The Natyashastra

by Bharata-muni | 1951 | 240,273 words | ISBN-13: 9789385005831

The English translation of the Natyashastra, a Sanskrit work on drama, performing arts, theater, dance, music and various other topics. The word natyashastra also refers to a global category of literature encompassing this ancient Indian tradition of dramatic performance. The authorship of this work dates back to as far as at least the 1st millenn...

Part 2 - The Ancient Indian Theory and Practice of Music

1. The Indian Conception of Music

Though music occupied a very important place in the life of Indians of ancient time, one single word such as “Gāndharva” denoting all its different aspects (vocal as well as instrumental) appears only in the middle of the 4th century B.C.[1] This word occurs in the Jātakas. For according to the Guttila Jātaka (no.243) the legendary Brahmadatta was born in a family of Gandharvas (musicians), and after gaining a great proficiency in the art of music he came to be known as a Gandharva. As this Jātaka mentions playing of a Vīnā, and the two kinds of Mūrchanā[2] in this connection, the word Gāndharva in the sense of music may well be pre-Buddhistic. And it is certainly not later than 200 B.C. For it occurs in the Hāthigumphā inscription of Khārvela. In earlier times, gīta (song) and vādya (instrumental music) were separately mentioned, or the compound word gītavāditra (Pali, gītavāditta) represented music in its totality. But dance and drama (nṛtta, nṛtya and nāṭya) were very closely associated with music vocal and instrumental, from ancient times, possibly long before the time of Buddha. For prekṣā (Pali, pekkhā) was an equivalent of “Nāṭya” which included nṛtta, gīta and vāditra. Buddha forbade the monks to witness it (pekkha) as well as the separate performances of nṛtta, gīta and vāditra. Due to this very close association of the three arts, there came into vogue in about the 3rd century A.C. the word “Saṃgīta” for signifying by means of a single term all the different phases of music including dance. For, according to Indian conception, dance (nṛtta, nṛtya) owing its origin to rhythm like its vocal and instrumental counterparts, was a kind of music, the vehicle of rhythm in this case being human body with its different limbs. The Nāṭya also depending on nṛtta, nṛtya and abhinaya (gesture) belonged to the category of dance. Probably these facts led dance especially in its connexion with all kinds of dramatic spectacles, to a substantial union with music.

2. The Vocal Music

Though the vocal music was perhaps the oldest of human arts, its analytical study seems to have begun only after instruments of music came into existence and made considerable progress. For the NS says that the bases of musical notes (svara) are twofold: the Vīṇā of the human throat (lit. body) and the wooden Vīṇā (harp or lute), and derives the Śrutis (intervals) exclusively from the wooden Vinā. Now Śruti is the most important term in connection with the theory of Indian music.

(a) Śrutis.

Though the ancient Indian authorities differ from one another about the meaning of the word, it may be translated as “inervals” or “musical intervals”[3] which make up the notes of the octave (corresponding to Indian saptaka) in its different Grāmas.[4] The number of Śrutis in the Ṣaḍja Grāma are as follows: three in Ṛṣabha (ri), two in Gāndhāra (ga), four in Madhyama (ma), four in Pañcama (pa), three in Dhaivata (dha), two in the Niṣāda (ni) and four in Ṣaḍja (sa)[5] And the number of Śrutis in the Madhyama Grāma are as follows: four in Madhyama (ma), three in Pañcama (pa), four in Dhaivata (dha), two in Niṣāda (ni), four in the Ṣaḍja, three in Ṛṣabha (ri) and two in Gāndhāra (ga).[6]

(b) Mutual Relation of Notes.

According as they relate to an interval of more or less Śrutis, the notes in different Grāmas are called Consonant (saṃvādin), Assonant (anuvādin) and Dissonant (vivādin) with reference to the Sonant (vādin) note which has been described as “the melodic centre of the melody”[7]. For example, those two notes which are at an interval of nine or thirteen Śrutis from each other are mutually Consonant, e.g. Ṣaḍja and

Madhyama, Ṣaḍja and Pañcama, Ṛṣabha and Dhaivata, Gāndhāra and Niṣāda in the Ṣaḍja Grāma. Such is the case in the Madhyama Grāma except that Ṣaḍja and Pañcama are not Consonant while Pañcama and Ṛṣabha are so.[8].

(c) Different Gramas.

The Grāma may be translated as “scale”. There are three Grāmas in Indian music: Ṣaḍja, Madhyama and Gāndhāra. According to F. Strangways the Sa-grama (Ṣaḍja-grāma) is the western Major with a sharpened Sixth, the Ma-grāma (Madhyama-grāma) the western Major C-c, but intended presumably to be used as an F-f scale with a sharpened Sixth, and Ga-grāma (Gāndhāra-grāma) possibly intermediate between these two long obsolete (MH. p. 106). The NŚ does not describe this Gāndhāra Grāma, because it went out of use at its time.

(d) The Mūrchanās.

According to the Hindu theorists, each of the Grāmas is the source of seven Mūrchanās. About the meaning of the term Mūrchanā which is now generally considered to be equivalent to mode of the Greeks, there is some obscurity. The Ṣaḍja Grāma gives rise to seven Mūrchanās such as Uttara-maudrā, Rajanī, Uttarāyatā, Śuddhaṣaḍjā, Matsarīkṛtā, Aśvakrāntā and Abhirudgatā.[9] These are constituted as shown below.

sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni    Uttaramandrā[10]
ri-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa    Rajanī
ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri    Uttarāyatā
ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga    Śuddhaṣaḍjā
pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga-ma    Aśvakrāntā
dha-ni-sa-ri-ga-ma-pa    Matsarīkṛtā
ni-sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-dha    Abhirudgatā

The first six of these have a striking resemblance with the Greek[11] modes which having eight notes including the first note repeated at the end, are as follows:—

sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa       Ionian mode
ri-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri        Dorian mode
ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga       Phrygian mode
ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga-ma      Lydian mode
pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga-ma-pa       Mixolydian mode
dha-ni-pa-ri-ga-ma-pa-dha    Aeolian mode

The Madhyama Grāma[12] gives rise to the following seven Mūrchanās: Sauvīrī, Hariṇāśvā, Kalopanatā, Śuddhamadhyā, Mārgavī, Pauravī and Hṛṣyakā. These are constituted as shown below.

ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga    Sauvīrī
pa-dha-ni-sa-ri-ga-ma    Hariṇāśvā
dha-ni-sa-ri-ga-ma-pa    Kalopanatā
ni-sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-dha    Śuddhamadhyā
sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni    Mārgavi
ri-ga-ma-pa-dhi-na-sa    Pauravī
ga-ma-pa-dha-ni-sa-ri    Hṛṣyakā

The Gāndhāra Grāma also gave rise to seven Mūrchanās;[13] this Grāma becoming obsolete at the time of the NŚ, they were not mentioned by the author.

The four kinds of Mūrchanās—The Mūrchanās described above are heptatonic (pūrṇa-full). But there are also three other kinds of them, viz. hexatonic (ṣāḍava), pentatonic (auḍava) and Mūrchanās including Overlapping notes (sādhāraṇī-kṛtā).[14] To distinguish these three kinds from the heptatonic Mūrchanās they are also called Tānas.[15] Though these Mūrchanās and Tānas were used to embellish the songs, they were also used in connexion with the vocal training of the singer. For the NŚ says: The variety of the Tānas and the Mūrchanās thus arising, provides enjoyment to the hearer as well as to the musician. The Mūrchanā and Tāna are also of use because their practice helps the (easy) attainment of Voice-registers (sthānaprāpti)[16].

(e) The Voice-registers.

There are three Voice-registers the chest (uras), the throat (kaṇṭha) and the head (śiras)[17]. Notes and their pitches proceed from these three registers. In calling one who is at a great distance, notes proceeding from the head

register is used; but, for calling one who is not at a great distance, notes from the throat, and for calling a person who is by one’s side, notes from the chest register serve the purpose.

(f) The Overlapping note:

The Overlapping note mentioned above is a transitional note like Kākalī Nisāda.[18] As regards the use of the note in the Mūrchanā there appears to be a rule that it should be in the ascending scale (ārohin) and be made specially weakened (alpa). If it is made descending (avarohin) it will lead the Śrutis to Jāti rāgas or Jātis.

(g) The Jātis:

The Jātis whatever may be interpretation of this term by the scoliasts (?), probably stand for melody-types of the recognised kind, as opposed to those which were hybrids or got mixed up with folk-tunes.[19] Besides this, they developed some technical complexities from which the Mūrchanās, if they were melody-types too, were free. The Jātis eighteen in number were of two kinds; pure (śuddhā) and modified (vikṛtā).

In the Ṣaḍja Grāma the pure Jātis are Ṣāḍjī, Ārṣabhī, Dhaivatī and Naiṣādī,[20] and in the Madhyama Grāma, they are Gāndhārī, Madhyamā and Pañcamī. “Pure” in this connexion means having Aṃśa, Graha, and Nyāsa consisting of all the notes. When these Jātis lack two or more of the prescribed characteristics except the Nyāsa, they are called “modified” (vikṛtā).[21] In the observation of the Nyāsa in the pure Jātis, the note should be regularly Mandra, but in the case of the modified Jātis there is no (fixed) rule. The modified Jātis are eleven in number and they grow from combination of pure Jātis with each other. The Jātis which seem to be the fore-runner of later Indian Rāgas and Rāgiṇīs were sometimes, heptatonic, sometimes hexatonic and sometimes pentatonic. And they had ten characteristics such as, Graha, Aṃśa, Tāra, Mandra, Nyāsa, Apanyāsa, Reduction, Amplification, hexatonic treatment and pentatonic treatment.[22] Among these, Graha has been sometimes considered to be equivalent to “clef” of the western music. Aṃśa has been rightly compared

with ‘the Governing note’ or ‘the Keynote’ of the western music. The Nyāsa also has been compared with the cadence of the western music probably with some justification. The other terms in this connexion do not seem to have any equivalent in the western music.

(h) The Jātis and their connexion with the Sentiments:

As songs included in the performance of plays were meant, among other things, for the evocation of Sentiments according to the requirement of theatrical production, the Jāti songs had a distinct part to play in this regard. Hence the theorists have assigned them according to notes constituting them, to different Sentiments.[23] For example, the Ṣaḍjodīcyavatī and the Ṣaḍjamadhyā are to be applied in the Erotic and the Comic Sentiments respectively, because of Madhyama and Pañcama in them. The Ṣāḍjī and the Ārṣabhī are to be applied in the Heroic, the Furious and the Marvellous Sentiments after making respectively Ṣaḍja and Ṛṣabha their Graha note. The Naiṣādī with Niṣāda as its Aṃśa note and the Ṣaḍjakaiśikī with Gāndhāra as its Aṃśa note should be the Jāti to be sung in the Pathetic Sentiment. The Dhaivatī with Dhaivata as its Aṃśa note should be applied in the Odious and the Terrible Sentiments. Besides this, the Dhaivati is applicable in the Pathetic Sentiment and similarly the Ṣaḍjamadhyā is to be applied a connexion with madness.

(i) The Dhruvās:

The dramatic songs per excellence were the Dhruvās in which Varṇa, Alaṃkāra, tempo (laya), Jāti and Pāṇi regularly occurred. They were of five classes such as Prāveśikī, Ākṣepikī, Naiṣkrāmikī, Prāsādikī and Antarā related respectively to entrance (praveśa), diversion (ākṣepa), departure (niṣkrāma), calming (prāsāda) and transition (antara) in course of the progress of plays.[24]

Themes of various Sentiments sung at the entrance of characters in the stage are called Prāveśikī Dhruvās.[25]

Songs sung at the exit of characters to indicate their going out are called Naiṣkrāmikī Dhruvās.[26]

Antarā Dhruvās were sung to divert the attention of the audience from some shortcomings of the performance or when the principal characters became gloomy, absent-minded, angry etc.[27]

Prāsādikī Dhruvās were sung for claming the audience after they witnessed something which roused their feeling very much.[28]

Ākṣepikī Dhruvā was sung on occasions like one’s being captured, obstructed, fallen, attacked with illness, dead or in swoon.[29]

The dhruvās from their detailed description seem to have been a sort of “background” music suggesting acts and moods of different characters in a play. And the suggestion had its vehicle in the contents of songs as well as in their metre,[30] language,[31] tempo[32] and Tāla.[33] The two Vīṇās which were to follow the Dhruvās[34] also added to their power of suggestion.

(j) Contents of Dhruvās:

Dhruvās in case of men and women of superior, inferior or middling class should relate to objects comparable to them in quality.[35] In case of gods, and kings the comparable objects were the moon, fire, the sun and wind and in case of Daityas and Rākṣasas they are clouds, mountains and seas.[36]

Ex. (i) The moon which has its body covered with the canopy of clouds and has been robbed of beauty by the rays of the sun, and which has become colourless due to the advent of the morning, is no longer chasing the darkness with its (very bright) smile.

(ii) Here arises in the sky the sun the lamp of the world. He is clad with myriads of rays, and his warmth is adored by Brāhmins and Munis.

(iii) The strongly blowing wind, shaking the tree-tops with constant rustle, moving about at the foot of the mountain and raising up dusts red and brown, is running along like a very angry person.

(iv) This cloud looking like smoke is roaring and with its lightning, is, as it were, piercing the earth, and like a terrible elephant, it is pouring quickly masses of water to cover the entire world.

(v) With his head struck by lightning this lord of mountains sleeping under heat of fever, sinks down as it were into the earth.

(vi) The sea on which the wind has raised ripples and waves, which has become very noisy due to the succession of waves, has its birds scared by swiftly blowing wind, has more waves due to perturbed fishes, has the sound of agitated clouds, suddenly appears now angry at the moment being surrounded by high mountains.

In case of Siddhas, Gandharvas and Yakṣas the comparable objects were the plants, stars and bulls, and for those persons engaged in the practice of austerities, comparable objects were the sun, fire and wind.[37]

Ex. (i) On learning that the moon in the sky has lost her beauty on being eclipsed by Rāhu, the stars are weeping, as it were, in great grief, and are shedding tears in (the shape of) their rays.

(ii) The sun of unparalleled brightness which is the crown of the eastern mountain, and is adored by Brāhmins and Munis, is moving about in the sky.

Cranes, peacocks, Krauñca, ruddy geese and lakes with Kumuda flowers have qualities (enough) to be compared with middling characters.[38]

Ex. (i) The female crane which dwells in the lotus-lake is moving to her dearest one’s abode on the beach of the river.

(ii) At the appearance of clouds the peacocks are dancing.

(iii) The cakravākī with her lover is passionately moving about in water.

The cuckoo, bee, crow, osprey, owl, crane, pigeon and Kādamba are compared with inferior objects.[39]

Ex. (i) The cuckoo which has always a voice sweet to ears, is roaming about in the vernal forest where the Cūta, Tilaka, Kuruvaka and Aśoka trees have flowered and attracted humming bees, is creating intoxication in young damsels.

(ii) O fair one, the bee after roaming for a long time in the lotus-lake, is now flying through the sweet-smelling Cūta forest adorned by spring, and it has a desire for tasting the āsava (honey) from the mouth of its female companion.

(iii) At the close of the night the terrible owl which had a fearful hooting, has behind it a group of chasing crows, and it is (now) hastily searching for its own hollow (of the tree).

But the wives of superior, middling and inferior characters were compared with another set of objects or animals. The night, earth, moon-light, lotus-lake, female elephant and the river were compared with the wives of kings.[40]

Ex. (i) The night which has rays of the moon as her necklace, the stars as the head-ornaments, and planets as ornaments of other limbs, looks beautiful like a youthful woman.

(ii) The humming of bees declares, as it were, that the lotus-lake which has just now opened beautifully its lotus-face, is shining while it is surrounded by lovers of lotus.

(iii) In the great mountain ravaged by wind and struck by lightning, the she-elephant is weeping (in distress).

Similarly, lake, osprey, creeper, female crane, pea-hen and female deer were compared with, wives of middling characters as well as courtesans.[41] A hen, bee, crow, cuckoo and owl of the female species, were comparable in Dhruvās to wives of inferior characters.[42]

(k) Metres of Dhruvās:

Metres of varying length of their feet were suited to suggest different movements, situations and sentiments.[43] For example, in the various acts of gods when there was no obstacle, the Anuṣṭubh metre was to be used, and metres like Mālā, Vaktra and Aparavaktra were suited to Prāveśikī Dhruvās, and Puṭa and Cūlikā suited to Naiṣkrāmikī Dhruvās.

(l) Language of Dhruvās:

Though the general rule about

Dhruvās was that they were to be in Śaurasenī, some times Māgadhī, Sanskrit and half-Sanskrit also were used.[44].Māgadhi was evidently used in case of inferior characters. But Sanskrit was prescribed for heavenly beings, while in case of human beings half-Sanskrit was used. This half-Sanskrit was possibly something like the language of the metrical portion of the Mahāvastu.

(m) The Tāla and Graha of Dhruvās:

Definite instructions regarding the use of Kalās and Pādapāta show the important part Tāla played in singing of Dhruvās. The NŚ. devotes one long chapter XXXII over a very complex system of Tāla to be used in all kinds of musical performance iucluding the singing of Dhruvās. Besides this, there are special rules of Grahas for such Tālas in connexion with Dhruvās.[45]

(n) Special suggestibility of Dhurvās:

Besides suggesting the situations and moods of characters, Dhruvās suggested also the time of different happenings. For example, the Prāveśikī Dhruvā was sung to indicate anything in the forenoon and the Naiṣkrāmiki indicated anything occurring throughout the day and night. And gentle Dhruvās indicated the forenoon, while the pathetic Dhruvās indicated the happenings in afternoon and evening.[46]

3. The Instrumental Music

It has been suggested before[47] that the study and analysis of notes in songs began probably after the instruments of music were invented and considerably improved. The description of Varṇas and Alaṃkāras given in the NŚ. in the chapter on stringed instruments seems to suggest this. It is also clear that the stringed instruments (tata) especially the Vīṇā, played the most important part in this connexion. Besides the stringed ones there are also two other kinds of instrument. They are hollow (śuṣira), and the covered (avandha) or instruments of percussion.

(a) The Stringed Instruments:

(i) Varṇas: Varṇas[48] produced in a stringed instrument,[49] as they are in the ascending (ārohin) or descending (avarohin) order or are repeated (sthāyin -staying) or are mixed in form, are called respectively Ascending, Descending, Monotonic or Mixed Varṇas.

(ii) Alaṃkāras: The Varṇas in their different combinations give rise to thirty-three Alaṃkāras.[50] But this number varies with authors according as they are early or late. The Alaṃkāras as its name implies is meant for embellishing the instrumental music. Tānas seem to be the vocal counterpart of the Alaṃkāras of the stringed instruments.[51]

(iii) The Gītis: The NŚ mentions after the Alaṃkāras four Gītis (lit. songs). But their special connexion with the stringed instruments remains obscure. Gītis have been described by some as an ancient system of classification of rhythm.[52]

(iv) The Dhātus: (radical sounds).[53] The playing of stringed instruments have four kinds of Dhātus (radical sounds). They are Vistāra, Karaṇa, Āviddha and Vyañjana. All of these have subdivisions, and they relate to different types of stroke, their pitch, number, grouping and the manner of production. For example:

(1) The Vistāra includes four kinds of stroke: Saṃghātaja (growing out of contrast), Samavāyaja (growing out of combination). Vistāraja (growing out of amplitude) and Anubandhaja (growing out of mere succession).

