“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—who outwitted everyone from Duryodhana to Drona. 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 follow 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 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 by the Mongols, and all the Kyushu vassals were recalled by the shikken. When the attack finally came in 1274, Japan was ready. After a hard-fought victory they didn’t 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 coast 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 to 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 of 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
The following Post was composed by Prakruti Prativadi. You can follow her on TCP.
Bharatanāṭyaṃ performances often standout for the striking and realistic portrayals of characters and their stories which are powerful and moving and live in the memory of the audience. Audience members even share their experience with the dancer, often telling how the dance made them teary-eyed, or get goose-bumps. The technique and theory of emoting and embodying characters is referred to as Abhinaya in Bharatanāṭyaṃ and Indian classical dances. The word ‘Abhinaya’ literally means carrying the meaning of the art to the audience. In Indian classical dances like Bharatanāṭyaṃ, the means by which this is done is significant, since the dancer must have expert knowledge of the Abhinaya techniques and nuances in order to genuinely embody and communicate the essence of the song to the onlooker and, most significantly, to awaken the Rasaexperience in the spectator.
The general understanding of Abhinaya is that it is the emotive and expressive aspect of classical Indian dance. However, Abhinaya consists of more than just the enactment facet of Bharatanāṭyaṃ; Abhinaya consists of four major types. But before going into the technical aspects of Abhinaya and its varied uses, we must first understand the purpose of Abhinaya. The point of Abhinaya is not just to tell a story or play a role. Abhinaya is how the dancer awakens the Rasa experience in the audience. In Indian Aesthetics, Rasa is a supreme aesthetic experience and is the paramount aim in any classical dance performance and is described as a conscious-uplifting experience, in which the spectator feels a bliss-state that is similar to the bliss of Brahman knowledge.
“The experience of Rasa is similar to the experience of Brahman” – Abhinavagupta
Per the Natyashastra, a dance, drama, or music performance that does not generate Rasas and is not offered to the Gods is not really art and is Nīca (vulgar). This kind of performance will not benefit either the audience or the performers. According to Bharata, no meaningful communication can exist without producing Rasa.
Rasa is not limited to the stage or court; Rasa comes from a set of conditions the dancer creates. Rasa is born after the generation of many and varied Bhāvas(mental and emotional states) that differ based on the character and circumstance. Rasa is awakened in the spectator as result of: Vibhāvas (determinants), Anubhāvas (consequent reactions), Vyabhicāri (impermanent mental states), Sāttvika (with Sattva) and Sthāyi (permanent mental state) Bhāvas emerging first. According to Bharata, Abhinavagupta, Śārṅgadeva, and other scholars, the Rasa experience is the ultimate purpose of Nāṭya (dance, drama and music). Without Rasa, the performance does not bring a benefiting and lasting effect to the onlooker. Rasa experience is filled with joy and is akin to the knowledge of Brahman.
The Rasa experience stays with the audience for some time even after the performance has concluded; the audience wants to experience it again. During the Rasa experience, the very consciousness is transformed to reflect the true inner Self. The concept of Rasa is ancient and found in the Vedas and Upanishads. For example, the Taittriya Upanishad declares that: Raso vai Saha: Rasa (is) Him (Brahman).
Rasa is not isolated to dance, but also exists in poetry, music and drama. The dances of temples, performed by Devadāsis and in some cases even temple priests also have the same goal of generating Rasa in the onlooker because these dances are not just rituals, they generate Bhāvas which result in Rasa; the Devadāsis also offered their dances to the Divine Gods, which is the same motive of the dance performed on the Raṅga (stage) described in the Nāṭyaśāstra. There is no difference in purpose between the dance described in the Nāṭyaśāstra and the dance of the temples.
Abhinaya consists of four types:
Āṅgika Abhinaya: Using the body, including the arms, hands, feet, legs, torso, face, and head in dramatic representation.
Vācika Abhinaya: Dramatic portrayal through the use of speech, in Bharatanāṭyaṃ Vācika Abhinaya consists of the songs and compositions that are danced.
Āhārya Abhinaya: Consists of make-up, jewelry, flowers, props and accessories used by the dancer to aid in dramatic portrayal.
Sāttvika Abhinaya: Emoting and portrayal of characters and situations through Sattva.
All these types of Abhinaya are essential to generate the Bhāvas and awaken Rasa in the audience. Amongst these, however, the more intangible and indefinable type is undoubtedly Sāttvika Abhinaya. Sāttvika Abhinaya is portrayal that is full of Sattva. This is a crucial ingredient, because it is required to genuinely embody the Bhāvas that will generate Rasas.
Bharata states that a successful performance is not one in which the dancers win awards or gain materially but one in which the Rasa experience was powerful and experienced by the audience. This is the measure of Siddhi (success) that Bharata emphasizes.
“One must take particular care of Sattva… for Abhinaya resides in Sattva” -Nāṭyaśāstra
Sāttvika Abhinaya, as the Nāṭyaśāstra states is an intangible but vital element in generating the Bhāvas and Rasas. Generating Rasa in the audience is not a simple task. The dancer must possess the technical skill, imagination, intellect and a certain state of mind to be able to embody the characters, stories, and movements that evoke Bhāvas and Rasa. According to the Nāṭyaśāstra and other dance treatises, like Saṅgīta Ratnākara, in order to evoke Rasa in the audience, the dancer’s mind and consciousness must be in a state of Sattva.
“Sattva can only be accomplished by a tranquil, peaceful and concentrated mind” -Nāṭyaśāstra
Bharata and Abhinavagupta emphasize that a performance without Sattva will not move the audience and will not produce Bhāvas and Rasas, and thus, will be unsuccessful and meaningless.
Sattva is a Sanskrit word that has no direct translation in English or non-Indian languages. Interestingly, even Indologists like A.B. Keith, agreed that Sattva has no translation. So, what does Sattva mean? Sattva is a concept that is present in other ancient Hindu philosophical and sacred works like the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and is important in the Hindu worldview and in Hindu practices. Sattva is one of the three Guṇas (attributes, qualities, threads, tendencies); the other two are Rajas and Tamas.
Sattva Guṇa is one that is bright, pure, luminous, buoyant, happy and stainless. Under the influence of Sattva, the mind is calm, unagitated, filled with Śraddha, steady, and reflects the Self (Brahman). A person with a Sāttvic mind renounces the results of his or her actions; in other words, actions motivated by Sattva are offered to the Supreme. As the Nāṭyaśāstra makes clear in the very first chapters, Nāṭya, which consists of Indian classical dance, drama and music, whether performed on a stage or in a temple must be an offering to the Divine Gods.
Rajas is agitation, activity, pain, egotistic, seeking sense-pleasures, and Tamas, is dark, inert, lazy, indifferent and exhibits low passions and tendencies. Our actions are controlled and directed by the mind exhibiting a combination of these three Guṇas.
Sattva also means Rajas and Tamas are not present. When the mind is purified, it is Sāttvic and in a state of Śānti and Ānanda and is able to reflect the Self (Brahman). The Rasa experience itself, is likened to the bliss of Brahman knowledge. Sattva modifies the consciousness to bring out Rasa.
In the Nāṭyaśāstra, Bharata describes eight Sāttvika Bhāvas which are: paralysis, sweating, goose-bumps, change in voice, trembling, pallor, weeping and fainting. According to Bharata, these Sāttvika Bhāvas give genuineness and realism to the dance and make the audience to become one with the performance, hence generating Bhāvas and Rasa. Bharata states that in order to embody the Sāttvika Bhāvas, the dancer’s mind must be in a state of Sattva – purified of the Rajasic and Tamasic attributes.
Thus, a prerequisite to an outstanding dance performance is that the dancer must accomplish a state of Sattva before the performance and maintain this state of mind during the performance to generate Rasa. How does the dancer go about preparing the mind to be Sāttvic? It is not just a matter of motivating oneself through pep talks or having a few minutes of quiet solitude before the performance. These, of course, can help and all Bharatanāṭyaṃ dancers, to some extent, will use these techniques. But to have the mind in a state of Sattva prior to and during the performance, the dancer would need more than just motivational techniques, and this observation did not escape the perceptive Bharata.
So how does a dancer get into the state of mind that has Sattva? The third chapter of the Nāṭyaśāstra is dedicated to explaining, in detail, a series of Pūjās and a Homa that the dancer and musicians should perform. In these instructions, Bharata clearly states that these Pūjās and Homa are the equivalent of performing a Yajña and will help the dancer achieve a calm mental and conscious state necessary for a successful performance. Siddhi or success in a performance, per Abhinavagupta and Bharata, does not mean winning banners (prizes) or material objects, but Siddhi of the performance occurs if the audience witness compelling Bhāvas and experience the different Rasas.
Therefore, these Pūjās and Homa are not robotic superstitious ritualistic acts; they are a science of connecting one’s own consciousness to the Supreme consciousness. They are an offering and a means for the artists to transform and purify their inner-selves to be Sāttvic.
