Friday, October 16, 2020




Everything that is capable of hitting us ,surely brings pain. There is one strong exception; I call it music. When it hits us, there is no pain and on the contrary, it is possible that it may relieve some existing pain that has been troubling us . And Berthold Auerbach has rightly said :-

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."


                   ( A man shown playing on flute on a stone carving of  eighth century  Martand Sun Temple in Kashmir )

 Music has been a part of Kashmir’s social life since ancient times.The earliest proof of popularity of music and dancing in Kashmir is provided by archaeology. One can find it in terracotta tiles recovered from Harwan.A tile from Harwan shows three musicians while another shows a dancing girl.The tile showing three musicians also shows a flute , cymbals and a pair of drums . These tiles were on display  SP S Museum , Srinagar prior to 1990. A musician playing flute is visible on a carved stone of Martanda Sun Temple.  During every festivity,  whether religious or semi religious or seasonal ( sowing , harvesting spring ,and new snowfall )  , the main item of celebration has been music ; Vocal and instrumental .The Nilamata Purana makes mention of professional singers and dancers  active in ancient Kashmir . The Nilamata Purana also makes mention of  Vadya ,Vaditra  and Vadya Bhanda as the category of  key musical instruments .If  one reads Vishnudharmottara Purana,a text popular in ancient Kashmir,one finds mention of Ghana ( cymbal ) ,Vitata ( percussion ) ,Tata ( stringed instruments ) and Susira ( wind instruments ) . So , musical instruments  of ancient Kashmir are altogether different from what we see presently . The Harmonium , Tabla , Sitar , Banjo ,  Sarangi , Rabab  and some more musical instruments in use currently  have nothing to do with ancient musical tradition of  Kashmir . Even Tumbaknaar is not the ancient Kashmiri musical instrument. The Santoor  may have been the ancient musical instrument  of Kashmir  as we find mention of Shat Tantri Veena ( hundred stringed percussion instrument ) in ancient scriptures like Taittiriya Samhita although the Nilamata Purana is silent about it .

Another important connection with music is dancing and thearterical performance,  both  widely prevalent in ancient Kashmir. The Widespread prevalence of music and dancing in Kashmir can also be seen through the literaray evidenc. As in India, ancient Kashmir also had the tradition of dancing girls attached to the  temples . Rajatarangini informs us that King Jaluka dedicated 100 ladies of his seraglio to the Temle of Jyeshtharudra. King Kalasha and his son Harsha have been describedby Kalhana as promoters of dancing and music in Kashmir . Ksemendra and Bilhana have also mentioned dancing and music  being widely prevalent in Kashmir .Even Rishi Vasugupta of Kashmir compares Atma with a dancer , Antaratma with the theatre and the Indriyas with  spectators. According to Rajatarangini,   a particular type of folk music remained quite popular in Kashmir in which,utensils of clay or brass were used. Many scholars believe it to be something like present day  Chhakri singing. Rajatarangini also mentions an instrument called "Hadukka" which can be compared to a big pipe or Swarnai of Bhaands of Kashmir .Matka also finds indirect reference in Rajatarangini. Kalhana frequently refers to this instrument ,”they played on their balded heads exactly as the earthen pot instruments were played” .

The Nilamata Purana associates music with Gandharvas, the celestial musicians who sang in the court of Gods . Natyashastra, another popular text in ancient Kashmir,explains the Gandharva music as that which is governed by the combination of Svara (tonal structure); Taala (time-units); and, Pada (text), in association with various musical instruments (Gaandharvam trividham vidhaat svara-tala-pada-atmakam). Thus, song, Veena, flute and drums all contributed to Gandharva.

And  Abhinavagupta  In his commentary on Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra says this :-

“   The Gita (song), Vadya (instruments) and Natya (enactment of play) should, ideally, coordinate and perform harmoniously – supporting and strengthening each other with great relish. And, the three Kutapa-s, in combination should suggest a seamless movement like a circle of fire (Alaata chakra); and should brighten (Ujjvalayati) the stage.”

It is pertinent to mention that  Natya Shastra ( composed by Bharat Muni sometime between  in 200 B.C. and 200 A. D. )   clubbed musical instruments into four groups ; Avanaddha Vadya (percussion instruments ),Ghana Vadya ( solid instruments ),Sushir Vadya ( wind instruments ) and Tat Vadya ( stringed instruments ). This classification was adopted by 12th century  Europe for classification of musical instruments . Later Greek labels were assigned to this classification- Chordophones for Tat Vadya   , membranophones for Avanaddha Vadya  , aerophones for Sushir Vadya , and autophones for Ghana Vadya . Thus the western system of classification is based on ancient Indian Natya Shastra . Let us examine some ancient musical instruments of Kashmir as appearing in the Nilamata Purana ,Rajataringani, Vishnudharmotra Purana and Acharya Abhinavgupta’s commentary on Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra.


VENU OR BANSURI ( Sushir Vadya or wind instrument )

The Nilmata Purana makes clear  mention of Venu players in ancient Kashmir. Natya Shastra recommended that the Svaras (notes) on a flute should be perfected with the aid of the Veena and the human voice. The singer should sing the very notes in accompaniment of a flute.  Natya Shastra adds that the perfect harmony of the human voice, strains of the Veena and the melody of the flute is indeed truly sublime, and fit for gods. 

 Venu is  typical Indian flute played in northern as well as southern parts of the country.It is a musical instrument that produces sound when a stream of air is directed against the edge of a hole, causing the air within the body of the instrument to vibrate.The Venu has a remarkable way of converting the life force (pran, or literally "breath") into a mus­ical resonance (sur). It can have six to eight holes .It has been accepted as a part of Hindustani classical music all over the country.  Bansuri or Venu has a great cultural and religious significance.In India, It is also associated with Sri Krishna who also known as Venugopal, Bansilal, Murlimanohar, Murlidhar and Bansidhar .The Venu has contributed immensely to the growth and vitality of Indian Music , in all its forms.The flute (Venu) played a highly significant role in re-aligning the Svaras (notes) of Indian Music

 Venu and Veena are mentioned in Mahabharata also. The Carnatic musicians use a Venu that has 8 finger holes, while Bansuri consists of six or seven finger holes.  Venu changed its name in Kashmir and it was known as Nai . It became an important instrument of Bhaand music after some variations . 


 VEENA ( Tat Vadya or stringed instrument )

 As popular music instrument of ancient Kashmir, Veena finds mention in the Nilmata Purana . Veena is not directly mentioned in Rig Veda or Sama Veda. However *Aitreya Aranyaka describes it in detail. Aitreya Aranyaka also describes its parts as Sora's(head) , Udara( cavity) , Ambhana ( sounding board) ,Tantra( string) and Vadana ( plectrum) .The Nilmata Purana also refers to it as Tantri Vaadya. Veena was quite popular in ancient Kashmir and no music concert or gathering could afford to avoid it or ignore it.




                                                                  ( A veena )

The Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni makes clear mention of Veena. Acharya Abhinavgupta's commentry on Natya Shastra also makes detailed mention of Veena. Abhinavgupta in his commentary on Natya Shatra says this  :-

“Every type of Giti can be played on Veena. And, there are three types of Giti:   Tatva, Anugata and Ogha. When the Gana (singing)  is prominent and the Veena follows Gana completely , it is Tatva; when the Veena follows Gana in some part and then shows its own craftsmanship , it becomes Anugata; and , when the playing techniques becomes A-nibaddha and the Karanas become more prominent  and the Gana becomes secondary then the Giti becomes Ogha.

In so far as Veena is concerned ,  we need to understand  that during ancient times, Veena must have been  a generic term for all stringed instruments including lutes, arched harps, with or without frets and plucked with fingers or a plectrum. Some musicologists  suggest that  the Veena referred to in the Natyashastra might have resembled a harp rather than a lute (as we know it now). The major types of Veena-s during the time of Bharata Muni  were said to be: Chitra (seven strings and played with fingers) and Vipanchi (nine stringed lutes played with a plectrum). The other types were Ghosha or Ghoshavati (single stringed Ek Tari or a sort prototype Tanpura) and Kapucchi (also an Ek Tari). From a careful study of Natya Shastra , one is led to believe that the commonest type of Veena was bow shaped that resembles a harp .  There appears to be  another one that was more like a guitar .