(2) The Karaṇa Dhātu consists of three, five, seven or nine strokes or all these combining and ending in a heavy stroke.

(3) The Āviddha Dhātu consists of two, three, four or nine strokes made gradually and slowly, or a combination of these.

(4) The Vyañjana Dhātu consists of touching a string simultaneously with the two thumbs, striking a string simultaneously with the two thumbs, striking a string with the left thumb after pressing it with the right one, striking it with the left thumb only, and striking with the left forefinger only, etc.

(v) The Vṛttis: The Dhātus described above relate to the three Vṛttis in which the stringed instruments are to be played.[54] The Vṛttis or styles of Procedure are three: Citra, Vṛtti and Dakṣiṇa. They take their character from the kind of instrument, its Tāla, Laya, Gīti, Yati and the Grahamārga (way of beginning) resorted to in a performance. For example, in the Citra, the Māgadhī Gīti, concise instrumental music, Tāla of one Kalā, quick Laya, level Yati and Anāgata-Graha preponderate. In the Vṛtti style of procedure the Sambhāvitā Gīti instrumental music, * * the time-measure of two Kalās, the tempo medium, Srotogatā Yati Sama Grahamārga are preponderant. In the Dakṣiṇa style, the Pṛthula Gīti, Tāla of four Kalās, slow tempo, Gopucchā Yati and Atīta Grahamārga are preponderant.

These three styles of Procedure give quality to the instrumental music as well as to the song.

(vi) The Jātis of the Instrumental Music: Styles of Procedure described above give rise to the Jātis[55] of the instrumental music when Dhātus of different kind are combined with these. For example, Vistāra (expansion) Dhātus give rise to the Udātta Jāti of the instrument, the Vyañjana Dhātus the Lalita Jāti, the Āviddha Dhātus the Ribhita Jāti and the Karaṇa Dhātus the Ghana Jāti.

Among these, the Udātta Jāti seems to possess a general character, the Lalita Jāti is noted for its gracefulness, the Ribhita Jāti is characterised by its frequency of strokes and the Ghana seems to be characterised by its proper observance of quantity of strokes.

(vii) The special manner of playing the Vīṇā: After giving detailed instructions about the different aspects of the stringed instruments, the NŚ, mentions three kinds of music produced by the Vīṇā.[56] They are Tattva, Anugata and Ogha.[57]

The Tattva expresses properly the Laya, Tāla, Varṇa, Pada Yati and Akṣara of songs.

The Anugata is the iustrumental music following a song.

And the Ogha is the music which abounds in the Āviddha Karaṇas, has the Uparipāṇi Grahamārga, quick Laya, and does not care for the meaning of the song.

(viii) The special manner of playing the Vīpañcī: Like the Vīṇā which is to be played by fingers, the Vipañcī which is a Vīṇā with nine strings is to be played with a plectrum.[58] It seems to have six ways of producing Karaṇas from it. Karaṇas here, as in the case of dance, seems to have been minor patterns made up of notes.

(ix) Playing of stringed instruments before the Preliminaries: The twelve kinds of Bahirgīta or musical performance held before the actual beginning of a play, included playing of stringed instruments.[59] This seems to have been a musical prelude to prepare the audience for the dramatic spectacle which was to follow. Very elaborate instructions as regards the notes, Tāla and Laya, etc., of the twelve kinds of music described, shows with what seriousness the ancient masters looked to every part of a dramatic performance from the stand-point of music.

(b) Hollow Instruments:

Hollow (śuṣīra) musical instruments were originally made of Vaṃśa (bamboo).[60] Hence they were called Vaṃśa-vādya or in short Vaṃśa (flute). In later times flutes were made of wood, ivory and of different kinds of metal. Notes of a flute were known to consist of two, three and four śrutis, and according to their manner of production they were shaken (kampita), half-open (ardha-mukta) and fully open (vyakta-mukta). Just as additional Śrutis changed the character of a note of the Vīṇā, so addition of a Śruti gave rise to a changed note.

The note produced from a flute-hole thoroughly free from finger, consists of four Śrutis, that from a hole with a shaken finger placed on it, consists of three Śrutis, and a note consisting of two Śrutis is produced from a hole partly free from a finger on it.

All these are the notes in the Madhyama Grāma. Notes of the Ṣaḍja Grāma will be as follows:—Ṣaḍja, Madhyama and Pañcama will arise from a hole fully open, Dhaivata and Ṛṣabha from a hole covered by a shaken finger, and from a hole partly free from finger Gāndhāra and Niṣāda will arise. Niṣāda and Gāndhāra coming respectively in juxtaposition with Ṣaḍja and Madhyama and modifying themselves in characteristic Śrutis, will give rise to Overlapping (Svarasādhāraṇa) and the Kākalī notes.

According to the NŚ, the notes of a flute should be perfected with the help of the Vīṇā and the human throat. The very notes which the singer has attained, should be sung in accompaniment of a flute. A unision of the human throat, the Vīṇā and the flute is specially praised.

(c) Covered Instruments (Instrument of Percussion):

The chapter on Covered musical instruments begins with a legendary account of their origin. The story goes that one day the sage (muni) Svāti watched the sounds that torrential rains made on the lotus-leaves in a lake, and got therefrom the suggestion of making drums.[61] Drums give rise to regular notes, Karanas[62] and Jātis.[63] But among them the Mṛdaṅga, Paṇava and Dardara (Dardura) more important than the rest, are used much in connexion with the production of plays.[64] Drums called Bherī, Paṭaha, Bhambhā, Dundubhi and Diṇḍima are merely for very deep and loud sounds.[65]

(i) The Vāskaraṇa: The various syllables (sixteen in number) available from the drums are as follows:

k, kh, g, gh, t, th, d, n t, th, d, dh, m, r n, 1 and h combined with the vowels a, ā, i, 1, u, ū, e, ai, o au, aṃ, aḥ; they give rise to all the Vāskaraṇa or Bol[66] of the modem drummers.

(ii) The music of drums has the following aspects[67]: Four Mārgas, Vilepana (plastering), six Karaṇas, Three Yatis, three Layas, three Gatis, three Pracāras, three Saṃyogas, three Pāṇis, five Pāṇi-prahatas, three Prahāras, three Mārjanās, eighteen Jātis and twenty Prakāras.

Hence it is apparent that the playing of drums was a pretty complex affair.

All the three principal drums, had their own peculiarities of technique, in spite of their having some common features in this regard. Thus there were almost endless varieties of playing of drums, and these were to accompany the various activities of different types of character on the stage[68]. For example, in walking and other movements, the experts were to provide for playing of drums with Tālas of three or four kalās, after considering the tempo and the manner of walking of characters concerned. In case of movements of boats, chariots, and aerial cars, birds, moving heavenly bodies, the playing of drums should be by running the fingers on the surface of the drums, or by Catuṣkala strokes with two hands alternately. In case of sorrow, suffering, illness, cure, death of dear ones, loss of wealth, killing, imprisonment, vow, austerity, fasting, etc. the playing drums in the Utthāpana should be according to the Ālipta-mārga mentioned before.

This playing of drums varied as the character concerned were superior, middling, inferior or male, female or hermaphrodite. The NŚ lays down elaborate rules in this regard.

(iii) Making of Drums. Elaborate rules have been given about the making of drums[69]. Characteristics of good hides to cover them have also not been left unmentioned[70]. There were elaborate ceremonies prescribed for the installation of drums, in connexion with which various deities were to be worshipped[71]

(iv) The chapter on drums after describing in detail the characteristics of good drummers[72], of a good player of Mṛdaṅga[73] and Paṇava, the general rules of drumming[74] and qualities of the Mṛdaṅga[75], emphasizes the importance of drumming as follows:

“One should first of all bestow care on the playing of drums. For this playing has been called the basis of the dramatic performance. This playing, and songs being well-performed the production of plays does not run any risk”[76]

Footnotes and references:


Though some of the Jātakas may be as old as the time of Buddha, all of them may not reach back to such antiquity. But it may be that they were in existence in the 4th century B.C., cf. Winternitz, Vol. II. p. 121.