In these pre-performance sacred activities, Bharata details how the Raṅga (stage) must be constructed according precise measurements depending on the type of Nāṭya to be performed. Significantly, the Vedi (altar) of a Yajña must also be constructed in a precise shape with exact measurements depending on the type of Yajña performed. Bharata then specifies how the dancer must sanctify this stage, and even the entire theatre where that audience will be seated, the dancer should then do a Pratiśṭāpana (sacred installation) of the Gods on the stage, and do a Pūjā to each one of these Deities in a certain order and with particular sacred Mantras. The dancer must sprinkle sanctified water on each limb to purify the body and must partake of the Pūjā and Homa with the utmost Śraddha (belief, Bhakti, and diligence) in order to bring his or her mind into a state of Sattva.
These actions along with their subtle effects will give Siddhi (success) by preparing the dancer to be capable of a performance that is rich in Bhāvas and Rasas. These performances are a few hours long and in some classical dances, like Katakaḷi and Yakśagāna, last through the night, so the dancer needs to muster tremendous energy, enthusiasm and concentration. The musicians too must do a Pūjā to their instruments. In effect, the stage and entire theater (where the audience are seated) become a temple, with the consecration of Deities and Pūjās and finally with the performance of the Homa. Bharata instructs that the point of doing the Pūjās and Homa are to offer the performance (dance) itself to the Devatās. This, advises Bharata, will bring Siddhi (success) to the performance.
Among these preliminary activities, the Homa (similar to a Yajña) is of distinct interest and serves a special purpose. Yajñas are ancient Vedic practices that are transformative and have subtle effects on the consciousness of the performer. Homa derives from and is an adaptation of a Yajña, but a Homa is performed in Pūjās to specific Gods. Both feature a specifically constructed altar, sacred fire and sacred materials. Yajña comes from the root word Yaj which means offering, reverence, adoration and bestowing. A Yajña and Homa, are Tyāga (offering) of Dravya (special sacred material) to the Devatās (Gods). They are complex activities that have subtle and powerful effects. Every offering during the Yajña and Homa results in Apūrva Śakti, which is a subtle effect and hidden power of an action (Karma) on the person who is the beneficiary of the offering. Thus, Yajñas and Homas have an effect on the one who performed it in a subtle manner, by affecting the Śaktis (energies, powers) of that person. Every action produces a Śakti which will produce a result. The dancer and musicians are transformed by the Homa; they exhibit Sattva and subtle energies as a result.
It is no coincidence that the Nāṭyaveda (classical dance, drama and music codified in the Nāṭyaśāstra) directly derive from the four primary Vedas contain Vedic ceremonies. Furthermore, Bharata states that performing these Pūjās and Homa is the same as performing a Yajña and the same benefits will be received. Here we see the beautiful connection between the preliminary activities of the performance and the performance itself because the Bharatanāṭyaṃ performance is also a Yajña. The Yajña conducted prior to the performance is a transformative experience for the dancer and musicians, and the Yajña of the dance performance itself is a transformative experience for the audience because they will experience Rasa bliss. Thus, Indian classical dances are themselves an offering, a Yajña conducted by the dancer on a specially built Raṅga (stage) and offered (Tyāga) to the Gods with love, Śraddha and Bhakti. In this case, the Dravya, or sacred material, is the dance which is offered to the Devatās. The ones who enjoy the fruits (Rasa bliss) of the Yajña are the attuned and receptive spectators (called Sahṛidaya).
Some of the above Pūjās are done even to this day. Today’s dancers sanctify the stage and consecrate Mūrtis on the stage and perform a Pūjā offering the performance to the Gods. The Pūjās are offered to Ganapati and Nataraja and Saraswati and Vishnu. The Ārati is done, the sacred dance anklets (Gejje or Śalangai) are worshipped, the musicians also worship their instruments. This is not a mere ritual, but is the time when the dancer, Naṭavanār and musicians come together to conduct the Pūjā with Śraddha and Bhakti and offer the performance to the Gods. Dancers look forward to performing this Pūjā, taking it seriously, performing it with the utmost Śraddha and reverence because it brings them inner Śānti, happiness, and connects them to the Gods. In effect – it makes their mind Sāttvic, which is then reflected in the dance. After the Pūjā, the artists remain in this state of mind, now fully immersed in the art, centered, calm and ready for a rigorous and demanding Bharatanāṭyaṃ performance.
Therefore, Bharatanāṭyaṃ (and other Indian classical dances) are not practiced by merely perfecting techniques and movements, facial expressions or time and rhythm. Traditional practitioners of Bharatanāṭyaṃ know that they require total immersion into the art and its philosophy, must have Bhakti and humility and reverence to dance successfully. A person who may know the technical movements of Bharatanāṭyaṃ but lacks these Sāttvic attributes such as Śraddha and Bhakti is not qualified to do the dance. Śārṅgadeva states that only one who is pure in mind (Sattvic) can be a dancer. The Devadāsis had this intrinsic Śraddha, and they certainly understood Rasas and Bhāvas.Theirs was not a mechanical ritualistic dance devoid of Rasa. The great exponent dancer Bala Saraswati, a Devadāsi, emphasized the importance of Bhakti as an integral requirement for Bharatanāṭyaṃ:
“Bharatanāṭyaṃ is grounded in bhakthi…. In fact bhakthi is at the center of all arts of India. Our music and dance are two offerings to God…This experience may only occur once in a while but when it does for that little duration, its grandeur enters the soul not transiently but with a sense of eternity. As one gets involved in the art, with greater and greater dedication, one can continuously experience throughout the few hours of the dance, the unending joy, this complete well-being, especially when music and dance mingle indistinguishably.” – Bala Saraswati
The ancient dance treatises have noted that a person best fit to dance is one who learns with Śraddha and Bhakti. Many expert Bharatanāṭyaṃ dancers and Nāṭyācāryas have observed that if a student does not have Bhakti, their dance is not genuine and has a mundane quality to it and few, if any, Bhāvas are produced. For example, if the dancer does not have Bhakti for Śri Kṛṣṇa, how can they embody the episode in which Yaśoda saw the entire universe in his mouth, and was overcome with awe and emotion? How will the non-believing dancer produce the Bhāvas that are required to generate the Rasa in the audience?Abhinaya is not a mere enactment, it is an exalted, lofty, glorified reenactment that will produce Bhāvas and the Rasa experience.
If the dancer interjects her personal opinions and portrays characters such as Sītā and Rāma through a non-Dharmic lens, the result will not be Sāttvic but a pale imitation, a counterfeit, and will not have any lasting effect on the onlooker and the Yajña of Bharatanāṭyaṃ will be a failure. The dancer must be in total sympathy with the character’s viewpoint and beliefs to embody that character authentically. This does not imply that these dances are somber and boring. Quite the contrary, Bharata states that a successful performance brings about happiness, entertainment, diversion, and knowledge to the onlooker and should generate all of the Rasas (Śṛṅgāra, Hāsya, Karuna, Vīra, Bhayānaka, Bībhatsa, Raudhra, Adbhuta and Śānta).
Philosophy, Language and Tradition
To do justice to the complex songs and poems that are danced, the dancer should do a serious study of the different philosophies of Hinduism. This understanding needs to be deeper than a superficial knowledge of the main features of Hinduism. Knowing the composer’s philosophical leanings to will help the dancer understand the significance of their compositions. As an example, many are familiar with Vaiṣṇavaism, however, there are different schools of Vaiṣṇavaism and their core philosophies have subtle variations that are significant nonetheless. For instance, the Vaishnavism of Sri Vaishnavism, Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavaism, and the Brahma Sampradāya of Madhvācārya may seem the same, but in fact, they have significant differences and comprehending these will aid the dancer to authentically embody the compositions of those respective philosophies.
For example, the sacred poems of Ānḍāl follow the Śri Vaiṣṇava school whereas Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Purandara Dāsa reflect the Gauḍiya and Madhva schools of Vaiṣṇavaism respectively. Not fully comprehending these subtle differences will lead to missing the beautiful meanings and themes of the songs and even blatantly misinterpreting them in the dance. Ānḍāl’s Tirupāvai has profound meaning as does Gīta Govindaṃ of Jayadeva; however, the refined nuances in these compositions cannot be missed if the dancer wishes to bring about the right Bhāvas and Rasas. The same is true of Śaivism and Smārtism. How can a dancer embody Nirguṇa Brahman without understanding what this profound concept is and the difference between Nirguṇa and Saguṇa Brahman?
Hand-in-hand with this philosophical comprehension, is the practice of the customs and rituals that embody these philosophies. Hindu philosophy is embodied in Hindu practices and customs; they are not just rituals. Just like the Yajña, they are transformative experiences and have effects on the consciousness of the doer. An academic study or an observation of Hindu rituals or interviews with practitioners is woefully inadequate to understand them. These customs and traditions can be understood by experienced and performing them with Śraddha and Bhakti. Therefore, practitioners of these customs are best suited to portray them, because they are not conscious-less ceremonial activities.
This brings us to a vital requirement to dance Bharatanāṭyaṃ and Indian classical dances. Since, as stated by Bharata and other scholars, the dancer’s mind should be Sāttvic and in total understanding with the characters, philosophies and customs and traditions of Hinduism, knowledge of the language in which the compositions are written is crucial. The traditional practitioners of Bharatanāṭyaṃ, Naṭavanārs and Devadāsis, were fluent in several languages and well-versed in our philosophy and traditions. The classical compositions are complex and difficult to comprehend even for a person fluent in the language in which they were composed. However, trying to understand the meaning of a composition by translations, especially from an Indic language to English (or other non-Indic language) will not be sufficient. Knowing another Indic language is helpful, but a dignified study is required with the aid of an expert in that language. Understanding the colloquialisms of the language and a detailed explanation of the philosophy and narrative is critical.
Even dancers who know the language often must do a diligent and serious study of the composition. English translations fall short in conveying the composer’s viewpoint and themes that are embedded in the cultural mores which the native language naturally communicates. These compositions are lofty and refined, and contain much symbolism which will otherwise be missed. Understanding the song through the Dharmic viewpoint, from the composer’s perspective and the times in which they lived is essential to bring out the Rasa of these works. For instance, the composition ‘Yār Āḍinar, ina yevar Āḍuva?’ in Tamizhtells of the great Cosmic Dance of Nataraja. Another composition “Ānanda Kūtāḍinar” is also about Nataraja and His celestial dance. So, are these compositions essentially the same? Well, a closer study of the above two songs shows they are similar on a topical level but convey different themes and evoke different Bhāvas. Similarly, two famous songs of Purandara Dāsa, Jagadoddhāraṇa and O’ḍi Bāraiyya are about Sri Krishna as the Divine child. A sensitive study of these songs reveals they are dissimilar and portray two distinctly refined themes with powerful meanings. The great composer Tyāgarājais renowned for his beautiful songs devoted to Sri Rāma, but one should not make the mistake in thinking that all these compositions are the same.
Bharatanāṭyaṃ dance, and all Indian classical dance, is a complex rich transformative knowledge system. Bharata has codified the foundations and details of the sacred Indian dances. These codes are purposeful and not optional. They contain a profound philosophical aesthetic that is manifested physically in our ancient dances. The dancer’s mind (Manas) should be transformed into a state of Sattva and remain so during the performance so that the audience experiences the Rasas, which is the ultimate aim of these dances. Bharatanāṭyaṃ and other Indian dances are Yajñas that have a deep lasting impact on the consciousness of the dancer and the Sahṛidaya audience. Understanding these core fundamentals is the foremost prerequisite in the journey to be an accomplished and successful dancer.
About the Author: Prakruti Prativadi is a Bharatanāṭyaṃ dancer and Founder Director of Kalā Saurabhi Dance School in the US; she actively performs in the US and India. She has spent seven years researching the Nāṭyaśāstra and other Sanskrit texts on Indian aesthetics. She has written a book based on her research, Rasas in Bharatanāṭyaṃ, available on amazon.com
Ghosh, M.M. 2006. P. Kumar (Ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni. (Vols. 1-4). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.
Prativadi, Prakruti. 2017. Rasas in Bharatanāṭyaṃ. South Charleston: Createspace.
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Indic Civilizational Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.
Copyright: Prakruti Prativadi. All rights reserved.
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
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
Bharatanatyam artist Prakruti Prativadi recently published a book ‘Rasas in Bharatanatyam’. ICP’s daughter portal shared an interesting introductory article written by the author. I got a copy of the book from Amazon.com a couple of weeks ago and ended up reading it multiple times. The work is an outcome of several years of research and a first-person experience of living the tradition. The book is intended to be the first of a series.
The author states that the book is aimed at the serious Bharatanatyam artist and connoisseur, and is also beneficial to those who want to learn more about Indic art traditions. An in-depth discussion of the different elements of Bharatanatyam including Abhinaya, Rasa, and Bhava is provided. The book also presents a brief and well-researched history of Bharatanatyam and related traditions in Hinduism, a topic which has endured much distortion and confusion in recent years. The author goes deep into the ancient roots of natya, and succinctly explains the concepts relying on primary sources in Sanskrit and Indic languages. The clarity and authority required to write in a crisp question-answer format, the shraddha, the attention to technical detail, and the reinforcement of key learning points give the book a stamp of authenticitythat perhaps only a dedicated practitioner and teacher can produce.
Where to Buy
Readers can set up a discount code ($8.00 off) which is available only from the Createspace page (not the amazon.com page) by following these steps:
Add the Book to the Cart, this will take buyers to the checkout page
Add this discount code: PYTKY7GV in the ‘Discount Code’ field and click ‘Apply Discount’ to get a discount, the price of the book will be $28.99.
Please note: Users will have to sign up for a Createspace account (if they don’t have one). Createspace is owned by Amazon.
Bharatanatyam: Embodied Learning & Direct Experience
Poet, Indic scholar, and computer scientist Prof. Subhash Kak has said that the best way to understand India is through its art , and the book reaffirms this point. Why art? India is the land of Vedas, so can’t one read Vedic text?
The author discusses the worldview underlying Bharatanatyam and notes that direct experience is central to Hinduism. Through sadhana and shraddha, potentially anyone can transcend their ordinary level of consciousness . This is an amazing and powerful discovery by India’s ancient seers. The armchair-acharya (like the theoretical martial artist and air guitarist) tries to convince us otherwise, but Hinduism recognizes that textual knowledge is useful but it cannot fully delineate the scope of Dharma and Vedas, and we provide two independent explanations regarding this.
Prof. Kak quotes Yaaska , the author of the ancient Sanskrit treatise Nirukta: “One who reads the Veda but does not know its meaning is like a draught animal”, and explains that “the idea of knowing the Veda is not merely to read it, but to understand its meaning in one’s heart. This is paradoxical, since one cannot understand the text unless one has already had the experience of its deepest intuitions. The text of the Veda cannot in itself be used for instruction”. We have Bharata Muni’s Natya Sastra, revered as the fifth Veda, that has the wisdom of the four Vedas embedded within, which is available to all people, cutting through all barriers of social and economic status, gender, race, and geography.
In his book Indra’s Net , Rajiv Malhotra poses a related question: “How did the rishis ‘see’ the shruti in the first place? Unlike the Abrahamic religions, in which prophets hear from an external God, in the Vedas there is no external voice. There is no entity equivalent to Yahweh who speaks the Vedas to the rishis… Vedas are a-purusheya, i.e., beginningless and authorless. They existed before the rishis ‘saw’ them…Hinduism does not regard the rishis as inherently different in substance or essence from the rest of us…. each human has the same potential as the rishis, and that this potential is realized through disciplined sadhana (the inner sciences of adhyatma-vidya)”. In the Indian context, Rajiv Malhotra coined the term ‘embodied knowing’ to refer to adhyatma vidya, and Indic art forms that employ this inner science surely occupy a pride of place in India’s grand narrative . The deepest authentic ‘ideas of India’ are embedded in Bharatanatyam. We owe a debt of gratitude to dedicated artists who tirelessly practice, promote, and preserve India’s sacred art forms.
Bharatanatyam as Yajna
The book has a brief but insightful discussion of Bharatanatyam as Yajna, which has been explained as a sacred process that establishes links (bandhus) between the inner and the outer world . The material world is not considered separate and discarded but is harmoniously united with the spiritual within Bharatanatyam. Indic art forms are rooted in this Vedic view where consciousness is the basis of ultimate reality itself . Such a Bharatanatyam is unacceptable to the enticing “sweet-speech” Charvaka School  that totally rejects Yajna, Puja, Bandhus, and the transcendental domain since they believe that consciousness emerges from neural matter . Bharatanatyam is also incompatible with the irreconcilable duality of history-centric Abrahamic dogma that accepts the transcendental and the transactional domains but keeps their existence independent and infinitely apart .
Actively participating in Yajna leads to an internal transformation that is like undergoing a ‘rebirth’ . This leads us to a second, and equally remarkable observation that anysensitive and attuned viewer (Sahridaya) immersed in a Bharatanatyam performance  can also potentially attain a higher state of consciousness and transcendental bliss, and this communication is possible due to Rasa. The book explains this process in-depth.
Dharmic thought employs a finite and limited number of levels to manage quantities/qualities that may appear to be unlimited or huge in number, or even indivisible or continuous. How does it work?
On Rasa, Prof. Kak remarks : “An aesthetic attitude is a combination, in varying measures, of the different essences (rasas) of it. It is one of the great insights of the Indian tradition that these essences are supposed to be discrete, and perhaps this idea emerged from the Vaisesika atomic doctrine as well as the idea of Nyaya that mind operates sequentially”. Like Panini and his rules of grammar, Bharata, using only a finite number of sutras, covered the profound topics of Rasa and Bhava and spanned the virtually unlimited expanse of dance and drama.
Paanini has been credited for a grand unified theory of language, and Bharata too can be credited for a similar theory of aesthetics thousands of years ago. The author notes how a danseuse can skillfully conjugate various dance elements such as movements, gestures, etc. mentioned in the Natya Sastra to generate innumerable permutations and combinations to artistically express the myriad emotions and situations that has occurred, or will occur in the future, and convey that meaning to the audience. Bharatanatyam does not limit but encourages unselfish self-expression.
Rasa Awakening in the Audience
In her book, Prakruti ji takes us on a fascinating journey through the Rasa awakening process in Bharatanatyam. The idea of Rasa is ancient and present in the Upanishads . According to the author “Rasa is the supreme aesthetic experience and absolute aesthetic relish that the audience feels when witnessing an artistic performance… Rasa is a heightened state of consciousness and bliss… This experience is called Rasasvada, which is akin to Brahmasvada, a supreme knowledge… Rasa is a Sanskrit word that no equivalent word in English”. A simplified arrow-diagram view of the Rasa awakening sequence/combination given in the book can be described as follows (the interested reader should refer to the book to obtain a complete and correct picture).
(Author dancing selected Paasurams from the Vaarinam Aayiram)
In Bharatanatyam, for example, the process can be triggered by witnessing the Abhinaya of the skillful artist, and given the right conditions, culminate in a heightened state of consciousness within a receptive audience. In an interview, Dr. Ramachandran Nagaswamy confirms this important point about Rasa while correcting the mistaken conclusion of a western Indologist.
Another crucial point made by the author is that the generation of Rasa in a performance is not guaranteedand it requires the harmonious integration of multiple inter-connected factors. The author likens it to a complex and rich recipe. Rasa is not awakened by sensory stimuli such as personal sadness experienced in mundane life, or by artists using the stage to make purely political and social statements. And even if the performance is of the highest caliber, it still requires an attuned viewer (Sahridaya)  within whom the ‘aesthetic vibes’ of the performance can resonate. The author quotes Bharata “without Rasa, there can be no meaningful communication”.
Engineering Design Example
Natya Sastra ideas can find applications in diverse fields, including entertainment, advertising, public-service messaging, etc. Given its integral view, teaching Natya Sastra concepts authentically in schools and colleges will benefit not only young artists, but also engineers and scientists. As an analogy and example, modern highway design relies on the PIEV theory of driver response to visual stimuli:
PIEV is used to measure the perception-reaction time of a driver. Triggered by observing an event, the driver first perceives (something happened), grasps the implications (danger to self/others), and this triggers one or more emotions (what to do?), before converging on a final, stable action (brake, steer, or accelerate). PIEV duration differs for a distracted versus fully conscious driver. When deciding where and how to install and calibrate a traffic light, one has to evaluate the combination of all inter-related factors – PIEV, visibility, topography, traffic conditions, etc., in order to maximize the percentage of drivers that will have sufficient time to go through PIEV and make the right decision. PIEV and Rasa may be two different things (although when in danger, even the most materialistic passenger and driver will invoke the divine transcendent charioteer to ensure fast PIEV so they can remain in their transactional world); however, there appear to be similarities – the importance of an integral perspective, a scientific approach, and understanding the roles of emotional states, cognition, and consciousness.
Bharatanatyam & Artificial Intelligence
Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems can generate cooking recipes, write mournful poetry, and has even started writing musical scores. Can machine-generated artistic performances evoke Rasa?Can it replicate the transcendental leap  that is possible through a Yajna? These are interesting questions to be answered by experts. Machines are not conscious because they cannot have Bandhus , and their art output appears to be generated by algorithms using preset rules distilled from prior art, which were created by highly skilled human artists, not machines. The book has clearly established that the Rasa awakening process and the dance elements of Bharatanatyam are not mechanical.
While machine art may match humans and eventually do better in terms of purely materialist aesthetics, the sacred Indic art-as-Yajna rooted in an integral unity via bandhus that bind the inner and outer worlds, will not only survive, but thrive and give humanity a sense of hope and a glimpse of divinity. This makes it all the more important that Bharatanatyam and classic Indian art be preserved and taught in their authentic form and context. Prakruti Prativadi’s book is a welcome step in this direction.
Civilization is more than the mere sum of its principles, precepts, philosophies, and pasts. It extends beyond even an ideal or reciprocal duties. At its uttermost height, it is in fact, a sentiment. Bharatiya Sanskriti is very much about Dharma, Rta, and Satya, but that Satya that is at its heart, is also the timeless Truth of Prema.
For Indic Civilization, for any Civilization, to Revive itself, it must not only think, dream, and converse in its own language, it must also love and romance in it. Sringara (Romance) is also Part of Our Culture. For far too long have its masses been misguided by foreign thoughts ennobled by Indian implementations, or foreign thinkers using local rustics to change the meaning of our words. And for far too long, have they reduced the Indian, the Indic, the Hindu Culture we know & love as only ascetic or erotic., when it is also Romantic. The very height of the Romantic in Classical India was the Sanskritic.
And which wordsmith could be more romantic than than that master of Simile, Mahakavi Kalidasa,and his eternal Kavya. For almost 2,000 years, this most perfect of poets has made even the most pedantic recognise that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Long before Shakespeare asked “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day“, the Court Poet of King Vikramaditya had become the utmost paragon of Upama, with comparisons that were as fresh and unique as the flowers that garlanded the Gods.
Ours was, and is, a civilization and culture of not only great warriors and devout women, but also charming gentlemen and passionate princesses. But as all things in Dharma, it is time, place, and manner that takes a natural feeling and ennobles it to a timeless aesthetic. And what can be more aesthetic than the romantic?
Therefore, without further ado, we bring you the first in an Anthology (accompanied by commissioned artwork), a concept that was a decade in the making…
…and the next installment of our Continuing Series on Classical Indic Literature:
Romantic Sanskrit Poetry.
Ancient India had many timeless love stories. Katha, Kavya, Purana, and Itihasa are replete with lovelorn lovers, hopeless romantics hoping against hope, and eternal soulmates reuniting with each other across times and lifetimes. True, Rukmini & Sri Krishna, Sita & Rama, and Siva-Parvati, are all famous Divine lovers. But even we mortals figured in our ancient tales, in love stories worthy of not only drama, and opera, but even cinema.
Quite possibly the most famous of such prema kathas comes from the Land of the Kurus. The sons of Bharata take their name from that Bharata born to this couple, who entwined the legendary with the historical. The ancestors of the great Emperors of Hastinapura were the great Chandravanshi King and Conqueror, Maharaja Dusyanta & his lady love Sakuntala.
Mentioned in the Mahabharata, this courting couple was forever immortalised by Mahakavi Kalidasa. His famed drama was called Abhijnana-Sakuntalam: The Recognition of Sakuntala. This paramount of romantic poets produced a timeless tale of love, separation, and reunification. The composition was artful, the verses were tasteful, and the numerous productions of this play wonderful, across the centuries. Such were the Kailasan heights that Sanskrit Drama ascended to, that many thousands of years later, the famed German poet-philosopher Goethe exclaimed:
Willst du die Blüthe des frühen, die Früchte des späteren Jahres,
Willst du, was reizt und entzückt, willst du was sättigt und nährt,
Willst du den Himmel, die Erde, mit Einem Namen begreifen; Nenn’ ich, Sakuntala, Dich, und so ist Alles gesagt.
Wouldst thou the young year’s blossoms and the fruits of its decline
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed,
Wouldst thou the earth and heaven itself in one sole name combine? I name thee, O Sakuntala! and all at once is said. 
So fascinated were foreigners by the Recognition of Sakuntala that there are 46 translations of this play in 12 European languages, going back to the first in 1789. Indeed, in Europe, even a libretto was composed and Operas performed on it, at the height of the Colonial era. While it is nice to impress the videshi, however, it is better to take inspiration from the Bharatvasi. Sakuntala was forever ceremonialised by Raja Ravi Varma in his celebrated paintings. She is seen here with friends, artfully posing.
Sakuntala has also been produced not only stage (a notable English language production in 1920) but on-screen many times starting with a silent film (also in 1920). Yet so-called contemporary “national cinema” seems to have forgotten it (except back in 1947) for the time-worn recipes and veneers-of-lust masquerading as romance produced with parasika playwrights. Production values and marketing and black money may make it big at the box office, but it is the beating heart of a civilization and the sentiments and emotional verses it perfected, that make truly time-tested art.
The time has come for a new production of the great plays of Mahakavi Kalidasa, the foremost of which was the Recognition of Sakuntala. If compromised producers don’t have the fortitude, than the public at large should crowdsource a production with a talented director armed with artistic talent. This great Sanskrit drama could elegantly flow with Shuddh Hindi (or in my case, Telugu) dialogue that sets the stage for elegant Sanskrit verses, across scenes. Serenading with song may be well and good; charming with poetry is even better.
As Bollywood may not have the national interest at heart, perhaps it’s time for Tollywood to again step into the vacuum and inspire the nation. To do so, let would-be directors study the composition first.
A play in 7 acts, it begins with the traditional Prastaavana (Prologue) and Benediction (Nandi). Despite being a drama, Abhijnaanasaakuntalam is a veritable treasure trove of poetry with 34 slokas in the first act, 18 in the second, 26, in the third, 21 in the fourth, 31 in the fifth, 32 in the sixth, and 35 in the seventh…a grand total of 197couplets.
This opus is interwoven with supple Sanskrit slokas, a multitude of characters, and the prominent theme of Sringara Rasa (Romantic sentiment). “The drama‘was meant for translating the whole subject from one world to another—to elevate love from the sphere of physical beauty to the eternal heaven of moral beauty’“. [1, xxiv]
The Nayaka (hero) is Dusyanta of the House of the Kurus and the Nayika is Sakuntala, daughter of Sage Viswamitra and the Apsara Menaka. She had been cared for by Saakuntas (birds) and was therefore called Sakuntala. She was later raised by Rishi Kanva, and grew up into a beautiful woman. The recognition of Sakuntala has in fact come down to us in two versions. The traditional one is found in the Mahabharata. Kalidasa gives us another, however, that brings us a brilliant battle in the Heavens with Dusyanta assisting the Devas in their war against the Asuras.
There are total of 4 recensions (a Devanagari, a Bengali, a Kashmiri, & an Andhra one) and two variations of the story. Nevertheless, both of these versions retell the birth of Bharata Dausanti, better known as Sakuntala-putra Bharata. Though the original Bharata who gave his name to our Land was the son of Rishabha of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, for a period of time, it was called Nabhi-varsha (after a king of the same House). But Sakuntala-putra was so famed for his world conquest and righteous rule, that the name Bharatavarsha came into fashion once more.
Whichever version you prefer, there is surely a blockbuster movie in the making here. If only the right director, with the right vision, and right talent (and right finances!) comes along. But financial matters are for the bean-counters. The aesthete is more concerned with the achievement of the author, and the talent that created this work.
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]
It is not for nothing that Jayadeva (of Gita Govinda fame) referred to Kalidasa as “Kavi kula guru” (master of poets). Famous for his love of Ujjayini (in modern Madhya Pradesh) and praise of Vikrama, Kalidasa was and is the undisputed King of Kavya. Blessed by the Goddess from whom he takes his name, this ‘Servant of Kali’ would go on to marry a princess and be considered one of the Navaratnas—Nine Gems of Avanti’s Court. “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] He would set standards of excellence in poetry for millennia.
Abhijnaana-Saakuntalam is arguably the most immortalised of all of Kalidasa’s compositions. While his other dramas (Malavika-Agnimitram & Vikramorvasiya) have also been celebrated on canvas, it was the story of the Signet ring that has captured imagination throughout the centuries.
The weaving of beautiful poetry, in the form of slokas (Sanskrit couplets), into the rupaka (dramatic composition) gives the literary experience more resonance. With the exception of Meghadootha, Kalidasa’s other works of pure poetry don’t rise to the same love of pure romantic sentiment. Kumarasambhavam is one of his contributions to thePancha-Mahakavyas (the other being the famous Raghuvamsa), but it is an epic work with a hint of the erotic. Sringara-tilakam is very much a freshman work, but one that nevertheless gives us periodic foreshadowing of future talent, even in his younger days. And Rtu-samhara is very much a celebration of the seasons in all their splendour. Though Sringara rasa predominates, it is more of a descriptive work.
But while it is important to prepare the palate before cultivated taste can be appreciated in the aesthetic arts, one should not linger too long. This exegesis on this play, this poet, and this poetry, was all for the purpose of better understanding Sringara-Sanskrita-Kavya: Romantic Sanskrit Poetry.
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.
Bharatiya boys, you may want to take notes, and Bharatiya ladies…you’re welcome…
I.Sarvat aapsara sambhavaisha
Maanushishi katham va syaadrsya roopasya sambhava |
Na prabhaatha ralam, jyothi, roodhethi, vasudaata laath ||
Truly born from a heavenly apsara
For what woman could give birth to such a lovely form
After all, the sparkling light of tremulous beams, does not rise from the surface of the earth. [intimation: ‘but descends from the heavens’] A.1 s.26
II.Kaamam priyaa na sulabha manasthu tabdaava darshanaa-srvaasi |
Akrutaarthe api manasije rati mubhaya-praarthanaa kurute ||
True, my darling is not easily attainable; yet my heart assumes confidence from observing the manner in which she seems affected.
Even though our love has not hitherto prospered, our mutual longing, nevertheless, causes delight. A.2 sl.1
III. (smitam krutva) Evamaatmaa-bhipraya sambhaaviteshta-jana-chittavrutti praartha-
Yitaa vidambyate | tadhyatha
(smiling) Thus is the lover beguiled, who judges of the state of his beloved’s feeling by his own desires. It is thus
The tender look she cast, even while she directed her eyes elsewhere; her slow movement caused by the heaviness of her hips, as if for grace’s sake; the angry words she spoke to her friend who detained her saying ‘Do not go; ‘ all this was, no doubt, on my account! Ah! How does a lover discover his own (everywhere!). A.2 s.2
IV. Chitre niveshye parikalpita sattva-yogaa
Roopa-uchchayena manasaa vidhinaa krutaa nu |
Stree-ratna srushtir-aparaa prathibhaathi saa me
Dhaatur-vibhutvam-anuchintya vapuscha tasyah ||
Was she conceived in a picture [painting] and then endowed with life?
Or was she moulded in the Creator’s mind from an assemblage of all lovely forms?
When I meditate on the power of Brahma, and my beloved’s lineaments, she appears to me a matchless creation of the most beautiful of women. A.2 sl.9
V. Anaaghraataṃ puṣpaṃ kisalayam aloonaṃ kara-ruhair
Ankitham: Dedicated to a Song Offering, who spent many a long & lonely night waiting to be sung and serenaded.
Acknowledgment: Gratitude to the amateur voice actor who brought these couplets to life & vibrant resonance—a Lothario in real life,no doubt.
Acknowledgment: My thanks to the Artist Archana,whose talent I'm sure, will blossom like the flowers she painted here.
Special Acknowledgment: My utmost appreciation for Nilambari. Her tireless work consulting on this effort and ever insightful counsel ensured this project finally materialised after years. Thank you.
*Minor Proofing for some translations
It is the nature of ambition to make men liars and cheats, to hide the truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths, to cut all friendships and enmities to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will.
It is often thought that the highest intelligence knows not only how to do something, but how and when to use it. Those most obsessed with being the ones to do something and gain fame and get credit, are the least qualified for the work, because their Ambition causes them to prioritise themselves rather than honour the burden they have taken on. Those who view our samskruthi and our aesthetics as a means of control are the ones who are least deserving and least qualified to revive them.
The exact wrong type of people are jealously seeking to control aesthetics for their benefit rather than the benefit of the culture and the people (whom they detest). The notion that classical literature is some indescribable sui generis, frozen in time, is asinine. It is almost as though they are willfully playing into the hands of those who seek to destroy our culture—one wonders what was their selling price. Classical Literature is sastra-derived, but even sastra (see dharmasastra) adjusts to time and space and circumstance, kala and desa and paristiti. Practices and aesthetics that appeal in one era may not appeal in another. The task is in taking timeless principles, and adjusting them in the present time and space, to re-ignite a respectable state, national, and civilizational culture.
No one argues that a foreign aesthetic isn’t being imposed upon us, of course it is . But what should be the response? One cannot simply dial back the clock to previous eras and to present an aesthetic that is frozen, that is unsuitable to current taste and context. Part of the problem is the fact that there is a belief of uniformity not only across regions but across time. Of course there were changes not only over Yugas but even within them. The style in Kashmir is different from Cochin, the style in Gujarat is different from Guwahati. It is only by respecting this variation that the authentic Indic aesthetic can be revitalised. This is the difference between synthetic unity and integral unity .
No one argues that the Kali Yuga isn’t a degraded age, with present pop culture at peak degradation and perversion, but the question is making our Classical (that is saastriya) Literature, Art, Music, etc. relevant for the present time. It is the difference between memorising the letter and understanding the spirit. These would-be exemplars have done an outstanding job of perverting Dharma with their misbegotten pedantry, so much so that such perverts were forced to readjust their woefully wrong definitions of Dharma, with some not-so clever bait and switch. Meanwhile Foreigners present native Indic culture as grotesque, while favouring more medieval and colonial qualities. Our native informers then serve up requisite material on the platter, or provide indirect assistance through their kupamanduka “opinions”. This again is the problem of knowing more and more about less and less.
No wonder their focus is aesthetics. When their definition of classical is “dead”…the culture and even the “aesthetics” they propound are plain dead and plain wrong—and like them, plain unappealing. Perhaps that is why they are forever waxing eloquent on “NRI’s” and “inferiority complex”, they are keenly aware of their own…and resent it. Like the simulacra passing as their efforts, they too are stilted. For all the highfalutin talk of civility, their (mis)behavior is the embodiment of mean-spiritedness and meanness of manner and uncouth breeding.
