Indian classical music

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Galaxy of lady Musicians
Painting of Indian musician by Ravi Varma.

Indian classical music is a genre of South Asian music. It has two major traditions. The North Indian classical music tradition is called Hindustani, while the South Indian expression is called Carnatic. These traditions were not distinct till about the 16th century. There on, during the turmoils of Islamic rule period of the Indian subcontinent, the traditions separated and evolved into distinct forms. However, the two systems continue to have more common features than differences.


  • Musical notes and intervals were analyzed and mathematically calculated in the Hindu treatises on music.
  • Music in India has a history of at least three thousand years. The Vedic hymns, like all Hindu poetry, were written to be sung; poetry and song, music and dance, were made one art in the ancient ritual.
  • The Indian system of notation is perhaps the oldest and most elaborate. There are ragas meant to be sung in winter, in summer, in rains and in autumn. There are month-wise ragas meant to be sung during the twelve months of the year (baramasa). There are ragas meant for singing in the morning, early noon, afternoon and in the evenings. There are ragas, it is claimed, that can light a lamp or bring about downpour of rain. Then there are ragas and raginis designated for dance. Dance in its art form is as elaborate as music, and is based on Hindu natya-shastra. Sculptures of dancers and musicians carved on ancient and medieval temples, now mostly surviving in south India, bear testimony to their excellence, popularity and widespread practice.
    • Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8 (quoting Gaurishankar Hirachand Ojha, Madhya Kalin Bharatiya Sanskriti, pp. 193-94. )
  • It is in the domain of music in particular that the contribution of Muslims is the greatest. It is, however, difficult to claim that it is really Muslim. What they have practised since medieval times is Hindu classical music with its Guru-Shishya parampara. The gharana (school) system is the extension of this parampara or tradition. Most of the great Muslim musicians were and are originally Hindu and they have continued with the tradition of singing an invocation to goddess Saraswati or other deities before starting their performance.
    • K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan, 1992

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