Indian Music and The Cosmic Song

Krishna, is the East Indian version of the pied piper.  He is always shown in Hindu art with a flute, on which he plays enrapturing song that recalls to their true home the human souls wandering in maya-delusion.

The Sama Veda of India contains the worlds earliest writings on musical science. 

The foundation stone of Hindu music is the ragas or fixed melodic scales.  The six basic ragas branch out into 126 derivative raginis (wives) and putras (sons).  Each raga has a minimum of 5 notes:  a leading note, a secondary note, helping notes, and a dissonant note (the enemy). 

Each of the 6 basic ragas has a natural correspondence with a certain hour of the day and season of the year.  The Hindole Raga is heard only at dawn in the spring to evoke universal love.  The Deepaka Raga is played during the evening in summer to arouse compassion.  The Megha Raga is a melody for midday in the rainy season, to summon courage.  Bhairava Raga is played in the mornings of August, September, and October to achieve tranquility.  Sri Raga is reserved for autumn twilights to attain pure love.  Malkounsa Raga is heard at midnights in winder, for valor.

The ancient rishis discovered these laws of sound alliance between nature and man.  Because nature is an objectification of Aum, the Primal Sound or Vibratory Word, man can obtain control over all natural manifestations through the use of certain mantras or chants. 

Indian music divides the octave into 22 srutis or demi-semitones.  These microtonal intervals permit fine shades of musical expression unattainable by the Western chromatic scale of 12 semitones. 

The Hindu musican does not read set notes; he clothes anew at each playing the bare skeleton of the raga, often confining himself to a single melodic sequence. 

Ancient Sanskrit literature describes 120 talas or time-measures.  The traditional founder of Hindu music, Bharata, is said to have isolated 32 kinds of tala in the song of a lark.  The origin of tala or rhythm is rooted in human movements - the double time of walking, and the triple time of respiration in sleep, when inhalation is twice the length of exhalation. 

India has always recognized the human voice as the most perfect instrument of sound.  Hindu music therefore largely confines itself to the voice range of three octaves.  For the same reason, melody is stressed, rather than harmony.

The deeper aim of the early rishi-musicians was to blend the singer with the Cosmic Song which can be heard through the awakening of man's occult spinal centers.  Indian music is a subjective, spiritual, and individualistic art, aiming not at symphonic brilliance but at personal harmony with the Oversoul. 


The above is an excerpt from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda