Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘Origin and Development of Indian Music’ of the study on the elements of Art and Architecture according to the Vishnudharmottara Purana: an ancient text whose third book deals with various artisan themes such as Architecture, Painting, Dance, Grammar, etc. Many chapters are devoted to Hindu Temple architecture and the iconography of Deities and their installation rites and ceremonies.

2. Origin and Development of Indian Music

The origin of Indian Music can be traced back to the Vedic period and its origin can be seen in the pages of Vedic texts. As Vedic texts are regarded as the foremost written document in all over the world, Vedic mantras can be considered as the root of Indian Music. The metrical compositions of those Vedic mantras held the proof of having the sense of Music at that time. Among the four Vedas, the Ṛgveda and the Sāmaveda can be considered as the possessor of Music. Because, the Ṛgveda is the storehouse of metrical mantras[1] and some mantras of Ṛgveda are taken and established in the form of song in the Sāmaveda. There are only seventy five newly composed mantras in the Sāmaveda and the rest of the mantras were collected from the Ṛgveda.[2] The word Sāmaveda is the amalgamation of two words viz., sāman and veda. The word sāma or sāman means metrical hymn or song[3] and the term veda means knowledge. So from the derivation of the word Sāmaveda, it can be said that Sāmaveda belongs to the category of work which contains the knowledge of metrical hymns or songs. In the commentary of Sāyaṇa on Sāmaveda, he considers the Ṛgveda as the source of Sāmaveda and said that the Ṛgvedic mantras which are converted as songs are compiled in the Sāmaveda.[4]

In this context Sāyaṇa says as—

gītirūpāḥ mantrāḥ sāmāni.[5]

The Chāndogyopaniṣad[6] as well as the Kātyāyaṇaśrautasūtra[7] also agree on fact that the Ṛgvedic mantras are depicted as song in the Sāmaveda. The Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata also believes the origin of songs from Sāmaveda.[8] Vedic time, Gods used to be invited with the holy mantras of the Ṛgveda which are glorified with rhythm and song in the Sāmaveda and those mantras are turned into some melodious prayers. Yogiraj Basu also agrees on it in his work Veder Paricaya.[9] So, it can be said that the Sāmaveda has the root of Indian Music in real sense.

To give emphasis in this statement, the particular line from Saṃgītaratnākara can be stated in this context—

sāmavedādidaṃ gītaṃ saṃjagrāha pitāmahaḥ[10]

—“Pitāmaha Brahma collected the song from the Sāmaveda.”

After its origin, the development of Indian music has been going through different treatises of Sanskrit literature. The two epics viz., the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata also have numerous references of Music. The Rāmāyaṇa is composed in verses and its poetry of enduring beauty turns into Music with elegance and beautification. The Rāmāyaṇa itself mentions that the story of Rāma was rendered in songs by Lava and Kuśa and was presented with proper tāla and laya during the Aśvamedhayajña along with the play of vīṇā.[11] During the time of Rāmāyaṇa, Music used to be played in weddings and other auspicious occasions. In the coronation of Rāma, the people of Ayodhyā were seen to enjoy the pleasing Music played by the musicians.[12] Moreover, in the Sundarakāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa, it is stated that Music was played in the palaces of Laṅkā.[13] There are numerous references of Music scattered over the body of the Mahābhārata. During the time of Mahābhārata, women of the royal palaces were desirous to learn Music. In the Mahābhārata, Arjuna was seen to take the disguise of the character of a transgender named Bṛhannalā and he taught Music to the women of the royal palace of the king Virāṭa.[14]

Moreover, many works of later classical Sanskrit literature also bear numerous references of Music which gives a huge contribution in the development of Music. In the Kumārasambhava of Kālidāsa the reference of wind instrument is found. In the Kumārasambhava, it is said that the wind blew from the caves filled the holes of bamboo and it provides rhythm to the Kinnaras, desirous of singing.[15] In the Śiśupālavadha of Māgha also, a reference of flute is found where flute is considered as a pre-dominant instrument.[16] Moreover, in the Meghadūta of Kālidāsa, the Yakṣa’s wife is described to stay with a vīṇā and she is very much eager to sing a song for her husband Yakṣa.[17] Again, the rumbling of cloud is compared with the sound of drum in the Meghadūta.[18] In the Abhijñānaśakuntala of Kālidāsa, Haṃśapadikā is seen here practising Music with sweetness and clarity.[19] Moreover, the reference of Music hall is also found here.[20] In the Mṛcchakaṭikā of Śudraka also many references of practising Music is found. In the Mṛcchakaṭikā, Cārudatta is seen to appreciate the performance of a musician named Rebhila.[21]

Moreover, there are some authentic works which discuss Music and different aspects of Music very technically and systematically. Among those works–the Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata, the Nāradīyaśikṣā of Nārada, Bṛhaddeśī of Mātaṅga, Saṃgītaratnākara of Sāraṅgadeva, Saṃgītasudhākara of Haripāladeva, Saṅgītadarpaṇa of Dāmodara Miśra, etc. are remarkable. As a methodological works on Music, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa can be taken as a notable one. Though the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa is a purāṇa by nature, this work contains a large number of information about Music and its different elements. The discussion of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa in connection with Music is a technical and systematic one. It is important to note that in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, both vocal and instrumental Music have been discussed elaborately. These two forms of Music have been taken for elaboration here.

Footnotes and references:


teṣāmṛgyatrārthavaśena pādavyavasthā// Mimāṃsāsūtra, 2.1.35


[...] Vaidikasāhityacaritram, p.209


gītiṣu sāmākhyā/ Mimāṃsāsūtra, 2.1.36


[...] Sāmavedabhāṣyopakramaṇikā, Vedabhāṣyabhūmikāsaṃgraha, p.67


[...] Sāmavedabhāṣyopakramaṇikā, Vedabhāṣyabhūmikāsaṃgraha, p.67


….. tasmādṛcyadhyūḍhaṃ sāma gīyate…../ Chāndogyopaniṣad, 1.7.1


[...] Kātyāyaṇaśrautasūtra, 1.45


[...] Nāṭyaśāstra, 1.17


Basu, Yogiraj, Veder Paricaya, p.34


Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1, 1.25


[...] Rāmāyaṇa, 7.94.31.


[...] Ibid., 2.6.14.


[...] Ibid., 6.4.10


[...] // Mahābhārata, 4.3.24


[...] Kumārasambhava, 1.8


[...] Śiśupālavadha, 2.90


[...] Meghadūta, 2.26


[...] Meghadūta, 1.37


[...] Abhijñānaśakuntala, 5.p.158


[...] Abhijñānaśakuntala, 5.p.158


[...] Mṛcchakaṭika, 3.p.104

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