The story of our music

Whirling dervishes

How many of you enjoy reading stories? Or are history enthusiasts? Well, allow me to take you on a journey and travel in time.

The beginning

Music! A beautiful amalgamation of singing, playing the musical instruments and dance. Considered to be the three pillars of Indian music, our heritage inculcates all these three art forms in the definition of music. Indian music has its roots in the Vedic era. An important part of our culture, it was influenced and then reformed over the centuries. The monarchs ruling the Indian subcontinent had a major role to play. Both Hindu and Muslim rulers were passionate about music. Focusing on the late medieval period which extends from the 12th to the 18th century, Indian music saw a number of transformations, either due to the patronage of the royals or due to the lack of it.

While music was a part of life in the Vedic era (c.1500 BCE to 500 BCE), the Second Urbanization (c. 500 BCE to 200 BCE) and the classical and early medieval period (c. 200 BCE to 1200 CE), it was not meant for entertainment. Music was considered a medium of devotion, a pathway to God and nirvana! Yet, practising vocal music, dance and playing several music instruments were a norm and not an exception. In terms of the history of music, Margi Sangeet — the music towards the path of God, was regulated and had strict rules and methods to follow. Natya Shastra is an entire Sanskrit text on the performing arts, written by Sage Bharat Muni sometime between 500 BCE and 500 CE. To give you a gist of the depth of study on art in that era, this encyclopaedia comprised of almost 6000 poetic verses covering topics from musical scales and instruments to art direction, structure of musical plays, dance movements and much more!

As time passed, like everything else, the music of India (then known as Bharatvarsh), evolved too. Margi Sangeet percolated to Desi Sangeet; the music for every being, meant for entertainment. Desi sangeet can also be referred to as the music of the land, which varied with every region, language, culture and taste. In other words, it marked the beginning of folk music.

The late medieval period (c. 1200 CE to 1500 CE) of India is marked with growth of the Hindu and Muslim dynasties. Sangeet Ratnakar, an invaluable Sanskrit treatise on music and dance was written by Sharangdev, an Indian musicologist in the 13th century. While music was always an inherent aspect of the Bharatvarsh, the Sufi saints too, proclaimed that music was the food for the soul!

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Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath
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Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath

Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath is the eleventh generation of her family to be dedicated to the ancient art form of Indian classical music. She has performed in India and abroad, has music albums to her credit and successfully runs her classical music academy all over Mumbai.