( *Aranyaks are the literary compositions that focus mainly on philosophical and mysterious subjects. Aranyaks are the mastery combination of the events of Sanhitas and Brahmanas as well as the philosophy of Upanishads.There are seven Aranyaks in all, namely (i) Aitreya Aranyakas, (ii) Sankhayan Aranyak, (iii) Taittiriya Aranyak, (iv) Maitriyani Aranyak, (v) Madhyandini Vrihadaranyak, (vi) Talvakar Aranyak and (vii) Jaimini. )


 SHANKHA OR CONCH SHELL ( Sushir Vadya or wind instrument )




We are familiar with word Shankh-Naad  or the sound of conch shell created during  the war in Mahabharata. Shankh or conch shell is widely used  during prayers in Shiva temples all over India.  Shankha is used as music instrument while singing Shiva Tandava Strotam. A conch shell is sacred to Hindus and is blown during rituals and religious ceremonies. Lord Vishnu holds a Shankh or conch shell in one hand .The Nilmata Purana makes mention of the sound of  Shankha being  mingled with vocal and instrumental music in ancient Kashmir. I quote:-

" The night should be passerby men in the vicinity of fire ,amidst all sorts of vocal and instrumental music mingled with the sound of conches."

The Natya Shastra (2.35-37)  says this :-

" At the ceremony of laying the foundation for a play-house (Natya-mantapa) the entire musical instruments such as, Śaṅkha, Dundubhi, Mṛdaṅga, and Paṇava should be sounded."

Natyashastra ( 4. 253-254) mentions that seeing Śankara (Śhiva) dance with Recakas and Aṅgahāras, Pārvathī too performed a Lasya dance with delicate movements; and , this dance was followed by the playing of musical instruments like Mṛdaṅga, Bherī, Paṭaha, Jhañjhā , Diṇḍima, Gomukha, Paṇava and Dardura. Gomukha. Gomukha is a wind instrument, a kind of conch resembling the mouth of the cow.

Conch shell is a major Hindu article of prayer, used as a trumpet and in order to get rid of negative energy and evil spirits. It is also used as a container for holy water ( Shankha Teertham ). The shankha (conch shell) mudra is also used during various tantric rituals and meditation. "Shankha" is considered to be one of the most auspicious objects that emerged from the sea during the Ksheera Sagara Samudra Manthan.In Indian mythology, the Shankha is regarded sacred and very auspicious. To initiate religious ceremonies, a Shankha (conch shell) is blown. The Shankha is included in the list of the eight Buddhist auspicious symbols, the Ashtamangala. In Tibetan Buddhism it is known as "tung." .


PATAHA ( Avanaddha Vadya or percussion instrument )

The Nilamata Purana makes mention of Pataha .It is a sort of drum that was used as a musical instrument  in ancient Kashmir.Pataha finds mention in Ramayana and Mahabharata . It is believed that the Pataha was played upon generally in accompaniment to the lute. The Shiva Purana makes mention of Pataha as under :-

“ On the top of the mountain near the city of Himālaya, Śiva sported about for a long time in the company of Satī.  The celestial damsels played on their lutes, tabours and drums ( PATAHA )  and danced with enthusiasm”.

Paṭaha ia also mentioned in  Natya Shastra . Lord Shiva is believed to have danced on the beats of Pataha . Some musicologists call it as something like barrel drum. Some musicians have also called it as Nandi Vadya as it is associated  with Shiva  . Some musicologists call it a war drum.

