Indian Music and its Aesthetic Concepts

Aesthetics refers to the philosophy of the beautiful. “Never take away the love of the beautiful from your heart”; remarked Rousseau, the French Philosopher, “If you do it”, he declared, “you will lose the very charm in living!”
 The Indian sub-continent, which has witnessed the flowering of art and music, dance and drama for over 3000 years of its history, had formulated norms, regulations and ground-rules for celebrating the beautiful in life – be it art, music, drama or even spiritual philosophy.
 The Rasa Theory
 The famous Theory of “rasa” propounded by Sage Bharata, refers to the quintessence in all art forms— often identified with their inherent, emotive constitutions. Besides, they are conceived to treat an emotive theme or to communicate a distinct emotional flavor or mood: joy or melancholy, anger or compassion, eroticism or devotion.
 The aesthetic experience, “rasa swadana”, literally means `tasting of the flavor’Tuning Towards Equanimity

In the case of music, there is a clear emphasizes on sruti which necessitates, the forceful adherence to drone in unison.

Adherence to sruti involves inviolable discipline in our musical experience. At the same time, there is no dearth for freedom which is available aplenty, thanks to the tonal flexibility offered by the raga system.

When we listen to a Carnatic raga, like Dharmavati, we can perceive a subtle tragic vein. Despite an emotional upheaval, offered by the meandering raga with its upward and downward swings, sruti purity is strictly maintained by the drone emanating from tampura, which constantly reminds you not to go by the ups and downs you witness around!

Thus, emotion and intelligence go hand in hand in Indian musical experience. One is never over-looked at the cost of the other. This enables one to achieve a state of equanimity or balanced mind,– a mental restructuring, highly recommended by the Indian spiritual culture.

Folk Roots in Classical Gardens

It is fairly well-known that all our classical systems of music trace their origin to folk music, which is as old as the human history of the sub-continent.


Folk music is like an unweeded bio-reserve, lacking only man-made sophistication! But, who can deny its down-to-earth robustness, the verve, vigor or vitality which is closer to nature and presented in a truthful manner ?

Folk music has successfully co-existed with classical music for many centuries. Several classical ragas in Carnatic music such as Anand Bhairavi, Kurinji, Navroz, Pushpalatika trace their roots to folk music.

As we experience music, be it folk or classical, Indian or Western, we invariably recall our individual life-experience.
Ups and Downs – in Music and in Life

Ascending and descending scales reflect the ups and downs in one’s life. Vertical structure in western music such as chord, counterpoints etc make us feel the collective support that comes to us in our lonely Journey of life.

Sudden twists and bends, surprises and novelties are also not lacking in music. All these reflect those surprises and shocks, agonies and ecstasies, thrills and traumas we have to face in our life-journey.

Regular appearance and disappearance of notes or tunes remind us of those precious people who join us and leave us, leaving behind glorious memories.

Yet, the overall continuity of notes or phrases despite all those twists, bends or changes reminds us to be always optimistic and to look forward to life with confidence and courage.

Gamakas, the Graceful Delicacies in Indian Music

Gamakas are those delicate graces, oscillations, shakes and embellishments of notes that make our music typically Indian. Carnatic system acknowledges 10 types of gamakas, called dasavitha gamakas—all of which can be seen in a single musical piece of the 18th century set in Raga Bhairavi. (Viribhoni)

Termed sangatis, they represent the pleasing twists and turns of a melody.

Rendering gamakas cannot be learnt through written notations, but only through oral tuition.

As the gamakas define the characteristics of a particular raga, they are fiercely preserved by the traditional music systems, particularly Carnatic system. Musicologists of Chennai can be seen arguing hours together on the propriety of the inclusion or exclusion of the particular sangati in a raga scale!

During Bhakti movement in India, music was taken more as a spiritual ecstasy rather than a sensory stimulation. Even sringara rasa noticed in ragas like Khamas came to be interpreted as the cementing force between Jivatma (microcosm) and paramatma (macrocosm). Rasa swadana can thus, lead us either to a detached state of awareness, or to the world of sensuality. It all depends on our mental make-up and the type of music we tend to choose.

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Author: indogo