No one argues that prekshakas (audience members) shouldn’t be taught how to enjoy classical culture, be it music or art or anything else. But what should be the manner? To drone on pedantically without consideration for the diverse audience to which one must cater? When it is not one-size fits all, instruction must be such that all can be brought along. That there is a difference between the mere rasika (aesthete) and the sahrdaya (person of taste/connoisseur) is obvious. But mass and elite alike have a right to our culture, and thus, multiple avenues and multiple standards must be presented for all sections, not just our own.
Just as there is marga and desi within the real tradition, as true cultural exemplars from Bharata muni down to Jaya Senapati have all asserted, literary culture runs from high culture to mass. How ironic that those most obsessed with caste and varna vyavastha are those most keen to impose only their view and only their way of life on others. However, these fools forget that even the venerable rishi, Sage Shuka, had to give up his guna to attain moksha. As even avataras take on gunas as per need, so too, must we understand that while it’s important to grow from tamas to sattva, there is need for all three at varying points of time. A society that emphasises solely sattva guna is a sitting duck. A society that only emphasises tamas is what we have now. As such, it is imperative to not only adjust our aesthetics to time and place, but to ensure different levels of aesthetics and culture to appeal to all sections of society—not just our own. Aesthetics is not a mere static set of implementations, but a spectrum, from principles to cultural effect.
Unlike these pretenders, the great poet, rhetorician, and expert on aesthetics, Mahakavi Dandin, excoriated the need of pedants to over-complicate our language and culture in order to demonstrate their self-proclaimed “intelligence”. People who have to act smart usually aren’t that smart. Merely regurgitating what you were taught, without any original thinking or creativity, is what the great Ramana Maharishi remarked as being a “gramophone”. Time for these well-tuned, well-advertised, and well-aged gramophones to recognise their obsolescence.
The requisites for fine art are, therefore, imagination, understanding, soul, and taste [2, 597]
Aesthetics is not for parrots. Aesthetics is for those with imagination.It is for those who understand that the letter of the word is not frozen in time, but it is the principle that is timeless. Perpetually fitting a square peg into a round hole, these dinosaurs preposterously imagine their country bumpkin concept of aesthetics will gain currency in the modern materialist world. They do not know how to lead. Perhaps that is why they are forever mimicking and appropriating the work of others—they couldn’t critical think their way out of a paper bag. That is why they copy others.
The fact remains, even on the basics, there are problems. The correct translation for aesthetics is not rasa, as pure rasa is “sentiment”. Perhaps that is part of the problem, Indians are sentimentalists above everything, hence the much vaunted “rasika”. The corresponding word that conveys the full meaning of Aesthetics is Rasalankara. It is the union of sentiment with ornamentation, feeling with feature. That is how beauty is properly appreciated, and thus, the actual meaning of aesthetics. That saundarya is central to the cultural cataclysm that we are facing is well known to sahrdayas. The issue is whether or not those who wish to lead the response are competent to actually do so. As we have remarked elsewhere, competence is not merely knowledge or ability, but it is capacity confirmed by practice.
Yet there are some playing into the hands of Sheldon Pollock’s prekshaa of the aestheticisation of power, replete with “classical literature” that is ‘unchanging’ i.e “dead” —precisely the characterisation of Breaking India forces. That is precisely why Rajiv Malhotra asked whether self-promoting “adhikarins” greedy for fame/fortune actually understand Pollock’s positions and their implications. This is the danger of pedantry: it spouts off pablum while being unaccountable for results. It pays lip-service to polymathy while ignoring the practical.
Paundraka too talked of being Krishna, and styled himself the “true Vasudeva”. But despite the outer trappings, and the poses, and the peacock feathers, he ultimately proved false. He lived an immoral life and led others into immorality. What made Krishna the real Vasudeva was that he led by example. He encouraged good character in others and rather than state “don’t judge by vices”, he compassionately urged people to give up vices, to dust themselves off when they fell, and to keep trying.
While he married Rukmini for love, the 16,000 rescued women he married were to restore their reputation, not his pleasure. After all, countless women pray to God for a husband like Ram. Lord Vishnu had to grant their wishes in his next life as Krishna. But for Paundraka, women were objects of pleasure, not embodiments of Shakti. He said one thing and did another, while judging everyone else. Hypocrisy is not the Indic aesthetic.
And while he craved the sudarshana chakra, he ultimately proved incapable and incompetent to handle it.
The true Kshatriya, intellectual or otherwise, doesn’t spend his day condemning and ill-treating others. He recognises that all individuals begin as flawed, but walk on a path to perfecting themselves. Individuals fall, but like children learning to walk, they pick themselves up, and with the guidance of true acharyas, correct themselves and progress. That is why he doesn’t justify vices, but holds himself to a higher standard than others.
That is precisely why strategy is the realm of the kshatriya ( and intellectual kshatriya), because he (or she) is accountable for results. A defeat has consequences. Not so much for silo’d sellouts and village bumpkins. Merely lecturing about kshatra having only read about it, but being impotent to actually practice it, is emblematic of the lifestyle of those for whom life is a “24/7 spectator sport”. Perhaps that is the reason for their superiority complex towards Malhotra. After all, a superiority complex is nothing but an overcompensation for an underlying inferiority complex.
They know they lack the sophistication and knowledge of world affairs required to tackle these issues, hence they hide behind irrelevant drivel in their attempt to usurp the traditional responsibility of real Acharyas in the Mathas and Devalayas. But our real acharyas don’t just pay lip-service; we follow our acharyas not just because they gather (achinoti) and give us laws , but because they show us Acharaby example. They lead by example and show us through the example of their lives how to live with spirituality and dignity. They show those of us in the material world how to ultimately reject temptation and follow the spiritual path. That is why kshatriyas were and are honour-bound to protect realAcharyas.
That is why precisely why our response must be calibrated not by single area subject matter experts, or self-proclaimed polymaths, but generalists (of all castes) with a wide array of knowledge across disciplines, who can see beyond their own noses and interests, and think of the big picture…not when it suits them…but all the time. That is the difference between the person who talks of patriotism to advance personal interests and the person who sacrifices (or at least sets aside when necessary) personal interests in order to preserve the common narrative.
If “Culture is the New Politics”, the Cultural and Civilizational response must necessarily be crafted and led by those with political skill and savvy. Poets, Artists, Musicians, Singers, Dancers, Traditional Scholars, Regional Language Scholars, Sanskritists, Sporting enthusiasts, all have a role to play, as support, but Cultural Leadership will necessarily be driven by those with a proven track record of Leadership–the meeting point, the sangham of Brahma-Kshatra-Vaisya-Sudra. Without understanding all four, the spiritual/religious, the politico-strategic, the economic, and the logistic, how can a unified response, a unified aesthetic be presented? This the difference, this is the need for grass-roots and bottom-up rather than top-down.
All this is ultimately why Ahankar and Ambition are the two most dangerous aspects of the “modern” Hindu. It is not that other people don’t have ahankar and ambition, it is that it has reached such a self-defeating concentration, that Hindus are prepared to sacrifice the absolute cause to increase their relative status—long before the cause is a gone case. This inability to bear any pain, this inability to lay anything on the line, is exactly why the Kshatriya ideal is needed at this time. Why a Culture of Kreeda, Team Kreeda, is needed at this time.
From Brennus to Pyrrhus to Hannibal to Attila, Rome weathered many a foreign storm. Rome even had traitors like Coriolanus, but Romans ultimately were willing to sacrifice everything but self-respect. Their leaders were generals who led by example. Where is the self-respect of our people today? No, the country’s current political credo is “lick the one who kicks and you kick the one who licks!”. Until this is firmly kicked from the country it will be more of the same. This is the not the mantra of Rishis and Rajas, but the slogan of poodles. Rishis did Tapas and Rajas endured terrible pain; this lot knows only how to avoid pain and feed their faces. Rather than the individual skill of the gyaani, it was the unit cohesion of the legion that made Rome effective. The dog licks its master who thrashes, but growls at innocent passersby. The wolf hunts in a pack and wins as a team. Incidentally, the lupus was Rome’s emblem.
But this lot is more likely to have lupus than to embody one. These poodles would rather become foreign slaves or pathetically call foreign elites their brothers rather than seeing their own countrymen as one of their own. Rather than having ludicrous popinjays and milquetoast over-sophisticates give irrelevant gyaan from their sinfully hypocritical redoubts, the aesthetic response must come from those who can not only relate to all four/five sections of society, but know how to unify them. Unification, not under unaccountable tyranny, through textual misquote and misinterpretation, but through common accountability under a common dharma, a practical Dharma.
