Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘Vocal Music (Gita)’ 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.

3. Vocal Music (Gīta)

The wave of sound is believed as śabdabrahma.[1]

In the Maitreyopaniṣad, the knowledge of śabdabrahma is considered as the ultimate way of realizing the supreme spirit

śabdabrahmaṇi niṣṇātaḥ paraṃ brahmādhigacchati.[2]

Śabda or nāda[3] i.e., sound is the soul of vocal Music.[4] In ancient time, the ṛṣis have the power to realise the existence of natural forces and united themselves with the natural powers. In Vedic time the sages used to believe the natural elements such as Agni, Indra, Varuṇa etc. as their gods and eulogized them with some stutis i.e., prayers. The stutis are basically the Ṛgvedic mantras which are composed with tune and melody in the Sāmaveda to worship the deities. In the Saṃgītaratnākara also, it is said that deities are pleased with the vocal Music.[5] So, it can be said that the Vedic mantras are the foremost form of vocal music.

1. Different Elements of Vocal Music:

Vocal Music has got a great history of development. As it developed, vocal Music had received various dimensions. There are various elements of vocal Music and it can be studied, analysed and practised on the basis of these elements. Though vocal Music has various elements, some are regarded as fundamental. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa offers a detail analysis on the fundamental elements of vocal Music which has been taken here for discussion.

a) The Organs of Utterance:

During the practise of Vocal Music, the proper production of the concerned sound is always considered as very important. Sthāna or ucchāraṇasthāna is the place of articulation of sound. Bhattojidīkṣita explains the sūtra [tulyāsyaprayatnaṃ savarṇam[6]] of Pāṇini in his Siddhāntakaumudī and said about ten kinds of sthāna i.e., the organs of utterance.

These ten kinds of organs of utterance are—

  1. kaṇṭha i.e., throat,
  2. tālu i.e., palate,[7]
  3. mūrdha i.e., the forehead,[8]
  4. danta i.e., teeth,
  5. oṣṭha i.e., lips,
  6. nāsikā i.e., nose,
  7. kaṇṭhatālu,
  8. kaṇṭhoṣṭha,
  9. dantoṣṭha and
  10. anusvāra.[9]

On the other hand in the Saṃgītaratnākara, five kinds of sthānas are accepted.[10] These are—

  1. nābhi i.e., navel[11] ,
  2. hṛd i.e., heart[12] ,
  3. kaṇṭha i.e., throat,
  4. mūrdhā i.e., head and
  5. āsya i.e., mouth[13] .

It is an important fact that the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa accepts only three sthānas viz.,

  1. uras i.e., chest[14] ,
  2. kaṇṭha i.e., throat and
  3. śiras i.e., head.[15]

In this context the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa seems to follow the Nāradīyasikṣā as this work also accepts three kinds of sthānas.[16]

b) Three Scales of Music:

In Indian Music, the word saptaka is used to denote the scale or octave of Music. Actually the scale of seven notes is called as saptaka.[17] According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, three kinds of scales or octaves viz., mandra i.e., low pitch[18] , madhya i.e., medium pitch and tāra i.e., high pitch[19] are there in Music and these three kinds of octaves occur from the three respective sthānas viz., chest, throat and head.[20] The mandra saptaka is basically the amalgamation of low notes which come out from the deep of the heart.[21] The madhya i.e., medium notes come from the throat and the tāra i.e., high notes come from the head.[22] To practise classical Music, the singers are generally seen to adopt the madhyasaptaka i.e., middle scale. According to the Saṃgītaratnākara, mandrasvara is denoted by an overhead dot, tārasvara by an overhead vertical line.[23]

c) Mūrcchanā:

In Music, the ārohaṇa i.e., ascending[24] and avarohaṇa i.e., descending[25] of a scale in correct order is known as mūrcchanā.[26] The term mūrcchanā is derived from the root mūrcch which means to increase.

The Saṃgītaratnākara gives the definition of mūrcchanā as—

kramātsvarāṇāṃ saptānāmārohaścāvarohaṇa/ mūrcchanetyucyate….[27]

“The ascending and the descending movement of the seven svaras in successive order is considered as mūrcchanā.”

In the Nāṭyaśāstra[28] fourteen types of mūrcchanās are accepted where as the Nāradīyāsikṣā[29] accepts twenty. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa twenty one types of mūrcchanās are accepted and those are said to be related to seven svaras and are dependent on each of three grāmas.[30] Among the twenty one mūrcchanās, seven mūrcchanās viz., sauvīrī, hāriṇāśva, kalopanatā, śuddhamadhyamā, mārgī, pauravī and ṛṣyakā are related to madhyamagrāma.[31] The seven mūrcchanās viz., uttarāsañja, prāñcinī, uttarāyatā, śuddhā, ṣaḍjā, matsarīkṛtā, aśvakrāntā and udgatā are related to ṣaḍjagrāma.[32] Again the seven mūrcchanās viz., ālāpī, kuntimā, śraddhā, uttarā, ṣadjā, pancāyatā and udgatā belong to gāndhāragrāma.[33] The Saṃgītaratnākara also gives a similar note.[34]

d) Three Kinds of Grāmas:

The term grāma plays a great role in Indian Music. According to the Saṃgītaratnākara, grāma is a collection of svaras which forms on the basis of mūrcchanā.[35] In Indian Music the gamut in which the collection of mūrcchanā, karma, tāna, varṇa, alaṃkāra, and jāti can be found is called as grāmas.[36] The Nāṭyaśāstra[37] accepts two kinds of grāmas where as the Nāradīyasikṣā accepts three grāmas.[38]

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa also three kinds of grāmas are accepted which are:

  1. ṣaḍja,
  2. madhyama and
  3. gāndhāra.[39]

e) Notes of Music:

Notes of Music are known as svaras in Indian Music. The sound which has the quality of satisfying nature to please the listeners’ minds and also has śrutis immediately before it is called a svara.[40]

In the Saṃgītaratnākara also it is said that

śrutibhyaḥ syuḥ svarāḥ.[41]

That means the svaras were there in the śrutis.[42] Though the term śruti denotes Veda, but subsequently it developed a technical dimension in Indian Classical Music. Śruti is nothing but the unit of measurement of the pitch or notes.[43] In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, seven kinds of svara are accepted. These are-ṣaḍja, ṛṣabha, gāndhāra, madhyama, pañcama, dhaivata and niṣāda.[44] The Saṃgītaratnākara also accepts seven numbers of svara.[45] Generally the seven notes viz., ṣaḍja, ṛṣabha, gāndhāra, madhyama, pañcama, dhaivata and niṣāda are denoted with the initials as-S, R, G, M, P, D, N respectively.[46] It is seen that when two separate musical sounds occur at one time and both are gradually rising in one pitch following a particular direction, those sounds can be called as svaras.[47] In the Abhijñānaśakuntala also the reference of mingling of notes can be seen.[48]

f) Tāna:

tanyate vistāryate iti tānaḥ[49] –the derivation of the word tāna denotes that tāna is that which spreads. The word tāna is derived from the root tan[50] which means to spread.[51] According to the Nāṭyaśāstra, tānas are dependent on mūrcchanā.[52]

In the Saṃgītaratnākara, tāna is broadly divided into two types viz.,

  1. śuddha and
  2. kuṭa.

When there is the dropping of one or two notes[53] in śuddhamūrcchanās, it is known as śuddhatānas.[54] On the other hand, the complete or incomplete mūrcchanās with their notes[55] become kuṭatānas.[56]

Again under the group of śuddhamūrcchanā, there are two types of tānas viz.,

  1. ṣāḍava and
  2. auḍuva.

According to the, the Saṃgītaratnākara, seven notes of ṣaḍjagrāma where S, R, P and N are omitted make twenty eight tānas. Similarly, seven notes of madhyamagrāma with the omission of S, R and G make twenty one tānas. And thus, ṣāḍaja contains forty nine tānas.[57] Again, seven notes of ṣaḍjagrāma excluding S, P, G, N, and R make twenty one tānas. Likewise, seven notes of madhyamagrāma with the exclusion of R and D and G and N make fourteen tānas. Thus in total, they make thirty five auḍuvatānas.[58] In this way the number of tānas becomes eighty four with the amalgamation of ṣāḍava and auḍuva tānas.[59] The Saṃgītaratnākara is seen to follow the Nāṭyaśāstra in this context.[60]

But in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, only forty nine kinds of tānas are accepted under three grāmas viz.,

  1. madhyama,
  2. ṣaḍja and
  3. gāndhāra.

In this regard, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa keeps totally different view point in comparison to that given in the Nāṭyaśāstra and the Saṃgītaratnākara.

According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the madhyamagrāma contains twenty tānas viz.,

  1. agniṣṭomika,
  2. atyagniṣṭomika,
  3. vājapeyika,
  4. pauṇḍarika,
  5. āśvamadhika,
  6. rājasūyika,
  7. bahusuvarṇika,
  8. gosavika,
  9. mahāvratika,
  10. brahmatāna,
  11. prājapatya,
  12. nāgārśraya,
  13. yajñāśraya,
  14. godāika,
  15. hayakrānta,
  16. ajakrānta,
  17. viṣṇukrānta,
  18. araṇya,
  19. mattakokila and
  20. ujjivīka.

Fourteen tānas belong to the ṣaḍjagrāma, viz.,

  1. prasvāpana,
  2. paiśāca,
  3. jivana,
  4. sāvitra,
  5. ardhasāvitra,
  6. sarvatobhadra,
  7. suvarna,
  8. viṣṇu,
  9. jiṣṇu,
  10. viṣṇuara,
  11. śāradā,
  12. vijaya,
  13. haṃsa and
  14. jyeṣṭha.

Again the gāndhāragrāma contains fifteen tānas viz.,

  1. tumburapriya,
  2. mahālakṣmaṇa,
  3. gandharvānumata,
  4. alambusapriya,
  5. nāradapriya,
  6. bhīmasenapriya,
  7. vinata,
  8. mātaṅga,
  9. bhārgavapriya,
  10. abhirāma,
  11. samśrāvya,
  12. kinnarapriya,
  13. puṇya,
  14. manohara and
  15. kalyāṇakara.[61]

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the reference of kuṭatānas is totally not found.

g) Jāti:

In the Kalānidhi commentary of Kallinātha on Saṃgītaratnākara, the term jāti is explained in plural number as jātis. So it can be assumed that this name is applied as this comprised a proper combination of two grāmas.[62] Moreover, on the basis of the example of jāti as cowness, which is manifested in all individual cows, it is stated that jātis are also inherent in rāgas in varied and derivative forms.[63]

In the Nāṭyaśāstra, jātis are broadly divided into two types viz.,

  1. śuddhā and
  2. vikṛtā.

The Saṃgītaratnākara also agrees on it.[64] But in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the reference about the types of jātis is not found.

The Nāṭyaśāstra, again accepts ten kinds of characteristic features of jātis. These are—

  1. graha,
  2. aṃśa,
  3. tāra,
  4. mandra,
  5. nyāsa,
  6. apanyāsa,
  7. alpatva,
  8. bahutva,
  9. ṣāḍava and
  10. auḍava.[65]

On the other hand the Saṃgītaratnākara accepts thirteen kinds of characteristic features of jātis.

Along with the ten kinds as accepted by the Nāṭyaśāstra, the Saṃgītaratnākara mentions three more viz.,

  1. sanyāsa,
  2. vinyāsa and
  3. antaramārga.[66]

But in this context the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa seems to follow the Nāṭyaśāstra as this work accepts ten kinds of characteristics features of jātis with similar titles.[67]

h) Alaṃkāra:

The word alaṃkāra literary means ornaments[68] which increases the beauty. As ornaments like kaṭaka, kuṇḍala etc. increase the beauty of a person, the words mingled with kāvyālaṃkāra enhances the beauty of a poetic composition.[69] In Music also when a raw composition is decorated with various melodic and rhythmic phases and are presented before the listener, those elements except the fixed composition, are regarded as alaṃkāras. Alaṃkāras enhance the beauty of a composition. Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri also accepts it in his work The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music.[70]

The Nāṭyaśāstra also gives emphasis on the importance of alaṃkāras in Music and states as melody without alaṃkāras would be like a night without the moon, a river without water, a creeper without flowers and a lady without ornaments.

śaśinā rahiteva niśā vijaleva nadī latā vipuṣpeva/
avibhūṣiteva kāntā
gītiralaṃkārahīnā syāt//[71]

In the Saṃgītaratnākara, alaṃkāras are divided into five groups. These are—

  1. sthāyīvarṇālaṃkāra which consists of seven ālaṃkāras;
  2. ārohīvarṇālaṃkāra that consists of twelve ālaṃkāras;
  3. avarohīvarṇālaṃkāra which consists of twelve ālaṃkāras;
  4. sañcārivarṇālaṃkāra which consists of twenty five ālaṃkāras and
  5. saptānyalaṃkāra that contains seven ālaṃkāras.

