Ancient Indian Culture Musical Traditions: The rich heritage of Indian culture can be traced back to ancient times. The practices, beliefs, and customs that we follow today were established thousands of years back. The culture was and is still today considered to be the determining factor of the Indian society.
Though different beliefs were followed in different regions, the foundation base of ancient Indian culture remained the same. Right from every day dressing to elaborate rituals, every minute and major detail was decided centuries back. The root of Indian culture has existed since ancient times and that is what makes it so strong and unique.
History of Indian Music
After the initial set up of the foundation by the Indus Valley Civilization, the subsequent invasion of the Aryans further only consolidated it. The Aryans had a particular social structure according to which administration was carried on. There was a division of labor and each hierarchy had its own job to perform.
The merchants and the priestly class were considered very elite. They were very much respected and feared. There were certain symbols of worship like cows, bulls, the sacrificial fire, etc. The chanting of sacred hymns came into vogue with the Vedic age. Though agriculture was the main occupations, there was the development of small-scale industries and handicrafts. The term ‘culture’ consists of various facets like follows:
Traditional Indian Music
Since Vedic times, Indians had been expected to correctly recite the Vedas. The correctness in recitation was very important. The reason being that the Vedas were passed on through memory (Smriti) and were further learned through hearing (Shruti). Also, the writing was absent in early Vedic times. Till today the Vedas are traditionally learned through oral studies.
This kind of an emphasis on recitation along with the correct pronunciation, lead to studies in phonetics and sound manipulation. This was the birthplace of Indian Musical Raga (meter) and Swaras (rhymes). That Music in ancient India was given considerable recognition. The same can be illustrated by the fact that Saraswati, the Indian goddess of learning is shown to be holding a musical instrument (Veena) in her hand.
Ancient Indian Culture Musical Traditions
Traditionally, vocal music in India has tended to be devotional music (Bhaktigeet). Also, temples have been places where musicians used to practice music to please the deity and the devotees. Indian vocal music is broadly divided into two schools viz. the Hindustani or North Indian school and the Carnatic or South Indian School. As far as instrumental music goes there is a general identity of instruments which have been used.
The main Indian musical instruments were the Sarod, the Veena, the Sarangi, the Tambora, the Harmonium, the Ghata, the Tabla, the Tanpura, the Satar, etc., As compared to art and architecture Indian music has had less impact on the outside world.
Indian Music Instruments
This was so because most of the Indian musical instruments required specialized material and craftsmanship for their manufacture. In the absence of transmission of these skills and the absence of trade in musical instruments, the transmission of music became a difficult task. Along with this, the long and laborious practice was required to master these instruments thereby making it all the more complex.
However, as far as, devotional vocal music was concerned, Indian musical traditions traveled as far to the countries of South East Asia. In these countries, it was deeply influenced. Like for instance, the instrumental and vocal music of Korea incorporated many elements of Indian music, which it received along with the Buddhist invocation and devotional songs and slokas.
Popular Indian Music
Along with Buddhism, some Indian musical instruments like the flute (Bansi), temples bell (Ghanta), etc., went to the countries of south-east Asia. Even Europe owed certain instruments to India. In fact, two popular European musical instruments namely the flute and violin were believed to be of Indian origin.
The process of transmission of these instruments is not known. However, in India, the flute (bansuri) and the violin which was a variant of the Veena were definitely indigenously Indian. An indicator to this fact was the Bbansi which was associated with Sri Krishna and the Veena with the goddess Saraswati.