If foreign usurpers are ignored on account of not presenting a “pramana”, then its quite obvious such scholars are better off in their silos rather than attempting to anoint themselves “acharyas”, giving “upanyasas”. There is a difference between a poet and a pradhan mantri. If you don’t have the requisite knowledge of global affairs, and the backbone to bear pain, it is time to vacate the kshetra. Drona too talked tough & was an acharya, but ended up dead on the Kurukshetra for his misdeeds.
It is one thing to argue “everyone has flaws” or “all are on a difficult path to perfect themselves” and quite another to demand others meekly submit to the addiction to vice of certain tyrants-in waiting. These ahankari-shikandis hypocritically argue “judge us by our inner worth”. But character is the determination of inner worth, and character is nothing but habits (whether driven by virtue or vice). Habits become first cobwebs then cables. More than cables, it appears someone has this lot in chains. So if you have some sinful background, if you have some terrible vice that you refuse to control, then better to exit the field. The true brahmana is known by character and conduct. This what our real Acharyas teach. Not that great ones from Maharishi Vishwamitra on haven’t fallen. Rather it’s that once they have fallen, they get back up and dust themselves off, rather than roll around in the muck saying “don’t judge us”, or “do as I say, not as I do”. That is no ethic, and certainly no Indic aesthetic.
That is why we must reject the bumpkin aesthetic. That is why it is imperative that we build upon an integral unity based on Satya, rather than a synthetic unity based on Rna. This is the era of not only Gross Domestic Product, and Foreign Direct Investment, but also Foreign-owned Debt. For all the talk of upayas, it’s clear their only policy is samshraya…under videshis. But a sellout in mundu-veshti is still a sellout. Whether Macaulay’s Children or Wendy’s Children or Pollock’s Children, drohis are still drohis. In the end, it is only the ambitious ahankari, the unscrupulous politician, the greedy gyaani who seeks a position for which he is unqualified, and sabotages the cause to preserve position. The true statesman sacrifices personal aspiration for common aspiration and civilizational destination.
Better one of my brothers or native rivals wear the crown than our common foreign enemy. When will Bharatvasis learn this lesson?
.Sophisticated infiltration by Trojan Horses to turn Hindu leadership over to compromised but ambitious persons, village bumpkins & clowns
Many of you may be wondering why the recent articles on the importance of Satya and Rta. After all, isn’t there a reawakening in Hindu community about the need for Dharma? What is the necessity to so stridently and trenchantly assert what the tradition actually says and what our Real Acharyas in Agraharas, Mathas, and Devalayas say?
The truth of the matter is that Bharatiyas need to start understanding that the path to Civilizational Security and Personal Spiritual growth are, ironically, one and the same. The dangers facing Indic Civilization today, at least if you believe in our traditional scriptures, are in fact meant to remind us of what true Dharma actually is. When the letter becomes more important than the spirit, when individual Rna becomes more important than absolute Satya, when the words of our Ancient Rishis are twisted for personal one-upsmanship, or worse, adharmic Ambition, then mankind is reminded of its lesser place in the greater scheme of things. When atheists, charvaka or otherwise, gleefully declare that “God is Dead”, why do they pray when it is their plane that is falling or their house that is on fire? The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves.
Truth be Told, those of us who contribute to this site are quite frankly much more interested in quietly and contently writing articles (or printing those by others…who are team-oriented) to help spread awareness of our High Culture. But as we wrote in our article on Culture: the Cure for Stupidity, Arts are the Alankara of culture, not culture itself. It is the values and morals and high-minded principles of our forebears that drives not only what to view as tasteful, refined, and cultured, but also what is good, decent, and proper. It is Dharma that is the soul of our Culture.
And yet, despite all the high-minded talk, we still have far too many ambitious and parochial people, who are putting their own private gain ahead of public good. Despite the growth of the “Indic Intellectual Ecosystem”, there remains far too much backbiting, copying, and petty politicking to make any of this Civilizationally beneficial. After all, if you treat your own countrymen no different than you treat your foreigners, if you still stupidly repeat the same mistakes as our ancestors and allow de nobilis into our ranks, if you still cut side deals with national enemies to gain one over your local rivals, then why is your society any more worthy of saving than it was a thousand years ago?
Ours is the civilization not only of Vasistha and Vikramaditya or Ram and Guru Ram Das, but also Saints like Annamacharyaand Basavanna who took on those who misused our inheritance and twisted it for personal material gain. That is why we spoke out so fervently in favour of the absolute Truth, of Satya-Param, in our previous article. Without the truth, all we have is tyranny. It is the truth that truly does set us free.
Tradition without Truth is robotics. But Tradition with Truth is meaningful living. It is the Truth which destroys Ego, which reminds us of our minuscule place in the scheme of things, which teaches us that false pride comes not only from adharma but even Dharma. That is why we are asked to surrender to God in the finality of things (atma-nivedhana), or at the very least surrender to truth (if you are agnostic). Solipsism and narcissism can emerge even from those who have historically done good, like the Haihaya Karthaveerya.
Even the Parashurama who defeated him was in turn punished by Rama for pride.
That is the danger of Ego, that is the danger of Ahankar.Over time, it breeds the false sense that you are so good, whatever you do is beyond reproach, whatever you do cannot be judged. Pride in caste, pride in scholarship, pride in intellect, pride in strength, all can lead to terrible falls and even punishment, and so too can pride in doing past good.
As seen in the preceding article in our series, the amassment of wealth and power of the Bhargavas and their adharmic selfishness in the wake of societal famine was one of the reasons for their chastisement. Their ingrate behaviour towards their patrons, the Haihayas (supported by the Atreyas), is also significant. The later misdeeds of the Haihayas, who went overboard, were rightly punished by Parashurama, but the misdeeds of the Bhargavas were the root.
Society is one of balance. When there is an imbalance, when kshatriyas become tyrannical, or when brahmanas attempt to accrue wealth, power, and women, Dharma causes a restoration. Parashurama’s antipathy towards kshatriyas was well-known, his instruction of Bhishma being only on account of the latter being the divine son of Ganga. Parashurama’s cursing of Karna once he discovered the latter was actually a kshatriya, is emblematic of this. But a society needs both Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. He served as the conduit for Krishna to take his Sudarshana chakra, as the purpose of Krishna’s birth was to destroy sinful Kshatriyas, but Parashurama’s punishment at the hands of Rama is also well-known, again due to the sin of Ego. This egotism of the Bhargavas originated in Bhrigu himself.
Once upon a time, the rishis were performing a great yagna and wished to determine to whom they should dedicate it to. When it was decided to dedicate it to the Supreme God, Bhrigu decided to test the Trimurthi. He refused to pay obeisance to Brahma or embrace Shiva, and both were angered. In fact it was only when the wives of Brahma and Shiva begged them to spare Bhrigu that he managed to escape with his life, despite both of them preparing to burn him to ashes or slay him with Trishul. His encounter with Vishnu is even more illustrative.
The story of Lord Venkateshwara (Balaji) is well known in Andhra and other parts of the South (as this Kannada film demonstrates).
The impudent Bhrigu then made his way over to Lord Vishnu, who was asleep. Bhrigu struck Vishnu on the chest, awakening him. Despite the behaviour of this son of Brahma, he spared Bhrigu due to his nominal status as his father-in-law. True to his nature, however, Vishnu also removed the origin of Bhrigu’s pride, the eye in his foot that was the source of his great Ego.
Bhrigu Aksapada, as such, was punished by Lord Vishnu who removed of that eye in Bhrigu’s foot of which he was so proud. After all, whatever legal title the oceans may be in, the entire cosmos belongs to the One who created it. What is a mere rishi before the preserver of the universe itself? This is the danger of self-glorification. Rishis too must know their place before God. Bhrigu and the Bhargavas soon learned theirs.
Maha Lakshmi herself was furious and cursed Bhrigu and all Brahmanas that she would never visit them. Rishis themselves scolded Bhrigu for his arrogance. After all, who was he to test the Trimurthi, who could burn him to ashes with a mere glance (Brahma almost did). That Lakshmi was born to him is considered a boon to Bhrigu, not the other way around. The Trimurti and their Divine other halves are beyond all materiality.
All this is precisely why time and again humility is of the utmost importance because False Ego leads to the temptation towards pride, which leads to greed, and untruth to justify that greed. The ancient brahmanas were known for truth because they foreswore from wealth and power, and were rightly respected for it. That some of their descendants greedily chase after it even at the cost of their country, is well known too: One, Two, Three.
One such has been writing abysmal nonsense, ostensibly for the benefit of a foreign patron. While he curiously criticised the kshatriya who spoke out against this videshi scholar, he has been inactive in actually defending our society from such videshi depredations. This is precisely why avadhanis do not replace our Acharyas, who live in poverty and are attached to the truth, whatever the personal cost. But here is what one such public performer has been writing all while making pretense to giving “spiritual discourses”.
