Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Indian music has been long associated with religion. The evidences are from some sculptures on the ancient temples and palaces as well as miniature paintings. They all demonstrate a visual record of musical instruments, and the where and how of performance through several thousand years. Besides this, there are many references to music in the Indian epics, such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana and some other stories and religious writings, such as Veda.
There are two main traditions in Indian classical music, both of which have close relationship with their religious beliefs. The Karnatic is from the south and the Hidustani tradition is from the north. Although both of these use the concepts of ragas (the melodic modes) and talas (rhythmic cycles), there are differences existing between these two styles. Northern style, the Hindustani music tradition, employ instruments such as the sitar, sarod, sarangi and tabla, which were greatly influenced by Persia and other elements of Islam for culturally speaking, northern India has been dominated by Islam since the Muslim invasion in the 13th century. The structure of a composition is also different. With less strict composed sections, the music of broad improvisations shows its brilliant virtuosity. It is this unique improvisation style that serves as a tool for the Indians of the north to meditate about the relationship with gods and the universe.
Compared with the north, Karnatic in the south is much more orthodox in its Hindusim tie. The music is built around a great repertoire of pre-composed songs, which were done by the musicians who devoted themselves to their gods centuries ago. Most compositions are vocal music with the parts of solo (either vocal or violin) and accompaniment (mridangam). The role of music is to please the gods; and therefore, music is considered a “personal mode of religious expression”.The melodic pattern of the solo part along with the ancient sacred text either in Sanskrit or Telegu has a superior position to that of other parts. Kritit, a Karnatic form, is an example of this.
Indian music provides the insights of the undivided relationship between music and religions. What religious beliefs serve in these cultures is a way of communication for people to either worship their god(s) or merely meditate their own relationship with the gods. This relationship exists in both sacred and secular music in many different cultures around the world. The study of music, therefore, always needs to be considered from many different facets of human cultures. The relationship between human reality and mysterious power is an illustration of this concept.

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