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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sapthaswaras in our music

This is the correspondence I had in Rasikapriya regarding the Sapthaswaras and their links to various natural aspects. Since I thought the information will be very useful to all those who are interested in our Music, I am posting this here. Please read these interesting details.

--- On Sat, 8/9/08, Sridharan Sankaran> wrote:From: Sridharan Sankaran Subject: [rasikapriya- dot-net] Carnatic music and the Sama VedaTo: rasikapriya- dot-net@yahoogro, sangeethapriya@ googlegroups. comDate: Saturday, August 9, 2008, 6:06 PM***Carnatic music and the Sama Veda*Posted by Saraspriya on Wednesday August 6 2008 18:28

Music is the harmonious blend of swara, tala and pada. Raga is the combination of musical notes that gives delight to the mind and soul. Every raga elevates mood, emotion and feeling.Carnatic music has been inspired by Sama Veda to a great extent. There are seven swaras or notes, also called the sapta swaras. They are: shadja,rishaba, gandhara, madhyama, panchama, dhaivatha and nishada. There is abelief that swaras are reputed to have followed the sounds of birds andanimals. For example: S - peacock, R - ox G - goat M - krouncha bird P - cuckoo D -horse N - elephant. Indian music is truly a spiritual aid and the vehicle for the human soul to attain the universal soul - the Paramatman. A scale is the progressive, step-wise arrangement of notes which, when invoked successively, produces melody. Shadja is the basic or adhara swara;on this note rest the other six notes. Madhyama is the middle note or it is pitch-forked. Panchama denotes the fifth place. Sama Veda was generally recited with the accompaniment of flute or veena. Pranavam is the root of sound from the naabhi emanating basic sounds which represent the five faces of Lord Shiva, which are: satyojatham, vaamanam,tatpurusham, eesanam and aghoram. It is firmly believed that Lord Shiva taught music to his consort Parvathi, his prime sishya, and later on to sages Tumburu, Narada, Nandikeswara and Saraswathi. Each deity of the Hindu religion is associated with a musical instrument: damaru of Shiva, flute of Krishna, conch of Vishnu, drum of Nandi, veena of Saraswathi and Narada; and thambura of Thumburu. Lord Buddha conveyed his teachings and messages with music on his parivadiniveena, which was made of gold having 21 strings. Sama veda is well known tobe rendered in a musical manner. More musical information will flow�http://www.newindpr/ News.asp? Topic=515& Title=Saraspriya &ID=IEV200808061 82749

On reading this I wrote:

While I appreciate the article for providing lot of information, I am surprised with the linking of swaras with the respective birds and animals, since all those birds and animals mentioned there in, have only "abaswarams" . Can the learned members in our group throw more light on this subject and also about the authenticity of this statement?


This was the reply from Mr. Navneet Venkatesan

""Dear Sri Hariharan,

The comparison of the Saptaswaras with sounds of animals & birds is obviously not a literal one. It is a symbolic metaphor, wherein the frequency of the respective animal or bird cry is likened to that of a particular note of the octave. It is more of an esoteric and poetic exercise, though it was "more than a mere flight of fancy". According to Sri Rangaramanuja Aiyangar, "... Later treatises like the Narada Siksha and Sangeeta Makaranda identified the notes with the cries of the peacock, bull, goat, heron, cuckoo, horse and elephant.... Birds and animals never cultivated a language (atleast not in the human sense of the word). The sounds they utter are natural and not acquired. Generally, the sounds of birds are softer than that of animals. Shadja, Madhyama & Panchama were assigned (respectively) to the peacock, the heron and the cuckoo. The three notes have a high degree of consonance. Also, they are relatively more important than the other four. The heron is smaller than the peacock, and the cuckoo is smaller than the heron. This is reflected in the rising frequency and decreasing ratio of the three notes. In like manner, the Rishabha and Dhaivata bear the same relationship to each other as the Gandhara and the Nishada. The sound of the goat is shriller than thebull's. Correspondin gly, the Gandhara is higher than the Rishabha. Lastly, the horse and the elephant represent a higher order in Nature's family. Their sounds are relatively higher and more intense in pitch than the other sounds (thus representing the Dhaivata and the Nishada). This is the significance of attributing the sounds of birds and animals to the notes of the scale. It does not mean that the birds and animals ranged in order may be seen to emit sounds presenting an octave. It was only a poetic attempt to seek harmony in the sounds of nature. Kohala, regarded as one of Bharata's hundred sons, ascribed the notes to the peacock, chataka (bird) , goat, heron, cuckoo, frog and elephant."However, we see a very different classification for the Saptaswaras in the Brihaddeshi of Matanga Muni. Sri Aiyangar goes onto say, "The seven notes of the music scale stand apart from all other sounds. It is but natural that their importance caught the imagination of our ancients. Firstly, the notes were descended from the gods. The major tone, minor tone, semitone and the rest were assigned to the four varnas. Again Shadja, Gandhara and Madhyama came of the stock of the Devas. Panchama came from the Manes (?). Rishabha and Dhaivata were of the clan of the Rishis. Curiously enough, the Nishada alone had a demoniac origin. Shadja had the colour of a lotus petal, Rishabha that of a parrot, Gandhara of gold and Madhyama of white jasmine, Panchama was dark, Dhaivata yellow and Nishada multi-coloured. The patron deities of the notes were Brahma, Agni, Bharati Devi, Shiva, Indra, Ganesha and Surya respectively. The notes were the favoured of thegods too - Shadja of Agni, Rishabha of Brahma, Gandhara of Soma, Madhyama of Vishnu, Panchama of Narada, Dhaivata and Nishada of Tumburu. Shadja and Rishabha evoked sentiments of Veera and Raudra, Gandhara and Nishada of Karuna, Madhyama and Panchama of Haasya and Shringara & Dhaivata of Bhayaanaka & Vibhatsa.... .."The apparent naivette of all this fancy may be viewed from the background of a living faith in unseen forces. After all, the achievements of this all-conquering faith are a measure of its soundness and vitality.
Navaneet Venkatesan

Hats off Mr. Navneet Venkatesan

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