In this way, altogether sixty three types of ālaṃkāras are found in the Saṃgītaratnākara.[72] But in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, only four kinds of ālaṃkāras are accepted and those belong to the sthāyīvarṇālaṃkāra group as mentioned in the Saṃgītaratnākara.

These four kinds of ālaṃkāra have been discussed here-

i) Prasannādi: If two mandrasvaras i.e., lower notes are followed by one tārasvara i.e., high note, it is considered as prasannādi. For example-Ṡ Ṡ Ś.[73]

ii) Prasannānta: It is the reverse form of prasannādi, i.e., if one high note is followed by two lower notes, it becomes prasannānta. For example-Ś Ṡ Ṡ.[74]

iii) Prasannādyanta: If a higher note is placed in between two lower notes, it is considered as prasannādyanta. For example: Ṡ Ś Ṡ.[75]

iv) Prasannamadhya: The prasannamadhya is totally opposite of the prasannādyanta. Here one lower note is placed between two higher notes. For example-Ś Ṡ Ś.[76]

2. The Relation of Sentiments with svara and laya:

Seven kinds of svaras i.e., musical notes are there in Indian classical Music which have already been discussed. An inherent relationship between the svaras and the rasas i.e., sentiments seems to be accepted by different Śāstrakaras.

There are nine kinds of sentiments viz.,

  1. śṛṅgāra i.e., erotic,
  2. hāsya i.e., humour,
  3. karuṇa i.e., pathos,
  4. raudra i.e., furious,
  5. vīra i.e., heroic,
  6. bhayānaka i.e., terrible,
  7. adbhuta i.e., wonder,
  8. bībhatsa i.e., odious and
  9. śānta i.e., quietism.[77]

In the Nāṭyaśāstra some particular svaras are determined for the delineation of some specific sentiments. In the Nāṭyaśāstra it is accepted that-the notes madhyama and pañcama are used to delineate the sentiments of hāsya and śṛṅgāra. The sentiments viz., vīra raudra and adbhuta are delineated with the notes ṣadja and ṛṣabha. Karuṇarasa is established with gāndhāra and niṣāda. Moreover, the note dhaivata is used to delineate the bībhatsa and bhayānaka sentiments.[78] The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa seems to follow the views of the Nāṭyaśāstra in this context.[79] Besides all these eight kinds of sentiments, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa accepts madhyama is the delineator of śāntarasa.[80] This establishes a close connection between notes and sentiments.

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the laya i.e., the tempo[81] of Music is also determined according to the sentiments. According to the Nāṭyaśāstra, laya or tempo is made according to the time of kalās. Kalā arises from the collection of mātrās. The time period of one mātrā is calculated with five nimeṣas[82] i.e., five times blinking of eyes[83] .

The Nāṭyaśāstra accepts three kinds of layas viz.,

  1. druta i.e., speedy[84] ,
  2. madhyamā i.e., middle and
  3. vilambita[85] i.e., slow.[86]

According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the tempo should be madhyamā i.e., middle or so to say as normal in hāsya and śṛṅgāra. For bībhatsa and bhayānaka, the vilambita i.e., slow tempo is used and for raudra and adbhuta, the druta i.e., speedy tempo should be used.[87]

Footnotes and references:


anādinidhanaṃ brahma śabdatatvaṃ yadakṣaram/ Vākyapadīya, 1.1


[...] Maitreyopani ad, 6.22


nādaḥ śabdaḥ/ Śabdakalpadruma, Vol-3, p.858


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, Vol-1, 2.1


[...] Ibid., 1.26


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.234


Ibid., p.444


[...] Vaiyākaraṇasiddhāntakaumudī, 1.pp.17-18


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1, 3.4-5


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.284


Ibid., p.642


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.91


Ibid., p.117


……trīṇi sthānāni uraḥ kaṇṭhaḥ śiraśca../ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.18. p. 36


uraḥ kaṇṭhaḥ śiraścaiva sthānāni trīṇivāṅmaye/ Nāradīyāśikṣā, 1.1.7


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.111


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.425


Ibid., p.233


….trīṇi sthānāni uraḥ kaṇṭhaḥ śiraśca, tebhyo mandramadhyatārotpattiḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.18. p. 36


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.147


Ibid., p.147


…..syānmandro binduśirā bhavet/ ūrdhvarekhāśirāstāro…...............// Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1, 6.8


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.86


Ibid., p.61


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.75


Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1, 4.8-9


atha mūrcchanāḥ dvaigrāmikyaścaturdaśaḥ/ Nāṭyaśāstra, 28.p.962


[...] Nāradīyāśikṣā, 1.2.4


ekaviṃśatimūrcchanāḥ sapta sapta pratigrāmāśritāḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.19. p. 36


[...] Ibid., 3.19. p. 36


[...] Ibid., 3.19. p. 36


[...] Ibid., 3.19. p. 38


Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1, 4.10-15


[...] Ibid., vol-1, 4.1


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.44


atha dau grāmau ṣaḍjao madhyamaśceti/ Nāṭyaśāstra, 28.p.954


……trayo grāmā…../ Nāradīyāśikṣā, 1.2.4


[...] Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.18. p. 36


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.122


Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1,3.23


śrutibhyaḥ svarāṇāṃ niṣpattim.... / Saṃgītaratnākara, Kalānidhi commentary, Vo-1, p.78


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.114


[....] Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.18. p. 36


Saṃgītaratnākara, vol-1, 3.23


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.123


Ibid., p.122


kalaviśuddhāyā gīteḥ svarasaṃyogaḥ śrūyate/ Abhijñānaśakuntala, 5.p.158


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, Kalānidhi commentary, Vol-1, 4. p.115


[...] Śabdakalpadruma, Vol-3, p.603


tan, vistṛtau/ Śabdakalpadruma, Vol-3, p.583


tatra mūrcchanāsaṃśritāstānāḥ…… Nāṭyaśāstra, 28.p.964


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, ā Kalānidhi commentary, Vol-1, 4.p.116


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, 4.27


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, ā Kalānidhi commentary, Vol-1, 4.p.117


asampūrṇāśca sampūrṇā vyutkramoccāritasvarāḥ/
mūrcchanāḥ kūṭatānāḥ syuḥ…..// Saṃgītaratnākara, 4.32


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, 4.27-29


[...] Ibid., 4.29-31


[...] Ibid., 4.31


tatra ekonapañc at a svar pañcatri at auduvasvar /
…….. evamete ekatra gamyamānāścaturaśītirbhavanti/ Nāṭyaśāstra, 28.p.964


Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.19. p. 36


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, Kalānidhi commentary, Vol-1, 7.p.169


[...] Saṃgītaratnākara, Kalānidhi commentary, Vol-1, 7.p.169


Saṃgītaratnākara, Vol-1, 7.1-3


[...] Nāṭyaśāstra, 28.74


Saṃgītaratnākara, Vol-1, 7.29-30


[...] Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.19. p.37


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.56


[...] Sāhityadarpaṇa, 1.p.15


Bimalakanta Roychaudhuri, The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music, p.3


Nāṭyaśāstra, Vol-4, 29.45


Saṃgītaratnākara, 6.9-63


mandradvayātpare tāre prasannādirudīritaḥ/ Ṡ Ṡ Ś // Ibid., 6.9


tadvailomye prasannānta/ Ś Ṡ Ṡ // Ibid., 6.9


prasannadvayamadhyage / dīpte prasannādyantaḥ syāt Ṡ Ś Ṡ// Ibid., 6.10


tārayormadhyage punaḥ/ mandre prasannamadhyākhyamalaṅkāraṃ vido viduḥ// Ibid., 6.10


Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.30.1


hāsya śṛṅgārayoḥ kāryau svarau madhyamapañcamau/ ṣadjarṣabhau ca kartavyau vīraraudrādbhuteṣvatha// gāndhāraśca niṣādaśca kartavyau karuṇe rase/ dhaivataśca prayoktavyo bībhatse sabhayānake// Nāṭyaśāstra, 29.16-17


Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.18.p.36


śānte madhyamam/ Ibid., p.36


Monier Monier Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.903


nimeṣā pañca mātrā syānmātrāyogāt kalā smṛtā/ nimeṣā pañca vijñeyā gītakāle kalāntaram// tataḥ kalākālakṛto laya ityabhisajñitaḥ/ Nāṭyaśāstra, 31.2-3


V.S Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.289


Ibid., p.264


Ibid., p.519


trayo layāstu vijñeyā drutamadhyavilambitāḥ/ Nāṭyaśāstra, 31.4


[...] Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.18. p. 36

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: