Indian Music and Spirituality Go Hand in Hand
Music and spirituality are synonymous, especially in the context of Indian music. You can surmise this from the study of ethnomusicology that is taught at many universities in the US.
Most of the musicians will vouchsafe that music and spirituality are interlinked. Indian musicians may also state that music and spirituality are related because there is a distinct co-relation between spiritualism and religion. And all musicians follow the best practices in one religion or the other depending on the country they reside in.
The expert authors at Mouls Inc. official blog feel that it is now imperative to let people learn the definitions of the three main terms linked with the concept of music and spirituality. These three terms are Music, Spirituality and the adjunct Religiosity with Indian connotations.
As you already know, music is a performing art that consists of sequences of sounds with a definite pitch and is presented melodically and rhythmically. Some of the musical melodies, especially in Indian music, are dependent on the time-period called ‘prahar’ of the day and night. Such melodies or Indian ragas are time-specific meaning that they can be sung or played on an instrument only at a particular period of day or night. The main reason for this is to make the notes (‘swaras’) of that particular raga — both ascending (‘aroha’) and descending (‘avroha’) — more effective on the listeners. In simple words, the notes of that raga can then evoke the desired emotions. For example, the Indian raga Malhar is associated with rainy season. When a musician renders this raga using the appropriate notes, the mood of monsoon is created and the cognoscenti can experience the feeling of raining close by outside.
Music and spirituality are also considered synonymous because of another factor.
The Indian ragas are exclusively focused on creating what is known as ‘rasa’. In simple words, these melodies produce a particular mood or definitive emotions. The emotions that the ragas can generate are nine— amorous, humorous, peaceful, melancholic, anger, heroic, scary, disgust and amazement.
Almost all musicians worldwide and the cognoscenti believe that Indian music has its origin in religion. And based on the history of Indian music, this is true. You are aware that there are many gods, goddesses and deities in the Hindu pantheon. You may have observed that Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of knowledge and wisdom) is usually depicted holding the ancient stringed-instrument Veena. Similarly, Lord Shiv is associated with the percussion instrument ‘Damru’ or drum. And you cannot forget Lord Krishna who always carries his flute and lured everybody including the ‘gopis’.
However, over a period of time, these ancient musical instruments were modified and made ‘user-friendly. Veena has several variations such as Vichitra Veena, Rudra Veena, Dattatreya Veena etc. In modern times, you also have the Mohan Veena made by Grammy award winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
The ‘Damru’ has also undergone perceptible changes and you can see percussion instruments such as Pakhawaj, Mrudagam, Tabla, Dholak, Naal etc. The woodwind instrument flute too has been modified; it is now created from different kinds of wood plus metal. Also, the flute is available in different sizes so as to render the exact notes and produce the appropriate sound and effect.
Let us delve deeper on the concept of music and spirituality. After instrumental music, let us focus our attention on vocal music. As per the holy texts and scriptures, the first sound in the universe is believed to be ‘Om’ (Aum) and this is considered to be the ‘Bramh-naad’. Over the years, more and more systematic sounds evolved. Mankind learnt the art of creating voices in different pitches and tones after listening to the sounds made by birds, animals, water in the rivers, echo effects in the hills and valleys etc. Gradually, more systematic sounds or songs were created by mankind and sung praising the Almighty God. This kind of singing, called ‘Dhrupad’ (Dhruvapad), was done in ancient temples. This term seems to have been derived from ‘druva’ meaning ‘fixed’ and ‘pad’ referring to a ‘poem’ implying a verse set to music. Therefore, Dhrupad is usually a religious poem and believed to have been evolved from ‘Sam Veda’, one of the four Vedas. By delving deeper, you may note that the words frequently deployed in ‘Dhrupad’ are “Nom” and ‘Tom”. It is a reference to the God because the full text of these words is believed to be: “Om, Anant Narayan Hari” that eventually became “Nom-Tom”. Over a period of time, the Dhrupad paved the way for khayals, thumris, dadras, bhajans etc. And in most cases, the devotional or religious fervor continues highlighting that music and spirituality are synonymous.
At this juncture, the religiosity associated with music is amply clear. Can you define religion? This is a wide term with lot of connotations. The common perception is that the religion is a group of beliefs that is ingrained with devotional and ritual observances and usually agreed upon by people or sects. When musicians, vocalists and instrumentalists render compositions appropriately, especially religious in nature, they are most likely to go into a trance or experience a lofty and pleasant feeling.
As stated above, religion and spirituality are inter-linked. So how do they take form in music? What precisely is spirituality? It is, indeed, very difficult to provide an accurate definition of spirituality as it has vast connotations. However, the trance-like or celestial experience these musicians get is akin to spirituality. Anything that facilitates peace and tranquillity of mind, joyfulness and cheerfulness is considered to be spiritual power.
So let us understand the difference between religion and spirituality in the context of music. In simple words, religion is based on some rules and practices that offer an outward experience while spirituality is related to inner and ecstatic experiences. Spirituality in music is a highly personal and inexplicable inner experience of genuine artistes.
You can, therefore surmise that music and spirituality are synonymous. In conclusion, you can state the vital aspect that music is a performing art, religion is about practising the best and acceptable devotional practices and spirituality refers to an inner inexplicable experience of musicians.