For all his obsession with his own caste, he had the gall to insult Maharishi Vasistha by stating he was the son of a prostitute. Per our orthodox Tradition, Vasishta is considered on of Brahma’s manasaputras (directly mind-born son)…How could he be called the son of an apsara? Whether you are atheist or not, that is the tradition, you are free to deny the rationality of it, but that is the traditional reality.Even if one accepts some later account of Vasishta being reborn to Urvashi and Varuna, that only demonstrates the danger that half knowledge accomplishes. Urvashi as an apsara is no more a prostitute/courtesan than devadasis originally were. Apsaras were simply independent unattached women who chose their own lovers and had no interest in marriage. Ravana styled Rambha as one such prostitute, and he payed the price through the curse of her family. These ravanas will very well find out the same. All this is precisely why half knowledge or knowledge in general, is not wisdom.
Another example was misdefining Dharma. That Dharma is defined as the upholding of Rta expressed by the Absolute Truth Satya as clarified by our Traditional Acharyas was established in our Post on Rta vs Rna. So why the effort to define it as such? Defining Dharma as inferior and motivated by Rna is, especially in the present time, very dangerous to our debt-burdened society. Whether it is unscrupulous moneylenders in Mother India or modern bankers, the perils of finance especially to the indebted illiterate are great.
As once can see, spiritual rnas are far too easily conflated for material & financial rnas.In our debt-burdened society, the implications of this are terrible. That is why rna is necessarily inferior to Dharma, so that Rta is not offended. But why such artificial re-defining of Dharma? Whose purpose does it serve to first change Dharma from Rta and Rna, then in subsequent articles, subordinate Satya to Rta. These are wrong definitions, which we were forced to counter in our articles on Satya and Rta. That one of them used to call Rajiv Malhotra his “guru” only to later attack him, only shows how much they themselves don’t practice what they preach. So much for guru-rna. What an ingrate.
Next are the recent definitions of Classical Literature as something frozen, beyond time and space, i.e. dead. This is straight out of Sheldon Pollock’s view of Sanskrit as dead. No wonder a review was written by them against Rajiv Malhotra’s Battle for Sanskrit. It’s obvious they are indirectly assisting Pollock’s prekshaa. Even if one gives the benefit of the doubt, it is highly telling that they were far more vitriolic and spent more time trying to take down Rajiv Malhotra than rebut the claims of this western Indologist.
Finally, the most egregious of all, their supporting the theory of “Beef in Vedas”. This was in turn used by such noted pseudo-scholarsas a particular Wendy Doniger acolyte. This is the cost of pseudo-scholarship and why avadhanis are not acharyas. As we can see, even in the tradition, whether it was Ravana or the greedy and overproud Bhargavas, or Duryodhana and the sinful Kauravas, just as there are good kshatriyas and evil kshatriyas, there are good brahmanas an evil brahmanas. Hence, the issue that faces us today is not caste versus caste, but Dharma vs adharma. It is upto to good brahmanas to speak up and call out these dushta-brahmanas for the fraudacharyas they are. These are bahishkar-able offenses. Remember, that too is part of Varnashrama Dharma.
These are not mere indiscretions, but a pattern of perverting Veda, Purana, and Dharma to suit the needs of videshi “indologists”. The list in fact goes on to even referring to varna (caste) as being based on “aptitudes” instead of guna (per) the tradition. Is casteism any more obvious than in asserting only 1 caste has valour or only 1 caste has intelligence? This is the definition of it. This is the casteism and determinism that had bred fatalism. This is the casteism that furthers division.
When one teaches, it must be out of a sense of responsibility, out of a sense of duty not just to makes sure students are taught correctly but also in a manner that is comprehensible to them. One should not teach or write for the purpose of looking or sounding smart, but for the purpose of communicating knowledge, wisdom, and understanding effectively. A teacher does not teach for his own ego, or self-glorification, but out of a sense of obligation to society.
Worst of all, the obvious subtextual attempts to deify this charlatan self-styling himself as a “polymath”, is apparent not only through the references to Swami Vidyaranya as a “polymath” but even Sri Krishna himself.
Let it be known to this Ravana, and his resident Paundraka, that not only is he no Sri Krishna or Vasistha, he is no Vidyaranya either. Despite traditional knowledge and achievement, both Ravana and Dronacharya were punished for doing wrong and lusting for women in one case and power in the other. They should consider themselves duly notified of their walking the same path as these predecessors.
At this stage, many of you may believe this critique to be too harsh, or too focused on one community. Please understand, this is in fact out of great reluctance, as infighting, whether inter-caste or even intra-caste runs many risks as well. Nevertheless, it is imperative that correct interpretation of our tradition be passed on to the next generation, that correctly teaches not only correct culture, and correct Dharma, but even correct Varnashrama Dharma. Some seem to have forgotten this, as we have not been alone in similar criticism.
Even those who were once aware of such problems can become blind to them when faced with material temptation. All this is precisely why our true Acharyas are in the Agraharas or Mathas (Sringeri in this case), not in the material world, pursuing a material living. It is they who preserve the tradition of true Brahmanas and they who teach correct Varnashrama Dharma. Our writings must be in consonance with the spirit if not letter of what they teach. Traditional Brahmanas living the traditional way were and are respected. If you are not one such, do not expect the same treatment and authority commanded by an Acharya.
As we said above (and as we can see above) those who have a past store of good deeds can also fall on account of their pride in them. That is the danger of ahankar, which leads to greed, which leads to untruth, and ultimately untold sin. When the store of merit expires, from whence can they expect succour from the cost of their transgressions?
Relevant to the matter at hand, is K.A. Nilakantha Sastri’s recounting of a Buddhist perspective on ancient Brahmanas, that gives us insight into why some sections continue this “Beef in Vedas” sacrilege:
Buddhist account of gohatya
“The Ancient Rsis were ascetics (tapassino) and practiced self-control and avoided the five pleasures of the senses…They spent 48 years of their life as brahmacarins in quiet of knowledge and good conduct. Even after their marriage they lived a life of restraint. They held austerity, rectitude, tenderness, love and forebearances in high esteem. They performed sacrifices with rice, beds, clothes, ghee or oil, which they could collect by begging and never killed cows in sacrifices. They possessed a noble stature and a tender and bright mien and remained always engaged in their own pursuits. In course of time, however, they began to cove[t] a king’s riches and splendour and objects of pleasure such as women with ornaments, chariots yoked with stately horses…Coveting more and more they again persuaded him (King Okkaku, that is Ikshvaku) to celebrate sacrifices by offering of cows, which they said, constituted also the wealth of men…The slaughter of cows enraged the gods Brahma, Indra and even the Asuras and Rakshasas and multiplied the diseases which were originally three, viz. desires, hunger and decrepitude, to ninety-eight and further caused to appear discord among the people and within the household, and acts improper and impious among the various classes of men.”[2, 291]
“The true Brahmins are distinguished from the false ones by Buddha and are well spoken of by him. Such Brahmins were expected to observe the five dhammas: truthfulness (saccam), austerity (tapam), continence (brahmacariyam), study (ajjhenam) and gifts (cagam). (sutta-Nipata p.85).”[2, 293]
That is the danger of perpetuating this calumny that Beef can be justified by the Vedas.Go-hatya is considered a mahapataka (a terrible sin). This in turn has beenrebutted many times. Such actions of this clique not only put our society at risk (at least per the Vedic tradition), but also put at risk our venerable Acharyas.
It is widely known how Brahmins (traditional or otherwise) are specifically and bigotedly targeted for violence.The tragic violence in Tamil Nadu is one such example. Many of our own family-friends were directly affected decades ago and were forced to migrate. The continued murders of brahmin priests in Bangladesh and elsewhere is another. Protection of priests and others can only be achieved by unity in our society and correct interpretation and correct practice of Dharma. As the Paramacharya is reputed to have said above, the best way to ensure the safety of brahmanas (which many of us have a personal stake in) is their own good conduct.Supporting such colonial theories that have no support in scripture (like AIT, which others have done) only gives fuel for this Breaking India fire and artificially separates Brahmanas from the other castes (the express goal of colonialists). An intellectual sepoy is still a sepoy, and betrays his fellow hindu and fellow brahmin alike.
That is why we repeatedly state that in order to ensure their own nation, their own Civilization becomes stronger, such stalwarts of samskruthi must themselves become better people first, and correct their wrong notions and wrong opinion and wrong-headedness. Such wrong definitions of Varnashrama Dharma only drive lower castes away. Such wrong “scholarly” support to Beef in Vedas only puts Hindus on the backfoot and encourages more go-hatya. And these are only some such examples. Recent attempts to even justify their own private vices on the basis of some alleged and subjective “inner worth” is another.
Of course we are judged by our vices. Habits are first cobwebs then cables. An author, artist, musician, or even poet may not be judged by his vices, but a Pandit, Purohit, or Acharya certainly is. That is the mark of a true Brahmana. National honour is safeguarded by National morality. Whether you are born into a brahmin family or not, it is your conduct that makes you a true Brahmana.
But like Durvasa & Drona, those who in their pride or ambition or desire for wealth perpetuate these falsehoods, may in turn find that pride goeth before the fall.