanating from the vibrations themselves. There is a famous quote in Matanga Muni’s Brihaddesi on precisely this point. Along with the Shruthi (Veda) is the notion of shruti (harmony/micro-tones.
“The microtones (shrutis) are the minute percep-tible (“shravanayogya”) tones or musical sound-units that constitute the structures of seven tones like shadja, rishabha, gaandhaara, madhyama, pan-chama, dhaivata and nishaada (corresponding Vedic tones, chaturtha, mandra, atisvaarya, krusta, pra-thama, dvitiya, trituya).” [4,15]
Saamagaana is considered the earliest systematic method of singing in india. It had three base tones (anudaatta, svarita, and udaatta). According to Professor Sambamoorthy, “The Rigveda was recited to the three notes, udaatta, anudaatta and svarita, corresponding to ri, ni and sa of frequencies.” [4, 19] These partial and middle tones are considered the nucleus of the Classical Indic Scale (thaata, mela/melakarta).
Interestingly while the Sapta svara of Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni which is dated to Bharata Muni (6th-3rd centuries BCE, if not much earlier), the solfa system of Europe dates only to the 10th century CE, credited to Guido d’Areezzo. [4, 20]
Saama Veda is considered the foundational source of all music. It is divided into the purvaarchika and uttaraarchika. Songs of common people were known as graamageya, songs of the forest people known as aranyageya, and those of the mystics, rahasyageya.
“The saamagaana or singing process of the saamans was divided into six or seven categories, and they were (1) humkaara, i.e., the priest will utter ‘hum’ (yes) at the beginning of the singing: (2) prastora i.e., which the Prastotris (prastotri—priest) used to sing at the beginning of the saamagaana: (3) udgitha, i.e., which the Udgaatris used to repeat to the tune of the saamagaana; (4) pratihaara, i.e., the Pratihaatris used to sing the part of the song after the third stanza of the saamagana; (5) upadrava, i.e., which the Udgaatris used to sing at the end of the third stanza; (6) nidhaana, i..e., that used to be sun by the sacrificial priests at the end of the saamans; and (7) pranava, i.e., omkaara. The saama-gaana sued to be sung in this way before the blazing fire on the sacrificial alt[a]rs, invoking the presiding deities.” [4, 93]
However, all this remains in the realm of the sacred. What of the material world and the inclination to sing and celebrate the world and worldly things? This is where the Divine descends into the semi-divine and celestial.
Sometimes attached as an upaveda, Gandharva Veda is often simply known as Gandharva. Such is its connection with those semi-divine beings. Per the tradition it is reputed that the microtones were devised by Brahma or Brahmabharata, the first promulgator of the gandharva type of music, and afterwards it was made perfect by Naarada and finally Bharata muni. [4, 16]
Considered to have been collected from the Sama Veda, Gandharva Veda since took on a character of its own. In line with the pleasure-seeking ways of the Gandharvas it is named after, it adapted to the tastes and needs of more material humans. It created pleasure and enjoyable auditory sensations and good vibrations for all. It is the original systemised form of the systemised form of music we have today.
Nevertheless, it is considered the origin for the laukika (material world) music that has definite historical records dating back to 600 BCE, if not long before. Interestingly, the Ramayana makes reference to the tradition of wandering bards skilled in the science of gandharva, when it mentions Lava and Kusha singing of their parents travails. This ultimately brings us to saastra.
Although there are works and personalities considered anterior to this magnum opus and its composer, the Natya Sastra is considered the foundational text of Saastriya Sangeeta, and takes us from the realm of Sacred History to Pure History.
Bharata Muni propounds the existence of 22 microtones with associated jatis. The seven svaras (notes) each cover a set of these shrutis. For example tivraa, kumudvati, manda, and chandovati shrutis are all attached to the preliminary svara Sa. This division of shrutis is accepted by the Carnatic System to this day.
This then leads to the 10 essentials, or dasa-lakshanas, for qualities in determining the genuine nature of ragas. These are initials (graha), sonant (amsha), higher (taara), lower (mandra), concluding (nyaasa), medial (apanyaasa), rare (alptva), abundance (vahutva), hexatonic (shaadava), and pentatonic (audava). Through these qualities, raagas can be examined and their real forms ascertained. All of these date back to Bharata Muni, though he himself says he is indebted to Brahma. All of these are also better discussed in detail in a future article. For our purposes, however, the saastric understanding of raaga is important.
A raaga is the product of permutation and com-bination of tones which creates sweet and sooth-ing impressions (samskaara) in the mind. This definition we get from Matanga’s Brihaddeshi [4, 33]
The 72 melakartha ragas have been listed in the introductory article of this series. What is interesting here for our purposes is when the gandharva or marga type of music began formalising the various ragas. The Ramayana (parsimoniously dated to 400 BCE) contains 7 jaati-raagas in its gaana. “Jaatis are the causal or basic raagas, from which evolved all kinds of raagas, maarga and desi“. [4,35] In the Mahabharata and Harivamsa we find 6 graamaraagas.We see these extend into the Naatya Saastra, where 18 jaatiraagas are mentioned.
Incidentally graamaraagas are found in Naarada’s Sikshaa as well as in Pallava dynasty rock inscriptions, attributed to King Mahendravarman, at Kudumiaamaalai in Tamil Nadu. [4, 36] Interestingly, we see that 2 of the 18 jati-raagas are named after regions (Andhri and Gaandhara-panchami). As such, we see not only a continuity, but a Pan-India pervasiveness, literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. By the time of Sarngadeva, a Kashmiri residing South of the Vindhyas at the Maharashtrian court, we find a total of 264 raagas evolving from the original melodic structures.
This of course leads to another modern concocted controversy over the origin of the melakartha system (or thaat of the North). Ever eager to find a foreign origin to all things Indian (even Indians!), Europeans and their current sepoys-at-arms have attributed a Persian background to the thaat on account of the name and the first emphatic definition of mela coming from Pandit Somanatha in the 1600s. But this is a risible notion, as Swami Vidyaranya, known for his native orthodoxy and revivalism, had formulated 15 melas by the 1300s itself. Somanatha asserted that 960 melas could be evolved, though eventually 72 were settled upon by Venkatamakhi.
The history of Classical Indic Musical Instruments could be an article, or series of articles, in and of itself (incidentally, we already started one here). Nevertheless, no discussion of the History of Music is complete without mention of the vaadya or atodya of Sangeeta.
Basic stringed instruments are found in Lothal dating at least to 2000 BCE and are described in great detail not only by Natya Saastra, but reverential commentators on it, such as the Andhra Nayaka, Jaya Senapatiin his Nrtta Ratnavali. [8, 437]
Generally classed as sushira (winds), thantri/thatha (strings), avanadha (percussion), ghana (metal), here are the most traditional of traditional vaadyas in the Indian vaadyabrnda (orchestra).
Veena—Arguably the most ancient and most Indian of all Ancient Indian instruments, the veena is the vaadya of legends. Said to have evolved from the dhanuryantram (a bow instrument), it has since multiplied into varied forms and types. The shata-tantri is a 100 stringed veena, and the vaana veena is one with grass. These are known in the Kalpasutras with the former fittingly called kaatyaayani-veena. The sitar is itself a chitra-veena, tweaked for Turkic tastes.
Dundubhi—A very ancient and imposing atodya, the Dundubhi is associated with war drums of old and often foretells of a coming cataclysm. Often shaped from the hollow trunk of a tree and covered with leather skin, it has a deep and resonant sound that captivates audiences and armies alike, as it can be heard from great distances. The bhumi-dundubhi form is thought to be the oldest of percussion instruments.
Mridangam—The most pervasive of the classical percussion vaadyas is the mridangam. Still used today in carnatic, it is part of the standard repertoire of classical conclaves and katcheris. A related instrument is of course the Damaru, but this is better discussed elsewhere. Interestingly, there is an old folk story about how the tabla is merely a mridangam cut in half.
Tabla—Believe it or not, the tabla is not as young as we’ve been told. Whatever cute little ‘syncretic’ stories have been concocted by communist ‘mythologists’, the tabla is not a recently rendered percussion instrument. It very likely doesn’t even date to the medieval period. “These drums are known as pushkara. The two drums of identical-size, that have been depicted in the temple-halls of Muktesvara and Baadaami are the forebears of the modern tabal and baayaan, which are erroneously taken to be the two halves of the mridanga (or paakhawaaj), introduced…by Amir Khusrau“.[4, 106] While final confirmation of the modern tabla originating in the ancient pushkara drums found in these sculptures and bas-reliefs of Late Antiquity, one can quite obviously see that seeing foreign influence in all things Indian is more than a little suspect.
Tambura—Erroneously called “tanpura”, Tambura has a lineage of great antiquity and is associated with the Rishi Tamburu. It is used by Sages such as Narada, to keep sruthi. In modern times, the violin has taken its place, but the time may be approaching to restore the prominence of Tamburu’s namesake.
Venu—The bamboo flute, also known as vamsee or now bansuri (in Hindustani), rose to everlasting fame through that eternal romantic of Vrindavan. The murali may be forever associated with Lord Krishna, but its use is even more ancient.
However, we know them better today, not in India, but among those Indic people properly called Romani (commonly known as Gypsy). This instrument has taken a distinctly romantic flavour in the flamenco music of Spain. But of course, as wikipedia will currently tell you…place of origin is…”unknown”…
Known as the Nagaswaram in the South and the Shehnai in the North, Nadasvaram is the original and is a pan-Indian pipe-reed instrument that can stop even the bagpipe in its tracks.
There are numerous other instruments that could be discussed. Nevertheless, for historical purposes, these serve for now.
But along with understanding the foundations and instruments is gaining a grasp of the common Indic terminology.
Shruti—(literally sound, generally Vedas, but in music specifically, microtones).
Svara—Notes or tonal sounds. Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni
Sthaana—Registers in music
Jati—Pronounced jaathee. Organised tones. Depending on context, proto-melodies. A tune type or species. [5, 19]
Raga—Pronounced raaga, it is defined as “‘ranjayata it raaga.’ i.e., that, which produces pleasing and soothing impressions in the mind, is a raaga.” [4, 98] It is the basic melody of music and made up of various permutations and combinations of tones. There are 72 melakarta ragas.
Murcchana—elaboration of the seed-form of a raga. This is made possible when 7 tones of a raga manifest themselves via ascent (arohana) and descent (avarohana). It possess a unit of aesthetic sentiment. Bharata states there were 14 murcchanas.
Tana—Pronounced thaana. Similar to murcchana. The difference is that tana only has arohana [5, 69]
Varna—Manifesting of a song. There are 4 kinds: aarohi, avarohi, sthaayi and sanchari. They typically consist of pallavi, anupallavi, charanam, muktayisvara and chittasvara. [1, 57] The term is also used to refer to the syllables of a svara.
Kaaku—variation of vocal sounds. These are used to express the Nava Rasa.
Tala—Pronounced thaala, it means beat. While traditionally these reached as high as 108 different types, in Carnatic there are now 35 (i.e. dhruvaa, mantha, rupaka, jhampa, triputa, adda, ekataala) and are made up of different maatras (finger positions).
Laya—Rhythm or tempo. These are generally divided into 3: vilambita (slow), madhya (medium) and druta (rapid). [4, 73]
Vaadyabrnda—Orchestra. Also known as kutapa, the vaadyabrnda is distinctly mentioned in Saastra. The Indian orchestra is certainly nothing new, only has a different set of instruments.
Sangeetha-shaala—Music hall for singing and dancing. Found since at least the court of Pushyamitra Sunga.
Prekshagriha—Threatre auditorium for dramatic performances, musical and otherwise. The first Sunga ruler had a separate premises for these as well.
Personalities in the History of Music are myriad and manifold. Indeed, many are bracketed in the category of ‘mythological’. Being concerned with serious history, we will merely make reference to those sacred historical figures as legendary, and begin with Bharata, Kohala, and Dattila as the first confirmed historical figures with associated texts.
Nandikeshvara is known by many names and must be mentioned as he is the originator of one of the three original sampradayas of Sangeeta. The texts Nandikeshvara-samhita, Bharataarnava, Abhinaya-darpana, Kaishikaavritti are credited to him, but do all of them refer to the same person? It is indeed very possible that there were many so-called historical (and human!) Nandis who were responsible for the texts associated with this figure, and yet, they have not been confirmed or even fully theorised. As such, Nandikeshvara along with Lord Brahma will have to be placed, rather than in the purely historical, in the realm of the sacred instead, but with textual attributions intact, much like the son of Brahma himself.
Much like Nandeeshvara, many are reluctant to consider conflating the mythical Narada muni with the texts associated with him: Naaradi Sikshasaastra, Sangita-makaranda, Raaga-nirupana, and the Gandharva-rahasyam (on dance, drama, and music). Is he the great Sage of our stories, forever singing the glories of Lord Vishnu, or were there many ‘historical’ Naradas? When in doubt, it is better to preserve the chronology assigned in the tradition, and merely assert what has been confirmed by historical evidence. It is also important to catalogue his contributions as he is the second of the great sampradaya founders.
The third and most historical of the three founders of the original schools of Sangeeta, Sage Bharata is a storied name in not only music, but literature, dance, drama, poetry, and indeed, aestheticsitself. Though he mentioned only 8 of the Nava Rasas, the theory of 9 sentiment itself is said to commence with him.
“Muni Bharata brought a renaissance in the domain of dance, drama and music, and scientifically devised laws and priciples of twenty-two mircortones (shrutis) or subtle tones on the basis of five mircrotones (jaati-shrutis), as promulgated by Naarada of the Siksha.” [4, 118]
Most important of all, this sagacious sage propounded his theory of Sangeeta for the purpose of Natya. There are a number of musicologists considered to have been either immediate contemporaries or successors to Bharat. These include Kohala (wrote Sangitameru), Durgashakti, Yaashtika (Sarvaagama-samhita), Shaardula , Svaati (considered the inventor of the pushakara drum), Vaayu, and Vishvavasu. One name associated with the significantly later King Vikramaditya of Ujjain is Matrgupta (appointed to rule Kashmir in the name of his Avanti overlord). Nevertheless, the most immediately relevant name is one who is often thought to perhaps even precede Bharata.
The eponymous work Dattilam is the legacy of this sage. He is said to have continued in the tradition of Bharata, and discusses sangeeta in the context of natya. He lists 18 jatiraagas, various murcchanas and 66 thaanas. Not much is known about him, but he is considered to be a contemporary of Bharata Muni.
The contemporary paradigm parsimoniously dates this great musicologist to the 5th or 7th centuries CE; however, to traditional Hindus, he is no mere Matanga, but Matanga Muni. Considered an ancient Sage, his background dates back, in all likelihood, to not too much after the Natya Sastra himself. He makes references to the most ancient commentators, including Bharata Muni, Kohala, and Dattila. Where he stands out, however, is in his treatment of the desi ragas and styles of music (hence the name of his work Brihaddesi, discussed below).
Though he is clear on the central nature of Marga, Matanga nevertheless discusses the different regional and national styles of music. For those wondering whether the orthodox ever admit to foreign influence, it is here that contemporary yet conservative commentators of India note that while the classical marga style of saastriya sangeeta remains indigenous, different national styles such as those of the Sakas found their way into myriad quilt of desi regional music and folk music. 
It is a long gap between Matanga Muni and Maharaja Bhoja, but given the antiquity of Indian history, a single article Chronology is better focused on the reified names of history, rather than those who are still being confirmed. Though Fa Hien records the splendour of Indian music during the Gupta Period (no doubt due in no small part to the great veena playing Emperor Samudra), musicologists and evidence of direct contribution will better help mark the historical record.
Maharaja Bhoja Paramara
King Bhoj of Dhar is one such contributor. The storied lord of Dhaarangagari was arguably the most talented and scholarly of Royal Commentators on the Arts, including music, and is considered a true polymath. Though better associated with literature and architecture, his contributions to sangeeta cannot be gainsayed. Sringara-Prakasa is a work of his containing precepts of dramaturgy. Though only some of his 84 books are known to have survived, he was considered an authority on music by Maharana Kumbha.
Undoubtedly one of the towering polymaths of Indian history, the great Kashmiri Acharya Abhinavagupta widely commentated on everything from Tantra to the Arts. His commentary on the Natya Sastra, is known as Abhinava Bharati. This Bharatabhasyam elaborates the various issues pertaining to drama, dance, and music. He not only cites Bharata Muni, but also Kohala, considered an ancient authority in naatyaadhikaara and geyaadhikaara. His 1000th Birth anniversary took place this past year.
He is credited with the Sangita-ratnamaalaa, and is dated to the 11th century. Also hailing rom Kashmir, he categorised raagas per the janya-janaka (genus-species) method. He lists a number of principal ragas suh as karnata and maalava. [4, 158]
In a long list of names, stands this prominent Jain musicologist who wrote Sangeeta-samayasaara. Thought to date back to between the 9th and 11th centuries, Parshvadeva gives us a full description of various kinds of prabandhas. These were further elaborated upon by Sarngadeva. Nevertheless, the prabandha-gitis took inspiration from the ancient form of dhruvapada and eventually is known today in Hindustani as the dhrupad. The dhrupad is a shortened name for the saalaga-suda dhruva-prabandha, given patronage by Raja Man Tanwar. [4, 56] In Maharashtra, we find abhangas as the prized musical form instead.
Better known as King Nanyadeva, he is one of many royal comentators on music. A descendant of the Kannada Rashtrakuta dynasty, his kingdom was situated in land straddling Bihar and modern Nepal. Nanyadeva is notable for his commentary on Bharata’s Natya Sastra, called Sarasvati-hridayaalankaara. Other influences include Naarada, Yashtika, Kaasyapa and Matanga. He discussed various raagagitis and jati-ragas
Author of the Abhilasha-Chintamani, the Chalukya Emperor Someshvara more closely associated with the alternate name of the same work: Manasollasa. This veritable encyclopadia deals with many topics ranging from Classical Cuisineto Music. He is considered one of the prominent Royal authorities on Natya and Sangeeta.
Subject to a great war between Odias and Bengalis, as on the rasagolla front, Jayadeva the musical and literary personality appears almost certainly to go in favour of Odisha as well. His ashtapadis were heavily popularised at the court of the Odia King Prataparudra Deva Gajapathi. Jayadeva’s great Gita-Govinda had an impact as far as western India, with none other than Maharana Kumbha later commentating on it.
One undeniable Bengali, however, is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of the 16th century. His impact extended beyond the Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a guru-sishya parampara that extends to that founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila Prabhupada (whose translation of the Gita remains the most widely read today). Nevertheless, it was the founder of his own parampara, who would have the greatest impact on the folk music of Eastern India. The Bhakti songs of Bengal very much bears the stamp of Sri Chaitanya to this day.
Known as ‘Nissanka’ (one who is doubtless), Sarngadeva was born in Varshagana gotra to Soddala Deva. His grandfather was Bhaskara, a Kashmiri Pandit who settled in Maharashtra.
He is regarded as an outstanding Sanskrit scholar and wrote the Vedanta work called Adhyatma Viveka. But he is best known for his Sangeeta Ratnakara (13 th century), which he wrote while residing at the Seuna Court at Devagiri. This soon became the classical standard in the medieval period, influencing both Hindustani and Carnatic.
Maharashtra musician Gopala Nayaka of Devagiri was eventually to Delhi some time in the late 13th century. [9,27] This is said to have laid the actual foundation for what is known as the Hindustani School today.
Considered by many to be a foundational influence on Carnatic music, the Vijayanagara Samrajya Sthapanacharya made an incalculable contribution to the revival of Saastriya Sangeeta at a time when Saastriya Samskruthi was under threat. His Sangeeta-Saram of the 1300s mentions 50 janya ragas originating from 15 melakartha ragas. The head of the Sringeri Peetham, he oversaw a commission of scholars to revive traditional sangeeta that was under threat from destruction by invaders.
A musicologist from the Vijayanagara Court, he wrote an authoritative commentary on Sarngadeva’s influential work.
One of the most beloved classical musicians of Andhra, Annamacharya (1408-1503 CE) remains one of the critical bridges between the ancient Saastriya Sangeeta of old and the birth of the Carnatic Tradition.
Though his story and advocacy for upanayana for women and lower caste temple entry is what he had been remembered for throughout history by the masses, it was only recently that his keerthanas were rediscovered and set to music by Carnatic stalwart, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy.
The sheer volume of Annamacharya’s contribution remains virtually inmatched. Though less than half of his estimated 32,000 padams have been found, compositions such as this one below, reverberate throughout the Telugu states to this day.
Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha Purandara Dasa is a name known to all South Indians, and is one that should soon be known to all Indians. He re-established the native canon of authentic Classical Indic Music at a time when it was subject to many external influences and even outright corruptions.
Born Srinivasa Nayaka in 1484 at Pandaripur (Karnataka), he became the disciple of Sri Vyasa Teertha in 1525. He composed thousands of songs and codified the Carnatic Music Tradition. He passed away in 1564.
If ever there were proof that a fierce warrior, gifted general, and dignified king could be talented musician and musicologist as well, it is Maharana Kumbhakaran Singh of illustrious Mewar. Dreaded by his opponents, beloved by his subjects, and honoured by his scholars, one of Mevaad’s most ferocious veeras was also the author of the Sangeeta-raja and Sangeeta-krama-deepika.
He is also credited with re-setting the tune to Jayadeva’s Geeta-Govinda. Though Jayadeva was considered singularly skilled poet, the ragas he set his poems to were re-adjusted in what is widely considered to be a Rajasthani improvement on the Odia original. In any event, the skilled deputee of Eklingji held Jayadeva in high esteem, and thus, is credited with a commentary on the Gita-Govinda.
Narayana Teertha Yatindra is the author of Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini. Living in the 16th century, he was another stalwart of Andhra, hailing from its Krishna district.
Krishna Leela Tarangini is considered a standard of Sanskrit opera. It is composes in 12 cantos with its various songs preceded by slokas and short prose passages. KLT is ranked with Geeta Govinda as work of Sringara. Its theme is the story of Krishna and Rukmini. [6, 83]
Celebrated across divides and boundaries, Tansen is often considered to be the real founder of the Hindustani tradition. Born to Makarand Pandey at Gwalior, he learnt music from Swami Haridas. Rajput royals such as Rani Mrignayani (also of Gwalior) and Raja Sanmukhan Singh of Ajmer, were classmates. He later went to the Agra Court in the 1600s and wrote the Sangeeta Sara and Rajmala.
Tansen is said to have standardised 300 ragas in Hindustani. Miyan ki Todi is one of the ragas attributed to him. He had 5 children including a daughter named Sarasvati, who was a veena player. His sons played the rhabab—a string instrument modified by the great musician himself. 
“Ramamatya, Somanatha and Venkatamakhi consti-tude a group by themselves. They are respectively the authors of the following standard works in Sanskrit on Karnatic music: Svaramelakalanidhi, Raga Vibodha, and Chaturdandi Prakasika” [6, 85]
Ramayamatya is the earliest, dating back to the 1500s. At the request of Emperor of Vijayanagara, he wrote the svaramela kalanidhi and enumerated 20 melas and their janya ragas. He rejects Sarngadeva’s theory of 12 vikrta svaras in favour of 7.
Somanatha was another traditional scholar from Andhra desa. His Raga vibodha picks up from where Ramamatya left off. In contrast, he elected to posit a scheme of 960 melas with 15 vikrta svaras.
Finally, the most impactful of the 3 was Venkatamakhi. The second son of Govinda Dixitar, he studied under his brother Yajna Narayana. He later came under the tutelage of Tanapapacharya, a famous musician from Northern India. With the patronage of Vijaya Raghava Nayaka, Venkatamakhin wrote the Chaturdandi Prakasika in 1660. This Comprehensive work covers the gamut of the usual traditional concepts, but is credited most for standardising the 72 melakarta ragas used in Carnatic music today. [6, 86]
Mewar’s musical contribution to India includes the female as well as the male. The storied Princess Meerabai gave up all for her love of Lord Krishna. She is remembered today not only for her skill with the tambura and khartal, but for her voice as well. This songstress of Sri Krishna is known for devotional ballads such as these.
Lochana Kavi is another notable scholar. Hailing from Mithila (in Bihar), he is best known for his Raga Tarangini, which deals with Indian music in a time of great change. He mentions 12 janaka melas and uses 12 svaras to describe his ragas. A fitting homage to the historical Rajatarangini is the musical Ragatarangini. It is considered a useful study on the music of Northern Indian during a time of foreign ascendancy.
A celebrated composer of Telugu padas, Kshetreyya was born in Muvvapuri graamam, near Chandragiri (Chittoor district). He was a tremendous singer, scholar, and litterateur. Dedicated to Lord Gopala, he worth 4000 padas in honour of his ishta devata. He travelled throughout peninsular India, and made his greatest impacts at the court of Madurai and Thanjavur.
The most famous of the Carnatic Trinity, Thyagaraja was born as Kakarla, Thyagabrahmam in a Telugu Brahmin family that migrated to Thiruvaiyaru from Prakasamdistrict in 1767. He received his early music lessons from his guru Sonti, Venkata Ramanayya.
Thyagayya composed close to 24,000 kirthanas in his life time but only 700 kirthanas survived the vagaries of time. He also wrote two musical plays in Telugu “Prahlada bhakthi Vijayam” and “Nauka Charitram”. His Pancharatna (five gems) Krithis are considered finest gems of Carnatic music.
Every year in the month of January and February a music festival, Thyagaraja Aradhana, is held in Thiruvaiyaru to celebrate and honour his musical genius. On Pushya Bahula Panchami thousands sing his Pancharatnas together. Now it’s a worldwide event, Thyagaraja aradhana is conducted world wide by the patrons and practitioners of Carnatic music and attended by thousands of music lovers and devotees.
The language of Thyagaraja compositions is simple but yet beautiful, and the choice of words in the compositions add to the melody of raga and the rhythm of tala to create the ecstasy of bhava and rasa.
Syama Sastri hailed from the Vadamar community connected to Tamil Nadu, but originally hailing from Andhra. He was born in Thiruvarur to Visvanatha Iyer, in 1762. He was a friend of Thyagaraja and guru to the third of the Carnatic Trinity, who will be discussed subsequently.
Syama Sastri’s achievements in classical music include around 300 total compositions, 9 kritis to Meenakshi Devi, and humbling a number of court musicians in sangeeta contests. His works are known for their intricate taalas. Above all, he refused royal patronage and never deigned to engage in nara-stuti, saving his musical talents to sing the praises of the Divine. He was a great sangeeta and spiritual power, the like of which rarely walks in this modern world. His most famous composition is considered to be Devi Brova Samayam Idhe.
The most famous student of the second of the Carnatic Trinity is the only true blue Tamilian among 2 Telugus. Nevertheless, he set a tradition that would continue on to make his home state the greatest patron of Saastriya Sangeeta in this era. This legacy continues on to the present day in the great Carnatic sabhas of Chennai.
Rajas Shahaji & Tuloji
The Maratha rulers of Madurai would continue the outstanding legacy of its previous Nayak rulers, and become tremendous patrons of Sangeeta themselves.
Tuloji (1765-1787) wrote the treatise Sangeeta Saramritam in 1770. He too was a great supporter of Saastriya Sangeeta.
Raja Swati Thirunal
The ruler of the Kerala kingdom of Travancore between 1829 and 1847, he is considered one of the great Royal composers of Saastriya Sangeeta (in both Carnatic & Hindustani schools). He was a poet, scholar and linguist, with songs credited to him in the Sanskrit, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindustani, Tamil, and Telugu languages. Considered a genius and generous patron of music, his court was adorned with musicians such as Paramesvara Bhagavatar, Govinda Marar and Vadivel. He is highly respected for his technical beauty (svarakshara) and composed more than 300 kirthanas, padas, varna, thillanas, and raga mallikas under the ankitam Padmanabha. [6, 71]
There are, of course, many, many more personalities who could be discussed. But the ones above have had the most noted impact on Saastriya Sangeeta across the spectrum.
Let us now commence with a more detailed survey of the Important Texts of the Classical Indic tradition.
Natya Sastra, 400 BCE (or earlier) [2,8]
The Naatya Saastra has already been discussed in detail in this previous article. Nevertheless, for those short on time and long on interest, here is a brief description of its impact on music. “Saaradatanaya (1175-1250 A.D.), the author of the Bhaavaprakaashan, informs us that the original editon of the Naatyasaastra consisted 12,000 shlokas and afterwards it was reduced to 6,000.” [4, 123] It 37 chapters make up one of the most systematic treatments on the arts. The 22nd chapter is considered the most important to music. There are at least 9 commentaries on it, with Abhinavagupta’s considered the most incisive. [6, 76]
Dattilam, 400 BCE (or earlier)
Brihaddesi, 400 CE (or earlier)
Quoted in numerous texts from the ancient period down through the 17th century, Brihaddesi is considered an exquisite exegesis on how classical Indic music balances between marga and desi. It demonstrates how the native tradition preserves its indigenous character, while allowing the tunes of various Indic desas and the folk music of the non-Indic to contribute to the Civilizational body. “The source of musical structure and composition, both of Hindustani and Carnatic, has to be traced back to the Br[i]haddesi“.  It is here that we first see clear distinctions between Jatis, Murchanas, and Raga.
Perhaps the best known quote from the Brihaddesi is the one on nada:
There is no geeta (song, music) wiithout naada, there are no svaras (musical notes) without naada, there is no nrtta (dance) without naada, hence the world is of the essence of naada. [5, 7]
Silappadikaram ~2nd Century BCE-5th Century CE
Arguably the most famous work of Sangam Literature, Silappadikaram is a Tamizhepic that is also authoritative on poetry, music , and drama. It allong with the Tivaakaram and Paripadal is used to divine the divine music of that era in the Tamil regions. The Silappadikaram in particular describes 22 alaku (shrutis, much like the earlier Bharata Muni). There are also descriptions of various musical instruments such as the yazh and the kudamulabu.
Natyalochana, 800-1000 CE
Composed by an uncredited author, it is a text on drama and music that is wide in scope. Ragas are divided into shuddha (pure), saalanka (impure) and sankeerna (mixed). A total of 44 ragas are listed, with only 8 pure ragas.
Manasollasa of Somesvara III (Karnataka), 1131 CE
Abhinava Bharati (Kashmir), 1000CE
Composed by Saaradaatanaya, it is another work of Natya and Rasalankaara (aesthetics). Interestingly, he makes provision for acoustic enhancement through prescription of various shapes of theatres. For example, a circular theatre is ideal for a mishra dance (where marga and desi are mixed), and a triangular theatre is ideal for marga. [4, 164]
Gita Govinda, 1100 CE
Songs of Geetha Govinda are called prabandha-gitis. This is because they are characterised by saahithya, raaga, thaala, dhaatu, anga, murcchana, rasa, and bhaava. Gitinaatya as a genre in the present era is traced to this work due to its widespread influence. Written in the ashtapadi form (8 stanzas), popularised by the author itself, Gita Govinda celebrates the Rasa-leela of Krishna with Radha and the Gopikas.
Considered a classic work of Sringara Mahakavya, it contains 24 songs in 12 sanskrit sargas. Ramashtapadi of Ramakavi and Sivashtapadi of Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati are said to have taken after it. [6, 78]
Sangeeta Samayasaara of Parsvadeva (Karnataka) 1100 CE
Better known for his Nrtta Ratnavali (above), Jaya Senapati’s Geeta Ratnavali was a great text on music lost to us during the pillage of Warangal by Delhi Turks. While his treatise on dance leaves us to wonder what musical wonders were lost to us, the commander of the Kakatiya King’s elephant corps deserves mention for his contributions to music (glimpses of which can be found in his surviving work).
Bharatabhaasya of Naanyadeva
Sangeeta-Sudhakara ofJagadekamalla, ~1300 CE
Another work by a Chalukya sovereign, the Sangeeta-Sudhakara was written by the son of Someshvara III (of Manasollasa fame). Prince Jagadekamalla is therefore another key royal musicologist and patron of music.
Sangeeta-Saram by Swami Vidyaranya, 1300 CE
Saaroddhara of Sudhaakalasa (Gujarat), 1350 CE
Dasar Padams (Karnataka), 1400 CE
Sangeetaraja & Sangeet-krama-dipaka by Maharana Kumbha (Rajasthan), 1400 CE
Sangeeta Kaumudi (Odisha)
Svaramela-kalandhi by Rama Amatya, 1500 CE
Raaga Vibodam of Somanatha, 1500 CE
Sangeetha Sudha of Govinda Dixitar, 1600 CE
Chaturdandi Prakaasikai of Venkatamakhin, 1600 CE
Sangitadarpana of Daamodara
Sangitataranga of Radhamohan Sen
Krishna-leela-tarangini (Andhra), 1600 CE
Ragatarangini of Lochanakavi (Bihar), 1620 CE
Kshetragna Padams (Andhra), 1600 CE
Sangita Parijata, 1650 CE
Written by Pandit Ahobala, it is a popular treatise on North Indian music. Ahobala is reputed to be the first writer to refer to the svaras by the lengths of veena wires. The kaphi raaga of Hindustani is attributed to him. His work was subsequently translated from Sanskrit into Persian in 1724.
Sangeetha Saaraamrutham by Tuloji Maharaj (Maharashtra/Tamil Nadu), 1700 CE
A comparatively recent but valuable work for students sand scholars of Carnatic music, its author is unknown. It appears to date after Venkatamakhin and has an expanded system of 4,624 melakartas. This is divided into 136 chakras, with each chakra containing 34 melas.
This concludes the discussion of traditional texts on music. While any complete list is putatively longer (and any elaboration on the treatises even more so), these should suffice to provide an historical foundation for textual sangeeta.
We end as we began, with a discussion of not only the History of Classical Indic Music, but the pervasiveness of its influence. In fact, no discussion of Indian music is complete without mention of the expansive travels and tragic story of those wandering minstrels of global fame: the Romani. Though pejoratively called Gypsy or Gitanos, their musical influence is undeniable, not only via their own stories which they tell, but in the obvious impact they had on music wherever they went.
Nevertheless, the history of Indian Music and its spread predates these nomads of Northwestern India.
Specially the music of greece was indebted to indian music, which was introduced to Greece by Pythaagoras and the Pythaagoreans. It is said that Pythaagoras visited India and returned to Greece, carrying with him the cultural, religious, and philosophical ideas of India. [4, 110]
Furthermore, the Emperor of North India, Harshavardhana Shiladitya was a renowned supporter of classical music and dance. “In 581 A.D., a band of musicians was sent from India to China at the invitation of the Chinese Emperor, and it is said that music missions weres sent to distant lands like Samarkanda, Bukhaara, Japan, Corea, Kaamboja (Cambodia) and other Middle and East Asian countries.” [4, 111-112]
Another trend of late is to create false cultural distinctions within India. Contrary to progressively-regressive revisionistas, time assignation for ragas exist in Carnatic. Of course, one does not expect them to have read the works of Karnataka Sangeeta Vidwans like A.S. Panchapakesa Iyer, but here is what he had to say:
“27. Time for Singing Ragas
In a day consisting of 24 hours, we have morning, afternoon, evening and night….
There are some ragas meant for waking people up from deep slumber. The ragas Bhupalam, Bowli and Revagupti are fit for being sun during this period….
In the afternoon, that is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., people will be busy engaged in their work…Begada, Danyasi, Madhyamavathi, Manirangu, Bhairavi are the ragas suitable for this time…
In the evening, that is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. when people return home after work, they would like to be happy in the company of their wives and children. Ragas like Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Kambhiji, Bhairavi, Thodi, Kharaharapriya and Pantuvarali are suitable for this time.
During the night around 8 p.m. after taking food, one prepares to go to sleep. Ragas like Nilambari, Ananda Bhairavi and Edukula Kambhoji are suitable for this period” [ 1, 62-63]
Other names and concepts will become more relevant, particularly when discussing the distinctions between Carnatic and Hindustani, which incidentally had many intentional recent origins rather than historically organic ones. Hindustani, much like a particular persianised register of Hindustani (the language), is very much a product of politically driven motivation. Even the sitar (originating in the ancient chitra veena) and the tabla (clearly visible in ancient sculpture as the pushkara) have not been left untouched by colonial and neo-colonial revisionism. That is the importance of studying classical texts with the emic lens, rather than the etic. 
But perhaps it is best to conclude, not in our own words, but in those of the experts.
“In conclusion, it can be said that ancient period is the most important, nay, the golden age in the history of Indian music. The cultural history of this period is glorious and eventful, and the age has undoubtedly a charm, beauty and value of its own for the historians as well as for the students of the history of music. The most remarkable aspect of this period is this that most of the valuable and essential materials of music evolved during this period…So the ancient period of history of Indian music must be given special attention and be studied with proper care.” [4, 190]
Appa Rao, P.S.R. A Monograph on Bharata’s Natya Sastra. Hyderabad: Natyakala Press.1967
Iyer, A.S. Panchapakesa. Karnataka Sangeeta Sastra: Theory of Carnatic Music. Chennai: Ganamrutha Prachuram.2008
Lavezolli, Peter. The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. New York: Continuum.2006
Prajnanananda, Swami. A History of Indian Music. Volume 1. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math. 1997
Sharma, Prem Lata, asst. by Anil Bihari Beohar. Brihaddesi of Sri Matanga Muni. Delhi: IGNCA. 1992
Sambamurthy, P. Syama Sastri and other Famous Figures of South Indian Music. Chennai: The Indian Music Publishing House. 1999
Vatsyayan, Kapila. Bharata: The Natyasastra. Sahitya Akademi.2007
Continuing Food Week here on the Indic Civilizational Portal is a work of Literature mentioned in our preceding Post on Classical Indic Cuisine.
The Paaka Darpana of King Nala of the Nishadas is the oldest available text on Indian Cookery. Although we already conducted a brief expository on it, it’s important to—pardon the pun—flesh out the details of this little known composition.
Any mention of Culinary Literature is incomplete without discussion of the Paaka Darpana. Meaning ‘Culinary Mirror’, it is an ancient work with modern applications. It helps us understand not only what unites Indian cooking—real Indian cooking—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, but also gives insight into what many Ancient Bharatiyas actually ate.
The legendary lord of the Nishaadas, Nala is a famed hero mentioned in the Mahabharata as the other half of that Pauranic Power Couple Nala & Damayanti.
It is said that he was extremely good looking, truthful, brave, just and endowed with eight boons. 
Nevertheless, as is famously recounted in the Naisadheeya or Naisadha Charita of Sriharsa , Nala (like another famous Mahabharata character) was not good at dice. He lost his kingdom in a wager with his brother Pushkara, and he too had to go into exile. It was in these circumstances that he became a chef in the Royal Kitchen of Rtuparna, King of Ayodhya. To preserve his real identity, Nala took the name Bahuka, and explained the Art of Cuisine to Rtuparna.
Interestingly enough, Nala later mentions his name in the Paaka Darpana and describes his travails. Damayanti is also discussed as is her later svayamvara.
King Nala himself is a member of the Nishada tribe. While the tale he is best known for is for another time, some of the slokas in this work give us insight into not only his surface-qualities, but also his substantive ones as well.
“The king (Rtuparna), addressing Nala, asked him many questions regard-ing the dietics and regimens to be observed in various seasons. He puts forth many epithets to Nala…O, supreme one amongst the expert cooks having parexcellence knowl-edge of the science of cookery, authority of science of cooking, all round expert of sorts, of cooking procedures, O observer of auster-ity, O, proficient O, personified lion among the elepha[nts]. O, Baahuka (Nala), kindly exhibit the procedure of consumable articles, beneficial to everybody, to be taken in various seasons.” [1, 79]
The traditional seasons per the Indic Science of Time-Keeping are “the seasons of spring (Vasanta), summer (greeshma), early rains (praavrt), rains (vaarshikaa), autumn (saarad) and winter (hemanta) are observed in fore-noon (purvaahna), midnoon (madhyaahna), afternoon (aparaahna), evening (pradosha), midnight (ardharaatra) and dawn (pratyushas) respectively.” [1, 79] It’s clear the great Nala of the Nishaadas has a solution for every season.
Whatever your tastes, however, it’s quite clear what he had in mind for good food was the Royal Rajbhogand all the intricacies of its preparation. However, the composition itself explicates the breadth of his knowledge more than any would-be biographer could do.