In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa the Uttaramandrā Mūrchanā has been mentioned. See JAOS Vol. 50, 53 and Journal Univ. of Baroda Vol. II, pp. 263ff.


See p. 7. footnote 4


See XXVIII. 24.


See XXVIII. 25. 26.


See XXVIII. 27. 28.


See XXVIII 22 fn. 1.


See XXVIII 22-23.


See XXVIII. 29.


See note 2 above.


These Greek modes were modified by St. Ambrose (c. 4th century) and partly by St. Gregory (604 A.C.). See ERE.


Sec XXVIII. 30.


See NāŚ. 1. 2. 9 and SR. 1. 4 25-26.


See XXVIII. 32-33.


See notes on XXVIII. 33-34.


See “The two ways of Tānas” under XXVIII-33-34 (pp. 12-13).


See XX, 38-40, 41-42.


Daniélou calls it “intercalary note”. See XXVIII. 34-35.


For the meaning of Jāti see the note on XXVIII. 38-39 (p. 14). A Daniélou’s interpretation of the word does not seem to be convincing (see Northern Indian Music, pp. 101, 122-123). See also XXVIII. 38-44.


See XXVIII. 44.




See XXVIII. 74-100.


See XIX. 1ff.


See XXXII. 26-27.


See XXXII. 365.


See XXXII. 366.


See XXXII. 367.


See XXXII. 368.


See XXXII. 373.


See XXXII. 37ff.


See XXXII. 440ff.


See XXXII. 32ff.




See XXXII. 499-500.


See XXXII. 407


See XXXII 408 and the notes.


See XXXII 409 and the notes.


See XXXII 415 and the notes.


See XXXII 416 and the notes.


See XXXII 418 and the notes


See XXXII 419 and the notes


See XXXII 420 and the notes


See XXXII 427ff; 444ff.


See XXXII 440ff.


See XXXII 471ff.


See XXXII 464ff.


See above p. 6 of this Introduction.


Modern writers except Daniélou have mostly ignored this. A. Daniélou (NIM p. 99) translates this as “Melodic movement”. See XXIX 17-18 and the notes.


Vocal Music also includes Varnas.


A. Daniélou translates this as “Ornamental vocalization” (Northern Indian Music p 102). Other modern writers except Krishnadhan Banerji have ignored this. His treatment (G.S.I.p. 124) however is very short.


It seems that with the development of the Rāga music, Alaṃkāras and Varṇas which constituted them became less important in the eyes of musicians. Hence in spite of their use no one paid special attention to them.


HIMANSU BANERJI thinks that an old system of classification of rhythm depended on the Gīti and it also included special formation of syllables and variation of speed. See GS. II pp. 72-73. Other modern writers ignore this altogether. The function of Gīti in the dramatic performance is not clear.


See XXIX, 82ff. and the notes. Modern writers ignore this altogether.


55. See XXIX. 105ff.


54. See XXIX. 102ff. and the notes. Modern writers ignore this altogether.


For the identification of Vīṇā and its different parts see A. K. Coomaraswamy’s Parts of a Vīṇā in JAOS, Vol. 50. 1930 (pp. 244ff).


See XXIX. 108ff.


See XXIX. 114ff.


See XXIX. 122ff.


See XXXIII. 4ff.


See XXXIII. 4ff.


See XXXIII. 91ff.


See XXXIII. 129ff.


See XXXIII. 65-91.


See XXXIII. 27.


See XXXIII, 30, 40, 42.


See XXXIII. 37ff. The text enumerating the three Jātis and the three Layas contain a misprint (omission).


See XXXIII. 227ff.


See XXXIII. 242ff.


See XXXIII. 250ff.


SeeXXXIII. 259ff.


See XXXIII. 263ff.


See XXXIII. 295-296.


See XXXIII. 299.


See XXXIII, 300.


See XXXIII. 301.

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