 Natya Shatra says this :-

 " The drums , Mṛdaṅga Dardura and Paṇava are the major components (Anga) , while Jhallarī and Paṭaha etc., are the minor components. There is no instrument which cannot be used in the ten kinds of play (daśarūpaka). And, each kind of instrument may be used in a play after considering the context and the emotions involved. The musical instruments   can be played on numerous varieties of occasions and scenes.  In festivals, processions, and auspicious (Maṅgala) occasions and happy times as the weddings, birth of sons; during expeditionary marches; and, in a battle where many fighters assemble; and, during such other acts, all the musical instruments should be played

Pataha (resembling Dholak) is mentioned in Natya Shastra  ( 4.250 ) after Śhiva danced using Recakas and Aṅgahāras, and Pārvatī performed a gentle  Lasya dance. 

 In the Sundarkanda of Ramayana, Hanuman sees a woman with beautiful body features sleeping with a musical instrument called Pataha and hugging it as if it was her lover.


MURAJA ( Avanaddha Vadya or percussion instrument )

Muraja is a musical instrument that come very close to Mridanga of South India . It finds mention in the Nilamata Purana and Natya Shastra . The Natya Shastra clubs it with percussion instruments . 

The Muraja seems to have had a shape similar to that of the Dindima (Dindima sadṛśaṃ vādyaṃ yasmin laghu tālāni saṃyuktāni santi) mentioned in Natya shastra . Dindima has  two faces; but, with the heads (beaten surfaces) much smaller and giving out light sounds. Of its two faces, the left one was of eight fingers; and, the right one of seven fingers in width. It was played with hands, as did Nandi played on it with great delight (Sananda Nandi hastha hatha Murajah). Nandi is said to have been fond of playing on Muraja (Nandikesvarah krsnah Murajarudho Mrajavadanaparah).It is said; the instruments like Veena, Muraja, and conches together made pleasant music. According to Dr. C. Sivaramanmurti , "The drums sounding most pleasant to the ear, such as Muraja, Mrudanga and Pushkara are those generally used as musical accompaniments. The sound of the Muraja is described as deep and noble; that of the Mrudanga, softly tapped with finger tips by women sounds sweet, resemble the gentle rumble of clouds. The Darduras, Panavas and Jarjharikas are other varieties of soft-toned drums. The Muraja and Mrudanga often required a kind of rice-paste to be applied to both the leather surfaces to sweeten their sound."

 In Buddhism ,Murajā refers is  the “kettle-drum” and the deification thereof, as commonly depicted in Buddhist iconography and mentioned .Murajā is described in the Niṣpannayogāvalī (vajraḍāka-maṇḍala) as under :-

“Murajā is of the colour of smoke, and she is engaged with her two hands in playing on the Muraja instrument”.

In Pali Language , Muraja simply means a tambourine.

 DARDARA  ( Avanaddha Vadya or percussion instrument )

 The Natya Shastra also makes mention of  Dardara . The Dardara was shaped like a bell of sixteen figure height (12 inches). Its face resembled that of a pot (Ghata) of nine fingers in diameter ( say , about 6 inches) , with fat lips (rims) on all side. it is  mentioned that is was called Dardara because it makes sounds like ‘Darara’ : ‘ Darara sabdam pati tasmat  bhavati dardarah‘ . The Dardara was made of wooden frame over which a hide  was stretched tightly. In shape, it perhaps resembled a huge gong or a big water pot (maha-ghatakatah). The Dardara could perhaps be the forerunner of Ghatam. The ghaṭam is a percussion instrument used in various repertoires across India. A variant played in Punjab and known as gharha as is a part of Punjabi folk traditions. Its analogue in Rajasthan is known as the madga and pani mataqa. The Matka or Noet, the traditional instrument played in Kashmir appears to be a version of Dardara . However the Nilamata Purana is silent about Dardara .

DAMARU ( Avanaddha Vadya or percussion instrument )

The Natya Shastra also makes mention of Damaru .There is a class of bi-facial avanaddha vadya that are  narrow in the middle  like the hourglass, sand-glass . These are  the Damaru shaped drums. This form has an ancient past and once was a major instrument in sophisticated music.  It is closely associated with Lord Shiva when he sports the vigorous Tandava dance. The beats of the Damaru also symbolize the concept of time, in the Indian iconography . But, today, one hears them only in tribal and folk music not on the concert platform.

Abhinavagupta  in his commentary on Natya Shastra  explains that the term Tāṇḍava is derived from the sounds like “Tando; tam-tam” produced by the accompanying Damaru shaped drums.He also mentions that  the bhaṇḍam (covered percussion instruments) which produce sounds like “Bhan, Than” etc. are important for the Nṛtta , or the limb-movements, the Āṅgika Abhinaya  .

 CYMBALS  ( Ghana Vadya or solid instrument )

This cymbals finds mention in Natya Shastra . According to  Natya Shastra , the most fundamental of the Ghana (solid) Vadya is  the human body itself.

It is very common to see clapping of hands (Taala) , counting fingers, waving the hands, striking palms on the thighs or hips, stamping the feet on the dance floor etc in a rhythmic ways to keep or measure time.  Even the singers of Sama–Gana kept rhythm by clapping and waving hands. Even today one can see in Carnatic music concerts, persons (either on stage or in the audience) clapping to keep time (Taala) while   percussion instruments are played. 

The Ghana vadya-s (idiophone Instruments) are instruments made of wood or metal that produce sound when they are struck. Along with the solid Cymbals made of metal, Natyashastra mentions Patah and Ghata (bell) as Ghana Vadya-s. The instruments of this group are usually played with a striker or hammer. It is said; cymbals (classified as Ghana Vadya) – made of metal- also called as Taala are but an extension of the act of clapping to keep time.


                                                                                                     ( cymbals )

The Indian Chimta also falls in the category of Ghana Vadya .

DINDIMA (Avanaddha Vadya or percussion instrument )

 Didima is another musical instrument that finds mention in Natya Shastra .Dindima is folk instrument, made of hard wood; and, its length is measured as one and a quarter of an arm. It has a face, on each end, is said to be three quarters of an arm, in size. The faces are covered with animal skin. The right face is played with a stick; and, the left with the hands. Dindima is hung from the shoulder to the right side of the player. The sound produced is like Ding –Ding; and hence the name.  The Nāṭyaśāstra (4.250), mentions Dindima in the context of the dances performed by Shiva and Parvathi.

 DUNDUBHI  ( Avanaddha Vadya or percussion instrument )

 The Dundubhi  finds mention in Natya Shastra ( 2035-37)  . It can equated with today’s Nagara is perhaps the most ancient of conical drums; and finds mention in ancient texts. In the early times, it was used both in war and peace.  Natya Shastra mentions playing of Dundubhi during the auspicious ceremony of laying the foundation of the playhouse (Nātya-maṇtapa nivesanam),

 The Dundubhi is also  like a Nagara  kept  in temples and  beaten during worship or to announce prayers. The Nagara consists two conical bowl drums struck with sticks. The smaller of the two is higher in pitch; and, the larger has  a deeper tone . 

Describing the glory and the beauty of Ayodhya, the Ramayana informs,, “the city resounding with the rhythmic  drum beats of Dundubhi, Mrudanga and Panava; with the melodious tunes of string instruments like Veena , the city , indeed, was unique ; and undoubtedly the best city on earth .

.     SG Musical Nagada (Nagara) kettle drums 1.50 feet: Home & Kitchen                                                                       

                                                                                         ( A smaller version of Dundubhi)

 From 14th  century  onwards , music  and musical instruments in Kashmir underwent total change due to fall of the Hindu Kingdom and arrival of Islam. The ancient music that had survived subsequent to the invasion of Dulacha(Mongol invader ) received another severe setback at the hands of Sultan Sikander initially . The period of this Sultan was predominated by an official attitude of hatred towards music and dance. However ,  music was patronised by Sultan Zain ul Abdin and Sultan Ali Shah of Kashmir. They invited musicians from Central Asia . Accordingly, Santoor, Rabab , Sehtaar, Sarangi,Tumbhaknaari,Wasul/Dokra etc. arrived in Kashmir  from Iran, Samarkand, Tashkent  and some other countries along with Sufiana Music .

  ( Avtar Mota )

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.