Credited to Nala of Nishada rajya, Paaka Darpana is a Sanskrit work. It contains 761 slokas and is divided into 11 chapters.
In this wonderful book the author has described the recipes of vegetable & non-veg. preparations. Dishes prepared from Neem, Mandan, Guduchi, Jackfruit etc. become cures also besides being very tasty, the dishes are made fragrant before being served.[2,1]
A manuscript exists at the Saraswati Bhavan Library of Sampurnanand Sanskrit University at Varanasi.
Chapter 1: By far the longest chapter (half the work), it introduces the topic and deals with the five key categories of food: pulses, rice, and meat.
Chapter 2:Discusses the various seasons and the food regimens to be observed. The influence of Ayurveda is obvious here.
Chapter 3:Treats the item of Bhaksyaraaja and various other dishes containing Egg
Chapter 4: Focused on Phirni (kheer). Interestingly, different varieties of Paayasa are mentioned, as well as syrups such as Paanaka (Sri Rama‘s favourite).
Chapter 5: Surveys the process pertaining to the preparation of different varieties of soft beverage, particularly their storage.
Chapter 6: Presents the various processes and properties of different soups (yoosa)
Chapter 7: Discusses the aspects of various Ghee preparations (Ghrtannapaaka) & Cereals.
Chapter 8:Lehya (lickable) foods, such as the mango, are mentioned
Chapter 9:Surveys the process of cooling water, giving fragrance, and preparing delicacies
Chapter 10: Ksheera-paaka, or general cooking of mixed dish milk preparations
Chapter 11:The last chapter overviews the processes of creating curd from milk
As a matter of interest, the original manuscript does not have these 11 paricchedas, and was found as one continuous composition (without punctuation).
Nala describes the various qualities of a cook (sooda ) and expert chef (soodaraat), which the reader can review among the selections. Nevertheless, the Nishaada king also describes the qualities of a proper waiter. Here is the gist below:
The waiter-at-meals (parivesaka) should attend to ablu-tions…followed by cleanliness of the feet and hands. He should be a fulfiller of culinary desires, attentitive to mind, firm/adherent, familiar with the timing of the meals of the king. Thereafter, he should serve the meals and food-prepara-tion in set order having come to know the appropriate time set for a king and considering its wholesomeness. [1,9]
The importance of cleanliness is quite apparent from the outset. Uniquely the cleanliness specified is not only a physical one, but a mental and even spiritual one. While the feasibility of ensuring such a level of sauchamay indeed stretch credulity in our era, the emphasis on hygiene should, nonetheless, be feted and emulated. Whether chef or waiter or sommelier, one who furnishes food for others should take care to honour their trust. There is an implied guarantee of cleanliness.
In the same chapter, Nala also outlines the work in slokas 28-32, albeit in greater detail than the list at the top:
“The first section of the treatise deals with boiled rice (odana) with its various preparations; second one appraises the variet-ies of pulse (soopa); third one describes the clarified butter (sarpis); fourth one presents various varieties of recipes (vyanjana); fifth one depicts several preparations of meat (maamsa) and vegetables (shaaka); sixth one narrates a number of preparations of semi-hard food (bhakshya); seventh one introduces the preparations of Paayasa (rice cooked in milk with sugar added to it); eighth one elucidates an elixir (rasaayana); ninth one describes the preparation of syrup (paana) with its varieties; tenth one considers the varieties of soup (yoosa); eleventh one contemplates the food and its varieties processed by clarified but-ter; twelfth one exhibits the lickable (lehya) articles with its varieties; thirteenth one focuses the various beverages (paaneeya); thirteenth con-fines to several preparation of milk (ksheera); fifteenth one puts forth various preparation of curd (dadhi) and the last sixteenth one states the various preparations of butter-milk (takra).” [1,9]
Thus, one can see from this exegesis an inclusion of not only common staples such as rice, supplemented by vegetables, but also different types of meat.
Meat (maamsa) is reviewed with precision, particularly with regard to preparation and cleaning. Many different exotic meats are also discussed (it is not known if Nala’s tribal background influenced the selection). These range from curries to rice dishes. The most important however is referred to as simply maamsodana.
“Preparation process of Maamsodana (Pulaava)—The cook skilled in processing should fill up the 3/4 part of the cauldron (Sthaali) by the water hereafter it should be kept on fire place (stove or chulha). When water becomes heated the well-washed rice should be dropped in the quantity of one fourth of the [vessel]. When the Sali rice becomes semi-cooked, meat either, completely cooked or semi-cooked in the form of minute pieces alike rice should be mixed along with salt. This cooked rice should be fired with clarified ghee. After disappearance of watery residue, it should be put on the coalfire (Angar). Afterwards the coconut water and new ghee should also b[e] mixed and should be scented with the flower of screw pine (Ketaki). Hereafter the pieces of Parpata should be dropped and it should be made scented through the product of Camphor and Musk (Kastooree).” [1,22]
A rice dish known as chitrapaaka is discussed, and a full recipe given (sl.86). It is to be prepared in a special non-metal vessel known as Pugapada. It is mixed with salt, musk and ketaki flower, camphor, saffron and water. Lemon, mushroom, coriander, ringer and onion are also to be included. Option of adding meat after all this is prepared exists as well.
There are many, many other recipes including those for kukkutamaamsatailodana (chicken pulao with asafoetida, sl.100), sooksmaamsoddana (minced chicken pulao, sl.103), etc.
As such, many of the items he mentions are not only non-traditional to modern Hindus, but also notable for lacking any dishes with cow meat. Thus, even a tribal king with even fewer restrictions than so called “savarna” Kshatriyas, did not advocate beef. Therefore, we can see an integral unity in this myriad diversity.
The cow remains sacred for all Dharmic peoples.
Slokas 341-344 also discuss different spices. It appears the addition of ginger and garlic is nothing new to Indian cookery, as there is clear mention of it here. But shakaharis and sattvik chefs need not fear. There are also a number of vegetarian main courses mentioned as well.
Preparation of pulses is discussed in great detail with the mixing of turmeric and asafoetida. Different types of pulses are also described such as horse-gram (kulattha), black-gram (masa), flat bean (nispava) in sl.121. Pulse itself is described as an alleviator of pitta and a promoter of health [1, 27]. Thus, we again see the background influence of Ayurveda here.
Shigruphalam (drum-stick), plantain (kadhalee), audambara (Indian fig), tiktaalaabu (bitter gourd), are all vegetarian options and their dishes all discussed as well. For sake of familiarity, a recipe for a brinjal (vrnthaakam) dish will be described here:
“Method of preparing the vegetable of Brinzal and its properties. The lovely young fruit of brinzal should be taken and its upper portion should be cut by a sharp-edged knife. After cutting the brinzal into two parts, it should be dropped into a pot filled with water. The round brinzal fruit should be cleansed by the water and it should be dipped into the water medicated with ginger. It should be mixed with asafoetida, Kaayaphala (Kaidarya) and coriander powder. It should be added by the pieces of garlic and ginger and it should be kept on fire. The round brinzal fruit cut into pieces should be kept in hot water for a while and it should be brought out of the water. After making the paste of spices containing black pepper coriander, cumin seeds (jeera) mixed with ripe tamarind and curd should be pasted on the pieces of brinzal fruit and it should be fried in cow’s ghee (clarified butter). After taking it out, it should be made fragrant with the camphor. Hereafter it should be kept in clean pipe of puga-putta boiling ghee. After taking out it should be eaten.” [1, 38] It is praised as “an alleviator of Tridosha” and an enhancer of strength. [1, 38]
But the best of all vegetarian dishes is described as Bhakshyaraaja, King of the Edibles:
“The cook should take on part of the pieces of raw wheat along with the one part of fragrant article in order to cook it properly. The well cooked pulse of Bengal gram (canaka) taken as half part and one part of fat and one part of the flat bean (Nispaava) along with the five pieces of co[co]nut, fruit mixed with cardamom (elaa) and salt in appropriate quantity. All the above substances should be cooked properly and the butter ex-tracted from the scented milk should be mixed in boiled milk. after mixing all these, the pills should be prepared like seeds of lemon and these should be kept in pugapatta. These pills, after some time should be again cooked and dropped in the ghee. This preparation is called Bhakshyaraaja.” “It is celebrated as an alleviator of vaata and pitta, promoter of digestive power, palatable, and a strength promoter.” [1, 86]
In terms of vegetarian items of regional interest, Odias would be interested to hear about the preparation of the Kalinga fruit (sl. 444). Kashmiris might relish the description of Lotus flower, Padma-patra-shaaka (sl.477), as a dish.
Rasa & Ayurveda
The editor’s note gives a detailed discussion of rasabhinivritti (Manifestation of taste) and expounds on how “Location (desa) plays a great role in manifestation of various tastes in one substance, e.g.grapes and pomegranates growing in the Himaalayas are sweet in taste whereas those growing elsewhere are sour“. [1, 11] Taste which manifests immediately is referred to as rasa, while that which manifests later and slightly is called anurasa. Nala himself specifically mentions 8 demerits in food, along with various characteristics of starch.
Medicinal aspects are also discussed, such as how to alleviate pain from a scorpion-sting. This circles back to the overall connection to Ayurveda. Although naturally Nala being not just an ordinary cook, but a royal chef is expected to be mindful of taste, the centrality of nutrition and health is apparent. Incidentally, seasonal regimes (for purposes of health) are avidly described in chapter 2. Special care is taken to assert the need for more caution during the changing of seasons.
Nala himself recommends certain meats in certain seasons, suggesting deer in spring, goat in summer, chicken in rainy season, fish in autumn, pork in winter, and sparrow in late winter (sl.31).
Of course, no discussion of the composition would be complete without mention of the desserts. While foreign attribution of all things Indian may be popular (even phirni!), here is King Nala’s recipe for Kheer, better known as Ksheerapaaka.
“Milk, unmixed with water, should be kept in a milk vessel. it should be cooked in slow heat in cauldron and stirred with ladle…Milk which has become drinkable is to be added by the jack-fruit. in the milk, which has become more solidified, the ginger should be added by another fruit. Later on the flowers of Punnaga should also be added to it. the milk known as ghatika is to be added by the mango fruit along with ghee and honey. In this way, the flower of pomegranate and rice should be added, when the milk becomes in ‘Sarkara’ form, banana fruit is to be added along with sugar.” [1,109] It is described as glorified by the Gods and alleviates the disorders of Tridosha.
(I know the food-stuff classified into five categories viz., bhakshya [semihard food like sweet-ball (laddu) etc.] bhojya (soft food like rice, pulse etc.), lehya (relishable or lickable articles like sauce), cosva (suckable articles like sugarcane, pomegranate etc.) and peya (drinkables or beverages like fruit-juice, wines etc.) possessing either the six tastes (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent) on the basis of preparation and processing. [1,2]
Person, who relishes the aforesaid dishes (citrapaaka) with care and prepared by me, gets positive sound health. If this preparation is taken even once, alleviates the diseases caused by Vaata, Pitta and Sleshman as Lord Siva (Tryambaka) had killed the demon Tripura.” [1,3]
O lord (prabhu) king Rtuparna. I have composed a trea-tise entitled Paakadarpana in this regard by the grace of gods (lokapaalas) for the benefit of people. All the process of (cooking) would be conspicuous by going through it. Now, I shall narrate the characteristics of cook (sooda) succinctly).
The cook (soodha) appointed in a particular place, must belong to that habitat. He should be intellectual, endowed with all the required merits and characteristics, possessing the moral and ethical values, hailing from a respectable family, qu[iet], subdued, generous, honored by the royal families, pious, smiling, devoted to his wife, averted from other’s wife, holy, speaking measured words, liberal, com-passionate, soft spoken, familiar with various metalic utensils, conversant with place and seasons and detector of age and phases of life and also wise. [1,8]
Food is primarily said as sustainer of vital force (Praana) of all living beings. Food, containing the sixtythree types (on the basis of combinations and permutations) of rasa (tastes) is factually personi-fied as Brahma (creator of the universe). The best food is that which is devoid of eight types of impurities. [1, 10]
Attainment of the post of expert cook. The best cook is one, who, having gone through cookery very attentively and pre-cisely from all the aspects; possesses the knowledge of all sorts of cooking by heart. He is also known as the king of the cooks. [1,78]
Why Soopa Sastra? Elsewhere cooking is referred to specifically as Paaka, in Sanskrit. The rationale for this is manifold. The first Sanskrit text known to us on the culinary arts is in fact called Soopa Sastra, and is credited to Sage Sukesa. In addition, “The cook went by many names, such as alarika, soopakaara, odanika, bhojanadatr, and sudas”. [1, 108] Further, much like Dhanurveda refers to the Military Arts (despite Dhanur being ‘bow’), Soopa Sastra refers to the Culinary Arts despite soopa meaning only Soup (or broth). Finally, Paaka refers to cooking, but Soopa is a broader term encompassing Cuisine in general. Thus, Soopa Sastra is Culinary Science which encompasses not only Cooking, but Civilized Dining as well.
For all these reasons, Soopa Sastra is the more preferable phrase for the present time.
What did our ancestors eat? Was it similar to what we eat now? Is it all a patchwork of regional cuisines or are there Pan-Indian commonalities?
More importantly, as one culinary author asks, “What do you mean by ‘good food’? Good to the taste? By ‘good’ do you mean food which has inherent values, i.e. values which are good for the well-being of the eater?”. [7, 16] Or does this merely mean food which satisfies? As in all things, the key to life is balance. It is only when there is imbalance that man either becomes deprived or depraved. Between being dull and being diseased is the middle path.
“Food was also part of the ‘discipline’ in daily living of the Hindu way of life….The peak of ascetic glory was to be able to live on air and water and the perfect ‘yogi’ was revered because he had taught himself to subsist on a mi[n]imum of food. The bogi learnt the pleasures of eating, and descended to eating two meals a day, while the rogi was the gourmet given to self-indulgence and excess which resulted in ill-health. Hence the same word rogi is used for a man sick with disease (from roga=disease).” [7,17]
Thus, one need not be a yogi to live a healthy life. The wise man or wise woman finds balance and eats in moderation—knowing to generally eat healthy, while responsibly indulging on special occasions. Thus, between the yogi and the rogi is the bhogi. Herein lies the importance of the Rajbhog.
Whether it was the Rajabhoga (King’s meal) or the saamaanya bhojana, food was so important that cities themselves have been named after food items. One such prominent example is Vidarbha‘s Amraoti (not to be confused with Andhra’s Amaravati). The original named of this Maharashtrian municipality was in fact Audambaravati, named after the Indian fig (udambara). [1. 35]
Vegetarianism is also a frequent flower in the garland of Dharma. Not only those following the Sattvic way of life, but also The Buddha favoured ahimsa to animals, though he permitted non-veg in cases of unintentional slaughter. [1,55] Jainism of course stands as the most dedicated to the concept of non-injury to animals, and many Sikhs observe vegetarianism (except in times of war).
Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism crystallized out of a Hindu matrix. In terms of food practices they have naturally many features in common with the Hindu ethos. [1.70]
Despite the large contingents of vegetarians (sakaharis) and non-vegetarians (maamsahaaris), one dietary thread is common to them: the sanctity of the cow.
the Rigveda has a whole hymn to nutrition (peelu) in which only vegetable foods are listed, and carries two verses in praise of ‘the cow, Aditi, the sinless’. The word gau is used for the cow, and the term aghnyaa (‘not to be eaten, inviolable’) is employed no less than sixteen times, in contrast to three references to the bull, using the masculine form aghnya [1, 55]
These go-bhakshaks advocating a go-mamsa theory of Dharma are high on Ego and low on Sattva guna. This age old food restriction characterises our Dharmic way of life, yet nevertheless leaves a wide variety of not only other meats, but also a myriad of fruits, vegetables, grains, beverages, divine dishes, and savoury sweets. Whether veg or non-veg, let us all survey together what is common in their presentation and preparation.
“May for me prosper, through the sacrifice, milk, sap, ghee, honey, eating and drinking at the com-mon table, ploughing, rains, conquest, victory, wealth, riches. May for me prosper, through the sacrifice, low-grade food, freedom from hunger, rice, barley sesame, kidney beans, vetches, wheat, lentils, millets, panicum grains and wild rice. May for me prosper, through the sacrifice, trees, plants, that which grows in ploughed land, and that which grows in unploughed land.” —Yajurveda [1, 28]
The influence of the Vedas on disparate spheres of life is so widespread that even food and agriculture are not untouched by it.We see from this quote from the Yajur Veda that agriculture was very much a part of Vedic Society. Rather than a Central Asian pastoral culture, we see the mark of an agricultural one. This centrality of settled life would be seen in later periods as well, and we see the sophistication of irrigation driven farming.
In the Ramayana, the land of Kosala is eulogized by Rama as adhsvamatrakah, that is, as relying on irrigation rather than rainfall for its fecundi-ty. The Arthashastra of Kautilya (c.300 BCE) has many references to an extensive system of irrigation. [1, 29]
What’s more, one notes the antiquity of rice consumption in Indic Society. Various texts attest not only to its import, but to the technical details of cultivation and crop protection as well.
“The Kashyapa Samhita (c.200BC) has detailed accounts of every aspect of rice cultivation: sowing, irrigation, seed transplanting, weeding, watering, protection from birds like parrots (us-ing buffalo skeletons as scarecrows), defence against vermin like rats, locusts and borer in-sects, reaping and finally threshing. Even the conditions needed to take a second crop are elaborated. The collection of cowdung (sarishaka or sakrit) is noted in the Rigveda…Fodder crops are silaged as early as the Rigveda, the process being called sujavas.” [1, 29]
As such, it is only natural that the predominant Pan-India aspects of Subcontinental cuisine be driven by the native approach to agriculture. Ironically, it is that honoured bovine whose meat is forbidden that provides us with the most Civilizational of ingredients. More than any other animal, it is the dhenuh, the Indian Cow, whose produce embodies the most central ingredients to Classical Indic Cuisine: milk (ksheera), curd (dadhi), butter-milk (thakram), butter (navaneetham), and ghee (ghrtam).
In addition to the lactic aspects of core Indic food, are the grain (dhaanya) aspects. Staple is very important to virtually any urban/semi-urban cuisine. Here are the traditional grains.
“The Brihadaranyaka Samhita states that there are ten foodgrains. These were rice, barley, sesame, kidney beans, (masha), mil-let, panic seed (priyangu), wheat, lentils (khalva) and horsegram (khalakhula, later kulattha, now kulthi. The Arthashastra lists sugarcane and mustard (both known from much earlier, but not mentioned in ritual lists), linseed (atasi), safflower (kusumbha), and kodhrava.” [1, 31]
Chickpeas, aman rice, wild rice, and Bengal gram are also listed, as are Pumpkins, other gourds, grapes, and long peppers (pippali). Spices include turmeric (haridra), fenugreek (methi), ginger, and garlic. “Others like pepper and cardamom came from south India, and asa-foetida from Afghanistan.” [1,33]
Speaking of sugar, one notes the dietary superiority of traditional sweeteners such as cane sugar, honey, and jaggery, versus the current obsession with visham-variety refined sugar(and the diabetes/obesity epidemic sweeping India & the rest of the world). Incidentally, “Sushruta’s observations suggest that as sugar products became purer and whiter, they also became ‘cooler’ but more difficult to digest.” [1,85] Health must come before Taste, but as traditional Indic cuisine (real Indic cuisine) shows, the two need not be antipodes (especially with the guidance of Ayurveda).
While simple Sattvic fare is indeed “sresth“, it is also important that Dharmic society begin rolling out the Ancient Indian Red carpet, and its Royal Rajbhog of Rajadhirajas.
Kingly Texts on Culinary Arts
There were many other masters of food preparation, perhaps none more famous than that mighty Pandava Bheemasena. His appetite for feats of strength was matched only by his literal appetite for feasts of savories. Those familiar with the film Maya Bazaarmight enjoy this song, which captures the spirit (though Ghatotkacha will stand in for his father here).
While Bheemasena is credited with a text called Bheema Paaka Sastra, it is the Paaka Darpana of King Nala (of Damayanti fame) that is the most ancient text we have recovered to date.
Nala wasn’t the only King with culinary sophistication. King Somesvara III of the Western Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka wrote the well-known work Abhilashitarthachinthaamani. Better known as Manasollasa, meaning ‘refresher of the mind’, it is a veritable tome on not only knowledge, but also the pleasures of Royalty—with food naturally included in it. At 100 chapters divided among 5 books, it is a topic for another article. Nevertheless, there is a chapter titled Annabhoga stipulating varieties of dishes and methods of preparation (still common today throughout the Dakshinapatha).[1,89] King Basavaraja of Keladi (also in Karnataka) was another such who wrote on a wide range of topics, including food, in his Shivatattvaratnaakara. There is also the Soopa Sastra of Mangarasa III, King of the Kannada state of Kallalli, who wrote in Old Kannada.[1,88] It appears the Kings of Karnata were exemplars at promoting the culinary arts. Nevertheless, Nala set the original standard.
Paaka Darpana of King Nala.
Nala & Damayanti may be famous for their love story (poetically recounted by Sriharsa in his Naishadha Charita), but the Nishada King was legendary for more than being merely a love-lorn lover. Before the great Bheemasena himself, was Master Chef King Nala. His conversation with Maharaja Rtuparna of Ayodhya and subsequent employment in Kosala’s Royal Kitchen gives us insight into not only a mature and even Imperial Indic Cuisine, but also the continuity of tradition from that ancient time to present-day.
Paaka Darpanam means Mirror of Cooking, and it is an ancient book on culinary science. It has 761 sanskrit slokas contained in 11 chapters (paricchedas).
In this wonderful book the author has described the recipes of vegetable & non-veg. preparations. Dishes preparated from Neem, Mandan, Guduchi, Jackfruit etc. become cures also besides being very tasty, the dishes are made fragrant before being served.[2,1]
The cook is referred to as sooda and the waiter as parivesaka. Both are required to have good qualities and practice the utmost cleanliness. [3, 8] Nala then outlines the work discussing various aspects of food taxonomy, dividing his work into 16 aspects: boiled rice (odana), pulses/broths ( soopa), clarified butter (sarpis), curries (vyanjana), meat (maamsa) and vegetables (shaaka), semi-hard food (bhaksya), sweet rice dish (kheer), elixir (rasaayana), syrup (paana), soup (yoosa), lickable foods (lehya), beverages (paaneeya) milk (ksheera), curd (dadhi) , and butter-milk preparations (thakra). [2,9]
He also states that “Food is primarily said as sustainer of vital force (Praana) of all living beings. Food, containing the sixtythree types (on the basis of combinations & permutations) of rasa (tastes) is factually personi-fied as Brahma (creator of the universe). the best food is that which is devoid of eight types of impurities.” [2,10]
Nevertheless, of all the notable aspects of Nala’s treatise on Paaka, none more is important than that most healthful of Sciences: Ayurveda.
Person, who relishes the aforesaid dishes (citrapaaka) with care and prepared by me, gets positive sound health. If this preparation is taken even once, alleviates the diseases caused by Vaata, Pitta and Sleshman as Lord Siva (Tryambaka) had killed the demon Tripura.” [2,3]
Certain fundamentals are obvious from the outset. We see that even in this most ancient period, Ayurveda is a driving factor. The mention of Vaata, Pitta, and Kapha (Sleshman) are clear demonstrations of the theory motivating the Classical Indic philosophy of Cookery.
The Classical Indic Approach to food not only managed to balance the needs of the ascetic yogi with the royal bhogi, but also balanced health with taste. Nutrition and satisfaction need not be diametrically opposed. What matters is what you have, how you have it, and how it balances with not only the rest of your diet, but also with the rest of your lifestyle.
“‘There is no disaster in life’ the adult is admonished, ‘if one eats in mod-eration food that is not disagreeable. As pleasure dwells with him who eats mod-erately, so disease is the lot of the glutton who eats voraciously.’ Moderation in Ayurvedic terms is designated tripti, liter-ally satisfaction, but here connoting the appeasement of hunger and thirst. In contrast is atisauhitya meaning overeating to satiety.” [1, 79]
Texts such as Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita are classic works on Ayurveda (the science itself said to originate from Brahma, via Dhanvantari). Does this in fact work? Well, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Shadruchi: The six tastes are sweet (madhuram), sour (aamla), salty (lavanam), bitter (tikta), pungent (kaatu) and astringent (kashaaya). Incidentally, among Telugu families during New Year (Ugadi), it is common to have Ugadi Pacchadi (New Year Chutney) featuring the six tastes to symbolise all the aspects of life to be experienced in the coming year. Some families are known to rig the system by adding more sweet!
While there are 6 pure tastes (shadruchi), there are as many as 63 mixed tastes according to Charaka. [1,79]
Regarding alcohol, Charaka counselled moderation, since alcohol increases pittha (the mental principle) while lessening both kapha (the physical principle) and vaatha (the vitality principle). 
Due to the importance of Pavitrata (purity) and suchi and muchi, the kitchen is considered a near consecrated portion of the orthodox Hindu household. Various rules are stipulated in the grhyasutras. Nevertheless, long story short, cleanliness is next to godliness. Many examples of traditional and modern wisdom have been passed on today.
Food taxonomy is typically divided into foods not requiring fire and those that require fire. Various other aspects are also mentioned, but these are the key ones. As seen above, King Nala gave us a more detailed division of foods as well.
Several cooking operations were in use since very early times. These were thaalanam (drying), kvaathanam (parboiling), pachanam (cooking in water), svedanam (steaming), bhavita (seasoning), apakva (frying), bharjanam (dry roasting), thandooram (grilling) and putapaaka (baking). Devices for these operations developed in parallel. [1, 101]
Various methods of meat preparation also existed. Sour meats were marinated with ghee, curd and fermented rice gruel, along with acidic fruits and various aromatic spices. Meat when dried and roasted was called parisukamaamsam, while minced meat was called ulluplamaamsam. [1,54]
An ancient history! The earliest documentation of the beverage #tea being consumed in India, is given in the epic Ramayana (750-500 BC) pic.twitter.com/tdTj6hJrwR
Beverages (alcoholic and otherwise) could also be a Blog Post in and of themselves. But for our “Madyam, apeyam, adeyam, agrahyam!” types…fear not! —I will commence with the non-alcoholic first.
“Buddhist texts enjoin the use of pure rain water for consumption. Water meant for drinking had to be ‘clear, cool, shining like silver, health-giving and with the fragrance of the lotus’. In fact, the lotus was frequently grown in tanks to purify the surrounding water.” [1, 39]
Beyond water there were a variety of juices. These refreshing drinks include mango, jamoon, banana, grapes, phaalsa, coconut, edible waterlily roots, and diluted honey. There was also sugarcane juice and licorice leaf along with a host of others.
Although the brits (and their Indian leftovers (pun-intended)) would have us believe they brought Indians tea, present research appears to indicate otherwise. The specific varieties may have varied, but tea in some form did exist (with the word chai itself having a sanskrit equivalent via chaayam). Kashmir has its own distinct aromatic kaahwaah tea brewed in a khandakari (samovar). [1,107] Coffee is, of course, an Ethiopian import, via middle easterners. Nevertheless, it has taken a special flavour in South India “filter kaaphi” (As Nilambari would attest).
Different types of alcoholic beverages are also listed. The famous Soma is one such intoxicant, reputedly brewed from the ephedra plant for yagnas, particularly for those whom intoxicants are otherwise prohibited. Suraa is the most common name for alcoholic beverage. The word for wine usually from grapes is madhya. Wines from honey, rice, palm, flowers, and jaggery were also known. The spiced wine maireya is also mentioned in the Ramayana. While abstention from alcohol was and is considered a virtue, its restrained consumption was nevertheless permissible to most classes of society. Some examples of ancient liquors:
Madhira—Wine of high quality
Kaadambaree—Distilled liquor made from kadamba flowers
Thaallaka—Wine made from palm fruit juice
Haarahooraka—”Wine made from white grapes, imported from Haarahur, Afghanistan“[1,59]
Khajooraasava—Wine from dates
Shahakaarasuraa—Wine brewed from the juice of Mango
Mahaasuraa—”Mango juice win with a high proportion of fruit extract, perhaps modified with spices” [1, 59]
While reading all this one must remember what a middle eastern traveler wrote on the Indic view of Alcohol:
“The Indi-ans abstain from drinking wine, and censure those who consume it; not because their religion forbids it, but in the dread of its clouding their reason and depriving them of its powers.” [1, 60]
With apologies to oenophiles, as there are many more aspects that can be discussed at another time, we must move on to that other guilty pleasure…open to all classes!
Honey is considered the earliest sweetener. “Guests were welcomed to a household with madhuparka, a honey-sweetened concoction of curd and ghee.” [1, 37] Rock sugar (kand) is thought to have been known at least by 800 BCE, with modern exemplars such as Gulkand (Rose-jam) being used to this day. Confectionary may date back to the Vedic period with different combinations including cardamom, ginger, and ground barley/wheat with jaggery to make abhyusa.
“Some of these confections were artisti-cally shaped. The rice-flour sweet preparation, modaka or madhugolaka, looked like a fig, and the barley flour confection, shastika, was cone-shaped and had delicate surface markings. By late Buddhist times, some sophisticated sweets are mentioned. The mandaka, now called mande, was a large parata suffed with a sweetened pulse paste, which was then (as now) baked on an inverted pot: madhusarika was a sweet cake; morendaka, made from khoa, was shaped like the eggs of a mora (peacock); gulala-laavaniya was perhaps the modern gole-papadi, a tiny fully-expanded puri…Rice cooked in milk and sugar was payasa, a popular sweet even now“. [1, 39]
Rice, of course, is so central to Indic cuisine that it was cooked in a variety of ways and forms. Rice cultivation has been radio-carbon-dated at Prayag going back to at least 5000 BCE, though terraced fields for rice cultivation have been dated to 10,000 BCE in Kashmir. As for types of rice, the most common is Oddana (boiled rice). Pruthukam is beaten rice (poha) and neevaraa is wild rice [1,184]. Then there is laajaah, the ritually pure form of parched rice, mentioned in the Ramayana as well.
“The early canonical literature of the Buddhists and Jains (c.400 BC) again reveals extensive use of fine rice (shaali) or ordinary rice (vreehi), either boiled, or cooked with til seeds, or made into gruel (yaagu).” [1, 34]
Tea—Chaayam (now Chai)
Vada—Vataka (these are mentioned in the Dharmasutras as being fried in ghee)
This article will naturally focus more on the traditional native fare of Bharatavarsha. While it is true that food, like most aspects of culture, is not static, it is also important for native identity to not be lost to syncretism. It is possible to admire what is good about others while appreciating your own uniqueness.
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Therefore, rather than hewing to the hyperactive hungama of invented “Ganga-Jamuni Nautanki“, this Post will focus on the core Indic aspects that can be traced back with continuity to Ancient India. These elements are very much alive today, and in regions such as Andhra and Odisha, predominant.
§ Focus on Food as part of an holistic System of health. Application of Ayurveda pervades Paaka Darpana of King Nala.
§ Use of Mustard seeds, Turmeric, Cumin. These essential ingredients to “Curries” are as ubiquitous in ancient Harappa as they are in modern Himayatnagar.
§ Tandoor (originated in either Rajasthan or Punjab ). [1,107] The word comes from the Sanskrit “Kandu”. Thandoora is the word for grilling.
§ Khichadi/Khichdi/Khichri. In the Vedic period, rice cooked with milk and sesame seed was called krsaara, and is considered to be a forefrunner to khichdi, which is made from rice and dhaal. [1,33]
§ Thali is the common word for the round plate of plenty throughout India. The word comes from the Sanskrit Sthaalikaa.
There, of course, countless other culinary aspects to discuss. But food history (as with history in general) is subject to great controversy. In order to separate the genuinely Indic from the colonially syncretic, we will discuss some of the issues here:
Biryani is foreign origin (coming from the Persian Beryan), but…
Pulao is definitely native to India and comes from the Sanskrit word Pulaka.
…meat cooked with rice is referred to in the Yagnavalkya Smriti as pallao-mevach, and the word palao also occurs in early Tamil literature [1, 54]
Other varieties of savoury meat & rice dishes are mentioned in the Ramayana. On such dish was called maamsabhutadana: rice cooked with deer meat, vegetables, and spices. The Mahabharata mentions pishthauddana, another rice dish, this time cooked with minced meat (other kinds include, sour meat, fried meat, ground meat, grilled meat, and meat for stuffing). [1, 54] In fact, rice being the major staple, it is only natural it was cooked in many forms. Odana is rice boiled in water or milk, often along with curds and honey. When this combination is cooked with meat it was called mamsaudana. Khichadi is another common denominator throughout most of India. So much so is this the case that the term “Khichadi couple” has been invented by NRI/PIO desis to refer to couples coming from “2 States” or more, but being 100% Bharatiya.
Traditional Indic sweets are called madhuraani in Sanskrit (or mithai in Hindi). Some sweet items such as Rooh Afza and Jalebi (zlabia) are obviously foreign origin. But many, many more are local (and given foreign origin by sepoys). In fact, the whole assortment of traditional Bengali sweets are said to be “phoreign” because apparently “yeverything kayme from mughal”. This is of course ridiculous. Many have argued that Kulfi is a recent addition, and that is probably a fair assessment, though iced dishes were certainly well-known in snowy Kashmir. It is, therefore, here that we shall begin:
Each region (indeed, state) of historic Bharatavarsha has evolved unique aspects of aahaaram while hewing to integral aspects of Saastric gastronomy that unify the Subcontinent. While all can’t be covered in a single (digestible!) article, here are some highlights to give a Gastronomical Survey of India (GSI).
From Rogan Josh to its eponymous Pulao, Kashmiri Cuisine is rightly appreciated by sophisticates of all sorts. Although the ancient nobility of this famous region is now diminished, Kashmiri Pandits have maintained most of the traditional fare, with rare dilution. Known for its Wazwan (multi-course) meals, the Crown of India’s cuisine features such spices as asafoetida, methi, and ginger. Nevertheless, as evidenced by Kashmiri Pulao, saffron (kesara) is the signature spice, and has been cultivated here since ancient times. Though arguments are often made supporting foreign introduction, it’s fairly clear the use of saffron is indigenous. Here are some of the finer points of this cuisine:
“The Kashmeerees have been bons viveurs and are proud of their cuisine which is justly famous. ‘Snigdha’ sug-gests the use of oil to which the Kash-meeree chef de cuisine still adheres in preference to the melted butter (ghee) used in the Panjaab. The Kashmeeree Brahman is a lover of meat and fish and in ancient times grape wine was in common use. The Nilamata Puraana mentions the use of wine for ceremonial purposes.” [5, 555]
“The nobility and courtiers in the typical bon viveur style enjoyed the Kashmiri cuisines which is justly famous; they had ‘fried meat’ and ‘delightful light wine cooled with ice and per-fumed with flowers.’…As for the common people, they subsisted on rice and hakh (Kashmiri greens)” [5, 23]
One “could not do without the soft and unctuous fare of Kashmeer, which is easy to digest when washed down with sugared water whit-ened with chunks of ice.” [5,555]
Interestingly, the lotus is not just a symbol of prosperity, but also a focus of the dietary.“Vegetables start in the Rigveda with the lotus stem (visa) and cucumber (urvaaruka), fol-lowed in the later Vedas by lotus roots (shaaluka)“. [1, 35]
“Lotus roots is a favourite dish of the Kashmeeree Brahmans. In the plains of India the dried roots from the homeland are imported as a delicacy. Seeds of the lotus…are also eaten.” [5,459]
Regardless, conventional staples are also popular in Svarga’s own Aahaara. Plain rice and assorted sweet pulaos (featuring fruits and nuts) are popular, as are breads such as kulcha, tsachvaru, and girda.
Jammu and Ladakh, naturally have their own notable contributions. Dogras typically eat wheat, bajra, and maize along with rice as staple.
Andhra Cuisinestands out for a number of specialities, first and foremost is the use of spice. While mirchi is a near-Pan India practice, it reaches its fever pitch in Bahubali’s own Country, hence the justifiable reputation of having the spiciest food.
In fact, it packs suchgharam dharamthat the following saying has become a saamethaof sorts about Andhra men.
Andhra men like their food as they like their women: Presentation is very important…and they prefer a little Spice.
Roselle leaf (gongura) is another key ingredient. While use of the green gram (mudga) dates back to King Nala’s time, it has taken a unique incarnation in that Andhra specialty known as Pesarattu:
Though tamarind is used widely in the rest of the South as well, it is a critical part of the Telugu dish known as the pulusu ( a tamarind sauce/stew).
The new state of Telangana also has some regional, yet truly native, specialities, such as sarvapindi and sakinalu. But these snacks, and more robust entree-fare, can be covered separately. The notable aspect is what unifies undivided Andhra in the food department.
The South (in General)
Beyond Andhra, the regions of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu all have that have their own local specialities. Whether it is the Bisi-bela-baath of KT, the Coconut Aviyal of KE, or the Chettinad Chicken of TN, special dishes for each state can be found. Nevertheless, for the sake of brevity, this article will provide a general discussion instead (though native Kannadigas, Keralites, & Tamilians are welcome to comment on their states below).
The use of pickles (uragaaya/urakai) is quite common throughout the south, and are the ideal complement for daddojanam (curd rice), preferably with a little mustard seed.
The all-India favourite, Dosa, is seen as Udipi-derived (so there’s a win for Karnataka), but if that’s the case, you Kannadigas will have to take the blame for Bisi-bela-baath (sorry guys). Before the other side of that great Kaveri war gets upset, yes Idli is very likely a Tamizh contribution (though our sepoys are doing their utmost toinvent an Arab origin…probably while smoking some pretty powerful hookah). Though it should be noted that the Manasollasa mentions both the dhosaka (dosa) and idarikaa (idli).
And before our Mallu friends think I’ve forgotten them, there is much that Kerala has to offer—especially when it comes to all things coconut. Unni-aapam (jackfruit-rice pancake) and coconut aviyal are two must haves from the land of Kalaripayattu. The ancient Chera country was also famous for its pepper.
The Kodavas of Coorg also have a distinctive cuisine, and are known for their preparation of pork-based dishes. Tulu cuisine is embodied by various Mangalorean fish curries.
South Indian fare is not all vegetarian as has popularly come to be believed. In fact, the most carnivorous (or more correctly omnivorous) states are found south of the Vindhyas, with Kerala leading the pack. Rasam is of course common to pretty much all the Southern states, but I would argue that Andhra’s Tomato Chaaru is the most sophisticated form of this savoury soup of Soopa Sastra.
Core components of Maharashtrian cuisine are discussed below; nevertheless, Amba Kesari Bhaat is one signature dish. Maharashtra is likely the place of origin for Shrikand (in its present form). The etymology of the word comes from, yes, Sanskrit. “Shikar-ini, the modern shrikhand, also employed strained curds, curstal sugar and spices.” [1, 35]
Konkani khaana is close related to Maharashtra’s, though distinctive in its own way. Tambli (bondi chutney) and Banana flower chutney are standouts. There is also Amlechi Uddamethi, which is a raw mango curry. Fish is an important component as well.
Though Madhur Jaffrey has posited it as “Haute Vegetarian Cuisine”, something that Rajasthanis and Vegetarian Punjabis will contest ipso facto, there is a distinct variety of dishes that come from this ancient commercial entrepot.
Arguably the most entrepreneurial region in India, this partially dry but mostly coastal state in India has given and taken influences throughout the millennia and developed its own style of foods too. Dhokla and Rotli are common markers of the Gujju menu (as is sweetness even in staples), and Daakor na ghota (spicy fried dumpling) is another gujarati item. Saboodana shakes are recent addition too. Namkeen is the notable western Indian snack specialty, one which Gujaratis raise to a high artform with various kinds of Chaat that reach their peak in heavily Gujarati Mumbai (sorry Thackerays, its true).
Rajasthan features many different varieties of food. Its vegetarianism is predominant, though not universal. It has produced many popular traditional items such as Baati (Rajasthani bread) and Bikaneri Pulao and Bhindi Jaipuri. Kalakand is considered a native Rajasthani mithai. Undhiu is undoubtedly a western Indian dish, but Rajasthan and Gujarat can fight over it.
And because regional jokes (when tasteful & clever) are the flavour of the month, here is one proffered by Marwaris themselves:
If you are born in a Marwari household, 30% of your body fluid is water and the remaining 70% is Ghee. My Blood Group is Ghee Positive.
Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Jharkhand all have their own flavours and cultures. MP itself prominently features two key regions: Malwa (ancient Avanti) and Bundelkhand (ancient Chedi). Jowar has traditionally been common in this part of the country. For the sake of article limitations, a few quick mentions will be made here, to be expanded upon at a later date:
Admittedly this is a very large region to cover, particularly if one includes now separate state Uttarakhand in the mix. Nevertheless, distinctions can be discussed in a different Post as there are some broad similarities in this core Gangetic region that has traditionally grouped them together (those hailing from this parts are welcome to give their thoughts via comments). Roti, barley, and even raagi are all in use. Baath (boiled rice), however, seems to be the core staple. “Boiled rice flour cakes were termed khir-aura, phara meant steamed rice balls, and phu-lauri was a steam-cooked roll of coarse flour.” [1,140]
As for Bihar in particular, a plump rice known as shaali was grown in ancient Magadha and was served to honoured guests. Sattu (flour of roasted pulses) is commonly used as are barley grits, combined with salt or sugar. Sattu as drink is considered the marquee beverage for biharis.
Other dishes include laai (parched rice), chiuri (parched barley), lawaa (parched maize), and lapsi (flour of any grain boiled in milk and sugar). As for desserts, various laddoos are favoured, such as fine-grained motichoor and sesame-seed tilkut.
Nepali cuisine shares much in common with Pahari food. The standard Nepali Thali is Dal-Bhaat (rice and dhaal). Dhido is a traditional wheat staple from Nepal made from water and grains like buckwheat.
Due to the long-running (and justifiable!) Odisha irritation with Bengal claiming Rasagolla (and Jayadeva!), we shall begin with the Land of the Lingaraja Temple and their unique cuisine. The Kalingas may have Konark and Kharavela, but the state famous for Swami Jagannath of Puri also packs a punch in the food department. Indeed, the origin of the Rasagolla is said to be Lord Vishnu’s way of saying sorry to Lakshmi Devi for his going on yatra without her granting leave (an abject lesson to all the non-divine husbands out there!).
Nevertheless, as in most other states, rice, wheat, and barley are all state staples. Pakhala (boiled rice covered with water and kept over night) is one item unique to Utkala.
And if you’re in the mood for something more casual, the state has plenty of snack foods to offer as well
The very mention of Bengal and Food may bring to mind not only “jal pushp”—better known to the rest of us as fish—but one of the most celebrated varieties of sweets on the subcontinent: Mishti-doi (sweet curds for dessert), malpua, khoa, Sitabhog, nadu, and of course, the state sweet, Sandesh. Another notable confectionary factoid: “Krishna Chandra Das invented the rasamalai, flattened chhaana patties floating in thickened milk”.[1,132]
These are just some of the scintillating sweetmeats and salivational (portmanteau) savouries south of the Siliguri. These confections are well-known to most Indians, though some are the subject to squabbles (such as the now confirmed Odia claim to Rasagollaalready mentioned). In any event, there are other aspects that merit mention as well.
There are two distinct styles: East and West Bengali. East Bengali is low on dhaal and high on fish, while the West is known for use of poppy seeds (posto). [1,129]
Barley’s importance in the Vedic period is preserved in modern Bengali cuisine.
It was fried and consumed in the form of cakes dipped in ghee, or as sweet cakes called apupa fashioned out of the flour, boiled in water or fried in ghee, and then dipped in honey. The modern Bengali sweets pua and malpua preserve both the name and the essen-tials of this prepartion. [1, 33]
Rice is a big part of the Bengali diet, with a medieval text (Shunya Purana) stating there were 50 varieties grown in Bengal. [1,128]
The Seven Sisters of the Northeast have their own offerings of civilizational savouries to offer, starting with Assam (The other sisters being Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya & Arunachal Pradesh—though we can include Sikkim so no one is left out).
While distinct dishes exist in the various cuisines here, pork is common throughout. Rice is the staple for the most part and fish very popular. Given the diversity of offerings, they are best treated in a separate piece.
The good people of Sinhala are very much Indic in blood and culture, and so, their food also deserves a mention here.
While rice is also a staple, the island of Ceylon features many heavy influences, notably South Indian, Indonesian, and European. Seafood is obviously a key component. Some unique dishes include Pittu (cylinders of steamed rice mixed with coconut) and kokis (coconut biscuits).
With a taste that will make you say “Jai Jhulelal!” even when it’s not Chetichand, Dal Pakhwan is one of the most beloved breakfasts in India. Rice is obviously a staple of Sindhi food, but flat-breads such as roti and koki are also common.
Hilsa fish curry is a signature dish and Thadal is a signature beverage. Sanha pakoras and chola dhabal are other notable food items. There is also a special Sindhi Papad that is well-known among most Indic gourmets.
Last but certainly not least is the Land of the Five Rivers (surely, Punjabi mundian aur kudian, you didn’t think we’d forget you?!)
Punjabi khaana deserves a separate article (or series!) of its own. Along with the putative trend of Punjabification throughout India since the 90s (some would say for better or for worse), Apna Punjab has been at the forefront of marketing Indian Culture. But while Bollywood, Bhangra dance, and Punjabi Pop music can be discussed at another time, Punjabi food is very much a topic for the present. In fact, as recent research has determined (and as many Indians have long suspected), much of much-vaunted “Mughlai cuisine” is in fact from Apna Punjab originally. One Professor from the University of California Los Angeles wrote that:
“There are a hundred different cuisines all over the country, each claiming to be the best in the country, if not the world, yet two styles have become popular among visitors to most major cities and towns countrywide: Mughlai, which is vegetar-ian and nonvegetarian, largely Punjabi, with a somewhat liberal use of ghee (clarified butter) and the use of a tandoor (an oven usually implanted in the ground), and South Indian vegetarian cuisine, which is somewhat less oily but spicier.” [8, 6-7]
Rich in butter, such favourites as mattar paneer, murgh makhani, and makkhi roti all hail from the Pancha-naada. As such, perhaps the time has come to give credit where credit is due. Surely kheema and and haleem are not native, but paneer, paratha, bhatoora, tandoori, along with that Punjabi favourite, Lassi, definitely are. In fact, the most ancient tandoor to date dates back to it.
The word Paneer (like the word Kalamkari) may have foreign word origins, but both are very much native Indic and very ancient. Whether it was common throughout ancient India or not, it has certainly come to refer to the Punjabi farmer’s cheese that is beloved by vegetarians the world over, and certainly within Bharat.
Perhaps most interesting is the question of whether the conventional wisdom itself has things correct. Is a paradigm shift required on recently ascribed beliefs regarding the origins of many Indianised foods? One example is the kebab. Noted Indian food authority K.T. Achaya writes:
Meat roasted on a spit (shula) is graphically described in the Mahabharata…and in south Indian literature…The modern kabab has therefore a long history in India [1,101-102]
As seen above, whether it is crediting for biryani or for falooda, the truth matters more to us than any nationalistic claim. And yet, as we have seen with the idli, appropriation has been the frequent aim of Non-Indian Residents (NIRs). Is the kebab actually bhaditraka as one Oxford press pustakam prescribes?—or is it qualitatively something else? The time has come for Food Historians (and Tandoori Nationalists) to do serious research into these issues. Contrary to “yeverything kayme from mughals” types, Ancient Indian Culinary texts do exist (much to their dismay, no doubt). But it is equally important to carefully study claims (whether pro or anti) so that the authentic is revived from the quagmire of the syncretic. The best way to appreciate other cultures is to first appreciate your own—that is true cosmopolitanism.
Are chillies and tomatoes and potatoes all foreign origin? Evidence would suggest that chillies may not be (it was known to Purandara Dasa [1,227]), tomatoes likely are, and potatoes almost definitely so. In fact, in the Andhra-bhasha, potatoes are referred to as bangal-dhumpa (or Bengali rhizome) indicating their arrival via British-ruled Bengal. Nevertheless, the very likely foreign origin Aloo has certainly been indianised over the years. Yams were likely the native precursors to it. And what about that modern favourite, Samosa? Sorry folks, evidence points to the mid-east. But that being said, Pakoda, Bhajji, and Bhelpuri are all Bharatiya…pakka.
Nevertheless, appropriation of all things Indian under the neo-construct of “Mughlai” is well known. One can see here that malpua, phirni, and pulao (all Classical Indic classics) are being appropriated under the “mughlai” label. This doesn’t mean going the other way and not acknowledging obvious imports (falooda, jalebi/zlabia, biryani), but it does mean intelligent and discrete people must start asserting rightful claims over their state’s cuisine culture. Odias have shown the way with rasagolla.
All Indians, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, should come together to preserve their ancient claims to pulao, tandoori, and a litany of other culinary contributions to world cuisine. Just because some foreign or foreign-sponsored professor wrote a food book, doesn’t mean everything in it is true. Appreciate what is native, acknowledge what is foreign, and reserve judgment on what we genuinely don’t know. That is the proper path not only for wise people, but connoisseurs of all kinds—culinary or otherwise.
Since others are trying to serve us humble pie on a platter, let us show them our capacity for good digestion. So rather than say bon appetit, we sign off with that signature line from that sacred Saptarishi Agasthya Mahamuni: Jeernam vaatapi, vaataapi jeernam.
Annam means food. According to Hindu scriptures, annam is a form of Brahman (annam parabrahma swaroopam). Hindu… http://t.co/MkphQ9q6xK
“How regressive!”, they may say. “MGTOW!” they will retort. “Tactic to guilt women into becoming Ladies!”, they might argue. Yes, even the last one is true courtesy feminists in our topsy turvy age. But the reality is, whatever radfem activists argue, whatever redpill [do]tards retort, and whatever post-modern popinjays might protest, for a civilised society, Gentlemen not only Matter but are, in fact, Foundational.
Pickup/Seduction artists may protest that “nice guys finish last” and “girls like bad boys”—and incidentally, I’m not actually contesting your point. But the problem is, you’re not asking why it might be true. The reason why nice guys finish last & many (not all) girls like bad boys is because when most people lead boring lives, it’s natural to want a little excitement, even if it is stupid or even dangerous. But none of this means a gentleman has to be boring. None of this means a gentleman can’t deliver a good ass-kicking to bad boys. And none of this means a gentleman can’t be popular with the ladies as well.
Mera rath par tumhara swagat hai, Rajkumari
And this is precisely the problem. Most young men forget that in a world dominated by bad boys, theNiti of Krishna is required. The attitude of bad boys (most of whom are usually cowards with attitude) is misconstrued as confidence and strength and excitement. That’s why nice guys finish last. If you still look like your mummy picks your outfits, why would any girl want you?
But this is the conundrum, the false dichotomy if you will, in a long line of confused bipolarity facing modern society. Boring Nice guy vs Bad boy, Libertinism vs Slavery, Communism vs Capitalism, and of course, that all time classic, Virgin vs Whore. The Madonna-Magdalene dichotomy is one of the most injurious to civilised society, and yes, even one that prizes chastity. Simply because a woman is not “Mary-mother-of Jesus” or Sita Devi, does not mean it is “open season”.
I have used these two examples because contrary to attempts by Western Academia and Mainstream Media, it is not just Indian society that faces an issue with exploitation of women. In fact it is far, far worse in the Developed World , East Asia, and the Middle East. The difference is, unlike “Modern/Secular/Capitalist” India, Traditional Ancient Dharmic Indiaemphasised the dignity of a woman, no matter who she was. And there were brutal consequences for men who tried to violate it (Google: Dushasana).
Our society even works law of dharma. Not contract based civil law. Thats why we have just 12800 police stations for 6.7 lac villages/towns
vaatho’pi naasraam-sayada-sukaani ko lambayed aaharanaaya hastham || (S. 6,sl.75)
While he [Dilipa ancestor of Rama] was ruler of the earth, even the very breeze dared not disturb the skirts of drunken women who sank to sleep on the road when half-way they had strayed to the place of enjoyment; far less dared any one to extend his hand for theft. [1,115]
Why is only India targeted via “India’s Daughter” and other such politically-motivated documentaries? After all, all is not healthy in the infallible West. What of this culture?
This is the danger of racial stereotyping and negative imaging.Narratives are invented and individuals are judged on the basis of pre-conceived notions (usually by the ignorant). Unlike the intellectually dishonest doyennes of the Western Ivory Tower, we won’t stereotype this as emblematic of Western culture, despite the historically confirmed misogynist reputation of a certain “Universal” Institution that happens to be the world’s oldest bureaucracy. The fact is, there is an even deeper sickness, and that is called post-modernity.
If Post-Modern Society is a Bastard Society, is it any wonder there are few gentlemen anymore, in any part of the world? Yes, much like boys complain, nice guys are finishing last (so women do have some part of the blame), but the time has come to put an end to the Virgin-Whore dichotomy. This is damaging not only to the vast majority of women who are in the middle (just like the vast majority of men), but is damaging to society as well, as it degrades the dignity of all women.
Sita Mata once asserted the unfairness of all women being judged by the behaviour of a few vulgar women. And this is true. That is the reason why we split character into three parts.
Character is 3 parts:
1.Moral Character (living according to Moral Standards, religious, sexual, etc)
2.Personal Integrity (holding true to your obligations, beliefs, and promises)
3.Ethical Civility (treating other with respect and acting for societal good)
If we ask how many men have what it takes to be Ram, isn’t the corollary how many women have what it takes to be Sita?
Contrary to absinthe-addicted activists, if you have no loyalty to your own society “because patriarchy!”, don’t expect to not be civilly criticised for your ridiculous views. And for those ritualistic twenty something twits on twitter who say “We are not Sri Rama to treat Surpanakha with respect”—well dear ritualistic twenty something twit on twitter, then don’t expect to marry a woman who is like Sita either. Whether you believe in probability or divinity, we get in life (generally) what we ourselves deserve.
As such, whether it is the reprehensible behaviour of members of that so called “Secular” Political Party AAP, or the corporate culture of that American Jewelry corporation, one can see how the absence of gentlemen creates conditions for the exploitation of women—whatever the rule of law.
Bad boys are “bad” for a reason, ladies.No matter how they look, no matter what they say, what’s important is how they see…you. But these scenarios also show that it is not a simple matter of a “chaste religious girl” vs “office floozy”. If most men are of middling character, so too are most women. And as we illustrated, character is more than just moral character, it is also strength of belief and willingness to endure (even in the face of hardship or authority).
This is the importance of Sabhyata, Saujanya, & Maryada. All of these are an integral part of Nara Dharma. It is also why Bhagvan Ram was called Maryada Purushottam. It didn’t matter whether it she was Sita or Surpanakha, Rama treated all women with respect. It is only when Surpanakha threatened to kill Sita that Rama had Lakshmana punish her.
A man behaves like a gentleman not because of what it says about her, but because of what it says about him.
The American jewelry store chain had many more women whose maternal or economic or office hierarchical cares kicked in allowing their vulnerability to be exploited by bad men. There was probably a small percentage of vulgar women who were delighted to go along with the advances of men—but even if it was as much as 33%, that means still 67% didn’t want to and were pressured by these American men who should have treated their colleagues and employees with respect. Some may say the middling 33% submitted to this pressure probably just found an excuse—but to that, the answer is “who’s to say?”. Do you have student loan debt you can’t pay if you lose your job? Do you have a parent whose life depends on expensive medical care? Are you a single mother with a child to feed?
That last one Should sound familiar.
Most guys may say “Really? Problem solved, and I get sex too?” and most social contract sybarites may attest “It is simply a transaction resulting mutual gain“, but then society doesn’t judge men and women the same way in matters of sex, so neither judgmental men nor their feminist/objectivist analogues have it right. Others may then argue “well, there were women who resist even that pressure”—and to that I say yes. There were women who resisted and there are women who resist. But both women and men are subject to blackmail, it’s just that they are usually blackmailed for different things. The women and men of highest character resist blackmail even in the face of dire circumstances, but also in the case of authority.
The story of Ahalya is illustrative here:
Most people believe that Ahalya was fooled by Indra into thinking he was her husband Gautama, and that is why she had physical relations with him. But as the Valmiki Ramayana itself confirms, Ahalya was in fact very clever, and was intelligent enough to realize it wasn’t her husband. So why then did she agree? Well, most men have a ready answer and claim all women are like this when they get the chance. But that is not actually the case. Ahalya agreed to the tryst because in her respect for authority she believed a Brahmin or King or King of the Gods could not be disobeyed. But this of course is not Dharma, as we know Ravana who was a brahmin & a king & defeated the King of the Gods, was rightly refused. Authority, whether that of a brahmin, a king, or deva cannot be misused to exploit a person. And as both Indra and Ravana found out, they too would have to be punished and suffer the consequences, whatever their status or position.
That is also why Ahalya was cursed to turn into a stone. Just because in her delicateness woman may be more amenable to authority is no excuse to engage in immorality. She may be delicate like a flower or vine, but when faced with immorality and evil, woman must also be able to turn into a stone—and the men who would devilishly exploit them, must get hit by one.
That is why in the case of Sita we see that she not only turned into a stone (metaphorically speaking), but over the course of a year of torment, seduction attempts, pleading, and threats by Ravana, she became a veritable diamond. That is why both she and her only love, Rama, were described as follows:
Vajradapi katorani mrudooni kusumadapi |
Lokotharaanaam chetaamsi ko nu vigyathu marhaati ||
Harder than a diamond and softer than a flower
Who can gauge the conduct of super-eminent persons?
It is this middle endurance that is lacking in both women AND men today, whether it is morality-obsessed Indian society or decency driven American society.
It is the courage of conviction that allows you to keep your character, even in difficult circumstances. And it is also the absence of gentlemen to intervene when the law fails or even a culture collapses, that creates bastards and the cycle of bastardy.
But as we’ve emphasized, contrary to what MSM, Cultural Anthropologists, and Native informants tell you, this problem is not specific to a specific culture, but as we’ve seen and will see now, an issue that all societies face when they become decadent or immoral.
“The Rape of Lucretia” is a famous episode from Italian History. It is all the more illustrative because the son of the Roman King Tarquinius Superbus threatened her that if she resisted, he would lie and tell everyone she willingly slept with a slave. The bad boys of today of course are even worse because unlike young Tarquin, they would have lied anyway. Nevertheless, it was the rape of Lucretia that caused Roman society to raise arms against the oppression of the Tyrannical Tarquins, and under Lucius Junius Brutus, established the Roman Republic. But the issue here is not the form of government, or even the specific culture, but the state of moral culture in society, especially in its elites.
And for those “human rights activists” who only seem to have Indian culture in their sights with regard to women and misogyny and Agni Pareeksha, tell me again which civilization produced this celebrated figure who said this:
This is the problem with double standards and selective application.Justice for my friends and the full extent of the law for my enemies may be the rule that “exceptionalists” live by (and a concept which sentimental protocol droids have yet to learn), but the essential aspect that all parties are forgetting, is the justice part.
This is the case whether it is ritual-obsessed India or PC-obsessed America. Morality matters, and Decency matters, but it is Character that ultimately makes both possible. That is why Rule of Justice that matters more than Rule of Law. That is why the Rule of Dharma must be restored.
Voluntary discipline based on morals & norms brings about convergence & relations. We called that discipline as dharma. Law is coercive
When law and order breaks down, when a culture collapses, when the vulnerable are unprotected, forces of criminality don’t think of responsibility, but rather, think of opportunity.
That is why force requires counter-force. That is why gentlemen matter. Because whether it is in a corporation or in a political party or at a social party, rather than opportunity, gentlemen see responsibility.
Today we present to you our long planned Romantic Sanskrit Poetry 2.
This post features the famous Kavya of Mahakavi Kalidasa called Meghaduta.
Those of you following ICP would recall our inaugural Post on Romantic Sanskrit Poetryfeaturing Abhijnaanasaakuntalam. While the ‘Recognition of Sakuntala’ was a drama featuring beautiful poetry, Meghaduta is a lovely, lyrical poem that is pure romantic reverie. Perhaps no padya captures the longing of a husband for his wife like the ‘Cloud Messenger’. Indeed, if there were ever any question of Kalidasa’s poetic greatness, Meghaduta put it all to rest.
What is there to be said about Kalidasa that has not already been said?Quite a bit actually.
Kalidasa is a courtly poet, but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of human motivation, are profound. A keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects—he sees with a painter’s eye and speaks with a poet’s tongue—he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. 
Clearly there is a lesson in this legendary poet’s own approach. As alankara-sastra expert Acharya Dandin frequently decried, there is a proclivity toward pedantry, particularly in those subscribing to the school of Gauda. Mere show of learning is no real accomplishment. It is in the application of learning, to craft useful things which improve human life or via lucidly lyrical literature that lights up the soul. Along with learning, there is grace.
Kavi kula guru Kalidasa may have delighted us with his delightful dramas and romantic rupakas to remember. Abhijnanasaakuntalam, Vikramorvaseeyam, and Malavikaagnimitram may entertain us with their splendid stories. But if there is a piece that showcases the true genius of Ujjain’s most ardent devotee, it the one dedicated to a cumulus amicus. Meghaduta is that kavita that not only captures our heart but captivates our imagination.
“Kalidasa’s accomplishment is distinguished not only by the excellence of the individual works, but by the many-sided talent which the whole achievement displays. He is a dramatist, a writer of epic and a lyrical poet of extraordinary scope. In his hands the language attained a remarkable flexibility, becoming an instrument capable of sounding many moods and nuances of feeling; a language limpid and flowing, musical, uncluttered by the verbal virtuosities indulged in by many writers who followed him; yet, remaining a language loaded in every rift with the rich ores of the literary and mythical allusiveness of his cultural heritage. By welding different elements to create new genres, his importance as an innovator in the history of Sanskrit literature is clearly established.” [2,1]
The biography of that best of Kavis, Kalidasa, is a tale in and of itself—indeed, it is worth of a book, an article, a cinema, or several. Correspondingly, the writer who intertwined legend with history and delightful fancy with moral principles, led a life of similar meeting points. By the present foreign paradigm, he is dated to the 4th century CE, but it is more likely that he belongs to the 1st Century BCE instead.
The foregoing discussion is enough to justify the truth and the vitality of the age-long tradition that the poet belongs to the days of the glorious King Vikramaditya of Ujjayini—the founder of the Samvat era (57 B.C.) [1, vi]
Kalidasa would set standards of excellence in poetry for millennia.He imbues with life:
“Men of great stature, power and valour, and women of uncommon beauty and grace met by the heroes of epics and romances are often asked with admiring wonder if they are beings of divine origin: yaksas, gandharvas, apsaras. Apsaras, ‘born of the Waters’—the waters of creation (see note 8), are, like yaksa-yaksees, associated with life and fertility and seen as beneficent powers” [2,29]
To better prepare for married life, it is important to not only learn how to become eligible, but also marriageable. The courtly aesthetic is important not only in kingly courts, but in the courtship of couples. It is here that our hero of poesy truly excelled. He inspired generations of not only litterateurs and litterateuses, who frequently referred to him, but women and men of the elite, princesses and princes, wives and husbands, to great romantic deeds in the itihaas of shringaar. But why take my word for it, hear from another great poet of antiquity.
Bana author of the Kadambari exclaimed:
Who is not delighted when Kalidasa’s perfect verses spring forth in their sweetness, like honey-filled clusters of flowers?”
Indeed, who is not delighted. But if you have yet to dip your tongue in the madhu-madya of Mahakavi’s poetry, then start with Meghaduta.
Sringara (Romance) is also Part of our Culture. Perhaps no Poem says Sringara like Meghaduta. From its dazzling descriptions of the Indian Subcontinent to its pleasing poetry recounting its people to its captivating kavya capturing sentiment, it is truly the poem for the true Romantic.
Describing the separation of a semi-divine Yaksha from his wife, we learn of this heavenly being’s banishment to Earth for 1 year. With no friend or beverage in which to drown his sorrows, this servant of Kubera turns to a gracious Cloud whom he beseeches to be his messenger. Duta-kavya can be considered a genre of poetry in and of itself, dating back to the Ramayana, and Rama’s anointment of Hanuman to be his messenger to Sita. In fact, the Meghaduta itself alludes to Valmiki’s great epic with frequent mentions of its characters and place names. The nayaka (hero), like Rama, is not resentful of the originator of his banishment, and bears his exile with heroic forbearance. It is certainly inspired by the Adi-kavya, and possibly an outright homage to it. And it certainly aspires to its himalayan heights of resonant rasa.
“The chief goal of drama is to produce rasa, the aesthetic emotion, evoked by the appropriate mood built cumulatively through not only words, but also by mime and gesture, music and dance, costume and jewellery” [2,7]…and oh, does Kalidasa evoke it, not only in his dramas, but in this descriptive poem.
The Court Poet of Vikramaditya and the first poet among Romantic kavis not only sources scintillating Sringara rasa but stylises soka as the sthayibhava.
He uses the “stately” mandaakraanta metre in his messenger poem. With its 17-syllabled lines, it is considered the archetypal chanda for love-poetry and longing. Indeed, through its cadence, it conveys the loneliness and yearning of the yaksha. If that is the mood, then the ambience is dream-like, like the very cloud with which it is eponymous.
The Meghaduta is divided into the Purvamegha (earlier cloud, as in the cloud’s journey to Alaka puri) and Uttaramegha (latter cloud, the narrative when the journey to Alaka ends).
The Purvamegha has 63 slokas and the Uttaramegha has 52 for a total of 115.
While this article will concentrate on the Uttaramegha, which most superbly captures the vipralambha sringara (love-in-separation) of the a-namika yaksha and yakshi as well as the exhilaration of Alakaa-puri, outstanding descriptions of the Indian Subcontinent’s landscape is given in the poem’s earlier half, the Purvamegha.
“In the Poorvamegha the poet reveals the Yaksa facing a cloud, clasping a towering peak of Himaalayas, whom he thinks of making the bearer of a message to his lorn wife; for he was cursed by Kuvera his Lord, to be severed from his wife for dereliction of duty. He makes an offering of Kutaja flowers and water to the cloud.” [1, iii]
It is a sophisticated work of an veteran poet and arguably ranks with Kumarasambhavam in its maturity. Connections with the Ramayana aside, it stands out for the originality of approach and the breadth of geographic treatment. Indeed, this descriptive poem provides a veritable tour of Bharatavarsha and connects the sacred and super-human with the everyday and historical.
“In this poem, Kaalidaasa gives us a glimpse of Kailaasa, and the Himaalayan regions. His eye in a fine frenzy rolls over the ridges, cliffs, scarps, valleys, dales, glades and the gritty upland of that mountain. He delineates the story of a bereaved Yaksa in crystal-clear vignettes that are remarkable for their precision and romantic charm.” [1,iii]
Mountains, rivers, valleys & cities, all are veritably painted by his padya for our manasa.Although apsaric Alakaa is the abode of the hour, Avantika’s favourite penman is loath to lose an opportunity to dedicate his penmanship to it.
Ujjayini was the city of his heart and he is delighted to sing of her glories and the romantic loves of her maidens. [1, vi]
Kalidasa’s reference to Ujjain in Meghadutam
“to Ujjayinee glowing in splendor like a brilliant piece of Paradise
Come down to earth with traces of merits of dwellers in Paradise returning, the fruit of their good deeds almost spent.” [2,5]
For pedantic grammar-gyaanis and assorted Panchatantramurkha-panditas, an appropriate note regarding translation courtesy Chandra Rajan:
“Kalidasa’s poetry like much of Indian art is stylized. The Stylization is not a rhetorical procedure but part of the self-awareness with which the verse shapes itself. The translation therefore, has to be faithful, has to somehow contrive to be stylized and readable; to steer clear of a literalness of rendering as well as an identification of readability with contemporaneity.” [2,xvii]
In our time of jaded ennui and de rigeur poseurs, the Mahakavi revives the romantic with this refreshing tale of a lovelorn lover. Rather than the woman pining over the man, we find the husband pining over his wife.
“The [cloud’s] message must be delivered at midnight, for the Yaksa’s fair and chaste wife passes sleepless nights, leaves her bed, sits in the highest window in the palace until the long to come daybreak comes. She is in no mood to enjoy the moonlight since she is neither fully awake nor asleep. Her lips go parch-dry, her hair grows coarse from want of oil; and her sleep is disturbed by tears so that she cannot dream of reunion. Such is the pitiful sight of the disheveled pining wife of the Yaksa that even the cloud would not fail to grow tender…The cloud is requested to bring back on his return a message from his beloved wife” [1, xii]
C.R.Devadhar muses how interesting a sequel to Meghaduta would be, and what the return message from the Yaksa’s wife would be—perhaps there is a poem there to be composed by a skilled poetess yet to write…
And here, our journey into the author and his composition ends, and the selections from his celebrated poem begin. We now step into the heavenly realm of Himalayan Alakaa.
Alakaa is a world created by our dreams and desires where time stands still and whose ways are untrodden by the unimaginative; where ‘sensual music’ fills the nights to overflowing under the moonlight (Megh.66,68). [2,26]
I. Tanvee syaamaa sikhari dasanaa pakva bimbaa daroshtee
Ya tatra syaadhya vathivishaye srushtiraadhyova dhaathuh || UM.Sl.19
There resides my wife, the Creator’s prototype of a luscious woman, slender and youthful, with pointed teeth and lips red like bimba fruit, a thin waist and a glance like that of a startled deer; she has a deep navel, with a measured gait owing to the weight of the hips, and she is slightly stooping from the weight of her bosom. [1, 31]
II. Thaam jaaneethaah parimitha-kathaam jeevitam me dvitheeyam
In her recognize my very life, sparing in her speech and cut off from me like a chakravaaka [bird] from the spouse. Her heart overflows with longing as days pass heavily; I think she droops like a younger creeper in Winter’s rigour. [1, 31]
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi
III. Noonam yasyaah prabala-rudeetochoo nanetram priyaayaa
My darling’s eyes are swollen red by constant tears, the color of her lips fades by her burning sighs; her face rests upon her palms, hid by her long tresses. Indeed, she looks like the waning Moon enwrapped in the night’s folds. [1, 32]
Artwork by Artist Nana Joshi
IV. Nih-svaasenaadhara-kisalaya-klesinaa vikshipantheem
Her delicate lips are scared by her fervid sighs. She spills her hair, grown rough and dry since she washes them in pure water without oil or scent. She longs for my embrace even though it be in a dream. But tears well up and destroy the relief which sleep could afford. [1, 34]
V. Srangenaangam-suthanu tanunaa gaada-taptena taptam
Obstructed by an angry and inexorable Fate, the distant one [your husband] seeks to unite with you, to mingle tears with tears, arms with arms, pining bodies, anxious heart to heart, sigh with sigh—such are his wishes. [1,38]
VI. Syamaasvanga chakhita-hareergipre-ksharge drshtipaatham
Devadhar, C.R. Works of Kalidasa: Volume II. Delhi: MLBD. 2010
Rajan, Chandra. The Complete Works of Kalidasa: Volume 1 (Poets). New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005
Wilson, H.H. The Megha-Duta: The Cloud Messenger. London: Thurner & Co. 1867
Acknowledgement: My thanks again to the young voice actor for enacting this poetry recitation on short notice.
Acknowledgment: The outstanding artwork by artist Nana Joshi can be found on this website. The poem was verily brought to life by these chitras.
*Minor Proofing for some translations
India, Indic Civilization, and Bharatiya Sanskriti have produced many noble and spiritual figures. But as those of us who grew up Indian know, it is very much work hard & play hard.
Colonial stereotypes were convenient for those who were trying to change the religion of the people of Bharatavarsha. They failed because those who know our tradition know fun and frolic and yes even Romancehas always been very much part of our traditional culture and festivals (perhaps that is why they are trying to doing everything they can to take away the fun…only for Hindu festivals of course).
Therefore, perhaps it is time to not just play defence and preserve what we have, but to go ahead and revive what was originally part of it. The youth of today very much exercise freedom, and naturally when they become college-age, it is only natural to be more interested in spending time with the opposite gender. Indeed, this too is ok, provided it is done respectably and with good intentions. As we wrote in our article on Sringara, Romance—real romance—is not just a pretext to “consume” or “purchase” love from hallmark or godiva. Love is not merely a “veneer” to give respectability to serial and animal lust. This is the danger of de-sacralisation (removing the sacred), whether it is removing Dharma from Yoga, taking the Veda out of Ayurveda, or turning Vasant into some sufi-bolly “Basant”.
In fact, lost in all of these efforts has been the fact that from ancient times itself we had something our Valentine’s day obsessed youth don’t know—our own Dharmic Festival of Romantic Love: Madan Utsav.
Contrary to Valentine’s lovers who swear by the Catholic St.Valentine as the embodiment of Romance, Ancient India long had a festival that celebrated Shringaar. Vasanta Utsavawas the traditional multi-day Spring Festival. Holi has come to represent two such days (with the burning of Holika during Choti Holi the night before). While Kama is associated with Spring, Madan Utsav begins on Chaitra Shukla Trayodasi, and thus is a month later than Holi. This is due to the discrepancy between the Purnimanta Calendar in most of the North and the Amanta/Amavasyat Calendar in Peninsular India. Thus, the reason why Holi and Madan Utsav (currently a month apart) would have been celebrated as part of the two-week Vasanta Maha Utsav is because of the general use of Amavasyat in all of India at one point. Restoring Amavasyat would restore the continuity of the two week Spring Festival, starting from Holi and ending with Madan Utsav. That is why Madan Utsav was traditionally synonymous with Vasant Utsav (and perhaps should be again).
In fact, it has historical precedence in many parts of the country, but especially Andhra. In fact, one king of the Reddi Dynasty, which presided over the Romantic Age of Andhra, came to embody the spirit of Spring, and also personally inaugurated Madan Utsav. It was a festival of great festivity and cheer.
Madan Utsav is also mentioned by our great poets, Kalidasa and Sriharsa, in their plays. Jayamangala, a commentator on the Kamasutra, in fact gives primacy to this day over the other constituent parts of Vasant Utsav, and mentions the name Madhanamahotsava. [1, 353] This is a festival devoted to Madhana or Kama Deva, god of Love, assisted by his friend and ally Vasant, the presiding deity of the spring.
Madan Utsav celebrates the return of Madan to his wife Rati.
“It was primarily a romantic festival involving fun and frolic, music and dance, song and play, swinging, and swimming and all kinds of amusements.” [1,354] “Both men and women, young and old took part in this festival and marched in procession in streets, singing love songs and dancing to the accompaniment of music. Generally dancing girls and their paramours took an active part in these frolics” [1, 354]
That’s right. Hinduism, or more correctly, Sanatana Dharma, was never only just about ritual, or caste, or boring severity, but very much achieving a balance between fun and duty. Dharmato guide Rasa (sentiment), and Rasato enrich Dharma. Morals, and laws, and virtuous examples don’t exist to restrict the fun of men and women (or boys and girls). They exist to protect individuals from each other and also to protect us from ourselves and from our greed.
Romance and love in the right context (marriage…or at least the path to it) very much makes life worth living and contains the full spectrum (erotic, romantic, & spiritual). But Romance without restraint ends up being, well, the disastrous state of affairs we have now. When no respect or regard is given to sacred relationships between the genders or even between family members—then isn’t what is being called “love”, really lust?
Love is seeking to give pleasure to someone you love. Lust is trying to extract pleasure for yourself. Lust is selfish, Love is selfless.
That is the reason why Madan Utsav is the real Festival of Love for Bharatiyas, rather than some corporate “Global” spend-fest. There was a great carnival and the King (or Civic Leader) would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama & Rati, Vishnu & Lakshmi, Siva & Sakti, and Indra & Sachi. Perfumes such as camphor, musk, civet, saffron, sandal were used, rosewater was freely sprinkled on people along with water mixed with turmeric. A bamboo water soaker was used (like in Holi). People mixed freely and the kings gave it royal grandeur . [1,357]
There is in fact broad evidence to the existence of Madan Utsav beyond Andhra’s Reddi Kingdom, or even the Vijayanagara Empire.
There are accounts for its existence in the Madhyadesa (modern Uttar Pradesh) and Kashmir as well as discussions in the Puranas, about the festival and its origin.
Here is what the ancient Kashmiris celebrated:
Then there was the Madana Trayodashi, a festival dedicated to the god of love. On this occasion a husband would demonstrate his love for his wife by personally giving her a bath with sacred water scented by herbs.[4, 87]
Madana Utsava is frequently referred to as Madana Trayodasi, as it is celebrated on the 13th day of the Shukla Paksha of the Month of Chaitra (Early April). Being celebrated in the bright half of the moon, it can even extend to next day and thus, there is even a Madana Chaturdashi, which is the 14th day of the Month of Chaitra (for all you 14th of February fans).
The record of Madan Utsav in Kashmir’s ancient Nilamata Purana testifies to this as well.
The reason for this lies in the festival’s origin:
Vasant Utsav and Madan Utsav have often been referred collectively. And yet, elsewhere we see a clear distinction between the two festivals with Vasant. Thus, traditionally, Madan Utsav seems to have been synonymous with Vasant. But given the divergences and exigencies of the time, perhaps its more appropriate to distinguish the two, while preserving the importance of both.
Here is the traditional story of the origin of Madan Utsav:
“This festival of Madanamahotsava is described by Hemadri in his Vratakhand, wherein he narrates the following story about its origin. After marrying Gauri, Siva, observing Pasupatavrata, lost himself in meditation. Gauri’s desire for maternity remained unfulfilled.
Brahma and other gods held consultations and sent Madana to disturb Siva’s meditation, with the hope that he alone could divert Siva’s attention. Madana accompanied by Vasanta, went in front of Siva who was then in deep contemplation, and having drawn his sugarcane-bow, discharged his missiles of flowers on Siva which disturbed his deep medi-tation and caused mandonmada or love madness.
Siva burst into a rage and opened his third eye of fire reducing Madana to ashes. Madana’s wife, Rati, seeing her husband burnt to ashes, was stricken with great grief. Then with a heart softened by seeing her pitiable condition, Gauri said to Siva, ‘you have burnt up Kama who had come here for my sake. Pray, take pity on his wife Rati, and bring Madana, her husband, back to life.’ Siva replied, “How could Madana, once burnt to death by me, come to life again?”
“However, I shall grant your request. In the spring season, on the thirteenth day of the light half of the month, he would reassume his bodily form.” Having granted this boon, Siva is said to have gone to Kailaasa. So the lunar thirteenth day of the bright fortnight was the day of Madana coming to life again. Hemadri does not specify the month; but simply states that it is in the spring time. It is evident that it is the lunar thirteenth day of the bright half of the month of Caitra. This spring carnival is therefore called Madanamahotsava or Vasantotsava” [1,355]
This also aligns, of course, with the Spring Festival of Holi, which features the Holika Dahan. This is referred to as Kamuni Dahamu in parts of India, where a bonfire is lit to burn away attachments.
How to celebrate Madan Utsav? While jnu “global” types suggest finding a random partner and running off to the nearest park or motel, Bharatiya sanskriti is more sophisticated. As we saw above, whether in Kashmir or Kosta (Coastal Andhra), Madan Utsav was celebrated by the entire society. Not just Kings and Queens, but traditional Brahmins, fun-loving masses, and everyone in between. The only difference is that achara (good conduct) and sabhyata (etiquette) were observed. In public, one must behave with respect/courtesy (maryada) to elders and senior citizens.
Public celebration of Madan Mahotsav, specifically in the context of Vasant Utsav, is mentioned in both the Malavikaagnimitram and one of Sriharsa‘s famous plays celebrating the famed Manmatha of Madhyadesa, King Udayana—better known as Vatsaraja. Here is an excerpt from Ratnavali on the public celebration and all it entails:
“His Majesty has started for the palace to witness the merriment of the citizens, heightened by the Madana Festival. (Looking up) Ah, how now! The King has ascended the palace! He, The lord of Vatsa, like the flower-bowed god (Madana) in person, as it were, with all talk of Vigraha (the war-body) ceased, having Rati (love of the people—his wife), living in the hearts of the people and one to whom Vasantaka (his companion—Spring), is dear, is advancing, eager to behold this great festival.“[7, 120]
“Just behold the beauty of this great Madana-festival, in which curiosity is excited by the citizens (or gallants), dancing as they are struck by the water from the syringes [pichkaris] taken up, of their own accord, by the amorous women intoxicated with wine; which is attractive on account of the openings of the streets resounding with the sound of charchari songs (or clapping of hands) deepened by the tabors beaten all round, and which has rendered the faces of the ten directions yellowish-red by means of the heaps of patavasa [flowers] scattered about.” [7, 121]
“By heaps of scented powder scattered about, yellow with saffron dust and imparted to the day the appearance of the dawn, by the glitter of gold ornaments and by the wreaths of Ashoka flowers that cause the heads to bend low by their weight, this Kausambi, which has surpassed all the treasures of the Lord of wealth by its opulence apparent from the dresses (of the people), and which seems to have its inhabitants covered with liquid gold as it were, appears all yellow. Moreover, In the courtyard which is flooded all over with the continuous streams of water ejected by the foun-tains and where sport is carried on in the mud caused by the simultaneous and close treadings, the yon pavement is reddened by the people with the imprints (lit.plantings) of their feet, red with the colour of the vermillion” [7, 122]
Kaushambi is in modern Uttar Pradesh. Thus from Kashmir in the Uttarapatha to Kaushambi in the Madhyadesa to the Kosta in Andhra Pradesa, Madan Utsav was celebrated throughout classical Bharatavarsha.
By the way, although this is a legendary love story involving King Udayana and Princess Ratnavali, there is war and adventure, so there’s something in it for the guys and girls.
“The Pujavidhana or the mode of worshipping Madana is also described by Hemadri. It is said that, on the thirteenth tithi of the bright half, a representations of the Asoka tree should be made after taking a bath, and the floor should be decorated with kolams. Images of Kamadeva, Vighnesvara, Siva and Vasanta and Apsarogunas made either of gold or of any other metal or material, should be worshipped with incense, sandal paste, and flowers at midday by the king, along with his ministers, ladies and others. After the completion of worship, offerings of cakes of different kinds should be made to them and betel be distributed among brahmin couples with daksina.” [1,355]
Couples should offer new clothes, gifts, flowers and ornaments to each other. “Those who observe this Madanamahotsava are enjoined to keep holy vigil that night, and perform rasa-mahotsava or love-dance. Lamps should be lit, and wine should be offered to sudras [or rather those who drink], and camphor, kumkuma powder, sandal paste and other perfumes and betel should be distributed.”[1, 355]
Thus while the wife would worship her husband on his return (as the embodiment of Kama Deva), the husband in turn would worship her after her sacred bath, as we saw in Kashmir.
This mutual reverence demonstrated not only respect for both genders but also gives the correct understanding of matrimony and even sex as sacred—in contrast to modern consumer society where it is lust on demand and for the highest bidder. Lust is not Love nor is Lust even Erotic Love or Erotic Desire. Lust is selfish greed for sex. Erotic desire is not condemned (in the right context). Lust is condemned (in any context).
While contemplating material and sensual objects, persons become attached to them. Such attachment develops lust and lust generates anger. Anger leads to delusion and delusion to mental bewilderment. When the mind is bewildered, intelligence and discretion is lost. Loss of intelligence and discretion leads to downfall of the person.” 
Kaameswara – Lord Shiva Conquers Lust 
Kama (pronounced Kaama) is a very interesting word. Like many words in Sanskrit its meaning is context sensitive. In some contexts it means pleasure, in others it means love, and in this situation it means lust (kaama-moha or kaama-unmada). It is because of this danger (which Sri Krishna warns about) that Lord Shiva had to show us the importance of conquering Lust.
The reason why there are so many regulations and rules and such detailed morality regarding sex is because it is the most powerful of aspects in life.This is the case not only for its creative power, but due to its attractive power, its physical power, and even its spiritual power. The key to conquering lust, therefore, is not through celibacy-sans-saadhana, but by correctly connecting sex with love (if you do take the oath of celibacy, you must follow the saadhana that our sadhus do to succeed). Love comes in many forms. When you are capable of real romantic love, however, then the selflessness it demands, opens the door to Divine Love.
That is why the Madan Utsav itself is signified by Lord Shiva destroying Kama. He is referred to as Kaameswara and Maara-ripu because he conquered lust. When lust is conquered, then the full spectrum of love from the erotic to the romantic to the spiritual can be properly enjoyed. It was only after this that Mahadev and Parvati Devi endeavored to create the God Kartikeya.
That is why, unlike Valentine’s Day, Madan Utsav signifies the sanctity of the bond between woman and man, and especially, Wife and Husband. So yes, there is the erotic (rati), yes there is the romantic (sringara), but Madan Utsav is also about the spiritual (adhyatmika), which makes the erotic & romantic healthier and more meaningful . When wife is viewed as sacred, the husband refuses to exploit her (and vice-versa—yes ladies, what’s good for the gander…).
That is why you should celebrate Madan Utsav: the whole society comes together to celebrate Love in happy abandon, and all participate in their own way.Less orthodox castes used to be gifted wine while traditional brahmanas were gifted betel leaf. The day would begin with all of society coming together in respectable but enthusiastic celebration, with the night obviously ending between wife and husband.
In contrast to the consumer-driven, hallmark inspired veneer of romance for lust that is Corporate Valentine’s Day, Classical Indic Society celebrated the full spectrum of love in the proper context. Yes, dancers and actresses and singers, etc had their paramours and inspired people to celebrate, but the engaged (or about to be) and the married were naturally the core of the festival. Young and old, upper caste and lower caste, elite and mass, woman and man, all celebrated what we all know to be part of our nature…but in the right context…in the right way…in the right time.
It has been many centuries since the days of Ancient Kashmir or Medieval Andhra, so how can a beautiful festival be celebrated today? If you are reading this and are unmarried, you can tell people in your college or organise a group of friends your age and go to the park and sing your favourite love songs (they can be from Indian movies or popular music). If you are even more adventurous you can make (safe) flower-head arrows using a children’s bow or slingshot and pretend to be Kamadev, returning. You can distribute the traditional bamboo water soakers from Holi for rose-water or sandalpaste water (saving the colours for that special Festival of Colours).
If you are not single, then you know to exchange gifts, express love and affection, recite Poetry, and of course, dance the Rasa Mahotsav and the dance of love however you see fit.
But most importantly, if you care about our culture and tradition, be sure to tell your friends and family about Madan Utsavand how they can celebrate on Madan Trayodasi (Thirteenth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Chaitra, which is in Early April, see below for this year’s date).
Celebrate Madan Utsav!
April 9th, 2017
§ Spread the word in your College or Social Group. Hand out flyers explaining the day.
§ Greet or Yell “Shubh Madan Utsav!”. Find a public place or reserve one for celebrations.
§ Spray rosewater/sandalwood paste waster with pichkaris or gently throw flowers.
§ Sing your favourite love songs as a group and/or via Shringaar-themed Antakshari
§ Play Romantic instruments like the flute or hire professional musicians
Family Activities: Extended family can celebrate by lighting lamps, singing songs, giving tambula to those in home, colony, apartment or housing development. Of course, those of you who drink wine, will know whom to give it to, whom notto give it to, & whento drink it.
§ Draw Rangavali/Rangoli/Kolam during the Day. Light lamps at night.
§ Have a great feast in your community. Make garlands and swings of flowers. Play music.
§ Give gifts depending on how orthodox you or others are (betel leaves for some, wine for others)
§ Sing, Dance,use a safe (children’s toy bow)/slingshot for soft flowertip arrows or flowers.
Married Couples: Exchange gifts, express affection in preferred manner (see above).
§ At the start of the day, wife welcomes husband as embodiment of Kama Deva
§ During the day is the chance to express love (rather than PDA) either in public celebrations or private, via music, song, poetry, dancing, etc.
§ At end of the day, husband returns favour and gives gifts & shows love for wife (see “Kashmir option” above)
Kama is the embodiment of Romance and his wife Rati is the embodiment of well, rati.
So Happy Festival of Love, in advance. Or as we should say in Bharat…
Music is quite possibly the most powerful medium to not only communicate sentiments and feelings, but even ideas and philosophies. The spirituality inherent in the music of India, from the august sangeeta sabhas of Chennai to the lively village songs of Braj, is fragrant with this spiritual sense. Whether it is in communicating the everyday emotions or the most transcendental bliss, music of all echelons is an important and even critical aspect of culture.
To properly understand one’s Culture, it becomes crucial to evaluate the significance and centrality of our music, and even what makes it ours in the first place. And yet, in the engagement of Civilizations today, even music, a sacred bond among artistes and singers of different backgrounds and nationalities, is not above breaching this brotherhood.
Music and Indic Civilization is as old as the Sama Veda, and yet authentic Indic Civilization is at a crossroads. As has been researched and discussed by a respected author, there is a concerted attempted to deprecate and even deconstruct our traditional culture, and replace it with imports from other part of the world.
Sadly, even the realm of music, which should ideally bring people together, has been used by foreign “Indologists”, and their men “friday”, as a means to question the very existence of an Indian identity and an Indic Civilization, leave aside the classical tradition. Those of us raised in the tradition, in tune with modern realities and exigencies, know this assertion is ridiculous.
Much younger civilizations such as Europe and Persia, both of whom acknowledge borrowing much that is Classically Indic in origin, are self-servingly placed ahead of India, while India’s own Classical Music tradition is deconstructed and denied. This is the approach of “the developed world’s” Ivory tower, and its courtier magazines.
That is why the time has come to put aside hesitance for assertiveness, and academically rebut these preposterous propositions. While there are many different strands in the diverse Indic tradition, as anybody who is familiar with the Natya Sastra knows, it is the Sastra of Bharata muni which serves as the foundation for our Classical Arts, Music, & Literature. Desi and Marga lived in traditional harmony, much like Regional Language and Civilizational Sanskrit.
Therefore, this Series will primarily view Classical Indic Music through the tradition of Carnatic, as it is the most authentic and reflective of the native Indic spirit. Though periodic discussion of Hindustani and its Personalities, such as Bhimsen Joshi and Hariprasad Chaurasia, will take place, it is nevertheless important for readers to understand the difference between the syncretic and the authentic.
Sama Vedaaditham geetham-sujagraha Pithamahah ||
Pitamaha(Brahma)collected music from Sama Veda 
The Goddess Sarasvati, consort of Brahma, is herself considered the presiding deity of Music. Indic Music in general is often referred to as Gandharva Veda. The Gandharva Veda is one of the four main Upavedas and is attached to the Sama Veda. Named after those semi-divine beings famed for their divine music (Gandharvas), this upaveda is considered the origin of our sangeeta.
Thus, Saastriya Sangeeta is a very ancient tradition—one that laid the foundation for both styles (Carnatic & Hindustani) of what is referred to as Classical Indian Music. While Carnatic is generally dated to its Pitamaha Purandara Dasa of Karnataka, he himself in fact was merely the reviver of an older tradition of music that once connected both North & South. The matter of disjunction, however, is that Hindustani revolves around catering to the tastes of medieval Turks with persianised inclinations. It has very likely been promoted for precisely such reasons (much like urdu in bollywood) by the Lutyens crowd, to the detriment of others. What’s more, for a long time, rather silly JNU style theories were floating around that foreigners had taken the Vedic Chant tradition and given native Indians “sangeet”. This is a laughable notion for anyone who has studied the authentic Saastriya Sangeeta tradition. Carnatic has directly preserved this lineage from the time of Bharata muni and Rishi Tamburu down to the present day.
The reality is, so-called “Ganga-jamuni tehzeeb” is mostly Ganga-Jamuna and very little tehzeeb. Merely renaming melakartha ragas, cutting the Mridangam in half, and tweaking the Veena, does not a true Classical Tradition make. Panache and flamboyant flair! are fine for neophytes, but real rasikas will appreciate the refinement that goes into technique and training. Fusion styles are fine for artists and their sentimental leanings—the but the truly authentic is what is native.
As such, it is only natural that Carnatic will serve as the backbone for the rediscovery of the Authentic Indic Tradition, with due regard to key Northern performers, of course. And with that we begin.
In our country, originally there was only one form of music and that was Indian music. Only later the divisions came and South Indian music and North Indian music chartered a separate course [2, 13]
This is the background of Classical Indic Music.Contrary to contemporary proponents of “art music”, the tradition, both South and North of the Vindhyas, finds its common origin in Sastra. Saastriya Sangeeta is traditionally credited to Sage Bharata , author of the celebrated Natya Sastra. Nevertheless, the hymns of the Sama Veda are liturgically sung, and thereby take the origins of Sangeeta back to the Vedas themselves. Bharata himself draws the connection:
His assertion that he is creating a fifth Veda which will be accessible to all castes and classes at the same time likening it to the Vedas (i.e. creating a fifth Veda and the analogy of a ritual) transcends the accepted boundaries of hierarchy as also norms of inclusion and exclusion. [4, 21]
Foreigners too recognise the the place of the Natya Sastra and its criticality to the Classical Tradition.
The Bharata Natyasatra is our earliest Indian authority on these three arts [drama, music and dancing] and shows that by this time India had a fully developed system of music, which differed little from that of present-day ‘classical’ music. Anyone who has heard performance on the vina by a good South Indian musician has probably heard music much as it was played over a thousand years ago. [3, 382]
This was written not by some recent Indian scholar, but by Indologist A.L. Basham, in 1967. He further writes that over thirty ragas are listed in Bharata muni’s magnum opus, but these have expanded to hundreds over the course of millennia. Furthermore, there is strong reason to believe that Bharata himself was building upon the existing foundation of Gandharva Veda [emphasis ours]:
“The fact that there was a flourishing tradition of poetry, dance and music, even of architecture, sculpture and painting, is evident from innumerable references in the Vedas and epics. Patanjali’s Mahabhaasya and Arthasastras, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata provide interesting details of theatre halls, recitals, social status and training, but of the works of writers, Acaryas or rsis of the arts we learn little. Bharata provides a list of his gurus (teachers) and contemporaries. Apart from Pitamaha Siva and Mahesa, he mentions Kohala, Dhurtila (Dattila), Salikarn, Baadaraayana (Badari) and others.”[4, 114]
In fact, while there are those who continue to reduce the antiquity of Indian history and culture (to aggrandise their own culture and civilization), there is reason to believe that Natya Sastra is in fact much older than the date assigned to its composition. As Kapila Vatsyayan writes:
Many believe prior to its written composition, the Natya Sastra was transmitted orally. [1,29]
As such, one immediately sees the reason why mere documentary evidence alone cannot suffice. This is not only because destructive forces can burn down libraries (as was done at Alexandria and Nalanda), but also because some of the most ancient traditions and strongest memories are transmitted orally, whether it is the traditional four Vedas, or the metaphorical fifth.
In addition, contrary to current day self-proclaimed “secular” revisionists who decry Sastra as frozen and rigid, Basham wrote that
The Indian musician was, and still is, an improviser [3, 383]
But the notion that the “Classical Tradition” is something new, or regionally/temporally restricted, frozen, or limited to only Brahmins is patently false.
Works on Dance such as non-brahmin Jaya Senapati’s Nrtta Ratnavaliin the Medieval era pay homage to Bharata muni’s treatise (and Matanga muni’s text) from the ancient era, which in turn pays homage to the Vedas themselves. Senapati also wrote in great detail about music instruments and musical accompaniment in chapter 7 (239 verses on everything from vocalists to orchestras). As such, one can see the continuity of tradition beginning with the Vedas and going on to Maharishi Bharata to dance & music commentators such as Jayasena from Andhra, and all this before Carnatic or Hindustani even came into their own.
Contrary to newly invented narratives, the classical tradition is a continuous one that has merely evolved new styles and schools of music, in response to changing conditions. Incidentally, Jaya Senapati also authored the Geeta Ratnavali, which is now lost due to the pillage of Warangalby Delhi Turks. Here’s what one Delhi Turk hyperbolically credited with all of Hindustani music himself had to say:
Further, Jayasenahimself predates Bharatanatyam, Sadir, and Kuchipudi dances, demonstrating the importance of not only Thandava, but even Dakshinatyam as an intermediate style between ancient Bharata muni and modern Bharatanatyam (or its precursor Sadir). Similarly, Carnatic music may be credited to its Pitamaha Purandara Dasa of 16th Century Karnataka, but this style of Sangeeta itself was established amid changing conditions. He is also preceded by Annamayya of Andhra, who is nevertheless celebrated by Carnatic aficionados today.
This is why, contrary to foreign Indologists, it is not appropriate to refer to Classical as a time period, as though the musical or cultural tradition were dead like ancient Greece or Classical Rome. In fact, it is very much alive, and as widely respected scholars themselves have written, classical in regards to India culture, should have a different meaning:
As regards the recent use of the term sastra as adjective, sastriya nrtya or sangita, it suggests quality of performance, sometimes genre, with an implied translation of the term ‘classical’ in English, as a qualitative and not historical period category. [4, 43]
Furthermore, there are foundational characteristics of Indic music that can be found in all corners of Bharatavarsha.
“The evidence of Bharata shows that, as at the present day, the Indian of two thousand years ago preferred the throaty…style of music which comes more naturally than that which Europe has learnt to appreciate. The singing voice was often treated as a musical instrument, the vocalist performing long impromptu variations on a simple melody, sung to a single phrase, often an invocation to a deity. ” [3, 385]
This latter part becomes all the more important when one understands the inherent importance of spirituality in Indic music.
Carnatic music is basically governed by an abiding faith in God [2, 1]
Carnatic takes its name, according to various theories, from Karnataka. Karnataka Sangeeta Pitamaha Purandara Dasa is from that state and composed his keerthanas in Kannada. Yet another theory stipulates that the word ‘carnatic’ is connected to the Tamil word ‘karnatakam’, which ostensibly means ancient. Whatever it is, Carnatic may be comparatively new, but Saastriya Sangeeta itself is very old.
“After the foreign invasions commencing in the 12th century A.D. our savants in music were not only uprooted but many rare manuscripts were either lost or got thoroughly mutilated. In the [14th century A.D.] the rulers of the Vijayanagar kingdom with the help of vidwans and music lovers tried to trace these manuscripts. In this process, thanks to the great efforts of Vidyaranya who adorned the Sarada Sringeri Mutt as its Pontiff, some portions of the manuscripts were recovered but savants on music were not available. There were, however, a few great vidwans who could sing in the chaste traditional style.” [2, 14]
Furthermore, contrary to modern “Art Music” opinionistas, Carnatic music goes beyond Sacred music and already includes an Art Music (called Vinodham) and “Art Musical Forms”— Padam, Javali, and Thillana. Others forms include, Kalakshepam (singing of epics/Harikatha), Dance musical form, Opera musical form (Yakshagana), Secular music (songs on Niti, such as those by Siddhars), Folk Music (Jaanapaadam), Martial Music, Kalpitha music and Manodharma music (no prior preparation). [2, 45]
Whether it is the 1500s of Purandara Dasa or the 2010s of the recently deceased Balamurali Krishna, Carnatic music is the successor of an ancient inheritance that remains ever-adaptable to changing times.
Hindustani music’s origins remain somewhat controversial, irrespective of the “secular” consensus. Questions remain as to whether it owes its origins to a prejudiced Turk courtier in Slave Dynasty Delhi or the more venerable Tansen of the Mughal era. Either way, it too, like Carnatic, is the product of Saastriya Sangeeta, and was created (or re-packaged) on an earlier, authentically Indian foundation. In fact, this musician courtier himself is said to have brought Maharashtra musician Gopala Nayaka of Devagiri to Delhi.[9,27] This is said to have laid the actual foundation for what is known as the Hindustani School today.
As western Indologists themselves admit, Ancient India already had a fully developed system, with an orchestra of distinct instruments. The Sitar itself is a renamed and tweaked Tritantri Veena. [9, 31]
Therefore, irrespective of the various gharanas, or the Hindustani school itself, it is very much Classical Indic Music—just repackaged for foreign (and foreign-imposed) tastes. Despite how common (and cliche) it has become to talk of the contrasts and differences between Hindustani and Carnatic, there is far more in common than motivated scholars would like. But in order to recognise this, one must study the structure of Saastriya Sangeeta closely.
Having provided an introduction to the Saastriya Sangeeta Tradition, and some of the ongoing controversies regarding its epistemology, one can now more closely examine its Theoretical Structure and Musical aspects.
Sangeeta is historically classified according to four types. These are Marga, Suddha, Desiya and Salaka.
1.Marga Sangeeta—The Four Vedas, along with the Sapta Svaras, are called Marga and are considered to have come from Deva Loka.
2.Suddha Sangeeta—Singing withing the established framework of arohana (ascending notes) and avarahona (descending) according to the traditional manner.
3. Desiya Sangeeta—Regional (desa-pradesa) types of music according to the various provinces of India
4. Salaka Sangeeta—Singing without any traditional structure or guide, per one’s own inclination. [2,7]
Bharata muni wrote further on its classification and had this to say:
Sangeetham comprises Geetham, Vadyam and Nrutthyam. 
Interestingly, academic authority on the Natya Sastra, Kapila Vatsyayan, writes that
There is a theory that ‘Bharata’ is an acronym for the syllables Bha, Ra, and Ta (standing for Bhava, Raga, and Tala respectively). [4, 7]
Incidentally, all these three are all fundamental to Saastriya Sangeeta. Much of the terminology in Carnatic & Hindustani is either common or common conceptually:
In the Natya Sastra, and beyond, one can find the “foundations of a distinctive system of music—its micro-intervals (sruti), notes (svara), scales (graama), modes (murcchana), melodic forms (jaatis), rhythm (taala) and much else.” [4, 92] Despite the motivated critique that Bharatiya Sangeeta does not have harmony, this is by design. It emphasises Melody instead.
Bhava refers to the emotional state that produces Rasa.
Ragarefers to the melody produced by a sequence of notes.
Ragas are divided into Melakartha (parent)and Janya (derivative) Ragas.
Rama Amatya (Asthana Vidvan of the Vijayanagara Empire) refers to 19 melakartha ragas, Govinda Deeksitar mentions 20, and finally Venkatamakhi (second son of Govinda Deeksitar) mentions 72. The melakartha scheme equivalent in Hindustani is Thaat (which only has 10).
These 72 melakartha ragas are the modern standard. 36 are considered Suddhamadhyamam (or pure) and 36 are pratimadhyamam. The 5 svaras other than Ma and Pa are found in all 72.
Janya ragas are those born from melakartha ragas. These are divided into different categories.
Sampoornam-contains all seven svaras, Shaadavam-contains six swaras, Audavam for five, Svaraantham for four, Saamigam for three, Ghaathigam for two, and Aarchigam for one. Nevertheless, it is generally considered that to get a sweet and well-developed ragam, at least 5 svaras are required.
Just to understanding the level of evolution of these melodies, each melakartha raga has 483 janya ragas. This brings the total to 34,776 janya ragas in Carnatic Music. [2, 23]
Just to further demonstrate the commonality of the Ragams in Carnatic and Hindustani, here is an equivalency:
Carnatic → Hindustani
Mechakalyani Kalyan/Yaman Kalyan [2, 90]
Tala(thaala) refers to the beat that tracks time (Kaala) and determines tempo (Gathi ) and rhythm (Laya). It is the backbone of any composition. There is a saying that Sruthi (pitch) is the mother of music and Thaala (beat) is the father. There are 7 basic thaalas: Dhruva, Matya, Rupaka, Jhampa, Triputa (Adi), Ata, and Eka. When these are combined with the various jathis, were get 35 thaalas. When joined with gathis, the total reaches 175. Layam indicates the rhythm of the thaalam, and there are 3 kinds (Vilamba, Madhya, Duritha).
Laghu-finger movements. There are five kinds of jatis, and these form Lagu, which is the count of the finger movements. The counterpart to laghu is dhrutam (which is a one hand clap on the knee), of which there are five types as well.
Nada (naada), is the primordial sound that gives evocation to a musical note (Svara). It is the sound that is pleasing to the ear.
The fire that is burning in our stomach joins with the air that we breath[e] and goes upward through nav[e]l, heart, neck and finally the head. and comes out through our mouth in the form of a sound. This sound becomes Nadam. 
Nada is classified in to two types. There is Ahatha Nadam, which is the sound that is naturally formed but made sweet through man’s effort. When we sing or play an instrument in consonance with sruthi, this is called ahatha nadam.
The purely natural sounds called Anaahatha Nadam. Examples include the sound of raindrops on objects, or the notes of wind flowing through cut bamboo. Aum (Pranava) is considered the origin of both Ahatha and Anahatha nadam. [2, 9]
Perhaps nothing embodies Naada like the flute. Shri Hariprasad Chaurasia of the Hindustani school has become synonymous with the Bansuri. Here is a sample of his beautiful music.
Na Naadena vinaa geetham na naadena vina svarraha
Na naadena vina nruttham-thasmaath naadaathmakam jagath
With Sa as the base, the other six svaras RI-GA-MA-PA-DA-NI were created 
Svara literally means that which makes its own sweetness. The etymology is the combination of the two letters from the words svayam and ranjagam. There are seven svaras in total: Shadjam, Rishabham, Gandharam (or Gandharvam), Madhyamam, Panchamam, Daivatham and Nishadam. There is also a special symbolism to this number seven, as there are seven seas, seven rishis, seven days, etc. [2, 9]
The heptatonic scale finds its earliest form in Classical Indic Music.
Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni
These seven notes central to our tradition find their analogue in the West as follows
Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti
It is no surprise, therefore, that many European Classical Composers appreciate Carnatic Music in particular (as it preserves the technical sophistication of traditional Saastriya Sangeeta).
Sthayi refers to Octave. Per Carnatic, there are five in number: Anumandra, Mandra, Madhya, Thaara, Athi.
The integral unity of the Saastriya Sangeeta System is therefore seen clearly here. Not only common terminology but also common concepts and common performance organisation. Perhaps nothing embodies this more than this common sloka.
Brahmaa thaala dharo-hariccha patahee
Veenaa kara bhaarathee ||
Vamsagnyow sasi bhaaskarow
Srrthi dhaaraha ||
Siddhaap Saraha kinnaraahaa
Nandee Bhrungiritaadi mardala dharaha ||
Samboho nruttha karasya mangalathanoho ||
Naatyam sadaa paathunaha ||
With Brahma providing the beat, Vishnu playing on the mridangam, Sarasvathi playing the Veena, Surya and Chandra playing the flute, Devas and Apsaras providing the Sruthi, Nandi and Brungi playing other instruments, Narada singing melodiously, every one enjoyed the celestial dance of Siva. 
Nada is therefore connected to Svara and Sruthi, and Sangeeta to Gaana and Naatya. These connections are further embodied in the system of scales used in our sangeeta.
This is the centrality of not only the Saastriya Sangeeta Tradition to modern Indian music, but also the central importance of Bharata Muni and his Natya Sastra.
“Bharata displays an extraordinary knowledge of material in the making of musical instruments (four types) and of the nature of sound, notes, consonance, assonance, dissonance and melodic forms. He establishes a system of correspondence between each category and its potential for arousing emotion; he develops it to establish patters of configuration of ‘notes’ in melodic forms and emotive states. He distinguishes between vocal and instrumental music.
He further divides vocal music into two types—one, consisting only of notes and the other, with words (varna and geya). He provides details of different types of instruments and their respective characteristics. He returns to an elaboration of the category of dhruva songs which he had mentioned in many earlier chapters. He identifies a category of music called gaandharva and distinguishes it from gaana. Bharata enumerates the different types of taala (time measures—rhythm, metrical cycles). In short, he lays down the foundation of a distinctly Indian syle of music with its scales and modal structure.” [4,92]
In fact, here again, in the use of instruments, we find commonality between North and South. Attodya or instruments of Saastriya Sangeeta are divided into four categories. These are Sushira (wind), Avanatta (leather percussion), Ghana (metal), and Thatha (string). While there were and are many string instruments…
The chief musical instrument was the vina, usually loosely trans-lated ‘lute’. [3, 384]
Veenais by all accounts the national instrument of India. It came in many varieties, one of which was the precursor to the Sitar. It was the instrument not only of the Goddess of Knowledge but of the Great Indic Emperors of yore.
Maharajadiraja Samudra Gupta with Veena and Vaana
In tandem with Sarasvati’s instrument, is the Tambura (now known as Tanpura in the North). It is primarily used to keep Sruthi and is most famously seen in that roaming celestial bard, Narada Muni. There is also the Mridangam, which in popular lore at least, was cut in half, and tweaked to create the percussion instrument Tabla. The bamboo Murali (also known as Venu, Vamsee or Bansuri) is the flautist’s delight and is also common to both North and South India. Finally, there is the Nadasvaram (Nagaswaram) of the South. This wind instument corresponds to the Shenai of the North. There are, of course, many other instruments to discuss, but these mainstays of the Indic orchestra (vaadyabrnda) demonstrate the Tradition of Saastriya Sangeeta in both schools.
Finally, there is the matter of various musical forms and composition types.
Krithis & Keerthanas
Pallavi, Charanam and Anupallavi are the key determinants of the compositions known as Krithis and Keerthanas. These are both the typical standards in Carnatic music.
Pallavi is the first line (or refrain) of the song, Anupallavi the following lines, and Charanam is a stanza. [5, ix]
A Keerthana will have only a Pallavi and Charanam. A Krithi will have all three.
This is considered the theme of any performance. The word Pallavi is itself derived from three words: Padam, Layam, and Vinyasam. “In Carnatic music, pallavi singing is the most important part. Here is an opportunity provided to the vidwan to exhibit his knowledge and mastery and imaginative power. It consists of three parts- Ragam, Thanam and Pallavi“. [2, 58] Thanam is where special emphasis is placed on one of the names of the Lord.
Padam is a term that has various meanings. It can refer to a line, a stanza, or a full composition. While Odisha’s Jayadeva referred to stanzas in his Astanaam Paadanaam Samhahaara (Ashtapadis), Andhra’s Annamacharya composed 32,000 padams (of which 14,328 are extant), which were compositions. While in some cases, such as Annamayya, these are purely devotional, the more commonly accepted definition is that padams are imbued with Sringararasa (as evidenced by the Odisha’s Jayadeva).
In any event, Padam is a very ancient musical form. Bharata muni defines Padam in his Natya Sastra as follows:
Gaandharvam yan mayaa proktam svara taala padaatmakam
Padam tasya bhaved vastu svara taalanu bhavakam
Yat kincid akshara kritam tat sarwam pada sanjnitam
Nibaddham ca anibaddham ca tat padam swividham smrtam ||
Gandharva comprises of svara, taala and padam.
In this, padam is evocative of svara and taala.
Any meaningul syllabic composition can be called a padam.
It is of two kinds, Nibaddha (bound) and Anibaddha (unbound)
It can also be with taala or without taala. NS XXXII, 25-27 [5, vii]
Along with Padam, another musical form focused on Sringara rasa, is Javali. However, these are typically not given patronage as they are considered inauspicious and coarse. It is only in modern times that some have chosen to perform them at sangeeta salons. The object or subject of romance is not always maritally unattached, and thus, considered improper. Nevertheless, the existence of Padam (as defined by Bharata) and Javali is emblematic of how Carnatic music, and Saastriya Sangeeta in general, is not merely about devotional music. The current conservativism in the Katcheris of Coimbatore and Chennai may prefer the purely spiritual, but historically this was not the case, and along with the religious, more material and romantic topics also featured in performances, for the King or audience’s pleasure and relaxation.
This is where there are various jathi combinations, but little or no saahithya. Here is an example of a Thillana.
These are the most basic form of songs. There are Sanchari and Lakshana geethams. Sanchari is where the lyrics are simple, there is no pallavi, anupallavi, or charanam. Lakshana geetham is more complex, and may have alapana (exposition of the ragam). [2, 56]
A mukhari is an instrumentalist, and a Mukya-gayaka the main singer. A vaggeyakaara is one who authors a lyric and sets it to music. This word is a close analogue to but ultimately much wider than the english term ‘composer’. [5, vii]
There are of course other forms, such as the Dhrupad of Hindustani (which was originally called Dhruvapada). However, these are best dealt with elsewhere, in greater detail. The theory behind Saastriya Sangeeta is indeed very sophisticated, and will necessitate a separate post on the topic. Nevertheless, this overview summarises the basics for the casual reader, and should give a foundation for deeper studies in the future.
What does become obvious to the objective person, however, is that there is a common tradition across the Indian Subcontinent from which regional and local variations draw from. Whether it is spiritual, material, or folk, Saastriya Sangeeta is the common fountain providing identifiable patterns of musical structure from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
But don’t take our word for it. Again, here are the eminent experts in their studies.
We notice three trends, one of adherence to some key principles of the Naatyasaastra, another of introduction of new categories and, a third, specially in the second period of the eleventh century onwards, of descriptions of fully developed regional schools and styles. This is a pan-Indian phenomenon. [4, 119]
Sangeetaraja & Sangeet-krama-dipaka by Maharana Kumbha (Rajasthan), 1400 CE
Sangeeta Kaumudi (Odisha)
Svaramela-kalandhi by Rama Amatya, 1500 CE
Raaga Vibodam by Somanatha, 1500 CE
Sangeetha Sudha by Govinda Deeksitar, 1600 CE
Chaurdandi Prakaasikai by Venkatamakhi, 1600 CE
Sangeeta-paarijaata by Ahobila, 1600 CE
Krishna-leela-tarangini (Andhra), 1600 CE
Sangeetha Saaraamrutham by Tuloji Maharaj (Maharashtra/Tamil Nadu), 1700 CE
From Matanga Muni to M.S.Subbulakshmi, Saastriya Sangeeta has an ancient heritage and an All-India influence (much like Adi Sankaracharya whose bhajan is being sung above). It is the Pan-Indic, genre-transcending nature of this music that has made it so central to our culture and civilization.
Correctly understanding Indian Music and its (true) origins, necessitates understanding the tradition of Saastriya Sangeeta. Sastra is the foundation from which spiritual, worldly, and folk music all draw from (to varying degrees). Ancient India, and even parts of medieval India (notably the South) preserved an indigenous musical system that is both continuous and civilizational in nature. From common origin to common texts to common terminology, the integral unity  of this variety of musicology is obvious to all earnest students and scholars.
For those who believe Bharata and his musicology as disconnected from the masses, here is some food for thought for “art music” advocates:
“To return to the inheritance to the lineage of Bharata, as also those who inherited from him—we have already referred to Bharata’s indebtedness to the Vedas, the Upanisads and Brahmanical yajna practices. He incorporates the system of puja later codified in the aagamas, draws freely from contemporary practice, and considers loka, the ‘people’, as the final authority.” [4,113]
The people are the final authority to this tradition.They improvise, invent, and re-invent new styles and new modes of expression, but the source of inspiration finds expression through the unifying mechanism of Sastra. That is why it is so amusing to find juvenile foreign theories of foreigners bestowing music upon Indians (when the reverse is in fact far more likely).
“To say that they pertain to, or have been influenced by, the Arab or the Persian system shows a very superficial knowledge of the subject. These systems, originally mostly derived from Indian music, have become so reduced and impoverished in comparison with it that no one can seriously speak of their having had any influence on its development.”
(Alain Danielou in Northern Indian Music. Praeger, 1969. volume I, p. 1-35)
In the name of promoting the syncretic, the authentic is being denigrated, demoted, and debased. Much like the modern Persian who laments at the arabisation of Pahlavi, the modern Indian finds himself wondering why foreigners are forever trying to persianise his own native tradition. Let Persia be Persia and let India be India. Tweaking our music to suit foreign tastes may be vaunted as syncretism, but persianisation and arabisation are not equivalent to sanskritisation. There is a difference not only based on nativity, but also due to inherent nature.
Syncretism vs Symbiosis
What the present narrative conveniently elides is that Sastra is the foundation for not only Carnatic but Hindustani as well. It is rather odd that the current discourse appears to imply that even music was brought from outside India, ironically by those who condemned music and banned it. Kapila Vatsyayan illuminates this point further:
The Ain-e-Akbari relies heavily on the Sangeetaratnaakara in its music and dance chapters. So does the later work—Risala-i-Raagadarpana. Both adherences and changes can be discerned in the later works, such as, Sangeeta Mallikaa of Mohammed Shah (seventeenth century) and Kitabe Nau Rasa of Adil Shah. [4, 120]
Sangeeta-ratnaakara, a work by Sarngadeva, a Kashmiri Pandit in a Maharashtrian King’s court, is credited as influencing all these exemplars of “Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb” & “Hindustani”. Even the alleged eminence grise of the Ganga-Jamuni brigade noted how native Classical Indic Music was beyond the grasp of persianised Central Asian invaders. As Kapila ji notes “The basic foundations were laid by Bharata“. [1, 120]. Unlike the parasitic nature of so-called “syncretic” traditions that are colonial in etiology, symbiosis is endemic to the Sanskritic (traditionalists would in fact assert that it is not only symbiotic but organic, as Sanskrit is the mother of all these Indic cultures).
Sastra and Saastriya sangeeta rejected homogenisation and birthed a diversity of not only languages and traditions, but styles of dance and music. Sastra was the standard that all looked to, but all sought to express their own identity within the guidance of given standards. Urdu continues to kill off lovely dialects of Hindi such as Braj and Avadhi, and even robust languages like Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Punjabi. In contrast, Sanskrithas, with its grammar and vocabulary, enriched regional languages, whether North or South, while preserving the parlance of the people. Ask any Kashmiri how many people speak his mother tongue today, then compare with a Kannadiga.
Classical Indic Music is no different. The traditional high culture (marga) music birthed or preserved the regional (called desi) variations and enriched the (janapada) folk variations. This beginning is made apparent in the Natya Sastra itself. And for our caste-conscious casteists, even non-brahmin regional Natyacharyas such as Jaya Senapati of medieval Andhra looked back to Bharata muni and maintained this tradition of Marga and Desi living side by side. And this tradition continued under such figures as modern Telangana’s Nataraja Ramakrishna. Folk performers throughout united Andhra Pradesh saluted him for his contribution to reviving their art forms, while he revived the classical Perini Thandava.
Further, the Pan-India connections rise beyond Sarngadeva, as Shahaji, the Maratha King of Thanjavur, patronised many Carnatic musicians at his Tamil Nadu Court and Tuloji himself authored a text.
What actually destroyed these folk and classical dances and styles of music however, our omniscient and infallible indologists (and their loyal native informants) will never tell you (hint: also medieval). Unlike the perso-turkic syncretic, the symbiotic sanskritic nourished, revived, and revives the full spectrum of musical voices, whether desi or marga, male or female, mass or elite & regional or civilizational.
From the Dattilam of Dattila to Sarngadeva and his Sangeeta-Ratnakara, Saastriya Sangeeta is a very ancient tradition that is very native in nature. The time has come to fully revive this cultural treasure not only in the South, but in the North as well, so the authentically Indic will get its due place again. Syncretism and Fusion are fine and dandy for “art music” dandies, but Classical Indic Music is the Core of our Musical Culture, and that is the relevance of Saastriya Sangeeta.
Ultimately, most of you “modern”, “progressive” types may be wondering, why any of this matters. After all “we are all global now“. Well, here was a “global” historian writing on why simply “getting degree” and “getting job” isn’t enough…
This was not the case in India’s greatest days, when a knowledge of music was looked on as an essential attribute of a gentleman. [3, 384]
Those who wish to appear educated, sophisticated, and urbane would do well to understand what real culture is.Pop culture hits and bollywood beats may be all the rage today, but comprehension of the system of music and musicology that made them possible is the true sign of cultural refinement.
All in all, while many new regional, sub-regional schools and even individual styles developed, the basic foundation of a ‘modal’ system of music was not demolished. The living traditions of the several schools[,] the gharanas and the sampradaayas of Hindustan and Carnatic music bear testimony. The continuous flow of the tradition, as also the infinite number of possibilities of change and creativity is obvious. [4,121]
The tradition remains at the core, while the various schools and styles emerge from it. At a time when its originality (and even existence) are being challenged, perhaps its time to revisit what exactly makes the modes of Saastriya Sangeeta, truly Indic and truly Classical. This is something even Western Classical Composers have recognised:
Appa Rao, P.S.R. A Monograph on Bharata’s Natya Sastra. Hyderabad: Natyakala Press.1967
Iyer, A.S. Panchapakesa. Karnataka Sangeeta Sastra: Theory of Carnatic Music. Chennai: Ganamrutha Prachuram.2008
Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India.New Delhi: Rupa & Co. 1999
Vatsyayan, Kapila. Natya Sastra. Bharata: The Natyasastra. Sahitya Akademi.2007
Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Fragrance of Padams. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2014