Hindustani Classical Music Through the Ages

Hindustani Classical Music is an integral part of our country India, and her culture. Through the many years, it has evolved, and changed its form.

Music in India first began with the creation of the Vedas. The Vedas were, essentially, India’s first-ever collection of songs, passed down from generation to generation, from teachers to students. The Sama Veda, in particular, is composed entirely of verses set to music. Afterwards, the Natya Shastra was a text that spoke about Indian performing arts, music included. The Natya Shastra was the first text to speak of the ‘Nava Rasa’, which is a vital component of the Classical Arts. The ‘Nava Rasa’ are a collection of nine emotions (Shringara, Hasya, Karuna, Raudra, Bhibatsa, Bhayanaka, Adbhuta, Veera, and Shanta) through which the arts are expressed.

The next shift in Indian Classical Music came along with the advent of Islamic rule in India, under the Delhi Sultanate, and later, the Mughal Empire. With that, came Persian influence in Indian culture, especially in music. Hindustani Classical Music, now performed in the north, diverged from Carnatic Classical Music, now performed in the south. Earlier, the two genres were existing as one, throughout the country, but around this time, there was a split between the two. New forms of music, such as the dhrupad emerged. Later on, even newer styles of music with even more Persian influences, like the khyal and the tarana, came about.

During the Delhi Sultanate, the most eminent musician was Amir Khusrau. A disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, he is credited with creating musical instruments like the sitar, ragas like Yaman Kalyan, and genres like the khyal and tarana. In the Mughal Empire, the most prominent musician was Tansen, who was a singer in the court of Emperor Akbar the Great. He is credited with having created ragas like Miyan ki Todi and Miyan ki Malhar, and, according to legend, could light up lanterns by singing the Raga Deepak.

It was during those times that Hindustani Classical Music flourished. Musicians who performed in the courts of the Sultans and the Badshahs were highly respected. Unfortunately, during British rule in our country, the same could not be said. The British colonizers looked down upon Indian Classical Music. Nevertheless, figures like Vishnu Digambar Paluskar and Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande helped spread Hindustani Classical Music, especially to the common people.

Today, Hindustani Classical Music is flourishing. We have performers like Vidushi Kaushiki Chakraborty, who continue performing, and spreading the love of Hindustani Classical Music. There are numerous teachers teaching numerous students this art form – an example could be our very own Indian Music teachers and the students in our school. Even the Bollywood tunes commonly hummed by ordinary people with little to no knowledge of Hindustani Classical Music are often influenced by this genre.

Hindustani Classical Music is definitely a genre that has been a component of India’s culture, throughout history, and will continue to be so. This little article of mine is nothing but a small tribute to our country’s rich culture, one which I am and will always be proud of.